Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Horror Story #5: The Queen Returns

Last year's Publicity Terror Tale #1 was by the self-proclaimed "Queen of Bad Booksignings." Alas, she has another horrid saga for this Halloween. We can only hope--as I'm sure she does--that she will soon be pushed aside by a more hapless author. (I know a strong contender for her tiara.)

She writes:
You'd think the Queen of Bad Booksignings would wise up, but every once in awhile, the isolated thunderstorm of terrible promotion attempts appears on the horizon.

Once upon a time, QOBB was invited to participate in a book festival. It was in a great community, and since it included a panel presentation, a reading and booksigning, seemed like it would be a source of positive PR vibes.

Wrong. Upon check-in, it was discovered that the panel presentation was to be held in a far corner of a huge theater, tucked upstairs in the balcony area. Said theater was down the street from the main tent and vendor booths--and signage directing people to the event was sadly lacking. To find out about the panel discussion, festival-goers would have to search the fine print in the program, and those brave souls would then track down the location on the map, trek through throngs, and climb two flights of creaky stairs. Not surprisingly, only about five people found the panel discussion. Every panel speaker had to introduce him/herself because the moderator didn't know a thing about them, or their books.

Every Halloween story includes some scary wind in the willows, and this one is no exception. The readings were held in a tent that was not up to the early spring winds blowing that morning. It rattled the rafters and knocked over empty chairs. Patrons were in danger of getting knocked on their heads when stray poster boards blew off display stands. Fortunately for safety's sake, very few people were there to hear authors read their book selections, as the reading tent had been placed right next to a vendor that had hooked up a very loud boom box blasting music non-stop in order to attract patrons to their spot.

Another shock awaited in the hospitality room, where there were stacks of logo tee-shirts on the table. When QOBB asked if they were for the authors and illustrators, she was informed, “No, those are for workers and special guests...but if you'd like one, they can be purchased for ten dollars each." Unbelievable.

There is always a spooky surprise at the end of every tale of terror--usually involving a bit of carnage. In this case, the surprise was the booksigning component. Instead of having the books available for sale/signing immediately following the author reading in the tent, festival-goers had to search through the festival map to find the bookseller tent, inconveniently located a block away. Author signings were scheduled about one hour after their reading, allowing patrons to forget about getting an autographed book to take home.

At the end of the booksigning slot later in the day, QOBB was instructed not to sign any books for stock...because "we can't return them."* Although bodily harm wasn't done, that one inflicted major bruises to the ego!

Appropriately, the directions to and from the event were not clear, so a twenty-minute detour searching for the highway was part of the day. However, QOBB came home grateful that she escaped the haunted event with the strength to promote books again when the moon is full.

*Not true, I responded to QOBB. She replied, "Yes, that was an eye-roller...there was no point arguing with the woman about the returnability of signed books."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something Smells...

I just received an email entry form for the 2007 (!) London Book Festival, which allegedly celebrates "books that deserve greater recognition from the international publishing community."

I'd never heard of such a festival--not to be confused with the London Book Fair, which is next April. The email didn't have a link to a website, which I only found after some patient Googling. It also didn't have any information about exactly when--or even where--said festival is. One would assume it's in London, UK, but the postal address for entries is Hollywood, CA.

More oddities:
  1. Applicants must pay a non-refundable $50 entry fee per book.

  2. "Our grand prize for the 2007 London Book Festival Author of the Year is $1500 and a flight to London OR a flight to Los Angeles - your choice!" Since when does a book festival give out prizes? And what the hell is this prize for, anyway?

  3. From the Past Festivals page comes this fact, not mentioned elsewhere: "This is the inaugural London Book Festival."

  4. From the FAQ page:
    Q: I've never heard of this event. How do I know this is not a scam?
    A: We have been in business since 1999 and stand by our track record of first-class productions around the world. Please feel free to review past contest winners and events from our large inventory of past success stories.
I've been associated with the Virginia Festival of the Book for years, and have never heard of a reputable book festival that a) charges an admission fee, or b) gives out prizes for unspecified criteria.

You know the old saw about how a scammer always lets you know you're being scammed? I rest my case.

I knew I recognized that odor! Seems that JM Northern Media LLC, which operates the London Book Festival, also did the Hollywood Book Festival, discussed by Miss Snark 11 months ago in Crock of shit alert.

Horror Story #4: Silence at the Library

From a nonfiction author:

The new book’s been out for a year; sales are slowing. I decide to target a publicity blitz at all the libraries in the Florida area where we spend a few months each winter. One library, across the street from a famous spa, seems delighted about the idea of a real, live author coming to talk and sign books. The librarian puts up posters, announces it in the newspapers, has flyers on the checkout desk. Things look good.

I’m so confident of an overflow audience I even invite Dear Husband (who has heard this talk 12 times before) to come. We splurge and have a wonderful dinner at the spa. I feel sure I can call it a business expense and that it will be more than offset by the sales of books. We even order a good bottle of Pinot Grigio.

The talk is to be at 7:30. By the time I get to the library, there are only three cars in the parking lot – all in the “employees only” spaces. Not a good sign. The librarian has everything set up nicely and has even included coffee and cookies. She’s put my big poster of the book’s cover out by the front door. She and I and Dear Husband make small talk as we watch the clock’s hands move slowly towards eight. It’s no good thinking that the time was misprinted in the newspaper, as she shows me the announcement.

Finally we all admit defeat, put the books back in the box and head home. It’s the first time I've ever had absolutely no one show up for a signing. I try not to take it personally.

Fifteen minutes later, as we’re nearing our condo, my cell phone rings. It’s a woman who is furious to have found that, when she showed up 40 minutes late for the signing, I had left. She wants me to give her the talk on the phone and tell her how to get published. After listening briefly to her tales of woe: work, marriage, writing, I realize that she’s burning up precious minutes on my phone and politely tell her we are about to enter a “dead zone.” I hang up. She finds me via my website and writes a three-page letter. It dawns on me that I can just assign the letter to the spam folder. I do so.

Who was it that said selling books at book signings is about as effective as selling them from under a trench coat in a dark alley? They may have been right.

Horror Story #3: A Panel of One

From an author:

I arrived at my first-ever huge, well known, but shall remain anonymous book conference. I was thrilled because:
  1. my first book had come out, and
  2. I was on a panel and was going to share a table with well-known authors and editors!
I arrived early at the room. It was empty, but bit by bit filled with people who had come to see the panel. When the time came for the panel to start, I was the only one sitting at the table. My panel leader hadn't shown up. None of the panel members had shown up. They never did show up, and I never got an explanation why.

I looked at the rows of expectant faces. I was alone.

Thank heavens two authors in the audience saw my plight and jumped in, one posing questions I jotted down for her, the other sitting next to me and being absolutely fun and professional.

My opinion of those two authors soared. I buy every single book they put out.

My opinion of the conference plunged. It'll be a cold day in hell before I shell out my money to go again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Horror Story #2: A Spark of Cluelessness

From author Katharine Weber:
Imagine my joy when a handwritten letter from Muriel Spark arrived a couple of months after I (a perfect stranger to her) sent her a manuscript of my second novel, The Music Lesson. Her letter arrived just as the bound galleys were expected. Imagine my ecstasy when her letter included a generous and entirely unsolicited blurb.

Imagine my despair when I learned too late that my publicist had decided, despite instructions from my editor, not to bother including the blurb with the galley mailing because she had never heard of Muriel Spark and so concluded that nobody else had either.

Horror Story #1: A Publicist Screams

Halloween's coming, so once again it's time for Tales from the Book Publicity Crypt. I'll be posting publicity horror stories all week, so if you have one send it along. Confidentiality guaranteed.

These terror loglines are from a publicist at a major NY house, who notes:
I do ADORE most of my authors and because of the type of quality books we publish, we don't get too many with unbridled egos, thank goodness.
  1. The author who insisted his local bookstores were jealous of his success and hated him, and were booking him in at the time they expected the least traffic.

  2. The sports celebrity who was still in bed when I came by to pick him up for his noontime booksigning.

  3. The nervous and insecure Hollywood-type author who made us hire a pricey PR firm even though we had already booked all the national media and done all the work in-house.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Too Much Information, Mr. Greenspan!

A friend just emailed me:
I heard Alan Greenspan on the BBC yesterday. Did you know he wrote 85% of his book in the bathtub? The visuals are rather scary, though, aren't they?!
I immediately responded with this image:

Thank dog I took art history back in my Wayward Youth. Anytime you start to think of some old, jowly, wrinkled guy in the tub, force your mind back to the above. And be sure to thank Jacques-Louis David.

Monster v Condi

Which picture is scarier?

Frankenstein and Condoleezza Rice go head to head on the homepage of today's Washington Post Book World, which features reviews of workshop alum Susan Tyler Hitchcock's FRANKENSTEIN: A Cultural History and Glenn Kessler's THE CONFIDANTE: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of The Bush Legacy.

FYI, I'm far more fearful of the horrors represented by the photo on the right.

Edit: The caption above is mine, but the photo juxtaposition is the Washington Post's.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quote for the Day

I tell my guys, the best way they can prepare before they come out here is to watch The Sopranos.
--a U.S. general in Iraq, quoted in The Wall St. Journal. Per Today's Papers in Slate, "much of the conflict resembles the fighting among organized-crime families."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quote for a Lifetime

"I find that ninety percent of the things I worry about don't happen. Also, of the things that do happen, it wouldn't have occurred to me to worry about half of them. Therefore, the more things I worry about, the fewer things are likely to happen."

--Mark Bastable (from the Backspace forum at which I was a guest speaker)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How to Dynamite Your Career...or, Nobel Laureates Say the Darndest Things!

Turns out there is such a thing as bad publicity after all. Your career may not suffer because you:
  • had videotaped sex with a minor (R Kelly)
  • parked in a NYC no-standing zone with a carful of firearms (50 Cent)
  • flashed your stubbly crotch at the paparazzi (Britney Spears)
  • had your sexual escapades played all over the Internet (Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, et al.)
  • said that Jews need to be perfected by converting to Christianity (Ann Coulter)
  • belatedly disclosed that you fought for the Nazis (Günter Grass)
But making racist remarks is beyond the pale, as comedian Michael Richards and politician George Allen recently learned.

And now we have James Watson, the pioneering American geneticist who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine, for discovering the structure of DNA. He was in the UK to promote his book, AVOID BORING PEOPLE: Lessons From a Life in Science (Oxford Univ. Press), and said in an interview with the London Sunday Times that:
  • he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really."
  • he hopes everyone is equal, but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."
  • "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level." [Wait...what about the Dilbert Principle?]
In his book Watson states:
There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.
Watson apologized--shakily and poorly--but the damage was done. Per the International Herald Tribune:
London's Science Museum canceled a sold-out lecture, and the University of Edinburgh, where the scientist was to speak Monday, issued a statement saying it had withdrawn the invitation. Besides London and Edinburgh, Watson had been scheduled to speak in Cambridge, Newcastle, Bristol and Oxford.
Meanwhile, back home on Long Island, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Watson's employer since 1968, had an emergency teleconference of its 34-member board of trustees. That resulted in the suspension of his "administrative responsibilities" as chancellor of the Watson School of Biological Sciences.

So now Watson's out of a job too, and has more boring people to avoid than ever. Maybe he's wishing he'd kept his mouth shut and instead flashed a teenager in the lobby of Claridge's. (I so hope his chambermaid was of African descent and short-sheeted his bed.)

For in-depth coverage, including a timeline of Watson's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week, see Disgrace: How a giant of science was brought low.

Monday, October 22, 2007

One Never Knows...or, Follow Your Accountant

Pendle Hill, Lancashire, Aug. 2005

The below is just in from Mary Sharratt, most recently the author of the novel The Vanishing Point and co-editor of the UK anthology Bitch Lit. A Minnesota native, Mary lives on the edge of a town in Lancashire, England, where I visited her between stops on my fabulous Yiddisher Britisher Tour two years ago. Now she's at work on a novel about the 17th century Pendle witches.
* * * * *
Recently I made a wonderful discovery: it pays to be open to unexpected speaking invitations. My tax accountant invited me to give a talk at the Clitheroe, Lancashire Rotary Club. Although it’s not the demographic group I normally hang out with or that would typically be interested in the kind of “strong women” fiction I write, I said yes. And I had a blast.

Targeting my speech to this specific local audience, I discussed my new novel-in-progress, A Light Far-Shining: A Novel of the Pendle Witches.

In 1612, in one of the most meticulously documented witch trials in English history, seven women and two men from the Pendle region were hanged as witches, based largely on “evidence” given by a nine-year-old girl. At least one of the accused witches, Elizabeth Southerns, aka Old Demdike, who died in prison before the trial, had a strong reputation as a “blesser” who used her charms to heal cattle.

Some of Demdike's spells were recorded in the trial documents. What is interesting is that they do not reveal any evidence of diabolical beliefs but use the ecclesiastical language of the Catholic Church, driven underground by the English Reformation. It was likely that she was a practitioner of the kind of quasi-Catholic folk magic that would have been tolerated and widespread only a generation earlier. Had it not been for ruling monarch James I’s obsession with the occult—he was the author of Daemonologie, a treatise on witch-hunting—the Pendle Witch trials might not have even happened.

People in the Pendle region are proud of the enduring legends of the Lancashire Witches and my audience really seemed to enjoy the talk, which sparked a spirited discussion. One very straight-laced, conservative-looking gentleman came up afterward and told me that his late mother-in-law had been a witch and claimed descent from one of the Pendle Witches—he did not say which one. Another audience member gave me the contact details for a reporter from the local newspaper who might be interesting in doing a story on my novel when it comes out. Then I received an invitation to come along on a historical ghost walk.

Not only was this a great experience, but another speaking invitation soon followed: I’ve been asked to give the annual Christmas dinner speech at a local family heritage and heraldry society.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


As I wrote in the previous post, authors are always asking me what they should do. But even the most insecure ones never ask what they shouldn't. And they really ought to, because there are sooo many ways to screw up. So here's a list, based on personal observation. (Yes, authors really do these things.)

What Not to Do in the 6 Months Before/After Pub Date:
  1. Get married.
  2. Have a baby.
  3. Move.
  4. Go on a honeymoon.
  5. Take a long sea voyage.
  6. Start a new job that doesn't allow you to take time off for book promotion.
  7. Piss off your publicist, editor, or agent.
  8. Change your primary email address.
  9. Have major surgery.
  10. Die.
For a list of Do's, see my Author Behavior Guide.


A question I often hear in my Book Promotion 101 workshops and from consulting clients is, "What should I do?"

Like a good therapist--which I'm not officially, though much of what I do is Publishing Therapy--I ask back, "What do you want to do?"

That stops the questioner short. She's been totally focused on what other people think, not on her own desires. (And it usually is a woman; men tend to ask what they could do, not what they should. Time for women to think similarly.)

One client has a two-year-old short story collection from a small press. She'd worked with an excellent freelance publicist when it came out, and it got decent attention and reviews, and even won a prize. Should she do more publicity now, maybe even set up some bookstore events?

Well, what does she want?

Turns out she's a little tired of promoting the book by now (ya think?), and has written another short story collection and a novel, for which she's seeking an agent. AND she has a demanding day job.

I pointed out that, after two years, it's highly unlikely any bookstore would have her. Instead, she could set up events at organizations whose interests tie in with the book's themes. She lives in Manhattan, so there are plenty nearby. To make those events appeal to a broader audience, she could round up authors who write about similar themes, for panel discussions. She could reach out to book groups, via her website and through such sites as And to raise her profile in the literary world, she could 1) update her fusty website and 2) pitch herself and/or a panel to book festivals and writers' conferences. I steered her to some literary agents who handle her type of work, as well as to some website designers.

Another client has written a first novel (which I loved!), to be published in spring. Should she write a sequel? She wants to, but her agent was dismissive about sequels.

"Write what you want," I said, "not what your agent wants. If it's good, you bet she'll sell it. If it isn't, you'll have gotten it out of your system and you'll write something else."

My client was heartened by this, even more so when an author I pitched for a blurb for her turned me down because...she's busy writing the eagerly awaited sequel to her first novel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Time to Revive HUAC

Go string me up. I'm proudly Un-American because:
  1. I couldn't care less about baseball. The last (also the first) game I went to was the Washington Senators vs the Cleveland Indians. I don't care that the Colorado Rockies are going to the World Series, despite the fact that Darling Husband--and now even the Boy Wonder--thinks it's of earth-shattering importance. I'm only glad the Rockies won in four games so I wouldn't have to spend as much time hiding from the TV. Sure wish the World Series wasn't till the first week of November, when I'll be staying with a non-baseball friend in NYC. Guess I'll get a lot of reading/writing done starting October 24.
  2. I couldn't care less about football. And after all my recent injuries, the sound of men ramming into each other makes me feel ill.
  3. I loathe beer. Hadn't had more than a sip in 30+ years till a few weeks ago, when someone snuck a Corona into her Sweet Potato Queens margarita mix. It was almost palatable. Almost.
  4. I loathe cola drinks. Q: "Coke or Pepsi?" A: "Water."
  5. I can't abide grits. Having lived in North Carolina and Virginia, many people have brightly said to me, "Oh you just haven't had grits fixed right. Let me fix 'em for you!" They fixed 'em, all right. Blech.
But at least I've done one thing to qualify myself as an All-American Mom. According to today's NYT, The Family Meal Is What Counts, TV On or Off. Throughout the Boy Wonder's life, we've had family dinners (and breakfasts, and weekend lunches), usually without the TV on. Except during the playoffs, when BW and Darling Husband noshed in front of the tube and I stayed in the kitchen with the door closed.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Very Model of a Modern Major Author II

Charles Dickens

And now I give you Charles Dickens (1812-1870). His books, serialized in newspapers, were wildly popular on both sides of the Atlantic. When the last installment of The Old Curiosity Shop, published 1840-41, arrived by ship in New York, crowds shouted from the pier, "Is Little Nell dead?" So we can see that Harry Potter-itis is nothing new.

For authors whining about the hardship of book tours, I don't just give them Dickens; I throw him in their faces. The man traveled the length and breadth of England, and all over the U.S. too, giving lectures and readings from his books. And author events 150 years ago weren't your cozy, carpeted B&N affair with 20-minute reading, 15-minute audience Q&A and 20-minute book signing.

Noooo...Dickens did dramatic, hours-long readings, in halls packed to the rafters--night after night, year after year. In fact, his relentless touring and performance schedule probably contributed to his death at age 58.

Consider this tidbit from a fascinating article in yesterday's NYT, On the Trail of Brooklyn's Underground Railroad:
Dickens "read A Christmas Carol to capacity crowds for three nights running in 1868" at Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church.
Imagine doing that with individual voices for the novel's many characters--without amplification--for ONE night, let alone three. Then try and feel sorry for yourself when you're on a panel at a book festival, or do a bookstore signing.

Can't muster any self-pity? Eager to put more oomph into your presentations? Good; my job is done.

The Very Model of a Modern Major Author I

Olaudah Equiano, aka Gustavus Vassa

People are always talking about how the publishing world has changed, with authors in particular bemoaning how much better it was in The Old Days. Which is true, especially when it comes to editing and proofreading (my pet peeve).

And yet some things are very much the same.

As illustration, please allow me to introduce two outstandingly successful authors, from the 18th and 19th century respectively, who practiced--nay, invented--the basic tenets of Book Promotion 101.

First, I give you former enslaved African turned Englishman Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797). In 1789, after years as a globetrotting seaman, he became a bestselling author with his abolitionist autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African. Written by Himself.

Scholar Brycchan Carey notes, in his Olaudah Equiano: A Critical Biography, that the Interesting Narrative was "one of over a hundred books to appear that year on the subject of slavery." That's hefty competition, particularly when you consider that there were exponentially fewer books published then, with exponentially fewer people able to read--much less buy--them. Plus there was a bit of distraction later that year in the way of bloody news from France.

But Equiano, who had saved to purchase his freedom, was a savvy, literate businessman. He wrote his own book, unlike other slave narrators, whose stories were transcribed and published by whites (who probably took a lion's share of the profits).

Ye modern authors, take notes on how Equiano (Vassa was his cruelly ironic slave name) built his name as a writer, and published and promoted his book.

Per a Feb 2006 Washington Post review of Vincent Carretta's EQUIANO, THE AFRICAN: Biography of a Self-Made Man by Mary Frances Berry:
Taking advantage of 18th-century newspapers' demands for copy, Vassa began his writing career by publishing letters and book reviews and became acquainted with leading anti-slave-trade advocates of the day....

In 1788, Vassa began soliciting buyers for his forthcoming book, identifying himself publicly for the first time as Olaudah Equiano. He made the strategic decision to self-publish and organized a subscribers' list. Unusual for the period, he required partial payment in advance. He also kept and registered the copyright. Advertisements for the two-volume edition appeared in May 1789, just when debates over the slave trade, which had been overshadowed by the illness of King George III, regained prominence.

The cover -- with a portrait of Vassa by William Denton, a reputable painter -- depicted him not as a savage but dressed as an English gentleman....By looking directly out at readers, Equiano, their moral equal if not their superior, gives an impression of a man of the world, at ease in his own skin....

Vassa traveled throughout Britain promoting the book and the abolition cause. International booksellers also informed American readers. He became the African spokesman in debates on the slave trade. Reviews were generally favorable, and sales grew.

Over the next few years, through nine editions of the book, newspaper printers and publishers, the royal family and socially and politically prominent figures in the trades and the arts all eagerly became subscribers.... Since Vassa was his own publisher, he enjoyed complete control over what went into subsequent editions. His marriage to an Englishwoman, Susanna Cullen, and the birth of their two daughters, Ann Mary and Joanna, extended the story of his success.

As his own publisher, Vassa kept the book's entire and considerable profit. By February 1792 [two months before he married--I wonder what sort of dowry his wife brought?], he was able to lend today's equivalent of $35,000 and could afford to lose it when the debtor defaulted. He also routinely subscribed to antislavery writings of other authors.
Per Carey (emphasis mine):
He managed to convince many very important people to pay in advance for his book, a list which starts with the Prince of Wales and includes no less than eight dukes. Equiano's book is different in another way too. Equiano did not just publish the book and leave it to fend for itself. Instead, he vigorously promoted it by going on lecture tours around England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and by promoting his book he was also promoting the idea of abolition of slavery. Indeed, it was local abolition committees who arranged the lectures and readings at which he was present....
Equiano died a famous and wealthy man in 1797, though his marital success story ended with him widowed with two little children. Ann Mary died shortly after he did. Joanna, just two when she was orphaned, lived to inherit "a substantial estate of £950 from her father" (about £100,000 today) when she came of age in 1816.

There's a sad and interesting tale: What would life have been like for a mixed-race orphan girl of independent means growing up in England during the Napoleonic wars? Thackeray's Vanity Fair, set during that era, mocks Miss Swartz, a "woolly-headed" mulatto heiress from St. Kitts. (I wonder whether Joanna read Jane Austen...)

Friday, October 12, 2007

True Fact for Friday!

Dan Flavin installation

DID YOU KNOW that you breathe--and feel--much better when you don't have a gel sponge crammed up your nose?

Aren't you amazed? I sure was!

Yesterday afternoon, after begging for an appointment, I dragged myself to see Dr R, who did the surgery on me last week. (Technically: septorhinoplasty with external osteotomies; bilateral inferior turbinate reduction and outfracture; endoscopic sinus surgery with opening of the frontals, maxillary, and ethmoid sinuses bilaterally. Or: nose & sinus job.)

I could hardly breathe through my nose, felt nauseous, exhausted and flu-ish. And there was this enormous slimy thing stuck way up my right nostril. I didn't know if it was a blood clot, a space-alien sea slug, or my brains leaking out. Probably a space alien.

After Dr R sprayed numbing stuff up my nose, he looked inside it with this really cool blue light that shoots out of a flexible, transparent tube. (Dan Flavin would have had a field day!)

"So what IS it?" I asked worriedly.

"Oh, it's just a gel sponge I put up there so the bone wouldn't cave in." He quickly inserted a long tube thing that sucked it out. (I kept my eyes TIGHTLY shut.)

! I could breathe again.

"Why didn't you tell me you'd put the sponge in there?" I persisted.

"Because it usually dissolves in a few days."

"But it didn't." No response.

I'm going to have another chat with Dr R about the sponge issue when I see him again next week. In the meantime, I'm feeling much less draggy and am happily breathing through my nose again.

I said to the good doctor on my way out, "I like breathing. Everybody should be able to do it." At least we agreed on that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's the Big Idea? I Thought I Was Perfect Already!

Well, maybe a little rough around the edges--and with bright purple bruises on my face--but after months of intensive therapy I've been feeling pretty good about myself.

And now here comes Ann Coulter on CNBC's "The Big Idea" on Monday, saying, "Jews need to be perfected."

Prodded by host Donny Deutsch, she explained:
...but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.
Oh, and she totally doesn't see how her statements could be construed as anti-Semitic. And mixed-race couples in NY have a chip on their shoulder: "They're just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would."

Obviously she hasn't gone for dessert in Little Italy with a black-white couple; it can get ugly out there.

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Perfect Pitching

I've been polling all the agents who are going to be at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminars next month for advice to pass along in my "Prep to Pitch" workshops.

Jessica Faust of Bookends, LLC sent links to these blog posts she wrote, which are fantastic:
The Art of a Strong Pitch, Part 1 (pitch appointments)
The Art of a Strong Pitch, Part 2 (the social pitch)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'm So Ugly!

Too bad it's another 3-1/2 weeks till Halloween, because I look really scary right now. Dr R told me that I'd likely have a black eye after Wednesday's surgery on my nose and sinuses. Little did I know that said bruising would extend almost to my mouth, and be in the full spectrum of glorious Technicolor. I've got red above and yellow, green and magenta below my right eye, flowing into bright purple by the nasolabial fold.

I also wasn't prepared for the stabbing pain and acrid tears in the inside corner of my right eye, and the swollen, discolored upper lid. In fact, from the moment I awoke from the anesthesia, my eye's been hurting worse than my nose. I thought I'd recuperate in bed with a book, but reading close-up is a real pain. I've been spending more time in bed with an icepack on my face than with a book in front of it.

The other major drag is not being able to breathe through my nose. Even though I have a humidifier blasting me in the face all night, I keep waking up to take sips of water and slather ointment on my parched lips. I'm counting the days (3!) till I'm allowed to blow my nose again.

On Friday evening, I dragged my sorry carcass up the block to the Tattered Cover, where Book Promotion 101 alum Cai Emmons had a reading of her new novel, THE STYLIST. I wore sunglasses and a black baseball cap and sat in the last row, hoping to escape unobserved. (Like it's easy to overlook a six-foot woman with a big white bandage on her nose!)

Then at the beginning of her talk, Cai gave thanks to several people who'd helped her, ending with yours truly, whom she duly pointed out. Everyone turned around. I gave a weak wave and said, "I was attacked by a disgruntled author." Laffs. "But you should see the other guy." Bigger laffs, after which I was mercifully ignored till I toddled back home.

I'm So Happy!

Big news for authors who are my clients and Literary Ladies Luncheon companions in VA and CO. (Yes, I mix business and friendship.)

Hot press is starting to roll in for LLL VA cofounder Susan Tyler Hitchcock's FRANKENSTEIN: A Cultural History. Per today's Los Angeles Times:
"Her text grows out of such a fertile ground of scholarly research that any chapter might blossom into another volume. Thus it's all the more remarkable that this book is so much fun."
There's a Sept. 25 feature in Wired: It's Alive! How Frankenstein Created a Cultural Monster, AND Frankenstein is at the top of a "Monsters, Inked" feature in the Books section in the Oct. 12 issue of Entertainment Weekly (not available online yet). Grade: B+. Yay!

Colorado resident Kim Reid will talk about her debut book, NO PLACE SAFE: A Family Memoir (Dafina), this Tuesday, Oct. 9 (changed from Oct. 10), on the NPR program News & Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya.

Be sure to listen in--and then buy the book! NO PLACE SAFE is a gripping look back at Kim's teenage years, when she attended an all-white high school while her mom was a lead investigator in the Atlanta child murders--some of which occurred in their own neighborhood.

Alas, News & Notes doesn't air in CO, or in VA. (Like there are no thoughtful African-American radio listeners in either state...) To listen online, click here for program archive. Edit: Listen here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"This Is the Interview from Hell!"

That's what Chris Matthews said to Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" Tuesday night. Stewart spoke to him--make that attacked him--about his new book, LIFE'S A CAMPAIGN: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.

The description of the video clip states: "Jon Stewart gives Chris Matthews the worst interview of his life." He sure did. At the end of it, Matthews made a somewhat fake move to smack Stewart (his friend!) upside the head. See for yourself!

Edit: Per Yeas & Nays on
On a side note: Matthews was overheard discussing his Tuesday appearance on "The Daily Show," which featured a heated exchange with host Jon Stewart. According to one source, Matthews was steadfast in his belief that the debate left Stewart crestfallen, and Matthews victorious.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Another Creative Visualization

Stealth wader outside the Pacific Design Center last Sunday.

I took the above pic while tottering away from the reception after the West Hollywood Book Fair. Looking at this sure beats looking in the mirror at my bandaged nose and blackening eye. But at least I can wear my glasses over the splint; I didn't think I'd be able to put them on for a week.

What not to read while waiting to go to the O.R.:
The Last Town on Earth
by Thomas Mullen.

It's a swell book, but sometimes Spanish flu victims spewing blood and turning blue aren't quite the thing. I had Darling Husband take it away.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Creative Visualization

A very kind person sent me an animated greeting card of a Hawaiian beach, with good wishes for today. I'm concentrating on this image, which I snapped in Santa Monica after lunch on Monday:

Alternately, I'm focusing on this one:

Poor speling on the Santa Monica pier.

Insert Nose Joke Here

At 8:00 a.m. I'm off for another drive-by surgery to repair equestrian damage. This time I'm getting my nose and right sinus chopped and channeled. Actually, there won't be much chopping (I hope!), just tapping out a dent on the side of the bridge, straightening out the S-curve in my septum and reaming out my right sinus. OK, that's probably a lot of chopping, but I won't be there to see it.

I'm expecting to be in a world of pain afterward. (EEK! We're out of tequila, aka "Aztec anesthetic." Must send Darling Husband out to buy more--maybe while I'm knocked out?) But I am hoping that soon my nose won't hurt anymore (it's been sore for more than a year) and I'll breathe more easily.

Cut off your nose to spite your face.
Getting your nose out of joint.
Poking your nose where it doesn't belong.
Keep your nose clean.
Nosing around.
Plain as the nose on your face.
Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk (see P-Funk Mythology)

West Hollywood Book Fair

No way was I first in line for the Gore Vidal (see previous post) signing at Sunday's West Hollywood Book Fair. More like the 40th, and I accrued some more freckles while I waited my turn in the blazing sun.

But first, I went to a First Fiction panel, moderated by Eduardo Santiago (TOMORROW THEY WILL KISS).
First Fiction panelists Jeff Hobbs, Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman.

I snapped the pic below afterwards. Santiago is second from left, flanked by the endearingly tongue-tied Jeff Hobbs (THE TOURISTS), and Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman (far right), authors of LITERACY AND LONGING IN L.A. Not pictured are fellow panelists Alex Espinoza and Andrea Portes.

Next I went to a memoir panel, one of THE BEST panels I've experienced anywhere. Moderator was Samantha Dunn (NOT BY ACCIDENT); panelists were Dinah Lenney (BIGGER THAN LIFE: A Murder, A Memoir), Aaron Raz Link (WHAT BECOMES YOU) and Emily Rapp (POSTER CHILD). I was too enthralled to take notes. Now I wish I'd written down the many gems that came spilling from everyone's lips. Here's one from Link: Deadlines are your friend.

Memoirists Aaron Raz Link and Emily Rapp.

After I got Vidal's scrawl in my newly purchased copy of POINT BY POINT NAVIGATION, I went to a celebrity memoir panel moderated by my friend Beverly Gray (she of the Tinseltown jokes below). Only here's the funny thing: I'd never heard of any of the celebs on the panel. Oops. They were: Chuck Panozzo of Styx, Neile McQueen Toffel (aka Neile Adams, aka Mrs. Steve McQueen), Victoria Rowell (ballerina, actress & mother of Wynton Marsalis's kid).

Chuck Panozzo and Neile McQueen Toffel.

Then I was on a panel entitled "How to Make a Book a Success," moderated by publicist and media trainer extraordinaire Kim Dower (aka Kim from L.A.). The other panelists were agent Betsy Amster and author/radio host Barbara DeMarco Barrett. So we were the Three Bs.

After that I went to the "Green Room" (aka the West Hollywood Park gym) and plotzed for a half hour.

WeHo Book Fair author coordinator Corey Roskin & volunteer
Johanna Pick, at the end of a long day.

Then it was time for the book fair reception, so Beverly and I trudged across San Vicente Blvd to MOCA. It wasn't air conditioned, the floor was hard and there was very little seating. Pretty soon I melted down like a five-year-old and whined, "I'm tired!" Whereupon Beverly kindly escorted me out and drove me to her Gracious Home on a leafy, QUIET block in Santa Monica.

But first we stopped by the spectacular water display right outside MOCA and the Pacific Design Center.

YA author Kerry Madden & Beverly Gray.

And one last pic for the road:

Pacific Design Center

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hollywood Jokes for Tuesday

I just flew in from the Coast, and are my wings ever tired! [Ba-dum-BUM!]

But seriously, I heard some good movie trade jokes from my friend (and gracious hostess) Beverly Gray, author of ROGER CORMAN: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers. She got the first two from veteran cinematographer Phil Schwartz.

Q: How do you know who your friends are in the movie industry?

A: They're the ones who stab you in the chest.
# # #

Q: How many producers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: I don't know...What do YOU think?
# # #

This is supposedly true:

A writer gives his screenplay to a friend, who works for a movie production company. Weeks go by, with no response. Finally, the writer can't stand it any longer. He screws up his courage and calls his friend.

Writer: "What did you think of my script?"

Friend: I don't know. I'm the only one who's read it."
# # #

Monday, October 01, 2007

Quote for the Day, Hollywood Edition

This just in from a friend who's been waiting (and waiting...and waiting...) to hear back from some movie producers on her screenplay adaptation of her novel:
It is a good thing I do not depend on them to validate my sense of myself as a writer because I would be suicidal by now if I did.