Thursday, November 20, 2008

And so we begin our hiatus

For those of you who are just tuning in, Naked Authors is on hiatus. We miss you and look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming book signings. In the meantime, feel free to wander through the archives. And if you haven't already done so, please subscribe so we can e-mail you when we begin posting again. Here’s how: At the bottom of the right column is a box. Enter your e-mail address and press “Subscribe me!” That’s all you have to do. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Cheers!


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Now we gotta say goodbye...for the summer

from James Grippando

I was so happy to get the reassurance from Jackie in yesterday's post that this is just a "summer" hiatus. There's been enough change in my professional life lately. This month, my long-time editor decided to retire. Yes, retire. Can you imagine such a thing--in this economy? Well, maybe the publishing industry isn't so bad off after all.

So, for my summer send off, here's a little tribute I wrote to my Carolyn, which ran earlier this month in Publisher's Weekly . . .

Untitled (But Carolyn Marino would know what to call it)
Copyright James Grippando 2008

“I've been orphaned,” I said to myself as I hung up the telephone. I had published one novel, and my editor had called to tell me that he was leaving HarperCollins. An hour later, the phone rang again. It was my agent, Artie Pine. “You're going to get a call from Carolyn Marino. She's a big fan of yours. You're gonna like her.” That fan was my new editor. Over the next 12 years, Carolyn would guide me through 14 novels of suspense. The most recent is Last Call. The title now seems prophetic.

Amid all the big news at HarperCollins this month, something happened on a less public level: the announced retirement of an outstanding editor. Carolyn Marino had served the company brilliantly for 18 years. More importantly—at least from my perspective—she groomed her stable of authors the way editors supposedly don't anymore. Many she discovered as newbies. Others were household names. All are better writers today, thanks to Carolyn.

Carolyn is at least a foot shorter than my first editor at HarperCollins, and probably less than half his weight. She's thoughtful and soft-spoken. Her range of knowledge is astounding. (Can you, in the same breath, debate the legal niceties of bonding out a criminal defendant and then tell me when Prada shoes became generally available in the United States?) Her manners are impeccable. Thank-you notes are always handwritten—never e-mailed—and I've never heard her cuss. If you didn't know her, you might expect her to shush you at the library. You might even think the corporate world would eat her alive.

You'd be dead wrong.

“She's good,” Artie's son Richard had warned me. “And she'll bust your chops.”

She did, of course. Many times. But always politely.

Carolyn loves books. That may seem like an obvious and unnecessary thing to say about an editor. Carolyn's love is pure, however, and never cynical. Everything mattered—because everything could be made better. If it was time to start a new series, we talked about it. If my Russian mobster sounded too American, she'd tell me. If that scene with the python went a little too far, I'd hear about that, too. When Carolyn found a flaw in a manuscript, she truly couldn't wait to see how the author was going to fix it. If she didn't like the fix, we'd fix it again. Her gift was in knowing when it was just right, whether it was the plot, a character, a sentence or a word. Case in point: Intent to Kill. The first draft had my lead character take to the bottle after the tragic death of his wife. I thought I was creating the most engaging flawed protagonist since Paul Newman in The Verdict. “He's passed out drunk with his six-year-old daughter upstairs,” said Carolyn. “I don't like him.” He's now a lovable insomniac in the best father-daughter scenes I've ever written.

Sometimes Carolyn would tell me why a change was needed. Sometimes not. She just knew, even if she couldn't put it into words. That bothered me at first. I was a lawyer before I was a writer. Reasons were important. As a writer, however, you soon learn that only the weak and insecure feel a need to explain every editorial decision in terms of right and wrong or good and bad. The best editors aren't the ones who think their every hunch or impulse can be empirically justified. What you want is an editor who knows your body of work as well as you do, and who knows your audience even better than you do. Someone with the instinct and experience to predict what readers will want to read a year from now, and to recognize a character they'll still love 10 years down the road. A woman with the business sense to understand that even the best-written book doesn't jump off the shelf, and the wisdom to discern the difference between a really good book, and a really good book.

In Carolyn Marino, I knew a great editor. That's all an author needs to know.

Friday, July 04, 2008

DO NOT PANIC!

from Jacqueline


As Patty reminded you several times yesterday, we are having an hiatus, as in a summer vacation. We will be back. Click on the link below to receive an email the moment a new post appears on nakedauthors.com. Do not fret so much that you give yourself an hiatus hernia.

Oh dear, that just shows you how much I need a break! Mind you, though I will not be writing my posts, I will still be working hard, but am hoping to be able to have the odd day off here and there.

In any case, before I leave you for my hiatus holiday, I think this might be the moment to talk about fear, as in feel it and do it anyway. Whatever “it” may be, and for writers, it usually has something to do with hitting a send button or trooping down to the post office. I’ve just made the long drive down from the San Francisco Bay Area to Ojai, a journey I am well-used to as I make the trip about once or twice a month. I have become an avid fan of audio books and have learned a lot about pace, rhythm, language etc., etc., through listening to books on my six hours each way on the 101. On this occasion, I listened to a book that I have been putting off reading for years: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, which tells the story of the tragic and unbelievably catastrophic series of events on Everest in May 1996. Much has been written and spoken about this misadventure, so I will not add to it at great length.

I had a peripheral interest in that one of my dearest friends is the great-niece of Eric Shipton, a man who scaled Everest (but did not reach the summit) and at one point drew back from further attempts because he abhorred the gathering commercialism and blatant disrespect for the mountain. Anyway, I was listening – riveted – to Krakauer’s book, and kept thinking to myself, “These people are all absolutely and completely mad.” Nuts. Devoid of all sense and reason. Why the heck would you want to go somewhere that cold and with such thin air, knowing it could kill you? This is why we have National Geographic, so that we lesser nutcases are kept well away from these places. Don’t they read their mythology? The highest places are the domain of the gods, and you don’t mess around up there. It’s Russian roulette Greek tragedy style.

In any case, with the book coming to a close (incidentally, as I came into Santa Barbara county on the 101, and saw the smoke billowing from fire after fire after fire atop the hills), I began thinking about fear, especially – and this is not such a leap – in the wake of the Book Passage Mystery Writers’ Conference and the various discussions that came up around fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, fear of this and that. The fear that can paralyze a writer into inaction. My thoughts dovetailed with my post last week, about authors who have written a first novel while beset by difficult circumstances.

I once told someone that the reason I knew no fear when it came time to send out my manuscript, was that having almost killed myself in a riding accident, just sending off a manuscript was a walk in the park. What were the editors and agents I’d contacted going to do – come round and break the other arm?

So, for all of you who have promised yourselves that you will finish a book this summer, or start a chapter, or complete a manuscript by the end of the year, but you’re worried about this and that in connection with your work – get over it. You are not in Iraq, Afghanistan or Zimbabwe. Most of you know where your next meal is coming from, if not your next gallon of gas. You are writing, and that’s great. And you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew, because you’re not on a bloody mountain somewhere – at least, after what I’ve just listened to, I hope you’re not. And remember, editors and agents do not troll the streets at night breaking into houses to steal manuscripts. No, they wait for them to come in. If you’ve a finished manuscript, don’t let them wait a moment longer, because as soon as the summer’s over, they’re looking for good books all over again, and yours might be one of them. Tarry not. Thank your lucky stars that you have the freedom to write and get on with it. You do not need oxygen to breathe in order to send off a manuscript, though you may gasp a bit when your work leaves your hands.

And before I take the dog for a walk, I saw a great bumper sticker yesterday:

1.20.09 The End of an Error

And I shall add: We hope. Oh dear Lord, we hope.



Happy Fourth. Have a great summer. Sign up for the “We’re Baaaaack” notice, and we’ll see you later, alligator.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I Just Don't Get It

James O. Born

I am a writer. But before that I was a reader. I still am. I’ve often expressed my interest in all types of books from history to fiction, from crime to science. I love being swept up by a god story with characters I care about. Fact or fiction, I don’t care.

I have, on occasion, questioned my own good taste in books. Too often I’ve read a bestseller and thought, “What the hell? Who likes this crap?” On the other hand I’ve tried to help a couple of unpublished writers who I thought had written pretty good manuscripts and none of them ever got published. None. Nada. Zero.

I’ve read a number of classics and loved them. I can still recite some of the opening lines to a kid’s version of Moby Dick that got me interested in reading, if not whaling. The Island of Dr. Moreau really got me interested in classics in sixth grade. Loved it.

In the last couple of years I’ve devoted a little more time to widely read “classics” or at least award winning books.

I just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I know the guy is a great writer. Oprah loved him and The Road. I think it won the National Book Award. I didn’t get it. Future, bleak, love of a father and son. Blah, blah, blah, cannibals, bad people, hungry. It made Angela’s Ashes look like a whacky comedy. I love futuristic, speculative fiction. I love stories of fathers and sons. I just thought it was the same beat for two hundred and fifty pages. Holy crap I’m depressed even telling you about it.

Last I tried to slog through Atlas Shrugged. Wow, I don’t have the words. Who is John Galt? Who freakin’ cares? I made to page 50 and felt like I had climbed Everest. Life’s too short. Atlas Shrugged is too long. Communists bad, capitalists good. Government has no role in regulation. There, that’s Jim’s cliff notes of Atlas Shrugged.

I’m interested in classic or just popular books that you didn’t get the point of.



Also I wanted to say good-bye, at least for now, from my regular Thursday slot here at Naked Authors. I’ve met some wonderful people here and enjoyed sharing the stage with the other Naked Authors. I may post a comment or two on my Amazon blog or website from time to time.

Thanks for all the support.

Best,

Jim B.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Broccoli from China

Hey Guys,

This is Cornelia, who happily just turned in the manuscript of her third novel tonight, July 1st--374 pages, slightly upwards of 77,000 words, only one deadline extension. It's tentatively titled Invisible Boy, and could well be available within the next decade, depending how fast I can get my edits done.

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce all of you to fabulous author Michelle Gagnon, guest-blogging here just before she sets off on tour for her SUPER fabulous second novel, The Bone Yard.

We just got to hang out in person at the most excellent Book Passage Mystery Writer's Conference in fashionable Corte Madera, California. If you missed this year's extravaganza, I urge you to sign up for the one they'll be hosting next July. It's an amazing, exciting, inspiring experience for writers of all things mystery.

Have a great week, and I'll be back blogging in person forthwith.

Please give Michelle a big round of applause, and comment below to make her feel welcome here among the Nakeds.

With no further ado:

I give you Michelle Gagnon


So I was out to dinner with friends last night, discussing a book we’d all recently read (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.) We’d each come away with a newfound resolve to consume only fresh organic local produce, most of which we’d be growing ourselves.

Speaking for myself, at least, these aspirations lasted less than a week. I did manage to buy a bowl of basil plants, which are currently withering on my back porch. But as for my plan to plant tomatoes and green beans in our yard, my husband reminded me that our crazy neighbor has over a dozen cats who treat our garden as their personal litter box. He added that I haven’t watered our plants in over six months, and that raising vegetables involves weeding, tilling, and a number of other gerunds that currently escape me. That went a long way toward killing my appetite for green beans chez Gagnon.

So my new game plan was to frequent farmer’s markets. Farmers in Virginia, where Kingsolver lives, apparently don’t price gouge. She claims that organic produce costs her a fraction of what it would in a store, but tell that to someone hawking corn in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I swear, a bar of pure gold would be cheaper. On top of which, it’s a significant drive from my house to any of those markets, while I can walk to our little corner store. And those farmers keep insane hours, I suppose so they can be in bed by 4PM and wake up bright and early the next morning to milk carrots or whatever it is they do.


I, on the other hand, prefer to start my day at the crack of nine, spend some time writing, then deal with dinner when the clock is edging toward 8PM. Carbon imprint concerns aside, the markets just didn’t fit my schedule. (Mind you, I only make it to that corner store when the rest of the family starts looking gaunt and hollow-eyed. When we’ve been reduced to eating old mustard spread on scallions for dinner, I realize it’s time to go grocery shopping again.)

So one of my friends says, “Hey, did you hear about Whole Foods?” which instantly pricks up my ears. I’d been feeling fairly proud of myself, I know Whole Foods isn’t exactly a farm stand but hey, it’s not Walmart either. And they have dozens of little “California-grown!!” and “support local farmers!” signs scattered about those zen-like aisles with their oddly muted light. So I was secure in the knowledge that by spending food dollars there, I was doing my part.

Apparently I was mistaken. My friend claims that those packages of frozen vegetables that I’ve been stuffing into my daughter, you know, the ones stamped “California Blend” on the outside? Are actually being imported from China. That’s right, China. If they’ve been putting lead into the toys, can you even imagine what they’ve done to the food?


When shopping, I look for the Made in America label, but I was raised by a die-hard bargain hunter. When you ask where I got that great shirt, more likely than not I’ll say, “H & M! And it was only ten dollars!” And stuff that was made here? Generally not so cheap. So I’m as guilty as anyone else.

But on the list of Chinese-produced items I’ll happily fork over cash for, food is absolutely not among them, at least not after the recent news stories. Anyone remember the antifreeze-in-toothpaste episode? Or how about the tainted pet food scare? Ninety-six percent of last year’s recalled toys harkened from China. And now they’re responsible for what I thought was health food?!

Here’s a fun statistic from the Washington Post:

“By value, China is the world's No. 1 exporter of fruits and vegetables, and a major exporter of other food and food products, which vary widely, from apple juice to sausage casings and garlic. China's agricultural exports to the United States surged to $2.26 billion last year, according to U.S. figures -- more than 20 times the $133 million of 1980. The United States subjects only a small fraction of its food imports to close inspection, but each month rejects about 200 shipments from China, mostly because of concerns about pesticides and antibiotics and about misleading labeling. In February, border inspectors for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration blocked peas tainted by pesticides, dried white plums containing banned additives, pepper contaminated with salmonella and frozen crawfish that were filthy.”

Now I’d argue that crawfish are filthy bottom-feeders regardless, but that’s beside the point. I had no idea that a good chunk of the food on my dinner plate came by boat from Shanghai.


My friend’s father does quality control for a handbag company in Hong Kong, and he is apparently a busy, busy man. He cycles through 12 factories making surprise visits, and at each and every stop finds that things have gone horribly awry. Rather than the glue he sent them, they’re using something that causes workers to break out in rashes. There’s corruption on every level, misuse of resources, dangerous work environments…and mind you, this is with purses. I’m not afraid to own a purse that failed quality control, the handle might fall off but chances are that won’t be life-threatening. But broccoli, on the other hand: that could kill you.

So what’s the moral to the story? I’m sucking it up, setting my alarm, opening my wallet and devoting a chunk of my writing time to cruising farmer’s markets. I might even grit my teeth and go water that basil plant. And as for you, Whole Foods—I feel so betrayed, you turned out to be just like my college boyfriend: good-looking and seemingly sincere, but sleeping with my friend on the side. Shame on you.

So, has a purse ever threatened your life? Where do you stand on Chinese pepper (and salmonella that adds a certain je ne sais quoi…)? And is anyone else in the mood to lead a torch-wielding mob to Whole Foods corporate headquarters? Best answer receives an autographed edition of my first book, The Tunnels. If you don’t win, console yourself by signing up for my newsletter at www.michellegagnon.com and I’ll toss your name in the hat for an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, Starbucks gift certificates, and other fabulous prizes that more likely than not arrived on our shores via cargo container.



Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller THE TUNNELS was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, BONEYARD, depicts a cat-and-mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she runs errands and wonders how crawfish got to China in the first place.

Inspiration, Obsession & Incarceration

From Paul

I really enjoyed Jacqueline's post last Friday about desperation providing the inspiration for writers to start -- and finish -- their damn books.

Here's the personal story of my first novel. Late 1980's. I'm bored practicing law and not particularly happy about my contribution -- or lack of it -- to society.

I take a windsurfing vacation to Maui. First day, bang! The board pops out of a wave and clobbers my thigh. Pain to the bone. Feels like a broken leg. X-rays show no fracture, just a deep, deep bruise. The Doc suggests Maui Wowie to ease the pain. Really.

I'm hobbled and can't windsurf for two weeks, straight or stoned. So I sit on the beach with a legal pad and begin scratching away. A novel? Who knew? The story was based loosely on a case I handled involving the theft of $2 million from my 90-year-old client.

Here, then, are my very first words of fiction:

The old man loved gadgets, money, and large-breasted women, and at the moment he had all three. His thick hands caressed the newest gadget, a sixty-second camera, turned it over and admired its smoothness, a tidy little box cool to the touch. The money came from the sale of Corrugated Container Corp., the company he had founded in the 1920's. The breasts belonged to Violet Belfrey, and she relied on them as an aging fastball pitcher might his slider. Few men remembered a word Violet said, but the image of her full breasts endured for years. A lot of men and a lot of years. With her solid cheekbones and strong jaw, Violet's age was impossible to determine. Somewhere between forty and hell, the old man guessed.


At the time, I was unaware that, in establishing character, it's probably better to not to describe two people in the same paragraph.

Anyway, I finish the book and it sells for a million bucks. Nah! It doesn't sell. It's turned down by more publishers than Jim Born has guns.

Now here comes the moral of the story. Undeterred, I write another book. "To Speak for the Dead." It sells. I get a two-book, hard-soft, contract from Bantam. (For one cent, you can buy a used copy of the paperback on Amazon. The hardcover will cost you $16.85)
Then, the Hawaiian story sells. "Slashback" becomes the third book of the Jake Lassiter series. This one will cost you a buck on Amazon. Those first lines, blurred with sea water and speckled with sand, are the opening paragraph of chapter two.

***************
SUMMER READING TIP: "AT FIRST SIGHT"


Speaking of Maui...

That's where Stephen J. Cannell's hot, hot summer read, "At First Sight" opens.


It's a smart, witty page-turner with an unforgettable villain and a lesson about the self-absorbed, amoral Hollywood lifestyle.

A dot.com millionaire who's on his ass, Chick Best falls hard for a beautiful woman he spots poolside at a Maui hotel. If only he could possess her, his life would soar. Problem is, she's married. Or is that a problem at all? I won't give too much away.

Cannell, the famed writer/producer has a string of television hits going back to "The Rockford Files." His fourteenth novel is a crisply written tale about the meaning of love and consequences of obsession.

SOMETHING I LEARNED WHILE LOOKING UP SOMETHING ELSE

George Jung, the titan of cocaine smuggling now serving heavy time in federal prison, has his own Website where you can read his poetry and buy his CD's about, guess what, his life as a smuggler. Jung also has a MySpace page with a countdown clock, ticking away the seconds until his release date (another seven years or so). You may recall Ted Demme's firecracker of a movie, "Blow," with Johnny Depp portraying Jung.
**************************
EVANGELICAL DECORATING

Overheard at the meeting between Billy Graham and John McCain: "Rev. Graham, you have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is not gay. A gay God could never have furnished your home with such mismatched, hideous furniture."


************************************
...AND IF YOU DIDN'T FEEL LOUSY ENOUGH ALREADY...


This, from columnist Thomas Friedman in Sunday's New York Times. Under the headline, "Anxious America," he wrote:

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry...

We used to try harder and do better. After Sputnik, we came together as a nation and responded with a technology, infrastructure and education surge, notes Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. After the 1973 oil crisis, we came together and made dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. After Social Security became imperiled in the early 1980s, we came together and fixed it for that moment...

If the old saying — that “as General Motors goes, so goes America” — is true, then folks, we’re in a lot of trouble. General Motors’s stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota’s $162.6 billion. On top of it, G.M. shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That’s us. We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

********************
GOODBYE FOR NOW...
This has been fun. I'm going fishing. Great summer to all of you. Soldier on.

Paul

Monday, June 30, 2008

An insider's take on publishing and an important announcement

Patty here…

I was shuffling through some papers on Friday when I came across a speech titled “The Economics of Publishing,” which was delivered by Otto Penzler at a Mystery Writers of America/New England Chapter meeting in April of 1999. Penzler is a well-known editor, publisher, and bookstore owner. Here is some of what he had to say:

“Why are you trying to write? It makes sense only for people with a creative urge not satisfied in other ways and who have other means of support. If you need to earn a living from this, I’m suggesting that you reconsider. Many of you—no mater how talented you are—are not going to get published. If you do, you are not going to become a success. Even if you are published and have success, you won’t make it multi-million big. Very few people do.”

He goes on to talk about what happens when and if your agent is able to get your manuscript into the hands of a publisher.

“When the manuscript gets in-house, unless the agent or writer has a track record as a star, the manuscript is read first by a first reader or junior editor. It moves from junior editor to assistance editor to editor. Assuming they all like it, the editor takes it to a weekly marketing meeting. This meeting includes such people as the directors of advertising, publicity, sales, and art. The editor has to convince the committee that it’s saleable, and that it may actually make money.”


Most books, he concludes, do not make money and here’s why. As an example, Penzler uses a $10,000 advance and a per book cost of $20.00.

“10,000 x $20 does not add up to $200,000. The average discount to bookstores, libraries, etc is 48%, which means that if the whole run sells out, the publisher gets $104,000. Almost never does the whole run sell out. If the author is lucky, 7,500 copies will sell—a “75% sell-through,” a very good percentage. (50% is more typical.) This means the publisher actually gets 75% of that $104,000, or $78,000.”


According to Penzler, here’s where the rest of the money goes:

Income
Book Sales 78,000

Expenses
Advance to author 10,000
Line editing 200
Typesetting 3,000
Cover design 3,000
Dust jacket printing 4,000
Prepare printing process 1,000
Printing ($3/book) 30,000
Advertising/promo ($1/book)* 10,000
Royalties to author (less adv)** 5,844

TOTAL INCOME 78,000
TOTAL EXPENSES 67,044
NET PROFIT 10,956

*Usually includes only a prorated share of the catalog space and small ads in local newspapers
**Generally 10% of the cover price on the first 5,000 copies, 12.5% on the next 5,000, and 15% of all copes over 10,000.


Penzler notes that the drain on profit doesn’t stop there. The publisher must also deduct overhead, which he estimates as 15% of sales or a flat fee, usually $20,000, leaving the publisher in the hole to the tune of $9044. The house may be able to recoup some of that loss by selling subsidiary rights (book clubs, foreign rights, audio rights), but in the publishing world, there are no guarantees.

I first read this article in July 2005 and remember feeling slightly queasy. It still leaves me feeling astonished that anybody can get a book published these days. On the other hand, somebody has to be multi-million big. It might as well be you. May the force be with you!

Happy Monday!


n n n VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT n n n

The first and only rule at Naked Authors is that there are no rules. For the past 2+ years we have tried to entertain you with our posts and hope that we have occasionally succeeded. However, it’s summer and since many of you are going on vacation, we decided to join you. Each of us will regale you this week on his or her regular day, including this Saturday, when you’ll hear from our very own James Grippando. This is no time to lurk, so please stop by and share your thoughts. As of Sunday, we Naked Authors will be heading for the beach.

If you haven't already done so, please subscribe to Naked Authors so we can e-mail you when we begin posting again (I’m sure we’ll all have gained some wisdom about literature and life over the summer). Here’s how: At the bottom of the right column is a box. Above it are the words "enter your e-mail." Do that. Then press “Subscribe me!” That’s all you have to do. You can unsubscribe at any time. We’ll miss you. We hope you'll miss us, too.

Happy Summer!


And because I want to leave you laughing...

Sexy in pink.

And to think, we elected him twice.

The words some Californians fear more than 5 dollar a gallon gasoline: "Ahhhh'll be back."

What? No pearls?

For our friends across the pond.


Words fail me.

For more photos, click here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do Not Wait For The Bell To Toll

from Jacqueline

The Book Passage Mystery Writers’ Conference began today (Thursday), and I am tired already. But it’s a good tired, the fatigue that sets in after doing a worthy day’s work. As co-chair, I’m back there tomorrow morning, and again on Saturday and Sunday. Our Cornelia is on the faculty, one of about eight “conference alumni” who are here this year on the teaching side.

There are many aspects of the conference that I love, but the best thing is that it is truly all about the students, who by the end of four days of lectures, workshops, practical sessions and “in conversation” debates and dialogues, go home filled with (among other things) resolve to do what it takes to become a published author. This journey is not for the faint-hearted, so I take my hat off to the students. In attending the conference they are making an important statement: I am a writer. Not “will be” or “hope to be” but “am” a writer. They’re walking the talk.

It’s amazing how many writers have had to come to the brink of something untoward or go through a difficult time before they galvanize themselves to write a book. For Lee Child, it was being laid off at work. Check this out, from June 22nd’s Guardian newspaper:

“Fired from his job at Granada Television at the age of 40, Lee Child was suddenly on the scrapheap with a family to support. Refusing to panic, he spent £3.99 on paper and pencils with the ambition of writing the biggest-selling book in the world's biggest market: America.

Thirteen years later, Child reaches the summit today when his 12th novel, Nothing to Lose, starring his anti-hero Jack Reacher, goes straight to number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list, 10 places ahead of Sebastian Faulks's James Bond rework Devil May Care. It is the culmination of a breakthrough year in which he has also had the number one paperback in America and topped both charts in Britain - a quadruple thought to be unique for a crime writer.”


Jeffrey Archer wrote “First Among Equals” when he was absolutely skint and looking at the business end of bankruptcy (known to fly close to the wind, is Jeffrey). I think he wrote it in about two weeks.

I had been noodling around with my first novel for a few months when I had a really bad accident. I knew I needed to finish that book or lose my sanity while off work for months on end, unable to drive and living in a rural area with no public transportation services. But the bottom line is that it took that accident to tip me into a writing frenzy.

So, if you’re an unpublished writer out there, or you’ve always wanted to write that book but didn’t know where to start – take heed. Do not wait until life throws you a big old curve ball before you begin or even to take the next step toward publication. When the universe hits you with a two by four it tends to hurt. So, do it now. Just get in there, get in the game and write.

Or on the other hand, maybe it works to let Fate take a hand. Trouble is, you never know quite what Fate has in store.


And on another matter, I just had to share this with you. Cornelia and I were perusing the shelves of rather old books yesterday (Book Passage sells used books on behalf of the local hospice), and came across a 1936 publication entitled: “Be Glad You’re Neurotic.” We cracked up laughing at that one, and I knew I just had to have that book. So, for your reading pleasure, here’s the first paragraph:

“The prefatory note of a book is always the excuse for its existence. Every author is conscience stricken when attempting to palm off another volume upon an already all-too-patient and always hopefully expectant Public.”

I’ve recently finished my sixth novel. Palming Off is set for next February.

Now, it’s back to the conference ....

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Random Humor

James O. Born

I recieve e-mails from a dozen people and organizations that all feature humor about their own outfit. Police organizations, military officers, lawyers, you name it, I have a friend there willing to pass on their humor. This a sampling of humor and photos I received over e-mail.


First a memo from Osmama Bin Laden ( The last issue is my favorite)

To: All Al Qaeda Fighters

From: Osama bin Laden

Subject: The Cave (Do Not Distribute Outside the Organization).


Hi guys. We've all been putting in long hours recently but we've really come together as a group and I love that! However, while we continue to fight a Jihad in this New Year, we can't forget to take care of the cave, and frankly I have a few concerns:

First of all, while it's good to be concerned about cruise missiles, we should be even more concerned about the dust in our cave. We want to avoid excessive dust inhalation, (a health and safety issue) - so we need to sweep the cave daily. I've done my bit on the cleaning rota ..have you? I've posted a sign-up sheet near the cave reception area (next to the halal toaster).

Second , it's not often I make a video address but when I do, I'm trying to scare the s**t out of most of the world's population, okay? That means that while we're taping, please do not ride your scooter in the background or keep doing the 'Wassup' thing. Thanks.

Third : Food. I bought a box of Dairylea recently, clearly wrote "Ossy" on the front, and put it on the top shelf. Today, two of my Dairylea slices were gone. Consideration. That's all I'm saying.

Fourth : I'm not against team spirit and all that, but we must distance ourselves from the Infidel's bat and ball games. Please do not chant "Ossy, Ossy, Ossy, Oy, Oy, Oy" when I ride past on the donkey. Thanks.

Five : Graffiti. Whoever wrote "OSAMA F***S DONKEYS" on the group toilet wall. It's a lie, the donkey backed into me, whilst I was relieving myself at the edge of the mountain.

Six : The use of chickens is strictly for food. Assam, the old excuse that the 'chicken backed into me, whilst I was relieving myself at the edge of the mountain' will not be accepted in future. (With donkeys, there is a grey area.)

Finally , we've heard that there may be Western soldiers in disguise trying to infiltrate our ranks. I want to set up patrols to look for them. First patrol will be Omar, Muhammad, Abdul, Akbar and Dave.


Love you lots,
Group Hug.
Os.
PS - I'm sick of having "Osama Bed Linen" scribbled on my laundry bag. Cut it out, it's not funny anymore.
A Poster I like



A simple joke:
A guy goes to the supermarket and notices an attractive woman waving at
him. She says hello. He's rather taken aback because he can't place where
he knows her from.

So, he says, "Do you know me?"

To which she replies, "I think you're the father of one of my kids."

Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful to
his wife and says, "My God, are you the stripper from my bachelor party
that I made love to on the pool table with all my buddies watching while
your partner whipped my butt with wet celery?"

She looks into his eyes and says calmly, "No, I'm your son's teacher."






This is our dear friend Tom, or as you know him Tom T.O. He sent me the photo and knew I'd find the right use for it. He rocks!



Deep Thoughts For Those Who Take Life Way Too Seriously:

1. Save the whales - Collect the whole set.

2. A day without sunshine is like - Night.

3. On the other hand - you have different fingers

4. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

5. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

6. Remember, half the people you know are below average.

7. He who laughs last thinks slowest.

8. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

9. The early bird may get the worm - but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

10. Support bacteria - They're the only culture some people have.

11. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

12. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

13. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

14. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.

15. OK, so what's the speed of dark?

16. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

17. Hard work pays off in the future - Laziness pays off now.

18. Every one has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.

19. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?

20 Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines

21. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

22. I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder .

23. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

24. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened

25. Just remember -- if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.

26. Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

27. Life isn't like a box of chocolates . . . it's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rhymes With Duck Redux




By Cornelia

Just about two years ago, here on the Naked blog, I posted a post about what I consider to be the joys of swearing. Recently, I had an essay included in a new anthology edited by the wondrous Ellen Sussman, called Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. When I was asked to be one of the DW contributors to the Powells.com weeklong blog in honor of the book's  publication, it seemed a fitting time to re-examine my lifelong love of profanity.

I also revealed a bit about my former alter ego, Bunny de Plume. To read more, go here... (Bonus! Find out what my dirty word is! And also why I gave up writing pornography!) 

So far, nobody loves me on Powell's except Sharon, and she was forced to comment because I made her read the post in her own living room. Please leave me another comment, so I don't look like a total geek in front of all those literary types. 

In the meantime, I'd like to ask all of you brilliant and talented Nakeds for your help with something. This week marks the advent of the most splendid and inimitable Book Passage Mystery Writer's Conference, of which Our Jackie is co-chair. 

On Friday morning, Tim Maleeny and I will be teaching a workshop on characterization, and I'm compiling quotations which show a particular flair with revealing the characters we've come to know and love across all genres. If you've got one on hand you find particularly snazzy, please share in the comments.

I think some of the most classic character introductions in crime fiction don't hold up all too well. They can be clunky, and all too adjective-heavy. Occasionally verging on the fussy, even in supposedly he-man lit.

Take this, the first-page description of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (To me, all but the last line should have been cut--the rest of it is so confusing I end up picturing Spade as rather Cubist):

Sam Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down, from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. He looked rather like a blond satan.

(oh, and p.s.? How can he look like a blond satan if he has pale brown hair?)
And here's the self-described Philip Marlowe, from page one of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep:

I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them I was neat, clean, shave and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be.

Again, he's got a nice little punch at the end, but I think a contemporary editor would have slashed the hell out of that passage anyway.

I like character intros that are a little less on the nose, a little more sleight-of-hand. Revelation by misdirection, or contrast with another character in the same room, perhaps. A slight idiosyncracy that hints at the whole iceberg lurking beneath an otherwise unruffled ocean.

Here are a few of my own faves, though I'll be searching recently read books read for more:

Sir Thomas, who was ready enough to depart, saw that an immediate escape was impossible. 

"Sir Thomas," began Mr. Pabsby, in a soft, greasy voice--a voice made up of pretense, politeness, and saliva.

--Anthony Trollope, Ralph the Heir


He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.

--Douglas Adams

He was full of gossip and you could trust him to know the details of the latest scandal before anyone but the parties immediately concerned. He would have stared at you with frank amazement had you suggested his existence was futile. He would have thought you distressingly plebeian.

--W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge

"A-ah!" Karmazinov said in a delighted voice. He wiped his mouth with his napkin, jumped up, and hurried forward to exchange kisses with his guest--a gesture Russians tend to make if they are really famous.

--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Possessed

British Officer: I can't make out if you're bloody bad=mannered or just half-witted.

T.E. Lawrence: I have the same problem.

Officer: Shut up!

Lawrence: Yes, sir.

Officer: I know you've been well-educated, Lawrence. It says so in your dossier.

--Lawrence of Arabia, screenplay.

[Jaak] explained [Julya] to Arkady, "The first time I saw her she was wearing gumboots and a mattress. She's complaining about Stockholm and she came from someplace in Siberia where they take antifreeze to shit."

"That reminds me," Julya said, unfazed, "for my exit visa I may need a statement from you saying you don't have any claims on me."

"We're divorced. We have a relationship of mutual respect. Can I borrow your car?"

--Martin Cruz Smith, Red Square

And who could forget the wandering street prophet from the leafy suburban town in Peter DeVries Consenting Adults, or The Duchess Will Be Furious, who lambastes his fellow citizens with such impromptu sermons as the following:

"For the day of vengeance is at hand. 'Ye are no longer my people, ye fancy schmancy,' saith the Lord. 'Wastrels and spoiled, ye eat the tender tips of the asparagus and throw the rest away, yea that which is still edible. Lo the lean years will come when ye shall learn your lesson. Yea the entire stalk will ye eat, and glad to get it."

What's a pithy intro of a great character that's stuck with you? Thank you in advance for sharing...

Over & Out, George

From Paul

R.I.P. George Carlin:
Of all the George Carlin's routines over all the years, "I'm a Modern Man" is my favorite. It's not political; it could hardly offend anyone. It's just a marvelous bit of wordsmithery. Poetic. Funny. Smart. See it on You Tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm93FwZXhVg


I'm hanging in;
There ain't no doubt.
And I'm hanging tough;
Over and out.

*****************
Heat Wave: Yikes, it was hot in L.A. this past weekend. Triple-digit hot. People flocked to the beach. Here they are.
No, wait! That's Coney Island in 1940. But you get the idea.
***************************
We're not the only dimwits: You thought Americans were stupid just because we can't find Iraq (or Nebraska) on a map: Sorry, Jacqueline, but Brits are dim, too. A recent poll revealed that nearly one quarter of Britons surveyed thought Winston Churchill was a fictional character. More than half believed Sherlock Holmes was real. Congratulations, then, to the fiction writer who penned:

"Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never -- in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

Paul

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twitter and Plurk

Patty here...

I love popular culture. The problem is I can’t keep up with all the new trends. However, thanks to David Sarno’s June 4th article in the Los Angeles Times called "Twitter this and Plurk that," at least I am, for the moment, up-to-speed. Sarno has this to say:

Shorting out the buzz-o-meter this week was a site called Plurk.com. Plurk, whose name is a fusion of “people” and “lurk,” is the latest nanoblogging sensation. To nanoblog is to broadcast one-sentence messages to friends and readers, a concept pioneered by the now-famous Twitter: “On my way to work,” writes a Twittering suburbanite. You don’t say? Across the world—and the interest spectrum—an anti-poaching ranger in Kenya reports: “The great migration has started in the Mara; Zebras from the Musiara plains have made the first entrance."

Plurk’s spin on this genre is to make a visual timeline of reports. So now you can see at a glance when your favorite nanobloggers get up in the morning, how much coffee they drink, what they think of last night’s showing of “Sex and the City” and/or the difficulty of disarming illegal wildebeest traps.


So, off I went to visit Plurk.com. I was immediately encouraged by the funky graphics and the jolly welcome:

“Plurk is a place that lets you publish and share your thoughts, emo-ness, #^@%!*%(& and loves.”


Emo-ness? I wanted some of that. Full of hope, I clicked on one of the plurker sites, expecting to find cyber poetry.

“Nicolee is so so hungry and can’t go to dinner because of stupid physics. This summer is going to go by so slowly.”

Poor Nicolee, I so so wanted to feel her pain, but reading about her plight didn't exactly send chills up my spine in the same way as does "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."



"Karenh is a very good (hypothetical) rogue demon hunter."

Um…okay. A fair attempt at Cyber-Haiku.



"dsyzdek is Home for 5 minutes and the Princess has been in timeout the whole time. And lost her bedtime stories."

"Ode to a Grecian Urn?" I think not.



So, now that you know about Plurking, is it the next "big thing" or should dsyzdek and friends join Princess for a timeout?

Happy Monday!

8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8

p.s. This Saturday, June 28th, I'm going to guest blog on The Lipstick Chronicles. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and join the conversation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Brave New World

from Jacqueline

I know I’ve touched upon this subject before, but I just have to go for it again. It’s the question of whether we are losing the will and ability to read. No, I’m not questioning whether you can recite your ABC’s or if you can actually read the words I’m writing here, but are we losing the intellectual stamina to read anything longer than an email and a text message?

I first started thinking about this a few years ago, after a conversation over lunch with my publisher, during which we discussed the future of books. It transpired that illustrated books for adults were considered to be a “next big thing.” As the population ages, it will need those pictures to get them through a book. I thought back to some writing I’d done a few years ago, for a magazine aimed at the over-50 market, and I was told to keep my articles to about 500-600 words, because as people aged they didn’t want to read more than that at any one time. At that point, the big 5-0 was looming out there for me, so I just thought, “Oh, no, that won’t happen to me ....”

Then yesterday, at Scottsdale airport (I'd been at our beloved Poisoned Pen bookstore), I picked up the latest Atlantic Monthly to read on the ‘plane, and the lead article had me thinking about the question of literary endurance all over again. The title: Is Google Making Us Stoopid. It’s a fair question, and the essay’s author, Nicholas Carr, asks it very well, describing the way he’s been thinking about his own thinking. “I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading.” He goes on to describe how his mind wanders, how he is distracted, and how deep reading has become a struggle. Hmmmm. I confess, I have had my moments. Re-reading Middlemarch doesn’t seem to be quite the idea it was a year ago.

The article goes on to describe a phenomenon we have come to know and understand - that our minds are being trained by the internet to dip into this, dip into that. To research a point, I no longer have to read a book, or even a well-chosen chapter, I just Google, and I’m there. Carr describes, “foraging in the Web’s info-thickets, reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines, and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link.” And it turns out, at University College London they've been conducting research into computer logs at the British Library and a UK-based educational consortium, and they found that people using the site exhibited a “form of skimming activity.” And so it went on. The reader’s life is no longer as we knew it.

The thing that interests me in all this, is how much people – from those who write articles such as this one in The Atlantic Monthly, to those discussing the subject – use the words “information” and “wisdom” interchangeably. And they are not the same thing. To me, the amassing of information is akin to our current obsession with “stuff.” The amount of stuff we have these days, stuff that we deem absolutely necessary to our quality of life, is almost obscene. And if we were asked to take just a few things because the house was about to burn down (or foreclosed!), we’d soon find out how much useless stuff we’ve managed to wrap around ourselves and what we truly care for and need. Information is like that. Knowledge, however, is akin to spun silk. Information is simply a batch of facts. It's "clothes" not couture. Knowledge has to do with every cell of the body, and it is a pre-requisite for wisdom, thus is it all but unachievable - as the truly wise would gladly tell us if we did but listen. Knowledge is a path. Information a destination for a given purpose. Knowledge is perennial. Information flowers once.

I'm not a Luddite, but I would love to know where all this "progress" is going. I see more books being published than ever before, I see kids happily reading a 700-page Harry Potter book, and at the same time, I was told by a teacher a couple of years ago, that increasingly kids are having trouble with books because they don’t know how to imagine, because it’s being done for them with the electronic imagery they’ve been brought up with. Ah, Electrickery.

And before I leave you (having written over 700 words, I’ve pushed the envelope enough already), I wonder if you all saw the cover of last week’s New Yorker. I cut it out and pasted it on the refridgerator. It was, I think, one of the saddest covers ever. It depicted a bookstore owner unlocking the door to his shop, while at the same time his neighbor is receiving a box of books from Amazon.

Ah, brave, brave new world.

Have a lovely weekend. Do yourself a favor, read a good long book. Middlemarch, anyone? Crime and Punishment? 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Support System

James O. Born

Character Actors

I love movies. I watch old ones, new ones, good ones, bad ones, if the story grabs me, I’m happy to go.

In my opinion, most movies are made by the supporting actors. I don’t know why, I think it was my father’s influence, but I love good character actors. They are so vital to any film or TV show that without them I hardly bother to watch. Few people appreciate the impact of a fine supporting actor who never graduates to the role of “star”.

Most character actors are known by face and not by name. This is my attempt to put a name to the face and recognize their accomplishments. I lean toward comedy, even if it is just comic relief in a serious film. I’m fascinated by the successful actors who appear in more films than anyone but get only a nod on the street as if we’ve seen someone we recognize from the sotre or the neighborhood.

A good character actor must, at once not over showdown the star or story, but also be so compelling and unique that we bother to learn their names.

While watching the 1976 movie The Shootist the other day, I was reminded of this fact whenever Harry Morgan was on screen. We all know him as Colonel Potter from MASH or, if a little older, as Joe Friday from Dragnet, but he pops up in more funny old westerns than you can count. 1971’s Support Your Local Gunfighter with James Gardner is the perfect example. His energy is infectious, especially in The Shootist.

Holland Taylor is gaining a following from her Emmy award winning performance on the CBS show Two and Half Men. She is the ultimate, beautiful, witty, sarcastic, cynical older woman and is a genius. From much earlier shows like Tom Hank’s first big break, Bosom Buddies or Tia Leone’s short-lived but funny The Naked Truth, Ms Taylor commands the screen and our attention.

Steve Buscemi has a better known name and face but he’s earned it through quirky roles and fine acting. From his role in the later years of The Sopranos or his appearances in films like The Big Lebowski or Amageddon, to his stellar performance in Fargo he can be considered the king of the current crop of true character actors. His odd looks only emphasize the humanity in a guy equally at ease playing a mobster or a genius engineer with a weakness for strippers.

These are just a few of my favorite character actors but I’m always on the lookout for more.

Who do you look for onscreen? Alfred Molina? Bob Hoskins? Agnes Morehead?

I’d like to know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Fire Inside

By Cornelia

This has been a week of fires. First all kinds of wild fires, around the Bay Area. And then, the night before last, a monitor fire.



"What is a monitor fire?" you may well ask.

It is a fire that occurs inside one's monitor, I may well answer.



In this case, the groovy 2001-looking monitor that came with the Mac Cube computer I bought off craigslist, back in 2000.

I was just sitting there at the keyboard, minding my own business, when all of a sudden the screen went dark. I tried restarting, and there was a little "pop!" noise. And then a couple of minutes later everything smelled like old televisions,



followed by a small upward trickle of smoke coming out of the vent holes at the top of the thing, accompanied by a slight orange glow inside it. I could see inside it, because the shell of the thing is made of clear plastic.




"Dude!" I exclaimed.

The others in the living room were busy ignoring both So You Think You Can Dance and, apparently, me and my exclamation.

"DUDE! MY COMPUTER'S ON FIRE!"

That got their attention.




We hustled to unplug all the cables and everything, and then I hoisted the entire thing up and shlepped it outside. And there it rests, on top of an old bench, screen-down.





I think I should give it a nice Viking funeral by putting it on a flaming boat and shoving it out to sea or something.





We've had a good run. I wrote two novels on the thing, despite the fact that my daughter Lila scraped swirls of the reflective coating off the screen with the point of a broken pencil, somewhere circa mid-2003, and the hard disk crapped out last summer.



We survived the "surprise" update to OS X my husband and brother perpetrated while I was in Paris, two years ago. They meant well, but managed to lose over 1200 songs I'd downloaded from Napster.




We met through craiglist, as I mentioned earlier. I responded to an ad that read something like "Must sell brand-new Mac Cube! Emergency! Loaded with Software!" (ah yes, also "lost" during that "surprise" upgrade). The guy selling it was a freshman at UC Berkeley. I met him in a parking garage, just off campus, with my kids in the back seat of my then-car, a Porsche. We had to take the components out of their boxes because they wouldn't fit in the car while packed up. I put the monitor in the front seat and wrapped the belt around it, and put everything else in the trunk up front.




As I closed the passenger door, I turned to the kid who was selling it.

"So what was the emergency?" I asked, hoping he wasn't going to say "I need my leg amputated, but don't have health insurance" or something.

"Oh, right," he said. "I need a down payment for a Corvette. My parents wouldn't co-sign the loan."




And out of his moral laxity, a great techno-love was born.

I've been writing book three on this laptop, and haven't figured out how to use the mousepad thingie to copy images, so no pictures this week either. I had to tear myself away from the Cube to get anything done. The siren call of the blogs was too strong to resist, and before this I didn't set up the internet access on this thing so I couldn't check email or anything when I left the house to write.




I just got an extension on my deadline until July 1st, and it looks like things will be in shape to send in by then. But I'll miss the old Cube, damn it. Leave it to a long-faithful computer like that to go out in a blaze of glory.



Have you ever loved a computer? Fess up...

Mean Quotes

From Paul's Poisoned Pen...

Two days ago, in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, author and Professional Nasty Person Gore Vidal was asked:
How did you feel when you heard that [William F.] Buckley died this year?

I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.

Forty years ago, Buckley and Vidal nearly came to blows when debating the First Amendment -- there's a joke in that, I'm sure -- on live network television. Gore called Buckley a "crypto-Nazi" and Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll punch you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

You can watch the extraordinary film clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYymnxoQnf8

The feud never ended, not even with Buckley's death. Writers have long sharpened their steak knives on the flanks of other writers. Herewith a few examples, beginning with the classic shot at Lillian Hellman by Mary McCarthy:

"Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'

Then there's...

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." William Faulkner regarding Ernest Hemingway

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner

Faulkner was particularly nasty. He called Mark Twain a "hack writer" and said that Henry James "was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met."

Virginia Woolf described James Joyce's "Ulysses" as "the work of a queasy undergraduate squeezing his pimples." [Ah, so now I understand that confounding book!]

And this...

"The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth has been to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg." Edmund Wilson

But then...

"Edmund Wilson's careful and pedestrian and sometimes rather clever book reviews misguide one into thinking there is something in his head besides mucilage." Raymond Chandler

Finally, perhaps the most well known literary put-down of our time: Truman Capote's description of Jack Kerouac's work: "That's not writing; that's typewriting."

That's all the typewriting for today, folks. Feel free to take a shot at any writer (or anyone else), if you so desire.

Paul

Monday, June 16, 2008

Doppelganger

Patty here…

I spent two days last week traveling the highways and byways of Los Angeles and Orange Counties with tour manager, media escort, and all around great guy, the indefatigable Ken Wilson. When he’s not with people like me, he manages the tours of high-profile authors like Janet Evanovich.

I’ve toured with Ken before and it’s always a rewarding experience. During the time we were together, he introduced me to booksellers, hyped Cool Cache with charm and finesse, and entertained me with a glorious array of compelling stories, like his encounter with the bear fence. It gives me chills just thinking about it. He also treated me to my only star sighting last week, Al Pacino on a street in Santa Monica. Here's Ken on the left with Nick from the B&N at the Westside Pavilion.



One afternoon, Ken and I were having coffee with a bookseller. During a lull in the conversation, she turned to me and said, “Did anyone ever tell you, you look like Kim Cattrall?” This was the second time in as many days that someone had made this comparison, because “Sex and the City” is in theatres and Ms. Cattrall’s picture is everywhere.

It was flattering of her to say that, but, in fact, I don’t look anything like Kim Cattrall except that we both have shoulder-length blond hair. And maybe—just maybe—someone might compare the sexy little mole beneath her lip with one of my GIANT freckles, sun damage from my misspent youth.



That was not the first time I’ve been told I look like someone other than me. In the past, people have compared me to Rosanna Arquette. (I think because we both have a bit of an overbite.) And Jill Clayburgh. (Okay, I sort of see that one.) And David Cassidy (Decoding this requires a shrink and a very dry martini.)

I don’t compare the characters in my books to famous people, because a wise person once told me it was lazy writing. I just try to describe the person and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. On the other hand, I began to wonder if I was missing out on some fun. To test my theory, I studied the photos of my fellow Naked Authors. At first blush, they looked just like themselves. Then I took a second glance.

Cornelia Read: Our very own debutante appears wide-eyed and wistful and those pink rosebud lips make you just want to pat her hand and call her sweetie.


Then you see the sharp corners of that black leather jacket and you recall the dazzling narrative voice of her tough-talking heroine, Madeline Dare, and think—oh dear! Still, at her core I see the sweetness and the vulnerability sort of like Reese Witherspoon...



...okay, so maybe Reese Witherspoon running for student body president at The Crazy School.

Jaqueline Winspear: Our J is wise, grounded, and multi-talented, a person of substance that we all feel fortunate to call friend.


She is not content to gloss over the tough issues. Her compassion compels her to dig deep like the Messenger of Truth, she is, sort of like Diane Sawyer channeling Mother Theresa with a British accent.


Paul Levine: In his author photo, Paulie is sporting an irreverent smile that promises a little fun, perhaps at your expense. Then you look closer at his picture and you notice that he has this really amazing hair. So if you’re a guy you’re thinking, “How can he be such a great writer AND have hair like that? It’s so unfair.” If you’re a woman, you’re thinking, “How can he be such a great writer AND have hair like that? I wonder if he’s single.”



Even if he didn’t have hair, Paulie would still be a talented guy and a prince of a fellow, sort of like this guy except with a multi-book contract.



Wait a minute…the hair, the impish grin…nah, couldn’t be.

James O. Born: James O is a complex guy. In addition to being a successful law enforcement officer and a writer of award-winning novels, he’s a practical joker and a devoted dad.


He’s also gracious and generous, but don’t tell anyone I said that because he might shoot one of my books with his potato gun. Deep down, I suspect James O is the love child of Dirty Harry



and June Cleaver.



That was fun, but now it’s your turn to type.

Happy Monday!

P.S. This Friday, June 20th, I'm going to be interviewed by Hank Phillippi Ryan on the Jungle Red Writers blog. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and keep me company.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

from Jacqueline

Last weekend I finally finished the manuscript for my next novel and have just embarked upon my first revision. This may sound strange, but I have never actually revised a manuscript beyond a quick spell-check before sending it to my editor. I’ve never had the time. Then I go through a couple of revisions based upon my own reading and editorial comments, and that’s it, done. Never to be seen again until an advance review copy lands at my door, and I start to read and want to scream because I see all the things I should have seen before I sent the manuscript out into the world. But along with that scream, there’s also a sense of relief. It’s done. I actually managed to write another book. From the depths of “I don’t think I can do this ....” as I looked at the blank page in January, to the point at which I knew how the final scene would look, I managed to do what I thought I would never be able to do again. Funny, that. And I’m already starting to agonize over the next one.

So, here I am, knowing that in a few weeks, that will be me, done for the summer. The revisions will be completed and I’ll be off the hook for a little while. It’s like being let out of school. I’ve already started imagining all the things I’ll be doing. I’ll ride for another hour in the morning. I’ll drag out the harp and start playing again. I’ll paint pictures. But what do I always end up doing? What’s my treat to myself? I write. I’ll write a few short stories (which remain tucked away in a folder on my desktop), I’ll go back to that memoir and start revising it again, and of course, I’ll also try to pull that other novel together, the one that I wrote last summer but want to go back to because it needs one heck of a lot more work and summer is the time. Then there’s the book that might be the start of a new series, the one I just had to get out onto the page while working on this most recent manuscript, because if I didn’t it would have rolled around in my head and the characters would have distracted me no end.

For me, every book I’ve written has been different in terms of how the words have come from my mind to the page. If I have a muse, it’s as if I’m at the mercy of her emotions, how she feels on a given day. She should be on hormone therapy. When I wrote my first novel, the one that took the longest to write, the only thing that drew out the process was the fact that I was working full-time and had a bad, bad accident in the middle. The second novel terrified me. How would I ever pull this off again? I knew I would be revealed as a fake, so I was glad to have that day job. With the third novel I began to feel like a runner who was finally wearing a pair of shoes that didn’t pinch at the toes. I had the story in my head, I knew I had done this thing before, so I could probably do it again, and of course I was convinced that someone would send the heavy mob around to knee-cap me if I missed a deadline.

The next novel was a different matter all together. Drip, drip, drip, so slowly came the words, though I still wrote a book in just a few months, because I had to, because that’s the way it works when you do book tours, do a lot of research and then also have to write. You do what you can, when you can. But that drip, drip, drip scared me, in fact, I think I even wrote the image in to the book. The next novel surprised me, because far from dripping, all I had to do was shoot that water cannon at the page, and the words just flew into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and before I knew it, I had the end in sight as I came down the long stretch.

So, that’s how it goes, this business of writing. People often ask me if I have a special place to write, if I have rituals, and if I meditate before writing. The answer to all of the above is, “No.” I have a blank page in front of me and a deadline to meet. With a bit of luck, I’ll have a scene or two in my head, an advancement of the narrative rolling around in my mind, but it’s nothing unless it’s on that blank page, and a blank page to a writer is a bit like a millpond on a sunny morning before the water has had a chance to draw in the heat of the day. You just know you’ve got to dive in, and you know it will hurt for a while, but experience tells you you’ll weather that initial shock to the system, and you just hope you’ll warm up and start swimming across. Drowning isn’t an option, especially for the professional writer with a deadline and the aspiring writer with a dream. It’s just what you do. You’re a writer.

Taking Cornelia’s lead, I was going to use Photo Booth on the computer to show you the smug look of someone who has just met that deadline. But me, first thing on a Friday morning? I don’t think so ....


Have a lovely weekend.

Aw, heck, changed my mind ...

This is the one without a glass of champagne. That'll come when I've sent back the galleys.





(PS: I'm sure I've used the title of this post for a previous post, but never mind - it's one of my Dad's favorite songs. He's a real Nat King Cole fan).