Thursday, February 26, 2009

Out on the Town (up the block)

Agent Kristin Nelson, author Jamie Ford & yours truly, channeling Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton & Ginger Baker (at bottom).

Jamie Ford, author of the new bestseller HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, had a reading at Denver's Tattered Cover on Tuesday evening. His agent, Kristin Nelson, hosted a reception beforehand at Encore Restaurant next door.

Naturally I was at both events, because:
  1. I consulted with Jamie last year.
  2. I am the Party Girl.
  3. I live 130 paces from the TC/Encore--didn't even have to cross the street.
More than 60 people came to the reception, then packed Jamie's reading and bought lotsa books.

Note to agents:
Host receptions for each of your authors when they do events in your hometown. It doesn't cost all that much, and is a swell way to bump up book sales (and maybe get your clients on a local bestseller list), plus have some fun. And it's all tax-deductible!

Note to authors:
You don't have to do much--if any--reading at your readings. The idea is to be entertaining. Jamie read for all of 5 minutes, spoke for 25, with the rest of the time for Q&A. And the audience ATE IT UP.

Last week I went to a "reading" by Jacqueline Winspear, out on tour for her new Maisie Dobbs mystery, AMONG THE MAD. Every seat was taken, the audience was rapt and Winspear didn't read a single word from the book. In fact, she said precious little about it, other than that there's an explosion and some of the action takes place in a madhouse. She mostly talked about World War I, its aftermath in the UK (the series begins in 1929; it's 1931 in the current book) and about her grandfather, a veteran of the Battle of the Somme who was picking shrapnel out of his legs into his seventies.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Яolcats Are Coming! The Яolcats Are Coming!

The Boy Wonder turned me on to Яolcats, billed as "English Translations of Eastern Bloc Lolcats."

Not only can those kitties spell better than their Amerikanski counterparts, but they have a deep understanding of poetry and political dialectic. For example, there's this post from February 15:

"Your inactivity is criminal, porcine gastropod…

Go back to Oklahoma!"

To the Lighthouse...And Take It to the Bridge

Last summer, Darling Husband confided that his dream was to someday own a little publishing company. Being a good, supportive wife who has learned much in therapy, I said, oh so supportively, "Is there any way to make that happen?"

He said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I happen to know of a little publishing company that's for sale right now."

"Well," I replied even more supportively, "why don't you look into it?"

So DH did, and as of late December we became the owners of the newly renamed Bella Terra Publishing LLC, with the eponymous yours truly as publisher, editor, website designer, salesperson, order shipper, etc. DH, who has a day job that enables me to support the Denver medical community, is the silent partner and chief financial officer.

I've learned just enough HTML to be dangerous, and today posted the new website: Bella Terra Maps. The product line at present consists of illustrated guide maps to lighthouses and covered bridges.

We are in the midst of producing an updated and redesigned version of the Illustrated Map & Guide to Maine Lighthouses, due to go to press next month. I am editing and rewriting descriptions of each of the 60+ standing lighthouses in Maine, plus 2 each in New Hampshire and Campobello Island, Canada. Hence the recent posts on Maine lighthouses.

Now I'm having second thoughts about wifely supportiveness. But the work keeps me off the streets and out of the pool halls--and drinking tanks of coffee.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pity the Poor Book Reviewer

Ed Champion (aka Bat Segundo) channels my experience as a book reviewer in a video that had me laughing out loud: The Occupational Hazards of Book Critics.

I'm still groaning about the 900-page piece o' crap I reviewed for People in 2001. The book's bestselling author was so incensed at my unflattering assessment that she exhorted her legions of fans to bombard the People books editor with nasty emails. Then she got a multi-million-dollar, multi-book deal--further proof (as if any was needed) that my opinion didn't matter a damn.

This should be screened at next month's NBCC members meeting--or better yet, at the book awards ceremony.

Looking for a Book Publicist?

According to an author I consulted with today, her agent is saying that EVERY author should consider hiring an outside publicist.

"Yeah," I replied. "Especially if it's your publisher. Sorry to say, but that was true even before the meltdown. I've heard stories."

But how do you find a book publicist to hire?

Funny you should ask...

I have a selective listing of publicists here (people get delisted if I get bad feedback from authors I've referred). And inhouse pub Yen just posted a lengthy list (in a handy spreadsheet!) on The Book Publicity Blog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Closer than Ever

My friend Stefanie, the artistic, social & culinary doyenne of Schuyler, VA, sends this update on Onslow (at right above) and best pal Snickers (left), who despite all appearances does not officially live at her Gracious Home.
Whether it was the therapy sessions or the sudden realization that there is no "I" in "Dog," our favorite duo has a more harmonious relationship than ever.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Report from the Trenches: Don't Worry.
Just Write!

Writer Bill Peschel responded thusly to my post asking people how the publishing slowdown is affecting them, How are YOU doing?
In brief, it hasn't affected me. Here's the situation: Decided a few months back to pitch the "Writers 365" book I've been posting at my blog. Prepared a proposal, sent it out to about 40 agents. An agent at a respected agency thought it wasn't for him, but thought it was salable. Two agents called, and I signed a contract with one of them after rewriting the proposal three times with her suggestions.

As of last week, the proposal is in the hands of two editors, both at reasonably large publishing houses. So it's good news, but I guess the real answer comes when:
    a) we hear back from them; and
    b) what, if anything, will they offer.
But so far, it's been good. And as Lauren Baratz-Logsted commented, the only thing you can control is writing the best book possible.

There's a great lesson that I'm trying to learn about control and worry. The philosophy is to not worry. Period. If you're doing the best with what you can control, what is there to worry about? And for those things you can't control, why worry about them? So why worry at all?
I answered Bill that I admire his "don't worry" philosophy. But the only times I've been able to follow it were when I was recovering from concussions. I knew my brain was returning to normal when I started worrying again.

He wrote back:
The "don't worry" philosophy is one that took me a long time to understand, and even now I still fret. But I'm getting better. Last week, I received a poisonous e-mail from someone objecting to an essay I posted. Years ago, it would have left me a puddle on the floor. Now, hardly mild irritation.

Age probably has a lot to do with it. I'm just too tired to deal with other people's nonsense when I have so much nonsense riling me already.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My Past, In Paperback

You know you're getting old when someone writes a book about The Scene that played an important part in your misspent youth--and your kid gives it to you as a present. The Boy Wonder, who's really into neo/proto/post punk music (he loves The Cramps, just like his daddy the Ex did), gave me a copy of NO WAVE by Marc Masters for my birthday in November.

I'm finally getting around to reading NO WAVE now, though of course I leafed through the book when I first unwrapped it. Was BW ever surprised when on one page I showed him a reproduction of a flyer with one of the Ex's bands listed at the top, and on another page a photo of the Ex himself in a poster for a well-known (between Max's Kansas City and Barnabas Rex) underground movie.

Once upon a time in 1979 I thought I wanted to be a music promoter, and I hung out with (or very near) a lot of the people featured in Masters's book. Looking at these 30-eek!-year-old photos is eerie; I remember many of them so well. How skinny everyone was then! ( was I.)

I gave up on being a music promoter once I discovered that it was barely a step up from fight promoter. "These people don't read!" I remember exclaiming in disgust. Not to mention that club owners had to give a cut to the Mob in order to stay in business. Friends of mine shut down their Alphabet City bôite rather than pay protection money, then (ironically) fled to rural Italy for a year.

But I still have fond memories--and the Boy Wonder.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Fun Fact for the Day

Enterprise, Alabama, is home to the world's only monument to an agricultural pest: the boll weevil.

By destroying the cotton in Coffee County (named after a general, not the beverage), the weevil caused farmers to start growing peanuts and thus regain prosperity.

Wikipedia tells more.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Perfect Summer Job

Looking for an isolated spot to complete your magum opus--or just enjoy some of Elmer Fudd's "nice west and wewaxation"--from Memorial Day to Labor Day?

How about this: Be a summer caretaker at Maine's Seguin Island Lighthouse.

The job requires "two compatible people" to live on the 64-acre island, 2 miles out from the mouth of the Kennebec River, near(ish) Popham Beach. Specs are here (scroll down); stipend may be $75/week.

NB: Must like foghorns. Seguin's blows three double-blasts per minute on the many foggy days. The concussion is said to knock nearby gulls from the air.

How are YOU doing?

Headlines from the publishing world make one reel: layoffs, budget cuts, book review sections cancelled, conventions cancelled (BookExpo Canada was axed yesterday).

I'd like to get a peek behind the news. How is all this affecting you people in the trenches: agents, editors, publicists, writers?

Leave a comment or email me: blog (at)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

"Awww" for the Day

As counterprogramming to The Big Game (since I'm not an official sponsor, I can't mention the Super Bowl), here's a genuinely heartwarming story, courtesy of the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Maine: A True Whale Tale