Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Blog Format!

I'm going to try out a new blog format and return to posting five-ish days a week. Yes I am!

For some reason, whenever I sit down to write a post I usually think long. But blog posts don't have to be long. Heck, not everyone probably even wants them all to be long.

So I'm going to shoot for posting long-ish posts on Monday and Wednesday, with short-ish posts Tuesday and Thursday. Friday may be a roundup or who knows what else.

We'll see how this works. In the meantime, auto-tuned Bob Ross! This is one of the best ones ever:







Monday, July 30, 2012

What Do Writers Owe the People in Their Lives?


Ta-Nehisi Coates recently featured an interview with William Faulkner that naturally had an incredible array of quotable material, but which focused in part on the responsibility an author has to their art.

The meat:
The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.
Faulkner comes from the kill, maim, dismember school of artistry, where the work is paramount and the lives that are affected are of secondary concern.

Easy to say. Not so much to do.

Many writers I know, especially memoirists or those who pull material from their real lives, grapple with the morality of affecting personal relationships in order to put forth their writing. When I heard him speak a few weeks back, Jonathan Franzen recounted how he hesitated using a thinly veiled version of his brother in The Corrections.

How should a writer navigate this tricky path? Does the work of art ultimately reign supreme over the feelings of the people who may be hurt in the process of creating a book? What should an author be prepared to sacrifice? What do writers owe the other people in their lives?

Photograph of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten. Please see the Wikimedia Commons page for information on the Vechten estate's requests for reproducing his photographs.






Friday, July 27, 2012

These Past Few Weeks in Books 7/27/12

Lots and lots and lots of links for you. All good ones too, swear! Let's get to it.

Blogger Penelope Trunk wrote one of the more controversial publishing posts I've read in some time. She accepted an advance from a major publisher, and after being wildly unimpressed with their marketing plans she decided to keep the advance, pull the book, and self-publish instead. Absolutely worth a read. I'm not exactly sure how contractually this all was worked out, but I've heard from quite a few authors who are/were similarly underwhelmed by their publishers' ability to market online. (It's also worth reading the follow-up interview by PaidContent.org).

Meanwhile, book blogger John Self took a measured approach to Trunk's post, expressing sympathy for the publishers who are dealing with a wildly fragmented landscape. He decided to take it upon himself to promote the heck out of a new book he liked. He ended up very pleased with the result and urges people to promote the authors they love.

In further controversial book news, Penguin recently acquired self-publishing conglomerate Author Solutions, which has been accused of a slew of shady business practices. Both industry watchdog Writer Beware and author David Gaughrin are openly wondering if Penguin are going to clean up Author Solutions' business practices.

A giant Wal-Mart in Texas was converted into a giant library, and the photos are pretty amazing. Lots of box stores are shuttering as more commerce moves online, and hopefully this will serve as a model for what's possible with those empty spaces.

Author Sarah Manguso wrote a post on advice for young writers, which I partly admire but mostly fear for its ruthless efficiency. (Sample: "Don’t give favors to people or institutions that lack authority or consequence.") I'm honestly not even sure whether it's real or satire. What do you think? (via Janet Reid)

I don't know if you've heard of this book called Fifty Shades of Grey, but it's kind of popular at the moment. It's not without its controversy, however. Blogger Melissa Jenna wrote a post that has generated a staggering response (1,800+ comments!!), criticizing Fifty Shades of Grey and a movie I had never heard of called "Magic Mike" as "mommy porn" and suggesting that wives spend their time spicing up their own sex lives rather than reading Fifty Shades.

Literary agents are sometimes inaccurately maligned for being shady, but the New Yorker profiled an influential one who truly was.

Goodreads is a site where both authors and reviewers behave badly, and one user has taken it upon themselves to create a list of authors who respond badly to negative reviews. Is this fair game or two wrongs not making a right? (via The Millions)

Why do so many book covers look alike? The Atlantic investigates.

The author of the much-beloved Encyclopedia Brown series passed away. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith has a great roundup of tributes.

And for all you bloggers/Pinterest users out there, please read Roni Loren's post about how she was sued for using a copyrighted image. Don't let it happen to you. (via Kristin Nelson)

This week in the Forums, favorite writing podcasts, advice for a self-published author looking for an agent, ongoing rejection stats, Blogger vs. Wordpress, your favorite writing tips, and is it okay to use real places in novels?

And finally, my good friend Sharon Vaknin is going to be a regular on the nationally syndicated PBS show America's Heartland starting in September. Her segment is called Farm to Fork, and it looks awesome:


Have a great week!







Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Violence in American Culture


As Roger Ebert said in a recent NY Times op-ed about the recent Colorado mass murder, "We've seen this movie before."

I'm not exactly sure how much irony Ebert intended with the title of that article (if he wrote the headline at all). The column completely skirts a correlation between violent culture and violent actions, and instead is more about gun control and media hysteria than the movies we choose to attend. Personally I think Ebert was wrong to wave away even the possibility that culture and violence are intertwined.

Violence, especially in young adult literature, has been on my mind for some time, and I asked about it at the recent Comic-Con panel on what's hot in YA.

It's not a simple connection by any means, but with violent young adult novels arguably more popular than ever, shouldn't we be thinking more about what America's young people are reading and watching?

Shouldn't we think about what we're all reading and watching?

A collective shrug

I'm not in favor of censorship. I don't want to be the arbiter of what people should and shouldn't read. I don't believe books and movies create murderers by themselves, and I recognize that there is some evidence to suggest that, among other things, access to violent games reduces violence. I believe in the marketplace of ideas and stories.

But as an author and reader I am disturbed at how little discussion has accompanied the rise of very violent young adult literature in particular. It seems to me that there's been a collective shrug. 

At least the kids are reading books? Or something?

Many of these violent books get a pass because they have a veneer of anti-violence in their story lines. Well, people argue, at least these books (usually) show the consequences of violence. At least they (usually) have anti-war messages.

But this seems to me to be a very flimsy premise when the very violence these books purport to eschew is inherent to the appeal of the books. Teaching nonviolence with a book where the slickly entertaining violence is the main attraction is like using pornography to teach abstinence.

Again, I'm not in favor of pulling books from shelves or controlling what should be published, and I think some of these books are really good. I may even write a violent scene or two myself some day. And whatever is happening in books probably pales in comparison to what kids are seeing on TV and movies every day. I get it.

But still, the collective shrug that accompanied these books disturbs me.  I don't know if anyone even thought to shrug in the first place -- that would mean we recognized a potential problem.

In the wake of the Colorado shooting, journalist James Fallows bemoaned the fact that despite yet another mass murder nothing in our political rhetoric or actions or laws or anything was likely to change. We know it's going to happen again and we do nothing about it.

Why are Americans so uniquely immune to violence, even though, despite declining rates, Americans are twice as likely to die a violent death than any other first world country?

Why do we accept all of this? Why does everyone just shrug?

Justifying what we like

I don't have the answers, which is why this post is littered with questions. I don't know that lessening the violence in movies and books would reduce actual violence. I'm sure the kids will be alright. Heck, I don't even have kids whose media consumption it's my job to monitor.

But I do know that story lines about teens learning to become violent badasses bother me. Stories that glorify vigilantism bother me. Stories that use our natural, inherent fascination with violence to cheaply entertain us bother me.

I also understand the counterarguments. That we live in a violent world, and at least violent books usually show teens responsibly navigating them. That kids are going to seek them out no matter what we do to try and stop them. That violence in culture can channel and diffuse our naturally violent tendencies. That they're products of, not contributors to, a violent culture.

All I'm advocating is thought.

Let's think about why there were so many children in attendance at a midnight showing of a trilogy with a particularly nihilistically violent worldview.

Let's think about why we barely bat an eye at the level of violence in our culture but get up in arms about gay penguins.

Let's think about why we're more concerned about protecting the rights of chickens than we are about restricting the ability of someone to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition perfectly legally over the Internet.

I'm shaped on this issue by a formative experience in my childhood, a murder at my high school where I had known both the victim and the murderers all my life. It wasn't one of those mass murders you heard about in the news, just one of the 18,200 murders that happened in the US in 1997.

Violence isn't an abstraction. We storytellers can make it entertaining in fiction, but there's nothing about real life violence that is entertaining, unless you are a sadist or have managed to dehumanize its victims.

And yet somehow, despite our initial shock, we treat horrific violence as a fact of life instead of doing something tangible about it. And I fear that the constant exposure to entertaining violence in literature and movies, and the justifications that accompany them, teach us to do just that.

I might be wrong. I might be right.

Let's at least think about it.

Art: "First at Vicksburg" - artist unknown






Monday, July 23, 2012

Comic-Con Recap!

Whenever someone asks me about Comic-Con, one word springs to mind: Insane.

Insane number of people. Insane costumes. Insane amount of noise.

And, yes, insanely fun.

This spontaneous moment pretty much summed up the experience. Two people in impeccably perfect Star Wars costumers were challenged to a duel by a young Jedi, who had some impressive lightsaber moves, I might add:


And speaking of Star Wars, check out the Fett family!


The costumes are seriously unreal and reason enough to go, but the highlight of Comic-Con for me (aside from the awesome CNET Base Station) was seeing so many authors and participating in two great panels.

The first one was What Hot in Young Adult Literature, which I moderated, and which included Leigh Bardugo, James Dashner, Kami Garcia, Tahereh Mafi, Melina Marchetta, Lish McBride, Myra McEntire, and Scott Westerfeld (and organized by the fantastic Lauren Billings). It was hard not to be startstruck.


We started off talking about superheroes and why stories about super powers are so enduring, then we touched on the level of violence in young adult literature, something I have some opinions about and will be talking more about soon. 

We wrapped up by talking about the worst writing advice people have ever received (follow trends) and the importance of setting.

For a full recap of the panel check out this great rundown of the answers.

The second panel was on heroes in middle grade fiction with E.J. Altbacker, Cornelia Funke, Lisa Yee, Brandon Mull, Tony DiTerlizzi, Emily Janice Card, and Derek the Ghost. 

Perhaps the most interesting discussion centered on how we work in a world where there is so much competition with other media. I personally feel like I've internalized some of the pace of TV and movies and am cognizant of attention spans, and Cornelia Funke spoke passionately about resisting that pressure and making sure we are serving the story.

We all agreed that we're excited about the future and the possibility afforded by e-books and new forms of entertainment. I talked about how novels were once an innovation, illustrations were once an innovation, book jackets were an innovation, and all added to the experience of a book, just as new innovations will add to the experience as well when they're done properly.

There were lots of book signings too.

I got to see so so many old and new friends, including Stephanie Perkins:




What a week! If you EVER have an opportunity to go to Comic-Con, jetpack yourself in a hurry. 

Bonus photos!















Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Borges’ Birdman and the Roots of Story

As I recover from Comic-Con I'm thrilled to have a guest post by the incredibly talented Daniel José Older, who I had the pleasure of working with while I was an agent. Daniel's short story collection, Salsa Nocturna, was recently released by Crossed Genres Publications. Check it out!


This is how I write:

I go and go and go and don’t look back, don’t overthink, make up or skim over troubling details. I fill the prose with characters and situations that are pregnant with possibility for shenanigans later on, but I don’t know how and don’t stop to wonder. And when I realize a change I’ve made will cause ripples all the way back to the beginning, I jot it down in a separate document so that it’s not pestering my imagination and then I keep moving. I don’t argue with characters when they want to run off in other directions; I let them go a bit, maybe we tussle back and forth but I get veto power, which is to say: the story is Queen, and sometimes the people inside it suffer the consequences.

When the seeds I planted turn out to have grown towards each other, those glowing moments when I realize what’s needed is some last minute interference from a skillful pianist and it just so happens one of my characters used to play ragtime in a New Orleans bordello, well, that’s when I know all that conjuring I’ve been doing is working. Something organic grows, amidst the back and forth of plot considerations and gathering tension. 

Jorge Luis Borges, that most enigmatic of blind Argentine librarian poets, once dreamt of a man who kept his right hand concealed within his jacket (or dreamt with, since he was presumably dreaming in Spanish). He asks the man how he’s been and the man replies, Not well, and then reveals that his hand is in fact a bird’s claw. Borges (of course) marvels not at the novelty of a man becoming a bird, but at the literary device implicit within the structure of the dream: “Without knowing it, I had prepared the invention.” The man is turning into a bird, but the seed of that transformation, the first clue to the mystery, the foreshadow, happens in the subtlety of his concealed hand. The shift is gradual: a narrative. 

“Dreams ask us something,” Borges says. “And we don’t know the answer; they give us the answer, and we are astonished.” The answer doesn’t fit within our concept of reality – it’s a dream, laden with all those gooey layers of symbolism, but within its own dreamtime logic, it makes sense. “Everything has been prepared.” Dreams, Borges concludes, are the most ancient aesthetic activity; the roots of narrative. 

Here’s the writing process brought to life. Our stories ask questions. We puzzle our way to an answer and we are astonished. It makes a certain wild sense within the rules and world we have created, and somehow, it has transformed us, our vision. We can read divinity into it, the guidance of muses or the churning subconscious. Whatever you call it, something clicks into place. It’s delicious and far beyond our ability to fathom; a reminder that no matter how hard we try to rationalize and regulate the process, storytelling takes root in the ancient stirrings of the human mind.

Daniel José Older's first book, Salsa Nocturna was just released from Crossed Genres Publications. Daniel is a writer, composer and paramedic living in Brooklyn, New York. He has facilitated workshops on music and anti-oppression organizing at public schools, religious houses, universities, and prisons. His soul band Ghost Star performs original multimedia theater productions about New York history around the city.

His short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Flash Fiction, Crossed Genres, The Innsmouth Free Press, and the anthology Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy tales of challenging the norm. He has been a featured reader at The New York Review of Science Fiction and Sheree Renée Thomas Black Pot Mojo Reading Series. Daniel is currently working towards his MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles.

You can read his ridiculous and true ambulance adventures, hear his music and find out more about his fiction at www.ghoststar.net 






Wednesday, July 11, 2012

See You At Comic-Con!


I am so nerdtastically excited to be heading to Comic-Con for the second year in a row!

Thursday through Saturday you can find me at the CNET Base Station, where you can stop to refresh and recharge your gadgets, get some refreshments, and there will be all kinds of prizes and fun things to do. Stop by and say hi!

Then on Sunday I'll have two panels and two signings:

10am -  I'll be signing at the Penguin booth.

Noon - I'm totally thrilled to be moderating a panel on What's Hot in Young Adult Fiction, with an incredible lineup of authors: Leigh Bardugo, James Dashner, Kami Garcia, Tahereh Mafi, Melina Marchetta, Lish McBride, Myra McEntire, and Scott Westerfeld!

1:30pm - I'll be doing another signing with the other panelists on the young adult fiction panel at Sail's Pavilion, area AA09.

2:45pm - I'll be on a panel about Heroes for the Middle Grade Reader with the stellar E.J. Altbacker, Cornelia Funke, Lisa Yee, Brandon Mull, Tony DiTerlizzi, Emily Janice Card, Derek the Ghost, and moderator Maryelizabeth Hart.

Whew! Yeah, this sounds like a lot, but hey, if I can keep it as cool as these guys I'll be doing just fine:



Can't wait!






Monday, July 9, 2012

Are We Stripping Modern Books Bare?


Reader Drew Turney wrote to me recently with an interesting question. There's so much advice, commentary, and opinion about stripping away anything unessential to a book's plot. Writing in the modern era emphasizes moving the plot forward at all costs, and everything else is "ruthlessly killed off no matter how darling." Digressions and detritus that might otherwise be compelling on their own are eliminated.

Is this a purely modern phenomenon? And is it for the best?

My opinion: Yes to both.

Yes, I do think it's a modern phenomenon. I also think that stripping the unessential is a reflection of the fact that people are getting better at writing books.

But it's complicated.

We're living in a golden era

We tend to view the present in a negative light, especially when it comes to books and literature. Today's books can't hold a candle to Hemingway's and Fitzgerald's, today's readers aren't as noble and patient as readers in the 1950s, social media and distraction and e-books are killing literature (even though studies have shown people with e-readers read more).

We always think things are getting worse relative to some golden era in the past.

Partly this is because the only books we read from past eras are the good ones. All the pulp, all the duds, all the forgettable ones have largely been forgotten and have been lost to history. We tend to forget that the classics we read were very rarely the most popular books of their time. Every era had its pulp, its celebrity books, and its, well, crap.

And because we elevate whole eras above our own, we also tend to treat classics as sacred and perfect. We don't spend much time thinking about how the books from the canon could have been improved upon or how, say, Dickens could been that much better if he had just reined himself in a little.

When you compare a writer like Marcel Proust to a writer like Jonathan Franzen, you can see the way literature has progressed. Both have incredible insight into human nature and a compellingly unique worldview, but Proust's insights are buried in a tangled mess of digressions, false starts, and drudgery where Franzen's are delivered in the context of a compelling plot.

We think of books like vegetables. If they don't taste good they must be good for you. But does consuming good literature really have to be wholly difficult?

Stripping away the unessential is, I would argue, both a product of how books are now written (it's way easier to strip when you're writing on a computer or typewriter than when you're writing by hand), but also because it makes the books better. The modern era has proven that books can be both great and readable.

That's the point, isn't it? Can't meals be both healthy and delicious?

And yet...

But even still, I have mixed feelings. After all, my favorite book is Moby-Dick precisely because of its scope and its digressions and the sheer insanity of its vision.

Moby-Dick stripped down just to the plot would be about a hundred pages of a crazy captain chasing a white whale. But it's so much more than that. In Moby-Dick, the unessential is the essential.

There are modern writers who embrace Melvillian levels of digressions and detail (David Foster Wallace springs to mind), but it's extremely hard to imagine Moby-Dick making it through the modern day editorial process.

As much as I believe we don't give modern readers enough credit, I do think we're ultimately less patient with digressions. We're so bombarded by polish and economic storytelling in books, TV and movies that it can be jarring to sit through something that meanders and takes a while to get to the entertaining bits. I find it really difficult to focus while reading older books.

So in our drive to making things polished and entertaining are we losing moments that are otherwise great on their own? Can economy of storytelling be taken too far?

The power of choice

I still believe that people will look at the beginning of the self-publishing era as the start of a golden period.

For one, there's now a whole lot more competition. For most of the history of publishing, the vast majority the books were written by a privileged few in small circles. If you weren't rich, white and knew the right people, good luck. I fail to see how those really can be considered golden eras. Now the process is opening up to everyone, which means more competition and more choice.

There's also now room in the market for things that the publishing industry wouldn't have published in earlier eras, which, sure, means a lot of subpar books out there, but it also means that books that are quirky and strange and digressive will also be out there too.

The pressure to sell books and get a publisher drove a lot of literary writers to strive for both literary appeal and readability, and I don't know that that was necessarily a bad thing. But now the freedom of self-publishing will allow people with a non-mainstream vision to have their work out there too. Books won't have to be readable in order to find their audience.

So while the modern era of books drove us all to focus on economy and kill our darlings, things may well be changing. Writers won't have to sacrifice their vision in order to find their readers.

Maybe digressions will make a comeback.

Art: Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick






Friday, July 6, 2012

Page Critique Friday and the Importance of Patience

It's been way too long since we've done one of these!

In fact, so long that you might not know how these work. Here goes.

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 advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and congrats to coloradokid, whose page is below.
An Illusion of Justice
Part I

[Prologue]
The first cut was not intended to kill.
But it was effective. Imagine the paper cut you get on your finger – but seven inches long and to the bone – across your forehead. And it’s the middle of the night and you’re bound and gagged. And you know there’s more coming . .


[Chapter 1]
Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
The closer he got, the better she looked. Driving southbound on US Highway 71 in the southern outskirts of Bossier City, Louisiana, Jim Shelton saw a blonde hitch-hiker walking north on the shoulder between the highway and the parallel railroad tracks. As soon as he could, he made a u-turn across the divided four-lane highway and approached her from behind. She looked as good from the rear. He pulled off the highway and stopped, letting the electric passenger-side window down. She looked fine up close.
“Hi, need a ride?”
“Yeah, thanks,” the girl replied as she opened the door and got in. It was hot outside, and the big Lincoln was cool inside.
“Where to?” Jim asked
“You know the Briar Patch?”
“Sure,” Jim answered, “Briar Patch it is.”
They drove a few miles further north on Highway 71, which within the city limits was named Barksdale Boulevard. They passed the West Gate of Barksdale Air Force Base to the right. A few blocks further, and a block past Airline Drive, was the Briar Patch Lounge, a non-descript, gloomy little bar with no windows. The only door was in back. Jim parked the green Lincoln in the rear parking lot, and they went in and took stools at the bar. Jim ordered a bourbon and water. The hitch-hiker didn’t order anything. Although about twice her age, Shelton was attracted to the young lady, who had introduced herself as Vicki Thomas.

I think this is an intriguing opening, and I particularly like the opening line of Chapter 1: "The closer he got, the better she looked." That immediately puts us in the mind of the character, it doesn't feel forced, and it sets up the rest of the page really well. I also like the way the page builds off of that first moment  with some further details, and the author doesn't try to set off a bunch of fireworks on the first page. Restraint = good.

This is an inherently suspenseful opening - strange man picking up an attractive woman on the highway. There are a lot of directions this could go. And I actually thought that more could be done to set the scene and draw out the suspense. Instead of lingering on the details of the woman, we get just a few details. Instead of the girl hesitating, she hops right in.

And because they get straight from the highway to the Briar Patch, I think there's a missed opportunity to reveal more about their characters. They have a perfunctory conversation, but what does Vicki think of Jim? We already know Jim is attracted to Vicki, but what specifically is catching his eye?

The action may well start at the Briar Patch, but even still - it's okay to linger on details and let things build slowly even in the opening pages. Patience is so important.

Lastly, I'm afraid the prologue didn't work for me. Not just because it's in the second person, but I found myself confused by the description. First I'm imagining a paper cut on my finger, then I'm imagining that it's seven inches long, then I'm imagining it across my forehead, then I'm imagining that I'm bound and gagged. But I can imagine a thin seven inch gash on my head while I'm bound and gagged, so I'm not sure why I had to start by imagining a paper cut.

This novel gets off to a suspenseful start on its own. I'd suggest starting there and letting things build without the prologue.

Redline:
Part I
[Prologue]
The first cut was not intended to kill.
But it was effective. Imagine the paper cut you get on your finger – but seven inches long and to the bone – across your forehead. And it’s the middle of the night and you’re bound and gagged. And you know there’s more coming . .

[Chapter 1]
Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
The closer he got, the better she looked. Driving southbound on US Highway 71 in the southern outskirts of Bossier City, Louisiana, Jim Shelton saw a blonde hitch-hiker walking north on the shoulder between the highway and the parallel railroad tracks. As soon as he could, he made a u-turn across the divided four-lane highway and approached her from behind. She looked as good from the rear. He pulled off the highway and stopped, letting the electric passenger-side window down. She looked fine up close. This is  a good start, but I think it would be better with more details. All we learn about her is that she's blonde and looks "fine." But what is "fine?" What is she wearing? What are her mannerisms?
“Hi, need a ride?”
“Yeah, thanks,” the girl replied as she opened the door and got in. It was hot outside, and the big Lincoln was cool inside. Should she hesitate? Even if she's not the type to hesitate, wouldn't that surprise Jim that she doesn't hesitate and he could react to that? This feels like it happens too easily
“Where to?” Jim asked
“You know the Briar Patch?”
“Sure,” Jim answered, “Briar Patch it is.” Is this on his way? Does he think it's strange she's going there? Should he react to this? 
They drove a few miles further north on Highway 71, which within the city limits was named Barksdale Boulevard. They passed the West Gate of Barksdale Air Force Base to the right. A few blocks further, and a block past Airline Drive, was the Briar Patch Lounge, a non-descript, gloomy little bar with no windows. Should he be observing her on the way? Are they talking? What does he think she's up to? What does he want out of this? The only door was in back. Jim parked the green Lincoln in the rear parking lot, and they went in and took stools at the bar. Jim ordered a bourbon and water. The hitch-hiker didn’t order anything. Although about twice her age, Shelton was attracted to the young lady we know he's attracted to her - what is he attracted to?, who had introduced herself as Vicki Thomas should we see her introduce herself?.






Monday, July 2, 2012

These Past Few Weeks in Books 7/2/12

Where does the time go??

Well, strike that, in the past few days I know exactly where it's gone, to moments like this out hiking in Point Reyes with Tahereh Mafi, Tana Gandhi and Randa Gill:


I've been enjoying being done-done with Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, so I may not have had my eye on the Internet quite as closely the last two weeks. Besides, as you can tell from the chilly fog in the above photo, it's summer!!

But here are some books and publishing links for your linky enjoyment.

First, thanks so much to everyone for all the great responses to the recent post on Jonathan Franzen, which dealt in part with our culture of distraction. As it happens, after I wrote that post but before I published it, I came across an awesome post by Mathew Ingram on the Internet and distraction, which has an optimistic take that I enjoyed.

Also, I was interviewed recently on author Matt Myklusch's podcast, in which we talk about my somewhat unique path to publication (which actually ended up being somewhat conventional), and social media for authors.

The exponential growth of e-books may have slowed in the past year, but another milestone was nevertheless reached recently. E-book revenue topped hardcover in the first quarter of 2012. Pretty amazing.

Goodreads put together a pretty cool blog post on the anatomy of book discovery, which looks at such things as the impact of giveaways on ratings and how much timing matters when doing said giveaways. Science!!

Want to know how the professionals tell stories? io9 recently featured the 22 rules of storytelling according to Pixar. Really good stuff.

Ever wonder how authors and agents choose publishers when they have multiple offers on the table? Agent Rachelle Gardner peels back the curtain.

My former client and soon-to-be-published author Natalie Whipple has some extremely good advice about not being too attached to your first idea for a story. Too often authors think their first idea is how the story is supposed to go, but in reality you should allow yourself to think of alternatives and be flexible.

Speaking of writing advice, you hear so much about how you have to grab an agent's attention, and it's true, but as agent Kristin Nelson points out, that doesn't mean you have to have an action-packed opening.

Two long-time friends of the blog, Anne R. Allen and Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde just released an e-book called How to Be a Writer in the E-Age... And Keep Your E-Sanity!, and it's priced at $2.99 for a limited time. Check it out!

And agent Jenny Bent dispels a perennial myth that can't be dispelled enough: Publishing really is not about who you know.

This week in the forums, please don't forget about the forums! We have places where you can share your synopsis, your query, excerpts, you can ask me questions, and much more. It's easy to join and we'd love to have you!

And finally, long-time friend of the blog Brian Wood, author of Dreamworld, recently released an extremely cool book trailer that shows how his cover artist created the cover for his second novel, Reality. Pretty awesome:


Have a great week!






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