Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hacked from the SOILS e-mail database

To: Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd.
cc: Author Jessica Notaprude

From: The Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene (SOILS)
          RWA Awards Integrity Preservation Task Force


Subject: Violation of the RITA Awards
              Potential Change in Publisher Status


Dear Publisher:

Sadly, it has come to our attention that your corporation, which claims to be "the largest publisher of romantic fiction in the world", no longer publishes romance novels as defined and deemed appropriate by the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene.

Case in point: the novel As Steamy As It Can Be by Jessica Notaprude was found to contain the following:

1. Grossly Inappropriate Title (why not cut to the chase and call it As FILTHY As It Gets)

2. Lewd and lacivious cover art (the hero as depicted is definitely LOOKING at the heroine's partially exposed bosum)

3. Extremely offensive content (descriptions of premarital relations, extensive use of words for actual naked body parts, and the complete absence of proper, fade-to-black love scenes)

Normally SOILS would never sully our pristine ranks with such trash as Ms. Notaprude has written. Unhappily, we learned that her book had been entered into the RITA awards contest. We don't know why; it is so obviously not a romance, but we managed to get some of our members to volunteer as judges. Our long-suffering sisters then read ten or twenty words of it before -- in hysterics -- they called upon certain romance writers who have not yet fully embraced our cerebral chastity charter to ask them for a synopsis of the actual dirt involved.

After getting the disgusting scoop on Ms. Notaprude's many, many violations of true romance, we graded this book as the lowest-scoring entry in the contest. Actually, it was in the negative numbers. Ms. Notaprude has filed a useless protest with RWA over our scores, but for her benefit, and so that you do not lose your coveted publisher status with our beloved and powerful organization, we are pleased to remind you as to what constitutes a real romance:

1. A nice boy (the hero) and a virginal girl (the heroine) meet, chastely, in an appropriate setting: a historical time period predating the American Civil War, or one to which they have time-traveled, or a cowboy ranch in Texas. They must be fully-clothed and must stay dressed for the remainder of the story. They may change clothing, bathe and use the bathroom off-stage, or after the novel is over.

2. Sparks -- not ripped-off clothing -- fly between the lovers. Sparks may only consist of heated gazes, tension-filled silences, and fiery tosses of the heroine's head. Please note, we do not mean lovers in the Biblical sense of the term, but in the romantic, gazing-at-each-other-from-afar manner of real romantic lovers. Have the author imagine a wide, wildflower-speckled meadow between the hero and the heroine, and tell her to keep it there for the rest of the book.

3. The hero and the heroine fall in love. Again, chastely. They should talk about it a great deal, too. Preferably in church.

4. There is a black moment. Black as in emotionally speaking, not black as in the involvement of any African-American characters (please reference our bylaws section on how to portray any "colored" characters in romance novels) or black as in the absence of light in any room where certain premarital monkey business may happen. Also, no one should be naked or touching before, during or after this time. Remember, vows have not yet been exchanged.

5. The hero and the heroine bravely navigate through the (emotional) black moment, resolve their conflict, and reaffirm the power of love. They may share one soulful kiss at this point in the book, as long as there are no tongues or lower extremities touching.

6. The hero marries the heroine (in church), and takes her on an expensive and wildly romantic honeymoon on a completely deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific where no one will know that they're Doing It. The book should end before the wedding night begins, but a very brief fade-to-black scene that shows the hero only manfully but gently carrying the heroine into the beautiful chamber of consecrated marital bliss is acceptable here. Just assure that your author goes no further with it than the door to said chamber.

As a publisher of alleged romantic fiction, it is your responsibility to provide quality romances for today's readers. The Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene are happy to assist you in that goal.

You will naturally have to first weed out the authors whom we have already deemed as unworthy smut mongers and prevented from being awarded any RWA honors. Repeat offenders, such as that shameless hussy Alison Kent, must be fired immediately.

As for specific books, your entire BLAZE line has to go. We're very sorry that you will lose the entire imprint, but good riddance to bad rubbish. Just throw all the books in the corporate incinerator now; you'll feel so much better. Once you have removed this filth from the shelves, please discontinue printing any other novels until we have finished reviewing your other lines and can advise you on what else to burn.

As for Ms. Notaprude, we are petitioning to have her membership in RWA revoked. She does not write romances, therefore, she should not be a member of our beloved organization. We will pray for her. Maybe.

Good luck, and crank up that incinerator,
The Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Holy Writer Trivia, Batman

A trio of holy writer trivia:

Thoth, an ancient Egyptian god of the moon, later of wisdom, was the patron deity of scribes. Rather aptly, the god was always depicted as a man with the head of an ibis, or a primate. No, I am not making this up; the god of writers was either a birdbrain or a baboon.

St. Francis de Sales is the Catholic patron saint of writers. His name was an omen, as he became a bestselling author, but he refused to accept royalties for his book Introduction to the Devout Life, which is of course why we consider him a saint.

French author and philosopher, Fran├žois Marie Arouet de Voltaire, predicted that within 100 years of his time that Christianity would vanish into the obscurity of history. 50 years after Voltaire died in 1778, the Geneva Bible Society used his house and printing press to produce Bibles (and the sound of the rpms coming from his grave made more noise than the printing press.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday 20

This has been a tough week for publishing. I was tempted to toss out something about the latest big money scandal -- weren't we all? -- but writing, reading and my own business stuff railroaded me. I made some connections, sprinted through the schedule and got rolling on two new projects, so things in my teeny corner of publishing stayed cool, calm, and ultra-Zen. Why muddy the water with the latest dirt?

I do have some provocative titles for you today, though:

Some Writers Deserve to Starve!

Talk to the Hand

Your Marketing Sucks


This trio sounds like something I might cook up for some parody posts, but in reality they are three published titles, specifically a writer's how-to, an book on etiquette and a marketing manual. Apparently contempt has become the new empathy.

Writers get hit with contempt all the time, through rejections, hatchet jobs, being passed over, all our hard work ignored, our efforts belittled, etc. In the fairy tale world of publishing, we're made to feel like the ugly stepsisters. So when one of the Cinderellas turns out to have slippers of clay, and falls on her face while she's waltzing with the prince, of course we're going to snicker, and applaud, and maybe even cheer. Contempt becomes a matter of justice. We're entitled, right? Only it doesn't make us any prettier.

On to questions: what's up with you guys this week?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Know Thy Industry

You'll often hear authors use the phrase "major publisher." I do it all the time. But exactly who are the majors?

Everyone has an opinion as to what constitutes a major publisher. Some writers look nose-down at publishing conglomerates and coo over big independents. Others will nitpick numbers and cite entities such as textbook and comic book publishers as the hidden giants out there.

I'm practical; I define major publisher by who does the most business and can potentially pay me the most money for what I write. While statistics may vary and rankings occasionally fluctuate, the bulk of the fiction books in the U.S. market are published by one of the following corporations:

1. Bertelsmann: owns the world's largest general-interest book publisher, Random House. Some of its popular imprints are Anchor, Bantam, Crown, Doubleday, Knopf and Vintage.

2. CBS Corporation: acquired Viacom in December 2005 and with it Simon and Schuster. Some of S&S's U.S. imprints are MTV Books, Pocket, Scribner, Star Trek and Wall Street Journal Books.

3. Holtzbrinck: or, more properly, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, a corporation based in Stuttgart, Germany, which owns a group of publishing companies in the U.S. Imprints include Farrar, Henry Holt & Co., Macmillian, Picador, Tor, Bedford/St. Martin's, Straus & Giroux, and Worth.

4. Lagadere: a few months ago rocked publishing when it purchased
Time Warner Book Group, the fifth largest publisher in the U.S., for $537 million dollars. TWBG, now sporting the new banner Hachette Book Group US, has U.S. imprints such as Aspect, Mysterious Press, and Warner Forever.

5. Pearson: owns The Penguin Group and many international publishing branches. Some of its U.S. imprints are Dutton, New American Library (NAL), Penguin Putnam, Plume, Signet, and Viking (these guys are my primary publisher.)

6. News Corporation, aka Murdoch's News Corp: its book division HarperCollins Publishers, has been over the past couple of years acquiring several U.S. imprints, notably Amistad Press, Avon Books, Fourth Estate, and William Morrow & Company.

There are other major publishers, such as the world's largest publisher/distributor of children's books, Scholastic, which also publishes J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter books, and Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd., the largest publisher of romantic fiction in the world. I'm sure there are others outside the fiction field, too. But when you hear an author talk about major fiction publishers, they're generally referring to one of the six corporations I've listed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stalled and Driven

Most writers become acquainted one time or another with the creative mental brick wall called writer's block. Basically, those wonderful times when the words end up on one side while the writer beats his head against the other. I once thought writer's block was an avoidance mechanism, sort of like fainting spells were for Victorian women, but over the years I've seen too many friends suffer through it to doubt its authenticity or tenacity.

The alleged flip side of writer's block is a condition called hypergraphia, aka the uncontrollable urge to write or produce in other media. Van Gogh apparently suffered from it, as did Dostoevsky and Stevenson (although the latter may have induced it via cocaine abuse.) Not all prolific writers are hypergraphic, but we're usually accused of it at some point or another during our careers.

A few years back, neurologist and Harvard Medical School teacher Dr. Alice W. Flaherty made some minor ripples with her book about both conditions, The Midnight Disease, which examined the creative mind as it suffers through both disorders. Although any mention of writer's block garners instant empathy from colleagues, there wasn't a lot of weeping around the industry over the plight of the hypergraphic. Like being thin and rich, apparently there is no such thing as writing too much. Unless it's someone else who's doing it, and selling it.

The late Dr. Norman Geschwind, another Harvard notable who made a name for himself in behavioral neurology, cited hypergraphia as a symptom of epilepsy; one of eighteen special personality farts created by temporal lobe complex partial seizures. He labeled those afflicted as victims of interictal personality disorder. That most prolific writers and artists do not have epilepsy was merely one of those tiny insignificant details that must have escaped his notice.

I don't agree with the diagnosis of hypergraphia as being a catch-all explanation for the prolific. Nor do I think everyone with writer's block is suffering from PMS. Labels won't stick to everyone; there are some things that can't be mapped out by an EEG or shoved under the microscope of science and given a common diagnosis. To me, the creative mind and its ability to produce (or lack thereof) is as individual as a fingerprint.

Writers, when you find yourself stalled or driven with your work, what do you think is the main culprit? Or is it different every time?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What's Sad?

1. Meeting a mega-bestselling millionaire author whose hair color and style can only be described as "trailer park skank."

2. Seeing a colleague's self-promo postcard show up on PostSecret.

3. Reading an interview of a colleague who uses three pages of important-sounding four- and five-syllable terms to detail a personal writing process that can be summarized in eight words: I just sit home and make up shit.

4. Having a writer acquaintance forward truly hateful e-mails written about you that he/she's received from a colleague you don't know and have never met, and being asked not to say anything about them.

5. Going to a bookstore to purchase a book by talented writer friend with career woes, being unable to find it on the shelf, and then running into a big, gorgeous book dump for a no-talent twit who can't write a path out of a brown bag.

5a. Being tempted to kick in the sides of the stupid twit writer's pretty book dump, or rip the covers of every one of the forty copies it contains.

6. Wishing things could be different for so many while knowing that no matter what you do, say or try things will likely remain the same or get worse for most.

7. All the campaigning for awards under the crotch-hold of writer organizations, but especially the unsolicited pathetic vote-for-me letter & book package.

8. Making up ten lists about what's sad in the publishing industry.

9. Finding a writer friend's best work on a remainder table.

10. Giving up, not trying, or running away from it all.

Any you guys want to add?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Timely Ten

Ten Things About Writer Concepts of Time

1. A sec: A unit of time that equals approximately twenty minutes. Example: when a writer says I need to run into the bookstore for a sec, he means I need to run into the bookstore, stand in front of my shelf, face out my title, stare at it and chew on my lip.

2. Done: If followed by the sound of a head hitting a desk or monitor, the writer's book is finished and ready to mail out to the publisher. If not, the writer needs another week to work on it. Maybe two.

3. Fast: few writers use this unrealistic term, as it applies to nothing in the publishing industry.

4. Five minutes: The most common synonym used by writers for sixty minutes.

5. Forever: The precise amount of time it takes for an editor to read a proposal, an agent to return a phone call, a GOH to finish speaking or a first novel to be published.

6. Now: An expression of incredulous outrage a writer applies to any non-emergency request made of her in the middle of her writing time, i.e. You want me to do that now?

7. One Hour: The approximate amount of time it takes for a confident writer to type the first five words that follow the phrase Chapter One. For nervous writers, depending on the level of anxiety, see definitions for one month, one year and one decade.

8. Someday: An expression describing a point in the hopefully near future when the writer's most intimate fantasies will come true; the day when the writer will be wealthy, the day the writer will land a big contract, or the day the writer's worst enemy will get his or hers while the writer watches and consumes popcorn.

9. Tomorrow: The exact time when the writer will start or finish something not related to writing, or the much hoped-for ETA of someday.

10. Yesterday: A nebulous time frame a writer assigns to any accomplished task not related to writing the work in progress, i.e. What do you mean the grass is up to your hips? I just mowed the lawn yesterday.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

While I'm Writing

I apologize for being a bit scarce and off-schedule; my editor dumped an emergency weekend job in my lap and I have only 48 hours to (among other things) be brilliant, charming and inspire a production team. Yes, it's probably hopeless.

Around the blogosphere:

We're all pretty much fluorescent green over Alison Kent's beautiful new cover art. My reaction: "Damn, does that woman ever get BAD cover art?"

Marjorie M. Liu has posted all the info about a very cool Dorchester contest for unpubbed writers over at her place.

Stuart MacBride goes above and beyond as he is interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland.

Scott Oden has an interesting meme over at his place in which he reveals some things you might not know about Scott Oden.

Mr. Rickards is back from Israel and, as far as we know, did not cause any international incidents.

Shannon Stacey crunches numbers and speculates on how important Wal-Mart may be to boosting them over at Romancing the Blog.

Everyone should go and admire Kristopher Reisz's new cover art right this minute. This one is going to leap off the shelves.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Boy/Girl

I've got a micro-poll on the cover art for the Darkyn novels: do you all like the male faces, or would you prefer to see female faces? (the cover art for Dark Need over there on the right sidebar is an example; that's Darkyn book #3)

Please post your answers and/or opinions in comments.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday 20

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oh dear

From reader e-mail (posted with permission):

Did you know that your next novel will be shipped on June 6th, 2006? 6/6/6.

Uh-oh. Does this mean I have to apologize now to that ninth grade English teacher who called me the AntiChrist?

Kidding. I can't be the Angel of the Bottomless Pit. He's supposed to be a guy. And, as I have been assured since infancy, Jesus is my friend. Think about it; would our Savior be pals with the Lawless One, whom He shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of His coming? I don't think so.

I also don't see me causeth-ing all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, either. I have trouble just parallel parking. Besides, my mother hates tattoos; she'd kill me. Would you piss off someone who possibly gave birth to the Son Daughter of Perdition? Exactly.

Still, it would explain the psychic powers, superhuman speed, and that annoying swarm of locust that keeps following me around town. Hmmmm. Does anyone know if Satan offers decent health insurance plans?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No Lemons, Thank You

While out hunting down links, I came across an amusing article written by Sarah Stodola on The Top Ten Novel Titles of All Time. Amusing not as in written that way, as the lady is obviously in earnest (okay, maybe she was joking) but in that I've not read a single book on the list. They're all great works of literature, I'm sure.

All right, I'm not an utter Philistine; I did read a couple of the honorable mentions. The Name of the Rose rocked, as did Sense and Sensibility.

Thing is, I don't think any of these great titles are really all that great. Lemon? That's something we all try not to buy from the car salesman. Atlas Shrugged? I'm sure Atlas also reached back and scratched his ass sometime, too, but I wouldn't title my book after it. The Sun Also Rises? Wow, really? It doesn't just set? Who knew?

If you want to qualify for my list of the ten greatest titles of all time, you can't trade on your literary status. And you've got to give me a little more than body language, sunshine and fruit.

I don't think I could do a greatest list -- there are too many terrific titles out there -- but here are some that left a deep impression on me:

Diplomacy of Wolves: Not only is this a great title, but it's the novel in three words, and I will envy it for eternity. By Holly Lisle.

No Victor, No Vanquished: The title of Edgar O'Ballance's study of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. This title actually made me buy this book.

The Sea Remembers: Peter Throckmorton's big book on shipwrecks and archaeology from Homer's Greece to the rediscovery of the titanic. It's beautiful and sad and a chilling reminder.

Cats in Cyberspace: the only title for Beth Hilgartner's novel, told from the POV of two computer-savvy house cats (I wrote the intro to this one so I'm a little prejudiced.)

Got any world's greatest title contenders of your own?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

For Fun

For everyone looking for a new name for their weblog, the Blog Name Generator will use your keywords or come up with something entirely at random. Let's see what they got for me:

Paperback Writer Vacancy -- the blog for when I'm out of town.

Paperback Writer World -- Sure, let me run it for a while.

Paperback Writer Notes -- P/U comet, dog food and Cin. Toast. Crunch from store.

Paperback Writer Silhouette -- Casting a funny-looking shadow since 1998

Paperback Writer Kingdom -- Not going to trade it for a horse, okay?

Paperback Writer Compulsions -- tempting, but . . . no, let's not go there.

Paperback Writer Maniac -- Cue the song from Flashdance! Perfect!

As usual, link brazenly lifted off The Generator Blog.

Monday, April 17, 2006

No Box Ten

Ten Things on Outside-the-Box Marketing

1. Guest speaking: Author Samuel J. Alibrando is using radio talk show interviews to promote his book on intelligent design, Nature Never Stops Talking.

2. Matchmaking: Authors @ Your Library helps connect publishers and libraries to schedule author events.

3. Readers love free stuff: Authors such as Holly Lisle offer free e-book versions of their work for readers on their web sites. You can make e-books for free as well; check out some of the pdf file services I posted links to here.

4. If you build it, they will come and read: Create an ezine by pooling your resources with other writers or flying solo. Builder sites like EZine Director offer free help and services to get you launched.

5. Getting it out there: Using services like MediaOffer.com to distribute free product while recipients provide marketing and contact info in return, as seen with this comic book giveaway.

6. Pick a peck of podcasts?: Podcast lovers might want to check out the services offered over at Podcast Pickle, the "first podcast and vidcast community."

7. Cooking up a storm in sales: PublishingTrends.com has an old but still interesting article on how Chefs Shake Up the Cookbook Market.

8. The good news and the bad news upfront: Advertising for Kenneth R. Timmerman's book Countdown to Crisis included both positive and negative blurbs under ad headers of "Who Likes It" and "Who Hates It."

9. Art as marketing: Douglas Clegg teamed up with artist Caniglia to create unique artwork for his first Vampyricon novel, The Priest of Blood, which he then used for special edition covers, free screensavers, and other collectible items availble for purchase to his readers.

10. Play to read: Online advergames like Young Bond help interest the gaming generation in print books. Popular advergames have the potential to reach more than 40% of internet users.

If you know of any unusual or non-traditional methods of marketing books, please post something about it in comments.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

My plans for the day

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Title Recall

There's a rather provocative article here about novel titles being "recycled" by authors. Mira editor Margaret Marbury is quoted in it as saying, "Most really good titles have been used before. It's very hard to find something completely original."

Title repeats do happen. After I published Heat of the Moment, I discovered that Olga Bicos also had a book with the same title. My editor shortening Dance Into the Fire to Into the Fire put me in a herd of other authors who have used the same title, including Don Pendleton, Che Ahn, Anne Stuart, Alexander Fullerton, Richard Laymon, Leslie Kelly, David Wiltse, and Jeffrey S. Savage.

I can't always avoid a repeat, but since the last two JH books I've been making a real effort to cook up titles that are unique to my work. Raiding old poetry for ideas, as I did for my titles If Angels Burn and Private Demon, seems to work best for me. When my publisher condensed my title Darkness Has No Need to Dark Need, I tried my method in reverse, did a search on the new title, and found a poem by Caroline Southey that suited the novel. Which I needed, because I could no longer use the fragment of Byron's poem with the original title as an intro verse.

I can't agree with the article because I don't think all the really good titles are gone. I think all the really easy ones are. If you want a title unique to your book, you simply have to work a little harder. I've recently begun searching The Library of Congress online catalog whenever I come up with a possible title. If I can't find it in LoC's 12 million title records, I figure I'm good to go.

How are you guys cooking up your titles and avoiding repeats these days?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday 20

Does success spoil the average novelist? Are most of us equipped to become Dan Browns, J.K. Rowlings, or John Grishams? What happens when by fate or luck or sheer talent, you leave 99% of your colleagues behind and zoom up there into the upper stratosphere of publishing? Do you become instantly friendless? Does trust become something you hoard or eliminate? Can you believe anything your agent, editor or publisher say to you?

I don't know the answers, but I'll be happy to serve as a test lab rat*.

Actually I'm wary of too much success. I haven't the wardrobe or temperment for it. I don't much like what it does to some people in the cranium and posterior departments. What goes up? Must come down. I've also observed the overnight success types becoming instant whipping posts for anyone with an envy grudge. The money is nice, but the cost to your soul may be a little hard to handle.

Now that you're properly depressed, any questions for me this week?

*My answer is yes, btw, to anyone who wants to offer me a couple of million for my next book. I'm crabby, cautious and suspicious, but I'm not stupid. And think of all the book touring money you'd save on me...

Take a Deep Breath Winners

Before we get into the Friday 20, thanks to everyone who participated in the Deep Breath giveaway. I went from smiles to tears, prayer to laughter. You also reminded me once again to be grateful for the small wonders we so often take for granted.

The names of the giveaway winners are:

Liz (as we have comments by more than one Liz, this one began with: Every time I read Guy Gavriel Kay's The Summer Tree.)

azteclady

Jaye Patrick

Twila Price

Angelle

motorboating

Alice

Angie T

TECH

Nancy J. Bond

Winners, please e-mail your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get these books out to you. As always, I don't use your personal info for any other reason but to mail out the books. Also, if you've sent your address to me in the past for another giveaway, please send it to me again. I know it's a bit of a pain, but I always erase the addresses and info after I've done the mailout.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

In Praise

A small avalanche of e-mail requests have recently come in asking me for quotes and recs here on PBW, or asking me why I chose so-and-so's novel, how come I wrote this or that, etc.

Making endorsements is tough for me. For one thing, I'm still new at it, and I have no procedure to follow. I'm still fumbling with how to do it, as well as how often, for whom and so forth. I'm also aware of a certain freak value being attached to me because of past endorsements, so I'm getting even more leery about making them.

I can't write glowing, artfully worded blurbs. You know, the ones that sound a lot like those intimate scenes from certain romance novels where actual sex acts, body parts, and fluids are never mentioned, but lots of euphemisms throb and bud and dampen? Right. Can't do that. So my endorsements take a lot of time and thought, and still tend to be, shall we say, colorful. This makes editors nuts, btw, and some of them want to reword my quotes to be thus glowy and arty, which is also something I generally nix, creating even more headaches for all involved.

I also go out on numerous limbs when I endorse something. I know plenty of writers who don't sweat it, but personally, I put my rep on the line every time I do. My attitude is that I'm asking people to spend money based on my word, and that's something I take very seriously. To combat the rampant cronyism out there, I prefer to endorse writers who are total strangers to me, but in one instance that came back to bite me on the ass, so that's always a risk, too. This is all why I don't toss out quotes and recs like handfuls of confetti.

As far as reading manuscripts goes, I truly am quoted out at present. I don't intend to stop forever but my batteries need some recharging. I still recommend books here, and I'll keep doing that as I come across books I think you'll enjoy. There is no agenda. I'm a reader, you're readers, and I'll let you know when I find something I think is worth your time and money and then some.

There are good reasons to endorse other writers, and it's not simply to help them out. For example, this came in e-mail this week (posted with permission):

You certainly are doing something right! Your recommendation for Nightlife was right on. The book is slick, scary and YUM. I can hardly tear myself away from reading it to write this, and I can't wait to see what the audacious midpoint surprise that you mentioned turns out to be. If the rest of the book delights me as it has so far, I'll definitely be putting the word out. :) --Suzy

There are a couple of great things about what Suzy wrote. One is that she apparently got sucked into the book as quickly as I did. She's endorsing my endorsement, so to speak. The other is that despite the fact that I have recommended Nightlife, and she's reading a free copy, she's still reserving judgment until she finishes the book. Suzy is not a pushover or a suck-up, and I respect that. As reader responses go, this one is damn near perfect. As in, this is exactly what I want when I quote or rec something.

Let me point out one more thing to dispel some odd assumptions. I cannot make anyone into another J.R. Ward by the awesome power of my super endorsement of their book. Guys, my endorsements aren't that awesome or powerful or super. Nothing I did made J.R. Ward a success.* She accomplished that all on her own with her talent, imagination and hard work. Don't make me into some kind of rabbit's foot for books. I'm not.

Questions, thoughts, opposing opinions? Please post them in comments.

*I reserve the right to occasionally gloat about being SO right about her, though.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Take a Deep Breath

In addition to running a terrific contest for her readers, Alison Kent has been conducting a unique marketing experiment via a viral blogging blitz for her latest release, Deep Breath.



The contest is definitely a dazzler, but I like the viral blogging experiment even more. I don't think I've ever seen an author try this buy-one-blog-one-get-one-free approach, but it makes all kinds of sense. Everyone who buys the book wins (something you simply can't do with a contest.) This is because Alison doesn't just think outside the box, often she tears it down and rebuilds it from the ground up.

I think it's a smart investment. To rephrase a comment I made over at Vanessa's, the best representation of any writer's work is the work itself. People usually throw out postcards, bookmarks and widgets, but books command a little more respect. Most folks pass along, trade or donate books, which creates another opportunity to snag a new reader (which is exactly what the resale of used books does, but that's a debate for another post.) It is more expensive -- writers get only a limited number of author copies, and shipping anywhere these days ain't cheap -- but I believe your work and your future readership are worth it.

Another thing that helps is talent, and in that department Alison Kent is a powerhouse. Oh, yeah, she didn't get that Quills nomination just for her pretty cover art; the woman can write like Indian Jones handles a whip. And although I'm extremely hung up on the hero from The Bane Affair, I think Deep Breath is her best work to date.

You know what's going to be very interesting? Watching where Alison Kent goes from here.

I'm also going to back up my rec for Deep Breath with the real deal. In comments to this post, name someone or something that leaves you breathless by midnight EST on Thursday, April 13, 2006. I'll draw ten names at random from all those who participate and send the winners an unsigned copy of Deep Breath by Alison Kent. Names of the winners will be posted here on the weblog by noon EST on Friday, April 14, 2006. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What's Your Line?

You have a magical business card that will appear in the hand of every editor in publishing tomorrow. It lists your name or pseudonym and your contact information. There is also just enough room for a single sentence of fifteen words or less, i.e.:

                     Paperback Writer

      Diagonally parked in a parallel universe.


So what's the line on your magical business card say?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Anti-Snot Ten

Ten Things for the Art Vs. Success Debate

1. "Because book publishing supports the star system, like virtually every other media-related business these days, I understand why authors want to set themselves apart as better or different or more literary or more cultured or more popular." -- Deborah Branscum

2. "It's just more of the hip-deep colon-content that pervades the whole art n' literature scene, the nasty snobbishness that says that you have to be educated to be able to appreciate either, and that a book that has impossible things in it is ok if it is 'magical realism', but trash if it is 'fantasy'." -- comment by Dean Cochrane

3. "The notion of one art for the 'cultural,' i.e., the favored few in any given society and of another subart for the 'uncultured,' i.e., an excluded majority as deficient in Gutenberg skills as they are untutored in 'taste,' in fact represents the last survival in mass industrial societies (capitalist, socialist, communist — it makes no difference in this regard) of an invidious distinction proper only to a class-structured community. Precisely because it carries on, as it has carried on ever since the middle of the eighteenth century, a war against that anachronistic survival, Pop Art is, whatever its overt politics, subversive: a threat to all hierarchies insofar as it is hostile to order and ordering in its own realm. What the final intrusion of Pop into the citadels of High Art provides, therefore, for the critic is the exhilarating new possibility of making judgments about the 'goodness' and 'badness' of art quite separated from distinctions between 'high' and 'low' with their concealed class bias." -- Leslie Aron Fiedler, from his book Cross the Border - Close the Gap

4. "As for the sordid appetite for advancement, the sullying dream of making it? Leave ambition to us "commercial" writers, congregants of the wire racks. Honestly, she's in good hands. We'll treat her like a goddess." -- Joseph Finder

5. "Whatever happened to being truly and honestly happy and excited for a friend’s success? Is this business that competitive? That we can’t appreciate the strides others make in their careers?" -- Alison Kent

6. "We can be proud just to be good at our craft, whether or not we end up on the cover of Time. Leave the judgment of art to our grandchildren." -- Crawford Kilian

7. "You're embracing entropy here, doing your bit to hurry along the heat death of the universe. No matter how deep into the pits your characters sink, you never need worry about getting them to notice that their lives are shit or that they're worthless excuses for human beings because it's all the same." -- Holly Lisle

8. "Maybe you just stay there in bed and stare at the ceiling a little longer, because in your heart you really don't want the best cover, or the starred reviews, or even Steven Spielberg directing or John Grisham sharing his risotto with you. The 1.2 mil, yeah, because you haven't had a lobotomy -- yet -- but the rest, no. What you want is to get the book published. That's all." -- PBW

9. "What did you expect? That your book would come out and the money would roll in? That you won the lottery and would never have to work a day in your life ever, ever again?" -- James R. Winter

and last but not least, the one that made me laugh today:

10. "These novelists aren't paperback writers, they're artists." -- Kelley Armstrong

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Covert Art

After reading this post over at Miss Kate's place, I did an internet image search and found cover art for one of my novels that I'd never before seen:

Paradise Island, Beeler Large Print hardcover edition

Incredible, isn't it? So bright, so primal, so enthusiastic. All the colors are inside the lines. And if some child labor laws were broken in the creation of it, we don't have to mention that to anyone, do we?

I bet all you writers with those SIMs people covers feel way better about your art right now.

Authorial observations: The way she's bravely trying to give herself a tracheotomy with her fingernails against the three palm fronds floating in the background is almost Daliesque in its symbolism, don't you think? Or maybe she's real hot and is being fanned by three large sweaty naked men standing just out of sight. Either way.

Not that I had any of this in the story, but then, the chick depicted wasn't in the book either. Sad to say, she's not my protagonist. My protag was not blonde, never wore evil sunshine yellow, and would not be sticking her feet in that beautiful blue sea because one of her quirks -- not to mention a major plot point in the novel -- is how TERRIFIED SHE IS OF THE WATER.

My best friend is now on notice; she can no longer harp that she has clunkier art than me. But you know what? I really love it. I'm going to blow it up, frame it and hang it in my office. Maybe the next time I feel like going all diva over some cover art I dislike, it will remind me that things could be much, much worse.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Snitless

I have no minefield to offer for your cruising pleasure today. No reports of mean-spirited smackdowns, no views on various hatchet jobs, not even a pithy observation about some other blogger's snitfest in progress. They're out there, but they're nothing new, just variations of the same old high-school-quality posture, sneer, lord, flame, complain, slam, and return fire.

Maybe I'm just getting too old for this nonsense, but it does get boring after a while, and I've been watching internet snits come and blow for seven years now. Seems like these days if I even glimpse mud being slung or trains being wrecked, I just click on that helpful little red box with the white X in the upper right hand corner.

It's probably Jordan's fault. She's a terrible influence on me.

I'm also feeling pretty Zen about the industry. It could be better, but it's not like the moon's turned to blood and the Four Horsemen are riding in just yet. Rookies are still signing while old pros are still selling. New novels continue to ship every month. Talent keeps emerging. I see many familiar names on the shelves at the bookstore whenever I go. It's not grinding to a halt. We're not all doomed.

Writers insist on reading, and writing. We talk and trade info and cheer and commiserate. We're not all two-legged piranha. We see a book dump with The Da Vinci Code mass market edition parked next to the refrigerated milk case in our grocery stores, and we roll our eyes, but we also wonder what it would be like to be a Dan Brown. Our industry is a sprawling city filled with all manner of shiny high rises and condos and wonderful old buildings and little efficiencies. I don't believe any of us who like living here are willing to run out of town just yet. We'd just like more than a one-room apartment overlooking the Dumpster in the alley, if possible.

I try to write interesting, spontaneous things on the back of my old StarDoc bookmarks (which I have been unloading on most of you poor unsuspecting giveaway winners for like a year now.) Today I wrote this: Write like there is no tomorrow, dream like it never ends.

What would you write on the back of your bookmark today?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday 20

Ten Novel Pitches You Probably Shouldn't Make

1. The No-Purpose Life -- Who Cares Why You're Here?: Your existence is completely random chance, there is no Divine Plan, and even if there is, a slob like you wouldn't be part of it (alternative religion.)

2. The Crackerjack Code: blend the boredom of a pointless but easily solved international murder mystery with decoding the meaning behind a collection of fascinating and somewhat sticky prizes culled from 110 years of digging through molasses-covered popcorn and peanuts (junk food thriller, currently under pending lawsuit filed by Frito-Lay.)

3. Cordless: They're evil, those phones, I'm telling you (horror.)

4. What Price Really Liking Someone? -- An I Can't Spell Synister Novel: When her twin brother, Ralphie, disappears soon after taking a job as a poodle trainer for Lord Flexanbulge, Lady Prissy Notalltheway fears he may have become entangled in a dangerous pedigree mutt swindle -- or worse (historical romance.)

5. Killing Your Editor and Getting Away with It: (self-help; presently being sold in self-published edition at writer's conferences nationwide.)

6. Christ the Lord: Out of Diapers: The book succeeds in capturing our savior's profound bowel movements during his infancy, with some of the best scenes reflecting his diaper rash ordeals and what really happened when Blessed Mother mixed a few too many mashed dates in the cream of emmer (biblical historical.)

7. What to Expect When Your Baby's Daddy Hightails it Out of Town: You should have had the court garnish his wages before you told him about the bun in the oven (maternity/self-help legal.)

8. Men of Pot Metal: "Sing, O Ron Popiel, of the ruin of Ginzu..." It is 1984 A.D., and the As-Seen-On-TV-O-Matic Empire is dying, crushed by the weight of its own fantastically affordable and wonderfully versatile products that you, too, can own for just three small payments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling, operators are standing by (not very historical, but amazingly affordable, don't miss out!)

9. The Love Canal Diet: Lose weight, teeth, hair and fingernails (nature/nutrition.)

10. How to Write a Novel in Fifteen Minutes, Sell It to a Major Publisher in One Day and Make #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in One Week: At last, the definitive book that exposes 100% of the truth about THE SECRET HANDSHAKE (fiction.)

I am kind of tempted by that Crackerjack Code idea; remember how good the prizes used to be? Back in my day you'd get little dolls and mini airplanes and smiley face buttons and teeny books -- none of this lick-your-arm-and-press-on single measly tattoo crap like they put in them now. If someone deliberately used the prizes as symbols in hopes of someday warning humanity of a great and shocking truth that would crumble the foundation of our belief systems...that Mickey and Minnie Mouse did have a secret love child together, and he grew up to be....nah, probably been done already by a couple of Brit Disney experts.

Anyway. It's that time of week again -- who's got questions?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Impressive Winners

You guys always make an impression around here, but this time you came up with some truly tantalizing entries for the Nightlife giveaway. Now if someone could add twelve more hours to every day so we'd have more time to hunt down and read all those great novels . . .

The winners of the giveaway are:

LJCohen

Monica

Suzy

Jess I

Michael Ezell

Winners, please e-mail your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get these books out to you. As always, I don't use your personal info for any other reason but to mail out the books. Thanks to all everyone who joined in.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hookers

We all know how important cover art and decent copy is to catch the attention of a book buyer, but I think the opening line of your novel can also make or break a sale. How many times have you seen a browsing book buyer open a novel and read, then put it back on the shelf? I don't think it wasn't because the title page had a lame font, do you?

Like decent endings, good, solid opening lines are elusive things. They don't want to pop into your head. They don't like to cooperate, can't be forced, and often silently beg C'mon, rewrite me, rewrite me. I know authors who won't write their opening lines until the book is finished, and others who agonize or brood over them more than any other part of the book.

The healthier approach is to be casual and have a good time with opening lines. Yes, the beginning of any story is important, and you should pay attention to how you write it, but endlessly rewriting in search of The Perfect Hook takes time you can spend writing other things. You know, like the novel.

I don't think we ever become experts at opening lines, either. I've written them for the last thirty years, and yet out of all those dozens of novels and hundreds of stories, I've only been (nearly) satisfied with these three openers:

All I was trying to do when they caught me was bury my mother in an unmarked grave. -- Blade Dancer

A carpenter who falls and impales himself on a two-by-four isn’t supposed to burst into flame, but there he was: construction worker kabob. -- Infusion

I don’t like waking up with a three hundred pound merc sitting on me and holding a knife to my throat. -- Red Branch


Obviously I like a lot of drama and excitement -- not to mention criminal activity -- in my opening lines. Other quirks: all three of these stories, like most of my work, feature female protagonists who are very different from Yours Truly. All three stories open with a death or imminent death (my favorite alternative to the weather report.) They're a bit shocking but they're also funny. If I can rattle your cage while I make you laugh, then I'm a happy girl. Great opening lines may have a lot to do with our storytelling styles as well as our individual voices, and how true we are to them.

What do you think goes into the making of a great opener? If you've got some examples of your own or another writer's you'd like to share, post them in comments.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Impressive

Often I randomly pick up novels by authors I don't know and have never read. I've had pretty good luck with this method; by using it over the years I've discovered great writers like Patricia Briggs, Harlan Coben, Linda Howard, and Mark Kurlansky.

A few weeks ago I picked up this novel at random:

Rob Thurman's Debut Novel

It caught my eye for two reasons: the great cover art, naturally, and the fact that Rob Thurman and I write for the same imprint but I'd never heard of him.* I read the first page, was intrigued, decided to give it a whirl, and brought it home.

I'd never heard of Rob Thurman because Nightlife is his first published novel. As debuts go, it's ambitious and impressive. Very few writers can do dark urban fantasy that is as funny as it is frightening, but Rob Thurman nailed it his first time at bat.

There's also something rather audacious that this author does with the protagonist midway through the book that I have never seen done as well or in quite the way he did it. Technically speaking, I thought it was superb (and no, I'm not spoiling things by telling you what.) They say we old creaky pros can't learn anything new? I'm betting Rob Thurman could teach me a few tricks. We need to watch this guy.

Despite the pervasive humor, Nightlife is not a fuzzy bunny book, so I don't recommend it for the faint of spleen. This novel is a very dark, action-oriented and violent urban fantasy, with an emphasis on dire straits, bleak comedy and what I'm going to call mythpunk for want of a better word. If you're into books by writers like Douglas Clegg, Stuart MacBride, Tamara Siler Jones, and the really dark stuff I've done (Red Branch and the other Ravelin stories), then Nightlife is something I think you'll enjoy a lot.

You all don't take my word for it: let's do a giveaway. In comments to this post, tell us the title of a book that has impressed you, and the reason it did by midnight EST on Wednesday, April 5, 2006. I'll pick five names from everyone who participates and post them here on the blog by noon EST on Thursday, April 6, 2006. The five winners will receive an unsigned copy of Nightlife by Rob Thurman. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here in the past.

*Added: The author may be female; I can't confirm his/her gender. (Thanks to Karen W. for catching this.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sub Op Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

1. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine accepts submissions from first-time authors as well as established pros, and offers decent pay rates.

2. Paula Guran is looking to antho-reprint the best new paranormal stories published in 2005 and 2006, the '05 stories have a sub deadline of May 15, 2006, check out the specifics here.

3. Lone Star takes online subs for spec fic stories and poetry, details here.

4. Maniac Press currently has six online/open sub share-the-profits POD anthologies listed on their home page.

5. Midnight Showcase has a lengthy list of what specific romance and erotica sub-genre and theme novel subs they're looking for here.

6. Neometropolis accepts online submissions, seems to have a very open-minded editor, and is running a contest for their June 2006 issue.

7. For SF writers who attack the genre from a Christian POV, try OR Christian Science Fiction.

8. Submit a joke online to Reader's Digest, which pays $100 to $300 for the ones they accept.

9. Tor is looking for novel submissions in paranormal romance, romantic suspense and a specific Hannukkah-related story (thanks to Jordan for the heads up.)

10. Writers Digest runs a monthly Your Assignment contest with WD how-to books worth $100.00 for the winner, no fee, online sub okay.

Most of the above online zine links were found while raiding the market pages over at Ralan's place.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fishing for Groupers

The latest big name romance grouper blog has a fetching title: Well Behaved At All Times. Sizzles with the promise of being a hotbed of BSL writer angst and controversy against a stark backdrop of truth in publishing, doesn't it?

We can hope, anyway.

Have you noticed that it is next to impossible to find a decent scandalous grouper blog to read lately? Where are those blogs murky and dangerous and potentially career-destroying, like The Latest Dark Cabal was before a couple of the groupers hiding behind those catchy handles were exposed and quit in a group sulk? Alas, Johnny Dark, we hardly knew ye.

I'm wondering where all the grouper manifesto-writers have gone, too. Remember how stunning genre movements like Mundane SF were going to change the way we thought about whatever they harped on? Okay, so they didn't, but they tried, didn't they? Sort of. At least all that bickering with people over on Live Journal was pretty entertaining. SF is always in desperate need of a good movement.

Everything looks dead over at The Lit-Blog Coop. No, I'm not making fun of them, for real. It seems that daily, weekly, and even monthly blogging is out of the question for that entire slate of groupers. Must be the demanding task involved in picking a single book to rec from that towering and diverse stack of novels by their struggling poor award-snubbed unknown author candidates. I know it would take me years, if not decades, to plow through it.

Maybe I should start an edgy, scandalous grouper blog. I already have enough pseudonyms to outfit a basketball team, and we have all sorts of dirt on each other. Like, did you know Rebecca has a tattoo, and S.L. has a Ph.D., and Lynn is horribly disfigured? And we're pretty sure that Gena is dead, or on an iron lung in a private nursing home outside Springfield. It wouldn't take a lot of effort to send ourselves worshipful e-mails that we could post on the blog. It would fit in great with our new marketing plan to give each other cover quotes and interview each other in genre rags, too.

What? It could work.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fool's Day

In honor of the day, some great media hoaxes, from Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast to the BBC's "spaghetti harvest" spoof.

My family likes to pull fairly harmless practical jokes, like setting every clock in the house forward three hours while I'm sleeping, or taking the tea out of my favorite canister and replacing it with one of those coiled-up fake snakes. Actually I think they're trying to give me a heart attack, the monsters. Which is why tomorrow night for dinner we'll be having chef's salad sprinkled with toy spiders and flies.

What Fool's Day pranks are you planning to play?