Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Page Critique Thursday, and the Importance of Choosing Your Perspective

Here's how these critique thingamajigs work. If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline.

As you offer your thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: positive, constructive polite advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and congrats to Ruthie, whose page is below:

Title: Beautiful Sweet
Genre: YA Fantasy-ish

Lulu toiled for hours. Her old body struggled to bring her child to the world. And then, the small crowd outside their hut heard the last squeal of pain. Her miracle was here at last.

The midwife took the tiny infant, a triumphant smile spread across her lips. One look though, and her mouth pulled back, her eyes widened.

“What is it? What's wrong?” Lulu asked. She weakly raised her wet gray head from the grass mat.

The midwife's face was smooth and calm again. She silently handed the babe to her mother.

Lulu held the warm, moist baby to her bosom and looked at her daughter for the first time. She knew the reason for the midwife's horror.

Her baby was ugly.

The newborn looked up with eyes that were large dark circles. They were nothing like the beautiful almonds Lulu admired in her husband. Her nose was small and dainty. Not like the wide, round nose that she had. And her hair was abundant, but stuck straight up like the monkeys that chattered in the jungle nearby.

Lulu kissed the tiny nose. “Ama is here, dear little one.” She hummed a melody of love.

The midwife stood, her head tilted in wonderment. After a moment she left to fetch Asoka so he could meet his daughter.

He hesitantly peered around the doorway. His nose wrinkled from the sticky smell of the room. He sighted the aftermath.

“Come,” Lulu beckoned. “See your daughter.”

I think there is some evocative description in this page and it's very in touch with the physicality of the birth - the wet hair, the most baby, the sticky smell. My concern, though is mainly with the perspective.

The novel starts very close with Lulu "Lulu toiled for hours. Her old body struggled..." then zooms way out to an omniscient perspective "the small crowd outside their hut heard the last squeal of pain" then zooms back in to Lulu's thoughts. "Her miracle was here at last."

It's a bit of a jarring way to start a novel because we don't quite have our bearings and we're made to shift our perspective several times in a short span. If it's omniscient that should probably be woven in a bit more naturally and we should have more distance from Lulu, if it's third person limited we should probably stay more closely with Lulu's experience. But having parts that are zoomed in and parts that are zoomed out in the same paragraph can create a disorienting effect.

I'm also a bit concerned about this being a YA novel, because the perspective and sensibility feels very firmly adult to me. Even if this is a prologue or if it's going to jump to focus on a YA protagonist, I'm not sure that the sensibility of this novel feels like a teenage-oriented story.

Lastly, I thought there could have been just a bit more detail in this page to flesh out this world and the personalities of the characters. We have lots of detail about the birth, but we don't necessarily need that because we all know what a birth pretty much looks like. But what about this world? What's in the hut? What are the objects that are surrounding them? I liked the detail of the monkeys nearby, can we get a bit more of a sense of the world we're in? And could we have some clues about the relationships between the characters?

This feels like an interesting world to me, but I think a bit more can be done to smooth out the perspective and bring a bit more life to this setting.

My redline:

Title: Beautiful Sweet
Genre: YA Fantasy-ish
Wordcount: 248

Lulu toiled for hours. Her old body struggled to bring her child to the world. And then, the small crowd outside their hut heard the last squeal of pain. Her miracle was here at last.

The midwife took the tiny infant a "tiny" infant is redundant, we imagine an infant to be  tiny by default unless the author says otherwise, a triumphant smile spread across her lips. One look though, and her mouth pulled back, her eyes widened.

“What is it? What's wrong?” Lulu asked. She weakly raised her wet gray head from the grass mat.

The midwife's face was smooth and calm again. She silently handed the babe to her mother.

Lulu held the warm, moist baby to her bosom and looked at her daughter for the first time. She knew the reason for the midwife's horror.

Her baby was ugly. I found this just a tad confusing, and I think it needs more setup. No matter how ugly a baby is, I don't think many mothers think their baby is ugly when they see it for the first time. If Lulu notices this, I think we need more setup for her mindset and personality before we get to this moment so we believe it. Is she under pressure? Is she worried she's going to have an ugly baby? Is she a strange person? I think more needs to be done to set up this moment in order for it to resonate.

The newborn looked up with eyes that were large dark circles. They were nothing like the beautiful almonds Lulu admired in her husband. Her nose was small and dainty. Not like the wide, round nose that she had. And her hair was abundant, but stuck straight up like the monkeys that chattered in the jungle nearby feels like just a bit too much detail, do we need to know that the monkeys chatter when the comparison is with the hair?.

Lulu kissed the tiny nose. “Ama is here, dear little one.” She hummed a melody of love. I found this transition jarring as well. First she thought the baby was ugly, but now she seems happy. If we're inside her head I think we need a bit more of her thought process.

The midwife stood, her head tilted in wonderment. After a moment she left to fetch Asoka so he could meet his daughter.

He hesitantly peered around the doorway. His nose wrinkled from the sticky smell of the room. He sighted the aftermath found this sentence a tad awkward.

“Come,” Lulu beckoned. “See your daughter.” Can we get more of a sense of her emotions here and her relationship with Asoka? Is she nervous/proud/happy/resigned/etc.?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Do You Wish You Had Known When You Started Writing?

"Retrato de Mariano Goya" - Francisco de Goya
Oh, to start writing again.

Such angst! Such vision! Such ambition!

What do you wish you had known when you started? What would you tell your younger writing self?

Mine is pretty simple. When I first started out I was very focused on the end result. I wish I would have known that whatever happens with any particular manuscript: It's all worth it.

What about you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

First Person vs. Third Person

Originally posted July 9, 2007, revised with some updates

First person or third person? Ah, the great debate that begins before a writer types their first "Once upon a time." Thousands of virtual trees have been felled for all of the pages and pages of debates on Internet writing message boards about this very topic. So which should you choose to write that novel??

Only you can answer that. Ha! You probably thought this was going to be easy. Twenty pushups, on your knuckles.

Nevertheless, I do have some thoughts that you might keep in mind as you're both making this decision and then putting it into practice.

First Person

The absolute most important thing to keep in mind as you're crafting a first person narrative is that everything that occurs has to be filtered through your narrator's perspective. Everything the reader sees is therefore infused with the narrator's personality and pathos. Things don't just happen in a first person narrative, they happen through the narrator's perspective.

The really compelling first person narrators are the ones where a unique character is giving you their take on something that is happening, and yet it's clear to the reader that it's not the whole story. You're getting a biased look at the world, which is central to the appeal of the first person narrative.

Think about it like this:
reality (slightly hidden) -> || prism || -> the narrator's perspective and thoughts (what the reader sees)
One of the great tensions in a first person narrative, then, is between what the narrator is saying and what the reader senses is really happening beyond the narrator's perspective. This doesn't necessarily have to mean that the narrator is unreliable, it just means that we're seeing the world through a very unique character's eyes -- and only through that character's eyes.

A protagonist might really convince herself, for instance, that she isn't sad that her mother died, but the reader senses that there's more to the story. Not necessarily unreliable, but it's also not the whole picture.

The other great essential element of a first person narrative is that the narrator has to be compelling and likeable (and redeemable). I may get a lot of grief for the "likeable" part, but hear me out. Nothing will kill a first person narrative quicker than an annoying narrator.

Now, this doesn't mean the narrator has to be a good person, and hopefully the narrator is well-rounded enough to be a complex character. But the narrator has to pass the "stuck in an elevator" test. Would you want to be stuck in a room with this person for six hours? Would you want to listen to this person give a speech for six hours? If the answer is no, then you might want to reconsider.

Third Person

There are many different ways to craft a third-person narrative, and perhaps the hardest part is deciding how far you want to get inside your characters' heads. Do you want to use that god-like ability to really show the reader every single thought? Or do you want to keep their thoughts slightly hidden?

I tend to believe that the most interesting third person narratives jump into character's heads to show their thought processes but leave some distance between what is happening on the outside and what the characters are thinking. This way, to take the example of a character's mother dying, rather than knowing exactly what the character is thinking, the reader does the work to try and empathize with what the character is feeling in that moment and based upon a character's actions.

Think about it this way. The diagram for first person is reversed for third person:
reality (what the reader sees) -> || prism || -> what the characters are thinking (slightly hidden)
The tension, then, is still between what's really happening and what the reader gets to see, but in this case we're using our reading ability and natural empathy to deduce the character's motivations and feelings based on the god-like narration of what's really happening in the world of the book. In other words, we see the outside world, but the inside is slightly hidden.

One of the very most common mistakes writers make in third person narration is doing too much work for the reader -- using the omniscient perspective to tell the reader what the characters are thinking and how they're reacting, rather than trusting the readers to do that job. Show not tell is the cardinal rule of third person -- show the characters acting upon their emotions rather than telling us how they feel. This keeps up that really fascinating barrier between what we're reading and what we sense is happening behind the prism.

Wrapping It Up

So, to boil all this down:

The tension in first person is between a character's unique perspective and what is actually happening in the outside world.

The tension in third person is between what the reader sees in the outside world and what is actually happening from the characters' perspectives.

Now, there are many more distinctions between first and third person, so that's where you come in -- please add your two cents in the comments section. First person or third person? How should we further distinguish them? What are your tips for both? 

Photo by Spigget via Creative Commons

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week in Books 6/24/11

This week in Hogwarts...

Yes, the big news about Pottermore was revealed!! Sort of! Okay just a bit! It's actually not coming until July for some people and October for everyone else!

This week J.K. Rowling announced that Pottermore would be an online site that will where you go for Harry Potter e-books, and a unique online reading experience that seems to involve some reader participation. The response was swift and breathless about what this means for the world of books. Is J.K. Rowling self-publishing her e-books? Has she cut out booksellers and Amazon in one fell swoop? If Rowling doesn't need a publisher, what are publishers for?

Slooooooow down, everyone. First off, the Wall Street Journal reported that Scholastic and Bloomsbury UK are receiving a portion of e-book sales and are providing marketing support, so while you could argue that this is a form of self-publishing, it's not exactly cutting traditional publishing out of the loop. And the WSJ also confirmed that Amazon is working with Pottermore to make sure the books will be available on the Kindle, and Sony may be selling branded e-readers through the site.

So yes - it's somewhat unique for a book to be made available through a dedicated site, but let's not go and declare world of publishing completely upended. All the major players will be sitting at the Pottermore table.

Meanwhile, in true self-publishing news, John Locke is the first self-published author to sell one million Kindle e-books, but since he's selling them at $0.99, the LA Times' Carolyn Kellogg asks, "At what cost?"

And the New York Times magazine has a nice profile on eminently sensible self-publishing-turned-traditional-publishing star Amanda Hocking.

GalleyCat picked up our poll on what e-readers should cost and then had a cool post that featured arguments for $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, $5.00, $6.99-$7.99, $9.99 and $12.99-$14.99 price points from industry luminaries. Moby Lives weighed in as well.

And finally (swear) in publishing and e-book news, disaster consultant (yeah) Ray Nagin self-published his memoir and appeared on the Daily Show. He says he self-published because "when you turn your manuscript over to a publisher you never know what's going to happen." Not sure whether he means "They might not make me an offer" or "They might try to edit it," but at the very least this is probably a template for future politicians and authors who want to get their book out quickly. Get it written, get it out there as fast as possible by self-publishing, go on the Daily Show to promote it.

And speaking of speed, agent Rachelle Gardner has a post on why publishing is so slow.

Over at the Passive Voice a great series on how to read book contracts, in this case the non-compete clause. Know what you sign!! (via Mercy Loomis)

And over at Slate, Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix wrote a snarky article about (essentially) being dragged to write YA when what they really wanted to be doing was writing literary fiction. Tahereh Mafi's response is completely priceless.

This week in the Forums, planning a possible forums meet and greet (Vegas!!!), discussing Pottermore and Rowling, the decline of mass market paperbacks, and discussing those ghastly -ly words and their alternatives.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Stephanie Garber, who had a great suggestion on another type of opening to avoid:

I don't have a ton of opening pet-peeves, but I really don't like it when a book starts with the author telling the reader what is about to come, things like:

I found out I had superpowers on my sixteenth birthday...

The day I died started out like a normal Monday...

Everything changed the day the new boy showed up at school...

None of these are real examples, but stuff like this bothers me... I want to read to see what happens next, not be told before it happens :)

And finally, there were some great viral videos making the rounds this week, and my colleague Molly Wood rounded them up into one hilarious compilation:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Five Openings to Avoid

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you can't use one of these openings or that there aren't good books that start this way.

I am saying that you should think once, twice, and five thousand times about using these.

A character waking up: Sure, there's probably a good reason the character is getting woken up. Maybe their house is on fire/they're late for school/they just realized their insides are being sucked out by a sea monster. But not only is waking up overdone, what exactly is gained by showing a character wake up? Why not just cut to the insides-getting-sucked-out chase?

A character looking in a mirror: I know what you're thinking. Namely: "How in the heck am I going to show the reader what this character looks like when it's a 1st person narrative? Hmm... Mirror!" Don't do it. There is another way.

Extended dialogue with insufficient grounding: It's difficult for readers to ease into a new world and get their bearings. It's even more difficult to feel grounded when you're watching two characters talk and you're not exactly sure who they are.

Action with insufficient grounding: You've probably heard that you need to grab the reader right off the bat. But it's really difficult to care about what is happening in an action sequence before the reader knows where they are and who they care about. Even if you do begin with action make sure there's enough establishing detail for the reader to sort out what's really happening.

Character does X and oh by the way they're dead: By all means, tip off your reader that they're dealing with an undead protagonist. But playing it for shock value probably isn't going to work. Think about it - by the time the reader picks up your book in the paranormal section of the bookstore with a title called BEING DEAD SUCKS and a cover to match, are they really going to be surprised when your protagonist does something pithy and then you reveal they're dead?

What do you think? What are some of your least favorite openings?

(Also, check out agent Kristin Nelson's recent list as well.)

Photo by TampAGS via Creative Commons

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Has Facebook Peaked?

Last week the blog Inside Facebook caused quite a stir in the social media world when they estimated that for the first time in its history Facebook lost users in the United States -- an estimated 6 million of them.

For a long time Facebook has seemed like an Internet force of nature, defying the life cycle of Friendster and Myspace and is rumored to be planning on IPO on a a valuation in the realm of $100 billion (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET).

But it also has been dogged by privacy concerns and annoyingly persistent spam and malware, and it remains to be seen if it will be a permanent fixture on the Internet.

What do you think? Has Facebook peaked? Are you spending less or more time using it? Do you think it's here to stay or is it another social media mirage, here one minute gone the next?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Write a WONDERBAR Review, Enter to Win a Prize!

My pal Jacob Wonderbar has been out in the world for a little over a month now, and you've all read it by now, right?

Right? Say yes.

So! If you write a review and send it to me you will be entered for a chance to win a signed copy. Keep it for yourself! Give it to a friend! Sell it on eBay! I won't tell anyone!

UPDATE: Due to concerns in the comment section I've removed the gift certificate. Sorry for any/all confusion, we aim to please.

- You can write a review on an online bookselling site like Amazon or B&N, a book networking site like Goodreads or Library Thing, and/or a blog post. Just send me a link.
- If you've already written a review of Jacob Wonderbar you're good to go, just send me the link.
- It doesn't even have to be a good review! Be honest. I won't be offended.
- You have until Friday, July 1st, when I will randomly select one winner. So if you haven't read it yet, better get cracking!
- To send me a link, go to this page and send it to me via the form.

That is all!

Oh, and if you need a fresh copy to read, here are some helpful links:

Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (Kindle)!
Barnes & Noble (hardcover)!
Barnes & Noble (Nook)!

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Memory, Books and The Internet

"Rouen Cathedreal, Morning Effect" - Claude Monet

This is a guest post promoted from the Forums (Background on Forum Promotion here)

By: Ted Cross

Think of the person you know who has the best memory. Can they quote from hundreds of books? Do they wow you with what can only be their photographic memory? It may be hard for modern people to fully comprehend, but the great memories of today can hardly compare to those of ancient times.

As the book I am reading now states (the following quote and all other quotes here are taken from The Discoverers by Daniel Boorsten) -- "Before the printed book, Memory ruled daily life..." Memory, both from individuals and communities, was the common means of passing knowledge on through the generations. People in those far off times had to intentionally cultivate an incredible memory in order to memorize amounts of information that would astound modern people.

"The elder Seneca (c. 55 B.C.-A.D. 37), a famous teacher of rhetoric, was said to be able to repeat long passages of speeches he had heard only once many years before. He would impress his students by asking each member of a class of two hundred to recite lines of poetry, and then he would recite all the lines they had quoted--in reverse order, from last to first."

Before the days of printing, "a highly developed Memory was needed by the entertainer, the poet, the singer, the physician, the lawyer, and the priest." We all know about the great ancient epics, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which were passed down orally for many centuries.

Even when the first writings became more common, Memory remained the primary means in use by lawyers and judges or anyone wishing to quote from the scrolls or manuscripts of the times. With no page numbers or other markings, it was too inconvenient to attempt to locate the necessary parts of text, often rolled up in scrolls dozens or even hundreds of feet long.

After the printing press was developed, books evolved into "an aid, and sometimes a substitute, for Memory." It was Socrates, two millennia earlier, who had first "lamented the effects of writing itself on Memory..." The more accurate and widespread the book became, the less important became the cultivation of a good memory.

The great anachronism of our age is Islam, which still sees as ideal for any Muslim child the full memorization of the Koran. A lesser one is the incredible use of memory of the elite chess grandmasters, who must memorize hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of positions, tactics, strategies, and lines of openings, middle games, and endgames.

The reason I decided to write this was because the (far more detailed) story from The Discoverers reminded me of some thoughts I had been having regarding the effects on memory of the internet age. If the rise of books had been a death knell for developing memory as a tool, how much worse is the internet, which in effect serves as a substitute memory for the world? Regardless of issues of accuracy, almost all data is now placed onto the internet. Google and similar search engines become the key to accessing this modern day Memory.

And what effect on memory will come of the decline of leisure reading? Reading, which long served to teach and broaden the minds of educated people, is clearly on the decline amongst (primarily) young males, at least when it comes to spending long hours and days poring over long books for leisure purposes. Now kids turn to email, blogs, text messages, and tweets as primary substitutes for the hours once spent reading. Are we going to reach a point where the average person feels they no longer need to have much 'data' stored within their minds, since they can access it at will on the internet? Will high quality writing and the desire to enjoy such writing decline as people become used to the shorthand of modern communications? When 'lol' and 'rofl' take over for actual knowledge of good English, what does it say of our future?

It is hard to say exactly how much impact the internet will have on the area of memory, but my belief is that the coming of the internet age will eventually have nearly as great an effect on memory as the invention of the printing press.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This Week in Books 6/17/11

This week! Books!

First up, big congrats are in order to Joshua McCune, who you may know as Bane of Anubis, who recently got a book deal with Greenwillow at HarperCollins. Congrats to Joshua!! Also, as the co-winner of the ROCK PAPER TIGER Suspense Contest, Joshua brings the now-or-soon-to-be-published blog contest finalist alumni to Staurt Neville, Victoria Schwab, Terry DeHart, Michelle Hodkin, Michelle Davidson Argyle, Joshua McCune, and I have it on good authority that there is a soon-to-be-announced-anon. (Also we should have a contest soon.)

Interviews! There are questions with my psyche at Writer Unboxed (Part 2), Jon Gibbs (part 1 and part 2), Kai Strand, the View From Here, and Interviews Anonymous.

What in the world is J.K. Rowling up to? That is the question around the Internet as there is a mysterious Pottermore website. GalleyCat investigates. What do you think it's goign to be?

Speaking of my favorite things, there is a Parks and Recreation book coming. If you need me I'll be reading it at the Snake Hole Lounge.

Over at Pimp My Novel, Eric describes Publishing Time, that mystical but very real phenomenon where time slows down within the walls of publishing houses.

In writing news, Bryan Russell has a seriously hilarious comic on the revision process, my former colleague Sarah LaPolla has an awesome post about different types of beta readers, and Jamie Grove has a great post on how to return to writing after an absence.

What effect has the Internet and publishing blogs had on the query process? Well, agent Jessica Faust weighed in and notes that queries are way better than they used to be. Good work, everyone!

Speaking of agents, PBS takes a look at a new phenomenon: agents as self-publishing consultants.

And two weeks into the Amazon Sunshine Deals program, what's happening to e-book prices on the Kindle bestseller list? Would you believe the average price is rising? (via Adam Heine)

This week in the Forums, 10 responses you don't want to hear when you're pitching, an upcoming blogfest for teen writers, concerns about the darkness in YA, discussing the age of characters in YA novels, and where's your focus?

Comment! of! the! Week! I'm actually going with two comments of the week, and both of them were on Tuesday's post about LeBron James. The first goes to Bryan Russell, who has a stunning post about the Internet's glee at taking celebrities down, which I'm going to go ahead an print in full:
Wonderful post, and I agree with what you said. But I also find the responses to LeBron very interesting, and that goes for the comments following this post, as well.

It's interesting the flak he gets without having actually done all that much wrong. Yes, the Decision was a bad idea, and comes across very narcissistic. But I seriously doubt it was his idea, nor do I think, when it was first decided, that he knew he was leaving Cleveland. It's not like he was revelling in the moment: he was horribly uncomfortable during that entire interview, and you could see he didn't want to be there. I think his "team" was largely responsible for that. A group of young men from Akron. Hometowns are great, but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to live there your whole life. A bunch of young men, wanting to get out there, taking offers from New York, Los Angeles and Miami? I don't think that's strange.

The Decision was bad, certainly. Yet it did raise millions for charity. I'm guessing the benefit to children, in the long run, is a little more important than the silliness of The Decision.

He's had a few other minor missteps (who hasn't?), but generally he's carried himself well, said the right thing. He praises the people who came before him. He's kept his nose clean (literally and figuratively).

And this brings us to the point I want to add: we live in a culture that has grown to love tearing people down. It's filtering into our very nature, through TV, the news, and the internet.

News is no longer news (if it ever was). It's a business. And the business is getting people to watch and buy, and nothing grabs more eyes than pulling down someone famous (or someone not famous, if that's all you can get). And the cleaner the reputation, the more we seem to take joy in the hunt and the kill (Tiger Woods, anyone?).

Which is not to say that people should not be responsible for their actions or their mistakes, but there is a skewed sense to how these things are meted out. The basic fact is that there are athletes everywhere that have done far, far, far worse things than LeBron has ever done, and receive far less, if any, negative response. DeShawn Stevenson, of the Dallas Mavericks, has said far worse things all series. I mean, he's been wearing a shirt that says "LeBron, how does my Dirk taste?"

Which is funny, but also sort of awful. But no one really cares, because he is Deshawn Stevenson and not LeBron.

That goes for so many people. They are not LeBron.

So, what is LeBron? Inside, I can't say. We can only guess at that. But in the public eye?

Part of this reaction, of course, comes from the fact that you garner greater scrutiny the higher you rise. This is always to be expected.

But another part, I think, is psychological. We are a very ambivalent society, I think, in terms of what we want: we want to witness greatness, but we also want to witness people fail. There is something captivating about seeing someone torn down, whether by a quip in a schoolyard or a jibe in the New York Times.

Politics has become little more than an endless series of smear campaigns. It's not about who is raised up higher, but who is brought down lower.

The internet merely fuels this. The internet is the Eye of Sauron, ever-present and always watching. More and more people need stories, need news, need failure. The big eye needs to draw lots of little eyes. The big eye withers without the attention of the little eyes to feed it.

People dig, pry, and warp. Our culture has become like a great lens that magnifies everything... and then sends the image reflecting endlessly through a maze of funhouse mirrors. Endless circulation, with the image bent and twisted and warped. Fat LeBron! Skinny LeBron! Wobbly LeBron!

We seem compelled by these stories. There are no Hectors in our society anymore. A hero who fails, and is cast down? After the fact, well, we'd be reading about this affair he had, how he always struggled with pressure, always stole the limelight from his brother, sometimes didn't wash his hands before dinner.

In our culture there's only room for Achilles. Go Achilles, or go home. And, in the end, the story amy not even be about Achilles. It will be about that loser Hector. Did you see that video on youtube? Or those dirty pictures from college?

The fact is, LeBron is a great basketball player. And, in the midst of thehoopla, this will often be lost. Because he did not surpass the best player to ever play the game, which is a ridiculous thing to ask of someone. Did he play his best? No. Dwyane Wade is also a great player. As is Chris Bosh. They fought hard, and they lost. Perhaps, Hector, too, did not fight his best. Who can say? And perhaps it didn't matter. He could not beat Achilles on that day.

But there are no Hectors here, not anymore. We won't allow it.

The thing is, Dirk Nowitzki is also a great player. And he has a great team around him, a team that was hot at just the right time. They played better basketball, played better as a team, and that's why they won. They deserved to win, and did.

But the story, somehow, seems to be about how LeBron failed. And that cheapens everything that Dirk and his teammates accomplished.

It seems, now, there is little room even for Achilles. We don't even like the classic story of accomplishment, of men coming together to create a sum greater than its parts. This is the true story, the real story of what makes sports wonderful. The story of competition, striving, and success.

But who cares, when Hector's dirty laundry can be aired? And, did you hear, he was really having an affair with Helen? Who knew?

And brianw actually played against LeBron when he was in high school in high school and had this to say:
I played basketball at the university of Akron when lebron was in high school and I played with him many times in an open gym format. I also know most of his good friends (dru Joyce, Romeo Travis, and cousin/manager maverick Carter). I knew lebron when he was 16 through 18 but I do not know him now.

In my opinion lebron was a very nice, polite, funny, and cool high school junior and senior. I saw him in Vegas a year after he went pro and he greeted me like an old friend. He was competitive and friendly at the same time, which is no easy feat. Most of all he was a freak of nature-bigger, stronger, and better than D-1 athletes when he was 16 years old.

I think he just simply had too much thrown at him too fast. He was given the opportunity to design his high school uniforms at st. Vincent st. Mary's and he was give. A loan on a hummer with the collateral being his athletic talent. He signed a contract with Nike for 100 million before he ever played a single game. He was called the chosen one and expected to save an entire region of the country from their misery. Could you handle all that as a high school senior?

Since he was 14 he he never knew if anyone really wanted to be his friend. He has been used for his money, his fame.

All that being said, he picked the wrong people to represent him. He surrounded himself with yes men. He didn't keep a single person in his inner circle who ever told him no.

I think Nathan is right. I think lebron has no idea who he is. Jordan and Kobe were a-holes who really didnt care about anything but winning. Kobe may or may not have raped a woman, yet he is forgiven because he's good in the fourth quarter? Has lebron broken the law? Did he ever lunch a teammate in practice?

Maybe he's not as good as we want him to be. Maybe he's missing something that Jordan had. Maybe he's still overwhelmed by south so fast. Can you honestly say you wouldn't be the same way?

I didn't start this post to defend lebron but I knew him when he was just a kid. And I liked him. So did everyone else I knew. It makes me sad that I don't anymore.

And finally, Facebook malware is one of the most annoying problems on the Internet. So please please please take the time watch (and please share) this video by my colleague Sharon Vaknin about how to avoid and remove Facebook malware. Don't let those annoying wall posts happen to you:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Are Attitudes About E-Book Prices Changing?

WITH THE CAVEAT that this is an unscientific poll (seriously, Internet scientific poll police: I know I know I know...)  here be the results.

February 2, 2010:

June 14, 2011:

What do you make of these results? Are perceptions of the value of e-books declining? Or is the (yes) unscientific nature of the two polls skewing the results?

And if you do buy that a year later people think e-books should cost less, what do you think is causing the shift in perception?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Should An E-book Cost?

With Amazon's announcement about Sunshine Deals, which reward low e-book prices, I thought I'd revisit a question I've asked once before:

What should an e-book cost?

For some background on the economics of e-book pricing, check out this post.

Poll below. If you're reading in a feed reader or via e-mail you'll need to click through to see it:

Tomorrow I'll compare the results to the last poll and we can see if pricing attitudes are changing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who Is LeBron James?

Photo by Keith Allison
LeBron James is quite possibly the most naturally talented player to have ever stepped foot on a basketball court. He melds the scoring prowess of Michael Jordan, the court vision of Magic Johnson, the sixth sense and rebounding knack of Larry Bird, the graceful athleticism of Dr. J, the strength of Scottie Pippen.

He came into the NBA with unparalleled hype -- ESPN televised some of his high school games -- and he manged to exceed expectations. His career averages (27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists), are astonishing. He's already won two MVP awards, and he's only 26.

And yet, especially after the conclusion of the recent 2011 Finals, he's also one of the most enigmatic players in recent sports history.

Who is LeBron James?

Clutch or not?

In basketball and sports in general, it's usually pretty easy to separate the clutch from the timid. You're either one or the other. There are players who rise to the occasion and are their best when the stakes are highest (Michael Jordan, Robert Horry, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson), and there are the players who shrink from the glare and don't rise up when the game is on the line (Chris Webber, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley).

But no player that I can think of has been both clutch and timid in such a short stretch in his career.

Who is LeBron James? Is he the guy who was responsible for one of the most astonishing postseason performances in NBA history, scoring 29 of his team's last 30 points and single-handedly destroying the Detroit Pistons with a 48 point, 9 rebound, 7 assist game on his way to the finals?

Or is he the player who shrunk from the moment and seemed almost disinterested when it counted last year against the Celtics? Is he the dominant force who sent the Bulls packing this year or is he a 4th Quarter disappearing act as he was against Mavericks? 

There are definitely clutch players who come up short - Michael Jordan missed his share of big shots, and Kobe Bryant pointedly quit in the 2006 playoffs, taking only three shots in the second half of a Game 7 blowout. But I can't think of another player whose demeanor could be so wildly different between seasons and even within the same season.

How could the player who willed his team to victory so many times disappear when it mattered in two straight seasons? How could the most talented player on Earth, playing next to Dwyane Wade, arguably the second most talented player on Earth, lose to Dirk Nowitzki and a band of aging roleplayers?

Who is LeBron James?

A Product of Our Time

LeBron James has made no secret that he wants to be the world's first billionaire athlete, and he has spent years cultivating his brand. In essence, he's trying to out-Michael Jordan Michael Jordan. And the way he's gone about it is such a product of this particular moment. But times have changed.

As we all know, Michael Jordan was the individual who took athlete-as-brand to new, uncharted heights. He became a global celebrity and made gobs amounts of money.

But he also had the luxury of playing in a time where he was completely insulated. Everything we knew about Michael Jordan was filtered through the breathless adulation of sportswriters, the carefully constructed unreality of commercials, his performances on the court, and his masterly postgame interviews.

What did we know about the real Michael Jordan? There was no unfiltered Jordan, no direct contact, no Internet dissecting his every move. He was completely buffered. Everything we saw of Michael Jordan we saw through a filter.

How would Michael Jordan, who publicly called Kwame Brown a "flaming f*****t," have fared in the Twitter era? How would his gambling have played under the glare of the modern Internet tabloid world?

Athletes don't get to live behind a carefully cultivated brand anymore. There is no more insulation. The Internet allows 24-hour access, 24-hour observation, 24-hour rumor mongering, and 24-hour dissection.

Who you are is as important as how you perform. There is no hiding.

Unreality Television

LeBron James tried to embrace this new era. His Twitter account boasts over two million followers. He spent a lot of time hanging out with his old high school buddies. He cultivated an affable, humble image. He played for his hometown team. It all seemed completely genuine, and he was wildly popular.

And then he tried to capitalize on perhaps the iconic genre of our times: reality television.

Last summer, amid the most frenzied free agency season in NBA history, LeBron opted to announce where he would be playing the next season via a thirty minute special on ESPN called "The Decision."

And? It was a trainwreck, one of the most narcissistic displays... pretty much ever, culminating with the now-iconic announcement, "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

I'm going to take my talents..... to South Beach. Leaving behind his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, without so much as a thankyouverymuch. LeBron went from hero to villain in thirty minutes.

Unlike, well, pretty much everyone in America, I think LeBron made an honest mistake in how he handled "The Decision." From a basketball standpoint, playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was a no-brainer. People say "Oh, Jordan wouldn't have done that! Jordan wouldn't have gone to play with his arch-rival!" Well, LeBron wasn't gift-wrapped a Scottie Pippen. He wasn't Magic Johnson playing alongside Kareem, or Bird with McHale and Parrish, or Shaq and Kobe.

The second best player on LeBron's team was Mo freaking Williams. I mean, come on... That same team without LeBron finished 23-59 this year. You can either luck yourself into a superstar teammate or you can go find one your ownself.

I honestly believe that LeBron thought that people would understand his motivations. He thought that people liked him enough to see what he was doing and would forgive him for leaving Cleveland. He embraced the genre du jour and tried to connect with the world through the prism of reality television.

He miscalculated. And I think he knew it immediately. Look at his body language in the wildly ludicrous introductory rally in Miami. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh look like they're in their element. LeBron just looks uncomfortable.

His reality didn't survive the limelight.

Hero or Villain?

In another era, pre-Twitter, pre-24 hour access, pre-reality TV? No "The Decision?" In the Jordan era?

We'd know LeBron as the best player on the planet playing for an incredible team. He would be Shaq moving from Orlando to Los Angeles: just a superstar changing teams.

Only now LeBron is trapped in a world where everyone thinks he is a villain.

Add up all the external forces, the Internet chat rooms, the Trending Topics, the rumors, and now LeBron has a different kind of pressure -- the world thinking he's a villian when it's not necessarily true, him wanting so badly to be liked but not having that perception survive reality. So now he's in search of an identity that matches public perception.

This is the world of reality television, an intersection of fiction and nonfiction, of wearing different mantles and shedding your identity to see if a new version fits. This is the fiction and narcissism of the social networking era that Jonathan Franzen described in a recent New York Times Op-Ed:
But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).

LeBron went from trying desperately to be likeable to trying now to play the heel in the 2011 playoffs, mocking Dirk Nowitzki's illness and being arrogant in his post-finals press conference.

Only, playing the villain feels no more natural than "The Decision." It's not who he is.

But who is LeBron James?

On the Court

Well, he's a basketball player. And yet all these questions of identity are playing themselves out on the court as well. One minute he's dominating, the next moment he's deferring.

Is LeBron the greatest player of all time, someone even Scottie Pippen suggested could be better than Jordan? Is he the LeBron who destroys teams single-handedly and could be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double?

Or is LeBron the guy who deferred to Mario Chalmers and Juwan Howard in Game 6 of the 2011 Finals, who handed his team over to Dwyane Wade, and played as if he's the greatest second-banana of all time? Someone willing to diminish his own abilities in order to enhance his teammates or maybe even someone who just shrinks from the moment?

Who is he?

The story of who LeBron is is yet to be written. He's only 26. It's worth remembering that Michael Jordan was 28 when he won the first of his six championships. There is plenty of time for LeBron to rattle off a similar string of championships and go down as the greatest of all time.

But will he find the sense of self he needs in order to be great?

The Scam Filter

I believe LeBron is a product of our time. There is no more hiding anymore, no more cultivating of brands and images and fictions. There is no more suspension of disbelief.

We modern humans spend our days sniffing out spam and deciding whether to click on suspicious links. We watch reality TV shows and try and sift out what's real and fake. The Internet is a massive bull**** detection project, and we spend hours a day trying to sort out truth from fiction. We have all become masters at boring through the false and pinpointing what is real.

We can spot phoniness ten miles away. When the glare of the Internet is upon you, if there isn't a truth that you can shine to the world the Internet will sniff out your weakness and expose your hollow innards.

I think the glare on LeBron is especially harsh right now because he doesn't know who he is, and the world wants people to know their place. If you're a villain, own your villainy, if you're a hero, act like a hero. Just know who you are.

LeBron still has time. But in order to make things right on the court and with the public perception he's going to dig deep and find a true identity. He's got to decide if he's the top dog or a supporting player, if he's a villain or virtuous, if he's a brand or a baller. The dithering in real life is playing itself on the court. The external reflects the internal, and there is some truth out there yet to be discovered.

LeBron has to be the one to find out who he really is.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rejection and Recovery

Guest post promoted from the Forums (Background on Forum Promotion here)

By: Philip Isles

"Fall down 8 times, get up 9"
-Traditional Buddhist saying

Learning to accept rejection is imperative for any writer. Most writers realize this quickly. Or they make the mistake of self-publishing (guilty as charged). But one important aspect of rejection that many do not consider is recovery, which I learned about through physical fitness.

In cardio fitness, such as running or biking, performance is not only measured in how well one's heart rate performs, but also how quickly the heart rate returns to normal. This rate of recovery after the sprint or interval is considered just as important as the heart's performance during the activity itself.

About a year ago, my manuscript was submitted to a top agency, and I was waiting to hear back. There were a lot of positive indicators pointing at an offer of representation, and I allowed myself to get my hopes up: the agent reviewing the material had asked me for more material, wanted to know more about me...

This was the farthest I had ever been towards obtaining representation, and I was naturally excited.

When I got the call, I pulled my car to the side of the road to give the agent my full attention. I was rejected, and I took it hard, as one might expect, but for the first time in my life I witnessed my own process of recovery, and it was a crucial, vital lesson. As I got back on the road and drove off, I felt my dashed hopes of representation slowly transition back to the love of my material. I was startled by how quickly this transition took place in me, having expected to deal with it for days. But it was gone, and I was back on the road.

I realized that, much like the professional athlete training to push himself farther and farther, I had pushed my heart harder, by dealing with a bigger possibility/dream than I had ever experienced before. My heart not only dealt with the bigger opportunity--and the hopes and dreams that came with it--it also recovered from it. This moment of recovery struck me as a key moment in my development as a professional writer.

If you can't recover from rejection, you won't be able to handle the next opportunities or possibilities that come/are coming down the road, in the same way that athlete wouldn't be able to sprint if he doesn't recover. Recovery is just as crucial on the other, positive end of rejection: success and acceptance. If you don't recover from success--if you don't get back to a state of preparing for the next great sprint--there won't be chances for greater, higher success.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Week in Books 6/10/11

This week! Books! On time!

First up, I hope you are coming to ComicCon in San Diego next month, because I am going to be participating in an EPIC panel. I can't even believe they're letting me in the same room as these incredible authors, but somehow I'm moderating a panel with Andrea Cremer! Amanda Hocking! Tahereh Mafi! Stephanie Perkins! Laini Taylor! Kiersten White! I KNOW!!! Told you it's epic.

Be there or be sad you're not there.

And here is Part II of my interview with Writer Unboxed, where I talk about my writing process, writerly doubt, Jacob Wonderbar, and, of course, space monkeys.

There are quite a few new book-related sites launching these days. Among them, Red Lemonade, which allows you to share your work with a community of writers, Booklr, a site that helps authors manage social media and promotions, and Inkubate, which wants to connect authors with publishers and agents. Check them out!

The big news in the book social media this week was prompted by a Wall Street Journal article that wondered whether contemporary young adult fiction is too dark. The community of YA writers and readers responded with great umbrage, and author Maureen Johnson created a #YASaves hashtag that quickly went viral. Johnson also responded with an article in the Guardian, agent Sarah LaPolla had a great response, Barry Lyga had a defiant response, and one of the authors called out in the original author, Sherman Alexie, wrote a thoughtful response for the WSJ.

The tech blog GigaOm points out that the Kindle business will make 10% of Amazon's money by the end of the year, which is pretty astounding. And Wired posted five reasons why e-books aren't there yet, though I'm especially confused by Point #2: You Can't Keep All Your Books in One Place. Um. It's called an iPad?

Meanwhile, speaking of Amazon, they recently started a Sunshine Deals program that favors low priced e-books, which Mike Shatzkin called a wakeup call for the Big 6 publishers, who aren't doing enough to experiment with e-book pricing. As Shatzkin writes: "It can’t be a good thing for agency publishers if the only price promoting taking place is with their competitors’ books."

Lastly in e-book news, it looks as if a major standoff in the e-book world has been averted as as Apple changed its in-app purchase policy.  My colleague David Carnoy explains what happened.

Eric from Pimp My Novel surveyed the business and lists some of the genres that are hot, and editor Alan Rinzler talks about why this is such a good time for authors.

In writing advice news, Jennifer Crusie talks linear vs. patterned story structure (via John Ochwat), and in the agenting world Stacey Glick responds to an Atlantic article about editors, and Courtney Miller-Callihan has an extensive post on author/agent protocol.

This week in the Forums, geeking out over the E3 gaming expo, the best e-mail service to use while querying, discussing #YASaves, how price-conscious are you when buying books, does analyzing books ruin them for you, teasing the reader, and where do you get your story ideas?

Comment! of! the! Week! There were a lot of great responses to the post on rejection, but I wanted to single out Terry Tiffany, who one of the best, short-and-sweet strategies for how to deal with rejection:
 By writing something new:)
And finally, CNET had quite an exclusive this week as we had Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss do a dramatic reading from the iTunes end user license agreement. The result was completely hilarious and went viral fast.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Query Critique Thursday 6/9/11

Now, bear in mind that it's now been more than six months since I've read a query in a professional capacity. For all I know agents might have completely reinvented the form and instituted requirements that authors write queries in the form of limericks.

But assuming things haven't gone and changed all that much I thought I'd take a stab at an old fashioned query critique.

First I'll post the query in full, then I'll provide my thoughts and a redline. If you offer your own suggestions, please remember to do so very politely and constructively.

And if you'd like to enter a query or page for a future critique, please check out the Forums!

Here goes!

Dear Nathan,

I am writing in the hope that you will be interested in representing my novel, ESCAPE # 59. It is a paranormal romance for young adults. It is complete at 94,000 words and could either stand alone or be developed into a series.

Arney Keydana is about live through another normal day at her boarding high school—combat training with werewolves, hanging out with mind readers and darkness makers, looking at a fake landscape in a fake window (because the world outside is too dangerous to be seen, or so the werewolves say). But Arney doesn’t make it past breakfast when something extraordinary happens—her boyfriend breaks up with her. His reasons? She shredded his heart and threw it into the garbage. He refuses to say how or when; he only rolls out a foolproof scheme to repay Arney for all his hurt by making her his slave.

Thus, it’s not even lunchtime, and Arney is already facing the toughest choice in her life: staying at school and becoming a slave, or running away and dying. But hey, the croaking part is not certain—the werewolves would have said what was outside if it were that dangerous. And so begins Arney’s escape to the outside, which, as it turns out, has a mind—and an appetite of its own. And what’s it hungry for is anything with a heartbeat.

I hope this will be of interest to you. Thank you for your consideration.

Helen Rina
There are some people out there who feel like it's best to get the important information out of the way first, like genre and word count. Me? I feel like there's only one chance to lead with an interesting opening that grabs the agent. I feel like it's best to either lead with personalization (to tip off the agent of your professional mettle) or getting into the story into an interesting way.

There's such a tough balance in query writing between flow and sufficient information. It's hard to establish flow when you're trying cram a lot of information into a small space. In this case, I worry a bit about the stops and starts with the em dashes, and I'm afraid I also found myself a bit confused by the mechanics of the plot.

There are definitely some good details, I just wasn't quite sure how the plot was coming together.

Dear Nathan,

I am writing in the hope that you will be interested in representing my novel, ESCAPE # 59. It is a paranormal romance for young adults. It is complete at 94,000 words and could either stand alone or be developed into a series.

Arney Keydana is about to live through another normal day at her boarding high school—combat training with werewolves, hanging out with mind readers and darkness makers, looking at a fake landscape in a fake window (because the world outside is too dangerous to be seen, or so the werewolves say) I like this opening, but wonder if it could be just a bit smoother. But Arney doesn’t make it past breakfast when something extraordinary happens—her boyfriend breaks up with her. His reasons? She shredded his heart and threw it into the garbage. He refuses to say how or when; he only rolls out a foolproof scheme to repay Arney for all his hurt by making her his slave. I'm kind of confused by these plot elements. Was the heart-shredding literal? How wouldn't she know the "how or when" of shredding his heart? How exactly does he make her his slave? I feel like a few more details could make this clearer

Thus, iIt’s not even lunchtime, and Arney is already facing the toughest choice in her life: staying at school and becoming a slave, or running away and dying. But hey, the croaking part is not certain—the werewolves would have said what was outside if it were that dangerous I'm confused by this sentence. And so begins Arney’s escape to the outside, which, as it turns out, has a mind—and an appetite of its own. And what’s it hungry for is anything with a heartbeat These last two sentences feel choppy to me, and I was confused about how the "outside" has a mind. It's an interesting idea but what does it mean?.

ESCAPE # 59. It is a paranormal romance for young adults. It is complete at 94,000 words and could either stand alone or be developed into a series. I hope this will be of interest to you. Thank you for your consideration.

Helen Rina

I can tell there are interesting ideas in this query, I just wonder if a bit more smoothing out could make the plot come together so we immediately grasp what's happening.

Thanks very much to Helen for volunteering her query!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Is Your Favorite Character Name?

Not favorite character, favorite character name.

There are countless great characters in literature. Which of them have the best names?

Ishmael? Humbert Humbert? Bilbo Baggins? Or, heck, take your pick from the incredible character names in the Harry Potter universe. Severus Snape? Dolores Umbrage?

For me personally, I'm going with Severus Snape. What about you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Craft a Mystery in a Novel

Charles Wauters, "Der beim Diebstahl ertappte Hausdiener"
One of the most important skills every writer has to master, no matter their genre, is how to craft a mystery in a novel.

Mysteries are the lifeblood of stories. They're the lure that keep us turning the pages and keep us glued to the book because we're dying to know what happens. Are they going to find the murderer? Are they going to get together? What happened that fateful night?

I crafted the Jacob Wonderbar series around a central mystery: Is Jacob going to find his dad? And is he in outer space?

When it comes to crafting a mystery, I think sometimes aspiring authors get distracted by the bodies and murders and the actual plot mechanics of mysteries, and miss what really drives a great mystery.

Mysteries are about people. And more specifically, they're about people wanting something, whether it's an object, person, or knowledge (see also: Do You Know What Your Characters Want?). The character wants the woman to fall in love with him or to catch the killer or find the truth about what happened. We keep reading to find out if they're going to get it.

Here comes the word math:

A character's desire + Consequences/stakes + Obstacles + Delay = Mystery

So the first step in crafting a mystery is showing what your character wants and what the stakes are. Showing your character caring and demonstrating the stakes plants the appropriate question in the reader's mind: Are they going to get what they want?

The next step is placing road blocks in front of your characters that prevent them from immediately getting what they want.

This is the part where I think sometimes beginning writers go astray. A great mystery is not built by withholding information, and especially not by withholding information that the main characters know but the author isn't sharing with the reader (unless there's a very very good reason for it). I would think instead of a mystery as being built through obstacles. The character tries to get what they want and we know what they know, but the truth is obscured or confusing or surprising or not what was anticipated. The truth/object of desire lies just beyond their grasp.

A character keeps moving in the direction of the mystery, but that delay before they get there is what prolongs and deepens the mystery, often with reversals.

The more the character wants what they want, the more significant the stakes, the more tangled the obstacles, and the longer it takes to get there, the greater the mystery.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rejection Is Not Personal

It feels personal.

It's almost impossible not to take it personally. 

But it's not personal.

This is one of those posts where I'm blogging about something that everyone knows, but knowing it doesn't make it easier to behave accordingly. It's one thing to know it, it's another thing to live it.

We all know rejection is not really personal. It's not. How could it be, the people rejecting you don't even know you? Agents and editors and reviewers are just doing their jobs, why should we get so angry at them for not seeing what we see in our own work?

And yet knowing that only makes dealing with rejection just a little tiny, measly bit easier.

There is still so much vitriol out there on the Internet for so-called "legacy" publishers and agents and the traditional publishing industry, and let's be honest, a lot of that is ill will generated by all those queries and manuscripts that were rejected or went unanswered.

But look - I've been there! I received those rejections, I've felt those pains. It's perfectly normal to get mad. And that anger can lead to some great productivity. It makes you want to show the doubters and to keep getting better.

Just don't let that anger be permanent. Channel it into creating something positive instead of letting it fester into a perpetual sneer.

We all know this. So let's all try harder to put it into practice.

How do you channel your rejection frustration?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This Week in Books 6/4/11

This week! Books! Again a little late!

First up, there was a first part of an interview with me over at Writer's Unboxed, in which I discus civility and virtue, my parents, why I left publishing, the existential angst of modern reality television (that part I made up), and much more. Stay tuned for part two. And if you, yourself, have been the subject of an author interview, please take a moment to fill out Jan's survey regarding such. Thank you!

Some BEA recaps have been rolling in, and Bloomsbury publisher Peter Ginna had a great field guide to the flora and fauna of BEA, including the VIPs, the swagaholics, and the wannabes.

Speaking of VIPs, the Wall Street Journal had a profile of superagent Andrew Wylie, who had some interesting thoughts on the internationalization of books and what will happen in the e-book era.

Ever wondered what it's like to have your book go on submission? My former client Natalie Whipple wrote an indispensable post called What To Expect When You're Submitting, which has all the information you need to know. Is it normal to get revision requests? How long does it take? What will the process do to my sanity? Natalie covers it all.

And in more life of the writer news, from agent Rachelle Gardner's archives a post on those moments when you feel like giving up and instead showing what you're made of, over at Shrinking Violet Promotions my former client Jennifer Hubbard wrote a great post about the difference between solitude and isolation, and the Rejectionist talks about soothing the puppy that is your brain.

This week in the Forums, favorite summertime dishes (and Watcher55's gazpacho recipe), talking conferences and conventions, whether you should post works online that are set in the world of your novel, are writers online too suspicious, and what's your genre?

And finally, my colleague David Carnoy reviewed the new Nook and came away feeling it's superior to the current Kindle. Here's a video hands-on with the device:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kids Books Are Not Just For Kids Anymore

Hansel und Gretel
One of the interesting aspects of watching my pal/novel Jacob Wonderbar enter the world has been the reaction of the people who reside outside of the book blogosphere.

I've been living/virtual-breathing in the book world for so long I forget there are adults out there who don't make a habit of reading children's books. Most book-related people I know, even those who work on the adult side, dabble with the occasional children's book.

But outside of the book world? Not so!

Some adults, I suspect, don't feel as if they're, like, allowed to read children's books.

Now, yes, I realize that when applied to my particular situation, such mundane affairs as exploding galaxies, space buccaneers, and planets full of substitute teachers are not for everyone. Heck, I recently found out some people don't even eat corndogs. Not even the veggie kind!! (I KNOW. I was as floored as you are).

But hey, adults out there! If you're not reading children's books these days you are missing out. These books are for you too.

A Golden Age of Children's Literature

Leaving aside my own work, which I may have a passing bias about, as my former colleague agent Sarah LaPolla recently posted, few genres have experienced as much growth and innovation as young adult literature in the last thirty-plus years. If you haven't read a children's novel since, well, you were a child, you have missed one of the great renaissances in modern books.

To be sure, great books for children go back a long time, and there have been beloved classics stretching back for the last few hundred years. But what has changed is that books for children are delving deep into life as it is actually lived by children, and especially teens. They're stepping up the adventure and inventing worlds as rich and textured as anything written for adults.

The bar has been raised.

And they're attracting a lot of adult readers in the process. The genre is hot. But even still I'm surprised by the number of holdouts.

The Books

Sure, you've probably heard of the incredibleness that is Harry Potter. (Though I continue to be amazed/scandalized at the number of people who haven't read it.) It's a good bet you've heard of Twilight, and maybe you're even familiar with The Hunger Games.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.

What's incredible about the new children's books is that they pack so much meaning into a genre that requires a level of pacing and plotting that will still keep a child or teen's attention. And these talented writers pull it off in incredible fashion. They're among the very best books being written today, by some of the world's most talented authors.

There are books capturing the beautiful and painful reality of childhood in a way that's rarely been done before. Books like Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron and Looking for Alaska by John Green and Crank by Ellen Hopkins and The 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard, and many many more.

There are books that are taking adventure and fascinating worlds to uncharted heights, such as Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, the Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and many many more.

I'm leaving so so so many wonderful ones out, more than anyone can count, and I hope people will fill in the gaps with their favorites in the comments section.

Suffice to say: there are some incredible children's books out there.

Read Them!

Yes, let's get this out of the way: you're not the target audience of these books. Yes, they are primarily for kids. But you know what? That's a good thing! Because reading through the eyes of a child takes you back to childhood in a really wonderful way. It makes you remember, it makes you think, and it makes you look at adult life again through an exhilarating new prism.

These aren't your grandparent's children's books. Heck, they're not even your children's books. They're a breed apart and you'd be hard pressed to read a popular book geared toward 8-year-olds and up that you wouldn't be entertained and enchanted by.

Children's books aren't just for children anymore. Please spread the word.

(And if you're looking for a place to start, might I suggest Mr. Wonderbar and his cosmic adventure?)

Available at:
Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (Kindle)!
Barnes & Noble (hardcover)!
Barnes & Noble (Nook)!

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