Friday, June 30, 2006

This Sounds...Silly

With time on my hands and tired of sending out queries, I turned to Publishers Marketplace to see what's new on the deals page.

The first thing to catch my eye was Gena Showalter's latest tome. The log line summed up the plot as:
...a man who is cursed to die every night only to awaken knowing he'll have to die again and the woman who finally saves him...

Huh? People must be reading this stuff or Harlequin wouldn't bother to publish it, but if I picked up a book like this and read the back cover blurb, I'd be scratching my head, like I am now.

No, I don't read romance. Not even on the sly, sneaking a glimpse behind locked doors, so I can't say that I'm at all familiar with the genre. But a story about a guy who dies every night and then wakes up? It's either Groundhog Day in a different suit of clothes, or the guy's asleep.

He's asleep, for feck's sake, that existential-Jungian whatever mess of pop psychology bit of nonsense that equates sleep with death. Ah, sure and he's only sleeping, you tell the kiddies at grandda's wake. Now let's throw a nightmare at the wee ones. Ha, ha, in the morning he'll wake up, and he'll die again tonight.

I like a good Irish wake as much as the next man, if there's a fine bottle of whiskey available and maybe a ham sandwich, but night after night? I don't drink like that anymore. And how many times could the widow stand to hear everyone telling her they're sorry for her troubles? She'd go mad and get a divorce so she wouldn't have to go through it again and again.

My next best guess is that there's something in the book about vampires or zombies, the living dead, and the feisty heroine finds a way to resurrect her sweetie and he won't have to die every night. Reduce it to just the one time, at the end, and it will be the final sleep. Send him to take his ground sweat, as they used to say.

You don't think Ms. Showalter's doing a variation on the Lazarus story, do you? Is the heroine a Mary Magdalene type, taking over for Himself because he's busy turning water into wine over in Cana? I could read the book and find out, but I think I'll pass. Finnegan's Wake just seems so much more appealing for a good read.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Carrot and Stick, Hold the Carrot

Up in the north of Ireland, the elected officials are supposed to be meeting, coming up with some sort of government that's in line with the Belfast Agreement. It's home rule, the same issue that's been plaguing the UK for hundreds of years, and now the politicians are under the gun. It's get it together, or else.

That's a mighty heavy stick that Dublin and London are using to dangle a mighty insignificant carrot under the noses of Sinn Fein and the DUP. The deadline to form a home rule government is set in stone, and it won't be changed, not ever, no matter what. Paisley or Adams could beg and plead until their tongues swell up and fall off, but come November 24, the clock will stop ticking, the alarm will go off and then...ah, what then?

Today, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair took out the heavy lumber. And it's the DUP getting a beating, while Sinn Fein is drooling over the carrot. If the two parties can't come to an agreement, elect the First Minister from one party and the Deputy First Minister from the other, then a new bit of business will be undertaken.

Hey, Paisley, they shout from Dublin and London. Listen up, and listen good. Go gentle into that home rule government, or Dublin is going to have a lot more to do with governing the north than you could ever imagine. You don't like home rule, the prime ministers seem to be saying, well, it could be a lot worse for you.

Implied in their threat is an even worse outcome for the DUP. Dublin's going to be involved, and the Shinners want a united Ireland, and won't they be over the moon to have the Republic involved in the north? Behave, DUP, or we'll give the nationalists a little of what they've been after for the past ninety years, and you'll be sorry then. Look for Ian Paisley to be frothing at the mouth, roaring out his hymns and castigating any and all who dare to suggest that Dublin be called in from the sidelines.

A new study came out recently, showing that Northern Ireland is dependent on government subsidies, with over 60% of the Gross National Product the result of public service jobs. With evidence like that, you'd see why London would be keen to get rid of the six counties and the money pit that is Ulster province. Maybe they're counting on the DUP to balk at the threat, just they can have a reasonable excuse to pull out and dump the colony on Ireland.

And Sinn Fein is praying, fervently, that it comes to pass.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why Bookstores Sell Coffee

The boy needed a book for Economics class, so I was off to the local vendor to support independent bookdealers everywhere. Sure, I cringed as I paid out close to thirty dollars for one hardcover book, but Freakonomics is the sort of tome that can tolerate a second or third reading. Only books that will stand such review are worthy to be added to the home library.

And as long as I was there...

My pile of 'to be reads' was bare. John Irving's latest was in the discard pile, the 'what were the publishers thinking and doesn't this man have an editor' rejection collection. Repetition, the same thing over and over again for one hundred thirty pages and I'll be damned if I'll waste my time with such garbage. James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man was a healthy antidote to Irving's nonsense, but the novel was finished, cover to cover, and I needed more words, so....

The clever shopowner has a table in the center area, where she stacks little piles of new fiction, some literary, some NYT bestsellers, but nothing that you'd find in the racks at Wal-Mart. What better place to pick up something, or at least get an idea of what's available so I can head over to the library. One by one, I picked up the newest novels and scanned the back cover for information. Slowly, my eyelids began to droop. Boring story. Not interested. Not another weeper about an Arabic woman. Mother dealing with troubled teens, anorexia, self-mutilation, boring, boring, who cares?

Thank goodness the comfy chairs were taken or I might have been tempted to take a little nap. I could have used a rush of caffeine, a little buzz to shake out the 'poor excuse for writing' doldrums that were lulling me into somnambulence. Being a very small shop, there was no corner taken over by Starbucks, and so I had to make do with a walk and fresh air to wake up.

I'm on the verge of packing it in. I thought I could write a decent query letter, but now I can't seem to get an agent to bite. I once had encouragement from agents in their rejections, but now I'm only getting forms or no response at all. Take classes, attend workshops, network, but I've a full time job and responsibilities, so those options are not viable. As for reading to study the market, I've done that, and I can't stand the market. I don't want to be published that badly that I would put together something I'd be ashamed to claim as my own.

Publishing has changed, even within the three or four years that I have been shopping manuscripts. The faster I run, the further behind I get.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Isn't love grand? Even in death, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his beloved wife could not remain apart. At last, the Associated Press reports, Nathaniel and Sophia are together again.

The author of The Scarlet Letter was a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, a descendant of fine stock, and rumored to have sprung from the same family that gave us the judge who really got the Salem Witch Trials up to speed. He was the father of three surviving children, a friend to President Franklin Pierce, and a very prolific writer, but one does not live forever and Mr. Hawthorne left this world back in 1864. Mrs. Hawthorne took the kids and made for England, to mourn at a distance.

As luck would have it, she lived only another six years and then she, too, died. No one thought to embalm her body and ship it back to Concord, so she was planted in foreign soil. One of her daughters also died in England, making two in the family plot in Kensal Green cemetery in London.

Another daughter, Rose Hawthorne, must not have fallen in love with England, because she came back to the USA and founded a religious order, a branch of the Dominicans. From that time, the Dominican Sisters paid to maintain the grave site in England, but money is tight for the clergy these days. The grave needed repairs, perhaps the monument was crumbling, but the good sisters could not keep it up anymore. What to do? Dig them up, of course, and send them home to Nathaniel.

The Hawthornes who are alive today are pleased that their ancestors are back home, all together in one place like husband and wife should be. Great-great-granddaughter Alison Hawthorne Deming, a professor of creative writing, was certainly over the moon over the whole thing, the reuniting and bringing together. And so, with great pomp and an antique hearse, what little was left of Sophia and daughter Una were planted in Concord's cemetery. Historian Philip McFarland, no doubt wiping a tear from his eye, noted that Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne were passionately in love, united in " of the premier marriages in American literature."

Rest in peace, Nathaniel and Sophia. Hope that you're not turning over in the grave, if you find the new arrangements not to your liking.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Into The Drawer

After getting a form rejection from Venture Literary, it is now time to officially declare the first manuscript dead in the water. I must have queried every agent around who accepts literary fiction, but no one is interested in taking on another unpublished author.

Time to focus on the next novel to be shopped, while writing the first draft of yet another manuscript. Maybe, just maybe, if someone would pick up something else down the line, I could pull the first manuscript out of the drawer, but for now, it's being put to sleep.

There's other ideas up in the old brain, other books to be written. Who knows what the future may hold? I've got nothing better to do with my free time anyway.

Take A Chance

How often have you heard a comment about publishing that involves such things as: it's a crapshoot, when the publisher buys an unpublished author's first novel. Taking a chance, a roll of the dice, the odds are against it, etc., etc., and, hey, why not hold book signings in a casino?

Doesn't it just seem to all tie together? The Big House rolls the dice and sits back, waiting to see if the author will crap out or hit their mark. So why not take that same author to a casino? Gambling, right, it's all the same thing, casinos and publishing?

Wall Street is as much a casino as the Mirage, but without the bright lights and cocktails, so I suppose it's more fun to hold a book signing in a glitzy and noisy spot. A recent NYT article detailed one such event, but the author was a big seller, Janet Evanovich, who writes mysteries. Ms. Evanovich had a doing at a resort casino, but that may be a bit over the top for the average writer. And it's certainly beyond the Pale for the literary types.

All over the country, light bulbs are popping up over the heads of self-published authors, always in search of that edge that will catapult their sales into the stratosphere. By this time tomorrow, you won't be able to walk through the door of the Ho-Chunk Casino without tripping over them, tables set up here and there, offering to autograph a copy of their overpriced verbiage. What better way to while away the hours, waiting for the tour bus to depart after you've blown your stash on the slot machines. As the other senior citizens drop their last nickels into the machine, you could sit back and read a novel by someone who could not find a legitimate publisher to put it out. Or you could take that last $25 and buy a few chips, put them on the craps table, and try your luck.

It's all a crapshoot, isn't it? Looks like even the authors have accepted the fact.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Welcome To Mayberry

The Andy Griffith Show has been broadcast continuously, it seems, since the day in the 1960's when it first aired. With its ensemble cast of unique characters, the situation comedy is part of the American psyche, from the bumbling Deputy to the addled gas station attendant, Gomer Pyle.

Reading the headline in today's Irish Times, my mind replayed an episode of the old show. Only a few lines, but I can hear it clearly, the less than bright Gomer chasing after some poor sap, shouting "Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!" in a slow southern drawl. Hysterical, funny stuff.

Imagine, if you will, the American soldiers who went out for a walk in Ennis on Thursday. Their plane was stopped over at Shannon Airport, held up for repairs, and they were temporarily housed at the West County Hotel in Ennis, County Clare until the plane was ready to fly. What better thing to do than step out for a walk along the road, sticking to the busy streets so that they would not get lost. A chance to see a corner of Ireland, and who could resist the urge to wander a bit, in search of cead mile failte? So there they are, strolling along the Limerick Road, when a man drives past, stops and gets out of his car, and begins to trumpet "Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!"

Sure and they were rolling on the ground, splitting their sides with laughter. For Mr. Conor Cregan's sake, however, I do hope that they held their mirth and confined it to a snicker or two, or at best, a look of complete puzzlement. Dear Mr. Cregan, local peace activist, was in the process of making a most grand gesture, and only tight self control could keep the Americans' guffaws in check.

Why did he hold these six American soldiers until the Garda was called? Why, the men were wearing their fatigues, which were no doubt the only clothes that they had available since they were not expecting to stay over and had not packed overnight bags. To quote from today's winner of the Grand Gesture Award:
"I saw the soldiers in uniform on the road, in a public place, where they shouldn't have been. It is a breach of Irish neutrality and our Constitution that these troops are allowed to pass through Shannon in the first place but to see them in fatigues on the streets of Ennis is a disgrace."

You see, soldiers of foreign armies can walk about Ennis, but only in civies, and only if the Irish Department of Defence approves. Now, you'd think that the gardai would be quick to jump on this breech of the law, but I daresay that they were at the station, having a top laugh, and couldn't safely drive the van over to pick up the Yank miscreants.

But that's not all that the gardai failed to do. Why, they should have lifted the lads and then launched an investigation to see if these same soldiers had been involved in crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Mr. Edward Horgan.

Difficult to be a peace activist these days, when even the Garda don't take you seriously. What's a man to do, but make the grand gesture and turn himself into a laughingstock? Good man, yourself, there, Conor, for bringing The Andy Griffith Show to life for a few of the lads. You made their day a little brighter.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Hours

Summertime and the living is easy for literary agents. Only insofar as they usually take off early on a Friday, that is. The rest of the business is a misery.

If only Martha Hoffman at Judith Ehrlich's agency would put in a few extra hours and get caught up. She's had a partial since the middle of January, and six months later, I've yet to hear from her. Has me wondering if she asked for partials from just about anyone who queried when she joined the agency, and now there's a backlog that threatens to crash her computer. Smart woman, to ask for a downloadable file rather than fifty pages of real paper. Can you imagine the weight of dozens of partial manuscripts? The legs of the desk would give out and crush her little feet.

Don't know if Frank Scatoni of Venture Literary is off to the Hamptons for the weekend, or if he's hauling my partial manuscript off for a cozy weekend. Curl up in a comfy chair and pore over the pages, sip a glass of is good.

Can't say the same for the literary journal editors, who are either teaching summer school or doing research for their own publication credits. Publish or perish out there in the scholastic world. My short story submissions from March are languishing, I imagine, or dozing in the summer heat. I suppose that the 2-4 month window of consideration gets dragged out when summer vacation intrudes, or that 2-4 months means months when school is in session.

I'm getting so tired of waiting that I'm not doing a very good job of tracking submissions anymore. When the rejection letter turns up, I'll log it in and cross off another agency. In the meantime, I can curl up on the plastic lawn chair, sip a cold gin and tonic, and read whatever is selling these days. If the agents and the editors are on shortened hours, why obsess over outstanding submissions? More productive to slice up a lime and chill the Bombay Sapphire.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Powerhouse Agencies

Today's NYT reports on some shuffling taking place in the Big Apple. Not that it has anything to do with literary agents, but the agencies involved are massive and I'm wondering if something might be a'changing.

IMG is a powerhouse agency that reps artists of all sorts. According to the NYT, they are a major dealer in classical musicians, possessed of a coterie of top notch talent. As for their literary agency, I've never been sure that it's still active. A look at the IMG website lists a few deals, but they are old. As for the list of agents, it's down to two, and for the longest time the agents included Lisa Queen, who went off on her own months ago. All that lack of activity leads me to believe that IMG is not a big mover and shaker in literary agenting.

ICM, on the other hand, houses some of the best literary agents around, and their stable of musical talent isn't half bad, either. The latest rumor has ICM selling their classical music division to IMG, although it's all very quiet, as befits an orchestral setting.

IMG was bought up in 2003 by Barrett Wissman, who just happens to be a Texas financier when he's not tinkling the ivories. His wife is a cellist, not an author, so the musical link is quite strong. The news article mentions that Mr. Wissman has established music festivals, part of his creative contribution to the agency he purchased. Nothing in there about BEA or Frankfort Book Fair or anything related to representing authors.

So ICM will unload their classical music division, while IMG seems to be phasing out their literary agenting. It's hard to tell on that last bit, though. Send a query to IMG, snail mail only, with SASE enclosed, and they won't answer you at all if they aren't interested. With that sort of non-response, you can't tell if they're out of business or your novel is not right for their list.

Even though I'm always looking for an agent to query, I'll pass on IMG. If they aren't even going to bother stuffing my SASE with a form rejection, I'll save the postage and use it elsewhere. Like to query someone at ICM.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Empower The Little Children

After the row that erupted when a rapist was set free because a law was declared unconstitutional, the entire government of Ireland, from the law clerks on up, has been working around the clock to get some legislation in place to plug the hole. The first item on the agenda - what shall be the official age of consent for the wee little ones?

Who should decide such a weighty issue? Certainly, one must consult experts on child psychology and development, knowledgeable people who know what is best for the mental and physical health of our offspring. Constitutional lawyers, of course, must weigh in with their own particular slant on all things permissible under law, so that the new law does not get tossed out like the old one. All those involved in the child protection game will be called in to offer their perspective, and they can hash things out with the lawyers to put everything in order.

And then who do you talk to? In Ireland, you would of course talk to the children and ask them if they would like to have sex at the age of 14, or maybe 12, or should it be 16. Boys and girls both have to be asked, of course, because the EU insists that all be treated equally. As things stand now, girls under the age of 17 can't be prosecuted for having sex because then everyone would say that Ireland was criminalizing teen pregnancy, and after the whole Magdalene Laundry issue, well, no one wants to go back there again.

In a rush to cobble together a bit of legislation, the Government left the age of consent as is, and so, a boy of 17 could be sent to jail but the girl would most likely be sent home to Mammy. And so, everyone wants to empower the children and ask them how to best resolve the issue of how old is old enough to begin having sex.

They're thinking of starting out with a group of 14 - 18 year olds, and possibly head down to the 12's. Minister for Children Brian Lenihan believes "it is important that their voice is heard, and that they have a meaningful input into this national debate."

Meaningful, yes, indeed. How many fourteen year old boys would think that the age of consent should be lowered to, oh, say, about fourteen? And how many fourteen year old girls will complain about feeling forced to have sex? For this, they need a Government study.

So much for the silly, old fashioned notion that parents should be in charge. I mean, there's no room in the debate for the fathers of fourteen-year-old girls, is there? Anyone care to empower them to throttle the bastard who had his way with their little girl? That's become a nonsense in these modern times. Let the wee ones have their say and have their way. And then we can have a government study about the spoiled behavior of the younger generation, armed to the teeth with all their empowerment, and in more danger than ever.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scammer Sightings

Where do they come from, these scammer literary agents? How do they find the gullible? Check the back pages of Writers Digest and you'll find them, prominently displaying their services in large boxed ads.

"Manhattan Firm Seeks New Writers" reads one banner. Mark Sullivan Associates, with offices on Fifth Avenue in New York, might be able to represent you. If they do, why, you could garner an advance between $5,000 and $100,000. Six figure advance! Money, money, money and what fledgling author could resist? Why, this company only wants serious efforts, so they must be serious themselves. Of course, the fledgling does not know anything about the stunt that was pulled off by several moderators at Absolute Write, who submitted to another scammer with other intentions, and scored big.

But before you send off your sample chapters, grasshopper, you would want to look at the website of Mr. Mark Sullivan. Nowhere on his page does he list the dubious distinction of being one of Writers Beware Twenty Worst Agents. Ah, but he does mention some of the watchdog groups who have outed him:
Internet reference services on literary agents, like P&E, WritersBeware, Agent Gripes, etc. express a general opposition to the reading fee, although some of them are selling their own services quite aggressively with poor research behind them.

But P&E, WritersBeware, Absolute Write, why, those are all free sites that have no services to sell at all. Mr. Sullivan is obviously confused, so we cut him some slack and move on through his FAQs.

What about that reading fee he charges? He feels that it's perfectly all right, as long as the fee charger is in New York City, where the publishers are, that the scammer, er, fee charger reads the material, and that the fee is reasonable. How about that, his fee is exactly as much as the reasonable fee. Why, doesn't that just prove how legitimate he is?

Next? Look at his list of clients. Legitimate agencies have no problem with detailing their clients, the books sold, and the name of the publisher. Mr. Sullivan is sadly lacking in that department. So he charges to read a manuscript, he offers editing services (no mention of the cost of that process), and then he can't seem to sell anything to legitimate publishing houses that require agented submissions.

Real agents do not charge anything to read your manuscript if they ask for it, because they are looking for material to sell. It's their business. It's how they make money. Reading fees are never legitimate, and there is no such thing as a reasonable amount to charge a writer.

Mark Sullivan claims to have been in business since 1992. At $225 a pop, he would have to sucker about five people per week to make a comfortable living on submissions alone. Add in some editing, which doesn't seem to be very good if he can't sell a manuscript to a legitimate house, and it's a vacation home in the Hamptons.

Don't you go falling for it.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Special Offer

Haven't we all received an e-mail from some character out of Africa, English broken into bits, pleading for help. There's always a lot of money involved, the refugee can't get it without your help, and if you'll just send them your bank account number, etc. etc.

Today's installment has me a bit puzzled.
My name is Mrs Martha Pujeh,from Diamond rich country district of Bombali in Northern Province of Sierra Leone.I am the widow of the Late Mr. MOMOH PUJEH, the Managing Director of Sierra Leone Diamond Mining Corporation and Transport Minister.I am currently living in a refugee Hostel in UK.My family and I have been unfortunate to find ourselves caught up in a very difficult situation here.

Unfortunate indeed. Martha goes on to say that she can't open a bank account in the UK, and there's this box with $12 million in it, housed in Spain. What with the UK being on pounds sterling, and the money in US dollars, I'd say she's got a little problem. Naturally, I'm expecting her to next ask me to e-mail her my bank information and she'll put the money right into my account and trust me to give her a cut out of the kindness of my heart.

But what does she want from me? Name, address, phone and fax numbers, but not my bank account number or bank routing number. Now that's a first. With only some random pieces of identification, she'd have to do a fair bit of work to put together some documents, and she still can't access my bank account. Clearly, she's after something else that relates to identification, but I can't quite figure out what the real scam is here.

Kind of her to leave her son's e-mail address, but since anyone can get a yahoo mailbox, I'll pass on contacting the lad. Working in a pub in the UK somewhere, she says in her letter, but she's quite vague on the location. It could be that she's hoping to craft a false identity for her illegal alien offspring so he can open a bank account and get hold of the $12 million that's in the box in Spain. I can't imagine that the customs officials would fall for this one, in the UK or in Spain.

I mean, what with my name and the racial characteristics of a native of Sierra Leone, there's quite the disconnect there. No, Martha, I won't send you my particulars. It would be a disservice to your young lad, forced to lie through his teeth to convince some agent at the border that he's black Irish, of a particularly dark skinned variety.

Pity that you didn't make your first stop in Spain, on the way out of Sierra Leone. Then you could have picked up the box of cash yourself. You said in your e-mail that your husband told you about the stash before he was murdered, so why didn't you get it when you had the chance? I mean, you say you have the certificate of deposit and the receipt from the Spanish security company. It would have been easy enough to pop in and claim your possessions, what with Spain being along the route between Africa and the UK.

Thank you for the opportunity to be taken, but, alas, I must pass. Your scam is not right for my list. But scamming is a purely subjective business, and I wish you luck in finding a complete idiot to fall for your e-mail.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Translated From The Latin

The bishops are at it again. In response to the ballooning sex abuse scandal, they found a solution in asking us to bow when we receive the Eucharist. Parishioners being what they are, there's precious little bobbing and weaving at the front of the altar. Now, you'd think Their Eminences would have noticed that their bowing business sank like a large stone, but no, they've gone off on another tack to make the Mass more relevant.

You see, there was a time when everything was in Latin, a time I scarcely remember and so don't actually miss. Although I am fond of the occasional Gregorian chant in a dead language, but it's the harmony and not the words that do it. Our leaders are old men who know their Latin, however, and they are concerned that the faithful aren't getting the full benefit of the Mass because the translations were too folksy - too much geared towards common speech. With fewer and fewer Catholics attending Mass, it's time to steer the unwieldly ship of faith back to the origins.

No, not all the way back to Aramaic. Just far enough to get on the other side of Vatican II and all those radical changes that the dinosaurs are itching to reverse. Make the English version of the Mass more true to a literal translation, and people will flock to Church come Sunday.

Most of the changes are minor, a slight tweak of a phrase and it's pretty much the same as ever. But, Your Eminences, when someone comes to the house, I think in terms of receiving guests. Maybe if I was Middle Eastern, I might be prone to having people enter under my roof. Here in the Western World, we don't talk like that, entering under roofs. "Howya, Roddy, glad to have you enter under my roof, lad and we'll share a jar." Oh yes, that makes the prayers ever so much more relevant.

If all the changes go through, at least the priest will have a subject for his weekly sermon for the next month. What in the name of Jesus is 'consubstantial'? In the Nicene Creed, I get what we are saying when we avow that we are 'one in being' with the Father. Now we're supposed to get a big word like consubstantial out of our mouths at half seven on a Sunday morning? And understand what we're saying we believe in?

"No time to talk about today's Gospel, parishioners. I've got a very interesting PowerPoint presentation on the words that have been stuck in so that our prayers don't sound the least bit Protestant at all, at all."

You can't get the people to sing the hymns, and now they won't be responding to the prayers either. Might as well listen to the whole thing on the radio and skip the trip to the church altogether.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This Is What Debut Means

Every Sunday night, Publisher's Marketplace
sends me a long list of all the current publishing deals for the past week, broken down by category. It's a great way to see which agents are repping what type of fiction, which is helpful in targeting the right agent for one's project.

There is a separate category for debut fiction, the first novel for some excited author, but I have begun to wonder just what a debut actually entails. Good old Google, always comes through.

Natasha Bauman is listed in the debut fiction category, represented by Lisa Grubka of the William Morris Agency. For a rookie novelist to have landed such a heavy hitting agency, it was hard to believe that Ms. Bauman was so devoid of previous publishing credits. If there was more to this 'debut' than a single novel, I had to know.

Checking with Google turned up countless hits for an actress who appeared in some obscure film and one episode of M.A.S.H. Somehow, it did not seem like the right person. Scrolling through the list, I uncovered an English professor out in California who shares the same name. Now, until the book is actually printed up and distributed, with an author bio on the flap, there will be no definite way to tell if the author and the professor are one and the same. Sometimes, though, these slight coincidences (author : English professor) seem to tie together logically, at least in the street cred sphere.

How surprising is it to discover that a Natasha Bauman won the Editor's Choice Award this past January at the San Diego State Writers Conference? Not very. Further digging uncovered yet another entry for Ms. Bauman, this time on a list of Glimmer Train very short fiction award winners. She was one of twenty-five finalists, which is nothing to sneeze at, considering the prestige of that particular literary rag.

So that is what debut boils down to. The first novel of someone with some credits. Or should I say, 'platform'? Think all you have to do is write an outstanding piece of fiction to get published? Think again.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Bloomsday

To celebrate James Joyce and all things Joycean (TM), Dublin will be swarming with happy tourists celebrating...oops, sorry, but Charlie H. died and there's all that funeral business to attend to. A bit of rain on the Joyce Parade come Friday the 16th. The funeral mass has been set for Friday morning, which may put a damper on the traditional kidney breakfast.

Perhaps some hardy souls, determined fans of James Joyce (TM), will dress up like Leopold Bloom and Molly and Stephen Dedalus and pay a call at the different locations that featured in Ulysses(TM). There will be many who will lament the loss of so many of those places, victims of the Celtic Tiger and the changes wrought by a global economy. Joyce's Dublin is no more, to the sorrow of his fans. Welcome to the world of progress. Cities are malleable; cities change their faces, spread out and up, leaving behind a few traces of the past.

Given Stephen James Joyce's proclivity for suing those who threaten to infringe the grandfather's copyright, one should move about with caution, or take along the solicitor and a barrister or two. We can assume that the Irish government took all available legal advice before reopening the James Joyce Cultural Centre on Monday.

Senator David Norris, who was present at the grand re-opening, expressed his great disappointment over the cancellation of the planned Friday morning festivities at the Cultural Centre. A noted Joycean (TM) scholar, he said:
"I would have maintained the centre open and I would have had a minute's silence in respect for Charlie Haughey and I'm perfectly certain that Mr Haughey would not have cancelled it himself."

Not to be defeated, Mr. Norris promises to dress up in his Bloom-style paraphernalia, head over to the centre which will be open for coffee, and recite a few choice bits of Joyce.

Not to throw even more water on the poor man, but, before he quotes from Joyce (TM), well, should he run it by Stephen James Joyce first? The Exchequer's bulging with a hefty balance, but still, why tempt fate and a possible lawsuit?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

R.I.P. Charles Haughey

No one knew exactly where all his money came from. He lived a lavish lifestyle on a politician's salary, served as taoiseach three times, and had to sell of some of his real estate holdings to pay up back taxes owed on eight million pounds worth of gifts and honoraria.

He ran for office in 1957, and never lost an election, stepping down in 1992. By the time that he retired, he had thrown Ireland, kicking and screaming, into the path of the Celtic Tiger. In an era of twenty percent unemployment and high emigration, his policies helped to turn the tide.

The son of a former IRA officer, Charlie did more than any previous leader to create peace in the north of Ireland, his efforts building up to the Good Friday Agreement. Oddly enough, Charlie was implicated in a 1970's plot to import weapons into the north, using Republic of Ireland funds.

Today, writers and artists will lift their glasses and toast to the memory of Charles Haughey. A man who promoted the arts, he recognized the lack of earning power that plagued the creative set, and did something about it. The few euro that the artist garners upon selling a canvas, or the paltry advance that the writer earns for a novel, are all tax free, no money due to the Exchequer. That, from a man who dodged taxes. It's a funny world.

Joycean Secrets

Families of famous authors will do what they can to protect the ancestor's reputation, and the descendants of James Joyce are battling against an American scholar. Makes you want to dig out your copy of Ulysses and pore over the pages. Well, perhaps not.

Ms. Carol Shloss is a professor of English at Stanford University, so you know she's bright. And she's a Joycean scholar, an expert on all things James Joyce-ish. Recently, she's put out a new book that attempted to link Lucia Joyce, the man's mentally ill daughter, to his blockbuster novel Finnegan's Wake . According to Ms. Shloss, Lucia was the "muse", and the professor used Lucia's medical records, some archives that had information on Lucia's life, and some of James' papers to flesh out her theory.

As fate would have it, there was some criticism, some claims that the Shloss theory was a bit thin on the proof, and Ms. Shloss wanted to lend credence to her views through her website. That's where the problem started.

Joyce's estate, which would be represented by the grandson, Stephen James Joyce and trustee Sean Sweeney, has been accused of destroying papers and keeping a lid on copyrighted material because they won't let Carol use the stuff on her website. The estate says the electronic use of their documents and images infringes on their rights of ownership, while Carol is suing because she feels that the estate is stepping beyond the bounds of copyright law.

According to the Irish Times:
"On multiple occasions defendants have denied permission to quote from James Joyce's writings, or stated that they intended to deny such permission, in retaliation for or as punishment for matters unrelated to protection of copyright in James Joyce's writings," Prof Shloss said in the suit.

Now, the woman's been at it for fifteen years to produce this book, and her publisher went and sliced out some choice bits of supporting material, because the suits at Farrar, Straus & Giroux were afraid of getting sued. How's a professor to support a theory without material to back it up?

For whatever reason, the descendants of James Joyce don't want her using that very material that the lawyers excised. Carol Shloss is suing to be allowed to reproduce it on her website, to make her case with the literati.

I've never read Finnegan's Wake, so I don't know what sort of portrait it paints, or if it makes James Joyce look like a complete horse's ass in regard to his treatment of his mentally ill daughter. Oddly enough, though, it has given me the urge to pick up the book when next I'm at the local library. Until I read it, I'll reserve judgment, and feel sorry for the judge in the San Francisco court who may have to slog through James Joyce's verbiage before reaching a decision.

But there's no way in hell that I'm going to read Ulysses.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Did You Read It?

According to their submission guidelines, The Threepenny Review needs three weeks to two months to think about your unsolicited manuscript. Was my short piece so pathetic that they could turn it down in a week? Did they look at it?

I expected to get rejected, since they pay $400 for a story, and that's the mark of prestige in the literary journal family. With a record turnaround time, I have to wonder if they even took the time to look at the piece.

When I peruse back issues of different rags, I see an enormous amount of first person POV, in direct contrast to what literary agents say is marketable. Truth be told, I don't much care for the POV, with all its navel gazing and heavy pondering of life's great dilemmas, and I don't write that way. Apparently, one glance at my piece failed to turn up a single 'I', and that was it. Reject pile on that one.

Too short? Too far out in writing style? Maybe it was a little too out there, what with a lack of punctuation for the very miniscule amount of dialogue. Just being creative, there, sorry. Shall I edit the piece, and change the character to 'I'? Would the editors be better able to relate then?

There's other submissions out there, still waiting. Those might be the ones I never hear back from, I guess. In the meantime, there's the Mississippi Review edition, where submissions close on June 15 and they print on July 1. If they are going to respond to my sub, they should let me know soon. If they are going to respond. Is the ubiquitous no answer going to hold true for literary journals as well?

Time will tell. Everything is a learning experience the first time around.

It's (a) Commercial

Authors in search of a literary agent are prone to ponder over the genre of their opus during the query process. Is it literary fiction? Historical fiction? Or could it be commercial fiction? Now there is a whole new genre - the commercial....fiction.

Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, two marketing gurus who put together a YA shower of shite, have moved fiction to a new level. Yes, they have indeed found a way to turn a novel into a commercial through the art of product placement, a trick once reserved for movies and television. Clearly Mr. Weisman is no slouch in the literary world, not when he has the Creative Artists Agency to rep him. CAA is a big one, involved in marketing products as well as writers, and the link-up was a natural one.

The authors are actually partners in a marketing company, and had been working with Proctor and Gamble on other projects when a lightbulb went on over someone's head and they thought it would be brilliant to promote YA cosmetics in a YA novel. In lieu of a cash handout, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Weisman will obtain promotion for their book through P&G's website.

Sounding a bit like a mystery, the novel will have all sorts of references that link up with P&G's website, binding the book inextricably to a commercial for Cover Girl cosmetics. So there you have it, a YA commercial disguised as a book.

I don't know that it's so wise to encourage our young daughters to read after all. Perhaps there's something to be said for a classical education, get them translating from the Latin at an early age and bypass the crass commercial drivel altogether. Caveat emptor, my little darling.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Agent Move Update

According to her blog, agent Jenny Rappaport has left Folio Literary Agency. I can't be entirely to blame for her departure, since I sent her a query at least three months ago, and a follow-up six weeks later when she never responded (as promised on the Folio website). Although my dismal query might have been enough to make her begin to question her chosen profession, surely all the fault is not mine.

She has parted ways with the managing partners, which is understandable. The poor girl began at Paige Wheeler's agency and the next thing she knows, she's sucked into a massive merger and answerable not only to Paige, but to Scott Hoffman and Jeff Kleinman as well. Sure, she didn't sign on for such a group to begin with, and things did not develop to her liking once she was on board the runaway train.

If she likes being an agent, and she has a few clients that are attractive to another agency, she'll land on her feet. Going off on her own was mentioned as a possibility, but she hasn't been at the game very long and that might prove to be a bit of a risk. Helps to have profitable clients to rely on until building up the stable of royalty receiving authors.

What did she tell her clients, I have to wonder? Ride on, see you? How many people are out there now, once over the moon that she asked for their full, and now in misery because that full is going nowhere unless they can find a new agent? Brutal business, this publishing. And as soon as she announces that she's at a new agency or heading up her own, I'll be right in line, firing off a query.

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The Other Side

Writing in today's New York Times, Spike Gillespie weaves a happy tale of the joys of bankruptcy. She details the downward spiral that brought her to the brink of financial ruin, and every item she mentions is exactly the sort of thing our parents told us not to do.

She tells of using credit cards as loan devices, using borrowed money to cover basic expenses. There was a time when you had to find a way to stretch your earnings, or get a second job to increase the income, but Spike just took the easy way out and charged it. She even charged things to "cheer...up" her pitiful existence, when she apparently did not make enough to cover the everyday necessities.

On top of that, add a divorce, which we all know is the first step to money troubles, followed by a medical condition that would have been covered by hubbie's policy, if only Spike were married. Picked the wrong time to divorce, it would seem. Best to get a thorough going over from the doctor before telling the partner you're through.

And so she struggled, parrying the thrusts of debt collectors who came calling. Finally, unable to endure, she declared bankruptcy, and voila, the debts were gone. She ends her piece with a deep sigh of relief, freedom hallelujah! And as for all those folks she stiffed? Not a mention of them.

I've been at the receiving end of a bankruptcy filing. I've been left holding bills that have been excised by the courts, with my own expenses never to be reimbursed. Sure, I could borrow to cover things and end up bankrupt like Spike, leaving my vendors to solve the money crunch, but I find it difficult to face old colleagues who have been screwed up the arse.

Spike has no worries about the people who provided her with services and goods for free. She was in a bind, you see, and we should all feel sorry for her. Some of us, Spike, have to deal with financial shortfalls by turning down the heat in winter because we can't afford to be warm because a client decided to declare bankruptcy and not pay their bill. Some of us eat a bowl of oatmeal for dinner every night for weeks and ignore the pangs of hunger because we can't afford to buy enough food to eat because someone thought declaring bankruptcy was a victimless crime. I've patched my socks, bought second-hand from the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, and generally gone without.

In praise of bankruptcy? I'm all in favor of new laws to protect the vendor, to make it next to impossible to wash your hands of debt and walk away, free as the air, while someone else is forced to scrimp and scrape to get by, because people like Spike would not.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Easily Disposable

Another rejection came in, but since the agents at Curtis Brown did not ask for more, more, more a couple of months ago, I figured that the partial manuscript was dead in the water. It took them three months to make up their minds that the sparkling prose, polished to a high sheen, was not telling the story in the way that they liked.

Sure enough, a request for a partial came in on the same day as the rejection. Funny how this has happened a couple of times. I guess the agents phone one another, to coordinate the submission rejection cycle just to mess with our heads. They're a clever lot, those agents in NYC.

This particular submission, however, has a sort of 'easily disposable' quality to it. I don't know if it's a new trend, or a way to save on paper clutter, but the agent asked for a partial to be sent as an e-mail. Now, the same agent does not accept e-mail queries, which is not unusual, and she asked for the partial via e-mail, which is rather common. But to submit the partial electronically, no paper, no ink, no charge, lacks the substance I need for confidence.

It's happened before to me, and I fear the same again. I have three partials that were sent as e-mail attachments, all according to the agent's request. But without that SASE wagging under their nose to remind them that someone is waiting for an answer, they treat the submission as if it were another e-mail. Read the first few pages, and if it doesn't grab, that's the end of it. Just like the e-query, the lack of response becomes the not for us response.

The agent is saved the problem of stacks of manuscripts cluttering the office, and they don't even have to shove a rejection letter into an envelope. No muss, no fuss, just use and toss. And there you are, heart in a flutter, waiting to hear. Did the file download and open? Did they read it at all? Did they even get it?

The file's been sent and I'll not think of it again. I'll keep sending out queries, and enjoy the rush of popping fifty pages into a Priority Mail envelope, affixing the Priority Mail stamp, and slapping on the Delivery Confirmation. Seems so much more real when it's in your hand than when it's on the screen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hair-Do And Don't

Teens all over Ireland are in the throes of exam time, the last chance to regurgitate memorized facts and move along in the educational line. Score high and you're off to the university of your choice, with enough points to win a coveted spot in your chosen field of study. Score low, and it's off to learn auto mechanics or chip frying.

Ordinarily, a concerned parent would have test preparation on the mind, and not be thinking about their son's appearance. After all, it's all about what's in the lad's head and not what's on it that matters. Unless, that is, the boy is sitting his Junior Cert at Tullamore Community College in County Offaly. To that school's principal, it's the look that counts.

American boys sport buzz cuts, especially those who indulge in athletics in the heat of summer. In Ireland, that look is not acceptable, but then, they don't have to deal with ninety degrees and ninety percent humidity. I presume that Irish youths are not wearing baseball caps during every waking hour, thus they have no fear of hat hair and can be more stylish. Besides, there's a 'skinhead' thing there that we don't see here. A gaggle of buzz-cut American boys is accepted as normal, but across the pond they would see a congregation of hooligans and skinheads bent on destruction.

Three boys from the Tullamore school turned up right on time to sit their Junior Leaving, and just like that, they were booted, and all because of short hair. School rules, you see, must dictate something more coiffed, perhaps layered or gelled and spiky, but no buzz cuts here, thank you very much. It's not that this was the first time that the lads were warned about the short locks, either, but isn't it a free country? Can't a boy choose his own style?

Not at Tullamore Community College they can't. And because they did not listen to the principal when he told them before, the three students were sent away and had to find another school to sit their exams. One poor wee lad was so upset that he's decided to wait until next year.

So there they were, flaunting the rules, and Mr. McEvoy, the harried principal, had had enough. Out they went, and the uproar is being heard up and down the island. Yes, the boys had been warned before and yes, they had been suspended before, and all over the length of their hair. But, you see, they like short hair, and their mothers support their sartorial choices. The ongoing argument is simply that the principal picked the wrong time to make his point, during the high stress days of the exams.

Obviously, Tullamore Community College is not run by the Jesuits. They would have solved the problem by forcing the boys to don wigs if they wished to enter the building. Where's the respect for authority gone?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hooligans Need Not Apply

Just when Iran's president was about to get a bit of support, the Germans pulled the rug out from under his unwashed feet. That most august body, the National Democratic Party, was all set to march in Berlin following the Iranian matches in the upcoming World Cup, but now they can't. Isn't there something the European human rights groups could do? It's so unfair.

The neo-Nazis only wanted to show their support for their buddy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who shares their conviction that the Holocaust never happened. Oh, and that bit about wiping Israel off the map, that's a go for the neo-Nazis. Leave it up to the German police to get all nervous, afraid that the world would pay attention to the skinheads and then no one would talk about how brilliant the Germans were as hosts of the World Cup. It's only a matter of image, after all, with the German people not wanting everyone else to think they're all a bunch of Nazis. They've been trying to erase that black mark for a long enough time as it is without some minor faction reminding everyone all over again.

Even though party leaders said that they were calling off the marches because of the strained security situation, who's to say that they weren't pushed? Where's Dick Marty when you need him to stand up for the downtrodden neo-Nazis?

Bad enough that a group of British hooligans were nabbed at the Czech border when they tried to sneak in where they aren't wanted. Surely that violates some EU directive or other, free travel between member nations or whatnot. 3500 professional hooligans had their British passports revoked for the duration, and the police confiscated the match tickets of 300 German hooligans. Is there some kind of union for hooligans? How do the police seem to know exactly who these fools are?

There's even worse evidence of human rights violations in Germany as the World Cup gets set to begin. They're discriminating against black people. Yes, it's true. Several African football associations have issued pamphlets to their fans, warning them to stay out of east Berlin and East Germany. Uwe-Karsten Heye, who was once involved in the German government, flat out told the blacks that they'd better stay out of small towns like Brandburg because they "wouldn't get out alive."

Ah, Europe, that bastion of equality and freedom, so unlike the evil US of A. And we're glad of it in America.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

Poor Ireland's in trouble again. Our friend Dick Marty, the Swiss politician who heads the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, has pointed the accusing finger at the Emerald Isle and proclaimed that the Republic is complicit in the whole rendition flights business. Sort of like the joke, about asking an innocent man when he stopped beating his wife. How do you answer a false accusation that implies you're guilty of something you never did?

Earlier Dick said that the USA was guilty of rendition flights, based entirely on the evidence of his personal opinion that it was so. The very planes that the CIA used for thousands of flights did make stops at Shannon Airport to refuel, therefore, the Irish participated in the evil scheme. All right, so there was that flight that he thought was rendition related but it was the head of the FBI come to call on his Irish colleagues. And the flights with diplomats and government officials, yes, but it was the same plane, you see, so, well, there you have it.

Where did Ireland go wrong, exactly? Well, when they asked the US government if they were using Shannon as a stopover on rendition flights, the US said no. Absolutely not. Swear to God. And so, to quote the report from the Irish Times:
Ireland colluded in this by invoking the "principle of trust" when pushed to investigate claims that US planes were using Shannon to facilitate the transfer of prisoners, the report found.

You can't trust the USA, that's Dick Marty's dogma. You have to trust Dick Marty and his certainty that America is in cahoots with the world. He knows. He just knows. Who needs evidence? Isn't the word of Dick Marty enough to get the Garda Siochana to inspect US planes at Shannon? How dare the Irish government not bend the knee to Dick Marty!

Meanwhile, in Canada, they're unraveling a plot to blow up buildings and execute government officials to revenge Canada's presence in Afghanistan. That would be the pro-Taliban crowd fighting against democracy, Dick. Sorry, lad, but I think the rest of the world's a little preoccupied these days to pay you much heed.

Go Electric

Is the book of the future going to be a glowing screen? Download from a literary iPod website, and off you go, thumb on the dial as you scroll through the LED text. And will these electronic devices have magnifying screens for the presbyopic? Lots of older people are readers, you see, and the old eyes, well, there's a strong market for large print books these days.

There are those who compare a book to a song, downloadable and portable. When I think of tunes, I picture the playlist, a song from one artist here, followed by a piece from someone else. Now, if I were to treat books the same way, I could read a paragraph of Hemingway, and then peruse a page or two of Welty, and maybe follow up with a little poetry from Michael Hartnett (in English, please. I don't understand more than a cupla focal and I'll never get through a whole stanza).

Books aren't pop songs. The structure of a novel is not an album, just as a chapter from a novel is not a tune in its entirety. Fiction has a pacing and composition that is different from a collection of songs which may or may not be linked with a common theme. A research text, on the other hand, can be culled for key points. One does not have to read the entire Grey's Anatomy to learn about the mesenteric vein and its branches. As Ann Fadiman mentioned recently in the New York Times, that's not reading, and that's fine for research documents.

The biggest problem with e-book readers is sand. Can you imagine the inner works of the thing, grit blowing in while you lie in the sun on a summer day, reading some trashy novel? With paper, you turn it upside down, give it a good shake, and no harm's done to the book. Can't say the same for the poor iPod. Drop that at the beach and you're out a few hundred dollars, with the sand scouring the delicate chips to electronic death.

There's nothing like a book, a physical entity that does not need to be replaced every few years due to upgrades. It does not need batteries, it will never blink out and die just when you get to the good part, and it comes in a print big enough to see without dragging out the bifocals.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Agent Moves

She couldn't stay away from the bright lights of agenting. Kate McKean has turned up at Howard Morhaim's agency, no doubt after a period of reflection and the unquenchable thirst for good writing - or making a buck, whichever comes first.

At the same time, Agent Query notes that Dystel & Goderich's revolving door has turned once again, with the departure of Michael Adelman. Perhaps he, too, will pop up at a different agency, chasing after a promise of bigger commissions or more office staff.

I have to wonder what happens to the clients of agents who give it up. Knowing how near impossible it is to get an agent, it must be like stepping into a new circle of hell to be told that your hard-won agent has had enough and you're cut loose. Just because there are other agents at an agency would not guarantee that someone else could pick up the baton and run. What one agent likes may not translate to the preferences of their colleague across the aisle, or even of the few who were left behind.

Take, for example, the break-up of Graybill & English. The partners split but have continued to represent clients. What of the clients of Lynn Whittaker or Kristin Auclair? If an author had some good sales figures, they could shop elsewhere, but the rookie writer with a first novel on offer would be back to the beginning.

And yet, I continue to pursue an agent. It's madness, this author business.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Expert Advice

By all accounts, the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago was a great success. The weather was perfect, the options many, and the crowd was sizable.

Fans of E.L. Doctorow had an opportunity to hear him speak at the former Chicago Public Library, now serving as a cultural center. When asked how much research he did for his historical fiction The March, he answered in the simplest terms. He did just enough, he said. Too much could sink the prose, so he did just enough. It sounds logical, simple, but how does the budding author know when they have gone too far? Like pornography, you know it when you see it, but you cannot define it. That is what makes writing so difficult, even though it seems easy on the surface.

Another interesting point that he made related to his characters. Some hopeful novelists will create note cards and genealogical flow charts to map out their characters, but Doctorow takes the most basic approach. He knows his characters, which makes sense, since he has created them. In his mind, he sees how they look, what they wear, even how they think. All of this happens on a subconscious level, so that as he writes, the prose runs along and fits the character. Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer. Create a fictional figure and run with it, but to internalize each person takes more than a few brain cells.

Writing is a creative endeavor, akin to painting. You can take drawing classes as easily as you can take writing classes. A teacher can tell you what to do, but you may not have the talent to do it, no matter how easy the instructor makes it sound. How many times have you heard the adage 'Show, don't tell'? Three little words that sum up novel writing, but it is so hard to accomplish the task.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

In Need Of Attention

I've been offered a rare opportunity and I'd like to share it. Yes, it's the opportunity we've all been waiting for - a place to promote our books.

For only $75.00, you can have your book listed on the Book Promotion website. And not only that, but the Book Promotion people will spam booksellers on your behalf, and that's just the kind of attention an author would crave.

For an extra $310.00, they'll fill bookstore mail bins with flyers that promote your tome. More junk mail - isn't that what we all want?

Like to be a hands-on type? For $300.00, they'll send you a list so you can do your own spamming and junk mailing.

Want to cover a lot of ground? Here's a quote from the e-mail came my way:
What You'll Receive:

* We will send a promotional email to bookstores and libraries about your book
(value $200.00)
* Press Release Distribution to over 2500 newspapers, magazines, radio & tv
shows (value $225.00)
* Your book listed and discussed on at least 10 blogs, websites, or newsletters
within the same week. There will be times during that week where you will have
to make yourself available for chats and/or blog discussions. (value $995.00)

Cost: Only $575.00

Now, I know what you're saying. Who's going to browse the Internet, looking for a website that promotes books? And what's to keep the book vendors from deleting the e-mails unread? As for the flyers, you can picture them being chucked straight into the dust bin. And how many blogs are there, competing for attention?

A fool and his money are soon parted, the old wives say. There's a sucker born every minute, according to P.T. Barnum. If you believe that this book promotion scheme just might work, then you probably believe that your self-published novel is going to sell tens of thousands of copies.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Change In Tactics

Many agents accept e-mail queries, which saves the author on paper and postage. The drawback is the non-answer, the lack of a reply that closes out the submission. Looking for closure, I checked my history with some agents who previously responded to e-mails (with a form letter rejection, I might add).

Steve Axelrod used to respond, back in 2003 and 2004. Fast forward two years, and he doesn't reply if he's not interested. Debra Goldstein at The Creative Culture used to answer her queries, but what held last year is not the case this year. Over at Imprint Agency, you could get a rejection, but that has stopped. I have tried John Talbot and Gail Fortune again, having queried them two years ago on another manuscript, but they no longer answer.

Which leads us back to the e-query and its cheap ease. Anyone can fire off a letter, especially when it costs nothing to send. And so the barrage is created, as hopeful writers submit their missives with the touch of a button. The agents are then swamped with queries, hundreds per week, and there comes a time when they cannot begin to answer them all, even with a blanket rejection.

Given a certain period of time to answer the e-mail, what agent is going to put in the extra hours on top of already long hours to cut, paste and send? Read the first lines, see if the hook is a grabber, and then hit delete. Just as the e-query is all speed and efficiency, so too is the non-response, the unstated not for us.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speedy Delivery

Prestigious literary journals are as efficient as prestigious literary agents. The fiction that I submitted to the Cimarron Review two weeks ago has already been rejected. Talk about efficiency!

The tiny scrap of paper was as much a form as any agent's tiny scrap of paper, about three inches by four inches of heavy bond, printed with the stock rejection phrases. In essence, my short fiction was not quite right for their list, but good luck placing it elsewhere.

But there was an unexpected bonus in the SASE, a special gift just for me. Was it an added form, to ask me to submit something else another time? A little note from the editor? Of course not. This is a business, not a garden party. After rejecting my prose, the good people of the Cimarron Review invited me to subscribe to the very rag that does not want me.

Hardly the ideal client, am I, having been turned down. Someone must be taking a page from Al Zuckerman of Writers House, who is fond of using the writer's SASE to mail out an advert for his own how-to book. As much as I would like to indulge, my finances are precarious at the moment. The cost of submitting eats into the budget, and I'm dependent on the public library for reading material. Unfortunately for the public library, they are dealing with their own budget constraints, and don't subscribe to very many literary journals. The local book vendor does not bother with them either, taking up as much shelf space as they do and they need that space for Quilting News Quarterly and Scantily Clad Females Monthly.

Not to be defeated, I'll print up a few more copies and find some journals that accept manuscripts during the summer months. A form rejection won't stop me. Only death will put an end to my submitting.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's Getting Hot In Here

Exciting new study! We used to be warmer, millions of years ago. Who would have guessed that the dinosaurs were tooling around in lumbering SUVs, pumping up the atmosphere with green house gases? Does Al Gore know about this? Can he edit his movie to include this new data?

Scientists have concluded that a big warm up took place, a time when there were no ice sheets covering the Antarctic. Too bad Mr. Gore was not there with his camera, filming the bergs dropping off the glacier to demonstrate the drastic climate change. Of course, if he had been there in the middle of the hot times in the old town, why, when the cool down came in, he would have been filming the glaciers getting bigger, while ranting about the catastrophic climate change.

No one seems to know why there was a rise in greenhouse gases all those millions of years ago. Probably because the dinosaurs' cars have not left any fossilized remains. The reason why those same gases decreased is also unknown, but one can safely presume that some prehistoric Gore was able to push through legislation that limited emissions, and so the pollution declined along with the temperature. There he was, fourteen million years ago, agitating for alternative fuels, while the poor dinosaurs in Antarctica were getting covered in ice.

The problem with the current crop of global warming hysteria is that it is, indeed, hysteria. Scientists do not quite understand climate changes, and are only just now learning about natural shifts in temperature. Run around and proclaim that the sky is falling, but people will not believe you if it is not, really and truly, collapsing.

Exaggeration is not the answer - we look to scientific fact. What if all heat-trapping gases were reduced to near zero and the temperature continued to climb? Is it possible that the climate has naturally occurring cycles of long duration that we should prepare for? Would it hurt anything if we promoted clean fuel and alternate energy sources just so that we could breathe clean air, and skip the climate change hysteria?