Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Pulp-o-mizer


This is one of the cooler things I've seen on the Internet lately. Make your own pulp magazine cover!

(via CNET)






Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is Publishing in a Golden Age?


Hachette publisher Michael Pietsch gave an interview with NPR recently where he said we're in golden age for traditional publishers:

I think we're in a golden age for books — reading, writing and publishing. And the ways that publishers can work to connect readers with writers now are the kinds of things that publishers have dreamt of doing since Gutenberg first put down a line of type.
The full interview is worth a read/listen.

Do you agree? Is this actually a golden age for publishers?

Art: Interior of a Gothic Church by Pieter Neefs






Monday, February 25, 2013

Will Books Lose Out in a Tablet World?


One of my favorite predictions I have put down on pixel and screen is this one from 2007, when the Kindle had just been announced, e-book sales were virtually nonexistent, and the iPad was but a glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye:

In my opinion there will never be a widely used iPod of books, a device that people buy specifically for books -- e-books will take off when they can be easily downloaded and easily read on a device like a larger iPhone-of-the-future, something people already have, which evens out the economics since you don't have to plop down a significant chunk of money before you even buy a book. This would give e-books the decisive edge in economics, which might just tip the world of books toward e-books. Until then? Printed page for most of us.
I would argue that this is pretty much what has happened in the last six years. Yes, Kindles have sold pretty well and you see them around town, but they're nowhere near the ubiquity that iPods were in the mid-2000s. Print is still a majority even as Kindle prices dropped below $100. We haven't yet reached a majority e-book world, and it's still "printed page for most of us," as the last paragraph suggests.

And yet... I'm actually a little worried about this prediction.

The second part of the prediction is that e-book sales would reach a majority when most everyone has a  "larger iPhone-of-the-future," aka an iPad, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, Nook HD... you get the picture. 

We're almost there. There are now tons of tablets in the world. Apple sold 22.9 million iPads in the last quarter alone (link is to CNET, I work there, opinions here are my own). 

And yet growth in e-book sales seem to be leveling off. Even as people are buying more and more tablets, they're not reading more and more e-books. 

Some people, including Nicholas Carr in the previous link, see the leveling off of as proof that people are simply still attached to print books. I don't doubt that this is the case for many people.

My fear is that books are losing ground to other forms of handheld portable entertainment. Tablets should make it easier for people to read more because there is no delay between deciding you want to read something and being able to read it. It's (usually) cheaper to buy e-books. But that doesn't seem to be happening at the moment.

And this is where publishers have to realize that they are not competing against just books anymore when they're setting e-book prices.

Basically: Buy a new e-book for $11.99 or buy Angry Birds for $0.99? If you want to be entertained for six hours while you're commuting and you're cost conscious, that extra $10 goes a long way, and it adds up quick when you're talking about buying multiple books over time.

E-books have to be priced in a way that makes sense relative to its competition. They're not simply competing against other books anymore, they're competing against very very cheap (or free) forms of entertainment on the same device. Books and magazines aren't the only game in town for portable entertainment anymore.

I don't think the book world should be patting itself on the back that e-book sales have slowed. Yes, print books will absolutely still exist and people are still attached to them. But if people aren't reading books on tablets the book world will be in serious trouble as tablets become still-more ubiquitous in the future.

Art: Take Your Choice by John F. Peto






Thursday, February 21, 2013

Should Consumers Be Able to Buy and Sell Used E-books?


A debate has ignited in the bookosphere after news surfaced that Amazon had applied for a patent on technology that would let people sell "used" e-books through Amazon.

Author John Scalzi initially reacted harshly: "I’m awfully suspicious that it means nothing good for writers who want to get paid for their work using the current compensation model" and then reacted even more harshly: "I would rather you pirate the eBook than buy it used."

Consultant Mike Shatzkin rightly cautioned that just because Amazon has the technology doesn't mean they're going into this business, and at TeleReads Marilynn Byerly notes that a group called the Owners Rights Initiative is fighting to give digital owners the rights to resell digital works.

For me personally, it's hard to wrap my head around what a "used" digital files even means. A digital copy does not get worn, the pages don't yellow over time, there are not dog-eared corners. A "used" digital copy is exactly like a brand new digital copy. The idea of "used" digital anything is pretty meaningless.

While details have been somewhat scarce on the specifics of the technology Amazon possesses, what I'd guess it involves is the ability to transfer the ownership of a single digital copy from one person to another, deleting original copy so ownership is only retained by one person. When I'm done reading about the fiftieth shade of Grey, I can sell the copy to someone else and I no longer have access to it.

So. In this new world you would have "new" e-books for sale alongside "used' e-books, only the two are completely indistinguishable from one another. But the "used" e-book would inevitably be cheaper, because the seller is more motivated to sell. If I'm done reading something, I'm willing to take less than I paid for it if only because I want to ensure I get something back. It's no skin off my back to undercut the list price.

Authors and publishers are not currently compensated for used e-book sales, and if that paradigm were translated into the "used" e-book world, they would be undermined by completely identical and cheaper copies for sale alongside their "new" e-books. It's hard to imagine any scenario other than the pie shrinking even further for authors and publishers.

And yet... There are plenty of people who want to do away with DRM and sharing speed bumps entirely, which would make it extremely easy for people to sell or share their "used" e-books with anyone who wants it, whether that is a personal friend or someone they've met in a discussion forum or anywhere else on the Internet. People who are opposed to a used e-book paradigm should consider that one alternate scenario is one where non-DRM'd books are running rampant throughout the Internet (or rather, even more than they already are currently).

Lots of readers have been rankled by the fact that when you buy an e-book you don't have the same rights and flexibility as you do for a print book. It's hard to give it away and it's impossible to resell it. It's a license, not true ownership. It's frustrating when you just want to pass it on to a family member or friend like you can a paperback.

It's always seemed to me that the realities of digital publishing should account for the difference in physical form. Digital copies are fundamentally different than print copies, and arguing that we should treat them with the exact same rules strikes me as disingenuous. We have to strike a reasonable balance between the convenience of consumers and fairness to content creators.

Is a "used" e-book marketplace the right way of striking that balance? I'm not sure. A mechanism for transferring ownership of an e-book on a one-to-one basis is appealing, and as a reader I think I might like to have that option. I'd like it even more if authors were compensated for resales.

It's certainly not the worst solution I've ever heard. What do you think?

Art: "Novgorod Marketplace" by Appolinary Vasnetsov






Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Harry Potter Covers!


In wizard news from last week, Scholastic released a new Harry Potter cover to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone. The designer is Kazu Kibuishi, and the covers will appear on the trade paperback version of the books. Hollywood.com had an interview with Kibuishi, who is the author of the Amulet YA graphic novel series.

What do you think of the new vision? Do you have a preference between the new and old?






Thursday, February 14, 2013

Can Bookish Be a Game Changer?

After many many delays and much speculation, a joint venture called Bookish was launched by Penguin, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.

(Disclosure time: I work at CNET, which is owned by CBS, which is the same parent company of Simon & Schuster. I'm also published by Penguin. All opinions expressed here are my own, and I don't have any insight into Simon & Schuster operations.)

Bookish is a site where you can save books to shelves, rate them, get book recommendations, read some original content, and, very significantly for publishers, buy books directly from the site in various formats. This is a big step for the major publishers into a direct to consumer vertical.

Right now the site feels like it's in beta. There seems to be social sharing built in but I wasn't able to get it to work yet, and even after adding books to my shelves I'm actually still not sure how to get recommendations except by just adding books to a very specific recommendation engine. There's nothing along the lines of Netflix's recommendations based on the things you've rated and told the site you want to read (at least, not that I've been able to find, and I suppose this could be coming).

I've been waiting for this site for quite a while, and had some conversations with people familiar with the direction of the site as it was being developed. Now that I've explored a bit and taken a look, I definitely think Bookish has promise. The design feels polished, the checkout path feels smooth, and I do think there's some value in a good recommendation platform.

But the concerns I had as Bookish was being developed remains. Basically: How often does someone need to visit Bookish?

Aside from the original content, unless you actually need a recommendation for a book or find the book buying process superior there doesn't feel like a specific reason to visit the site. How often do you find yourself needing a recommendation for a book? Maybe a couple times a year? And even if you do want a recommendation, is this where you'll seek it out? And if you want to buy a book, isn't it already easy to buy it through existing channels?

Perhaps more importantly, in the social book recommendation sphere, sites like Goodreads had a major head start and is growing in popularity. And it's done this by being a fun part of the entire reading experience. In addition to saving and rating books, which you can do on Bookish, on Goodreads you can track your progress, organize your books into shelves, and there's a seamless experience for sharing to Facebook.

But the crucial part of Goodreads is that it's social. I can see what my friends are reading and they can see what I'm reading, which is extremely fun. Shelves are conversation starters. It keeps me coming back to the site.

I don't see a similar reason to return to Bookish. As a platform it has promise. But unless they can find a way to become indispensable to readers it's hard to see it as a game changer. I'm not sure what will prompt me to return.

My feeling: Bookish could become the basis for a Hulu for books, a place where readers can gain access to exclusive e-book subscription plans or be a place for exclusive free content. They could really leverage the participation of the publishers. Right now it doesn't feel geared toward that, but the platform is there.

Or perhaps Bookish could finally be the place for something readers have clamored for forever: Bundled print and e-book editions.

Whatever it is, it seems to me that while it's a good first effort, the site needs another killer ingredient.

What do you think? Have you tried out Bookish and what do you think it should be?






Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Which Novel Made You Cry the Most?


With their vast scope and the unparalleled ability to bore into someone's head, novels have perhaps the greatest potential for affecting us emotionally. As much as I love movies and television, novels have the ability to move me the most.

So which novel most affected you? And what was the part that did it?

As a kid I remember being deeply affected by classics like Johnny Tremain, The Bridge to Terebithia, My Brother Sam is Dead and Where the Red Fern Grows.

As an adult, well, I'm not actually much of a crier, but I was pretty moved by The Sky is Everywhere, The Secret Year, Atonement and, of course, The Book Thief.

What about you?

Art: Never Morning Wore To Evening But Some Heart Did Break by Walter Langley






Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Writing Advice in Tweet Form

I've written lots and lots of writing advice tweets over the years. Here they are, all in one place!

I will keep adding to this list as I tweet them out and as Twitter allows more access to older tweets:





























































Monday, February 11, 2013

And the Stupendously Ultimate Winner Is!!


Thanks so much to everyone who entered the 5th Sort-of-annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge coinciding with the release of Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp! Please do check out the trilogy. It's fun for you! Fun for you too! Fun for you, person in the fancy sweater in the back! Yeah. Especially you.

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe
Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

Now then. The winner of the 5th Sort-of-annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge is...

At the bottom of the post.

First up, as always, the reason I chose these finalists. As I'm sure you can tell by the length of the list of honorable mentions, I was extremely impressed by the entries, and not just the ones who were named. There were lots and lots of stellar entries and they were a pleasure to read.

My feelings about first paragraphs can basically be summed up by this tweet:


A first paragraph is a surprisingly important part of an entire novel, because it has to do so much. It eases the reader into the novel. But the reader literally has no idea where they are. The paragraph has to carefully guide the reader through the paragraph and into the world of the novel. Flow is important, crucial details are important, and voice is important.

As usually the finalists represented a wide range of styles and approaches, but I feel like they all accomplished this task extremely well. Here's a bit more about each of them.
Sue Curnow:
The Mazda hit ice. Carter cursed, fought for control, lost it in kaleidoscope swirls, and the vehicle hurtled down a steep bank, jamming Tori against seat and headrest. Terror strangled her heart, breath refused to come and let out her screams. Stillness as the car stopped, engine running, headlights shining on pristine snow. Relief caught laughter in Tori’s throat, until she realized where they’d ended up. The Coldwater River. Confirming her fears, ice cracked loud as a pistol shot. Carter undid his seatbelt. Tori depressed the button on hers. It refused to give despite her frantic efforts. Carter opened his door, got out the car, then bent to peer back in. “Goodbye, Tori,” he said.
As longtime readers know from my page critiques, I'm not always a fan of high concept openings and in media res action. But this paragraph really works. In addition to clever turns of phrase like "kaleidoscope swirls," this paragraph stands out to me because it has just the right amount of detail and it builds through tension through the short sentences The crash is told through a collection of images, but it doesn't feel disjointed and I never felt lost. And of course, the parting shot opens up thousands of questions.
Robert Wyatt:
One of the hoariest adages in booklore is that a tale should never commence with a description of the weather, but what is to be done if you wish to tell about a wraith found at your doorstep in the midst of an electrical snowstorm? Skip to the good, warm part in the middle? No. You must tell it as it was.
I'm also not normally a fan of self-aware openings (on top of being high concept!), but this one just works. What comes through in this paragraph is the character of the narrator. I loved the turn of phrase of "good, warm part in the middle" and the punchline of "You must tell it as it was," which made me laugh. Well done.
Crystal:
Peter had seen strangers in the road before, but there was something different about this man...something sinister. Most people passed on their way without a thought for what might lie on the opposite bank of the river that ran beside the road, but this man, in his tattered cloak that fluttered restlessly around him, stood bent and still. He seemed to be staring at a spot on the edge of the road, as if he knew that was where a bridge should begin.
I really admired this paragraph for its steady build-up and the tension that the author creates with the solitary man, capped off with perhaps my favorite turn of phrase in the entire competition: "as if he knew that was where a bridge should begin." Such a fantastic evocation of mystery and possibility.
Saille:
It was a good day until fire started falling out of the sky. The sun was just up, and the leading edge of the spring burn was behaving exactly as the kindlers had predicted, which was a relief, because this was Thus’s first year as an outrunner. Ahead, he could hear the high whistles of his herd of capas, and see their broad silver backs parting the grasses, leaving gleaming, vee-shaped wakes behind them. They moved toward the firebreak restively, but without panic. He supposed they must have grazed their way back across it in the night. It didn’t matter. This was the one day that Thus and the other stewards didn’t need to be responsible for their small allotments of the People’s larger herd. A capa could keep out of the way of fire more easily than the People, because capas weren’t responsible for putting it out. He still felt a wash of protectiveness, though. He’d delivered some of the young for the first time this year, turning their tapering heads and soft, wrinkled paws to lie correctly along the birth canal before drawing them, dark and shining, into the world, where the rhythm of their mothers’ hearts gave way to the susurration of the grasses.
It's very difficult to ease readers into a foreign world, but this one works very well. I don't know what a capa is, I don't know what an outrunner is, and I don't know what a kindler is, but I never felt lost because I knew enough to picture what was happening and felt grounded with the descriptions and the authority the author builds.
Todd Zuniga:
Delia walks over to the couch where I’m sitting, asks me, “Seriously, why’d you manslaughter your baby?” I tell her she already knows I don’t know. “Huh,” she considers as she crosses her arms. Her hair a tangle of grey curls. Maybe, maybe-not Delia has room to judge: she manslaughtered her mother, who was eighty-three.
I really liked how this paragraph kept me off balance while not feeling overly forced. This paragraph could be from many different types of novels, but I like the ordinary-feeling approach even as I came away feeling very curious about the rules of this world.
Cheryl W.:
Time is a funny thing. People often discover this quite young. You can be in time, on time, buy time, waste time, but you can never trust time. Even though some folks will claim time’s on their side, or their ally is time, or they have time, time doesn’t know them from any other of the trillion souls that live and breathe upon the earth. Time is oblivious to us and likes it that way, thank you very much. “Time,” as most people know it, is purely a manmade manifestation of numbers on a watch or shadows on a sundial, even radioactive isotopes oscillating rain or shine, but Time itself is as elusive as the future to a dying man. We desperately seek to control it, manipulate it and force trains to run to it, but as we never understand from whence the universe came or where it’s going, we’re lost in contemplation of Time’s vagaries. For instance: the past can be as alive to a person as the present, seeming to exist as one within the eye of the observer, just as Einstein posited. To those who insist upon it, time - the present and the past - can be experienced simultaneously. Bartholomew Lewis was just such a man.
Lots of people tried the very difficult "let me muse about the world for a sec" approach to the first paragraph, whose degree of difficulty is approximately 11.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Cheryl W. accomplished this with some very skillful writing and some genuinely interesting observations. It doesn't feel like it's trying too hard, and yet I came away intrigued.

Chris Bailey:
I would have given Mom a good-bye hug, but StepThad’s arm rested across her shoulder. Like the two of them were glued together. Double hug or nothing.
It's amazing how much Chris Bailey is able to accomplish here with just three short sentences. Such a believable voice, a lot of backstory told through detail alone, and "StepThad!"

Congratulations to all the finalists! Please contact me to collect your prizes.

And! the! Winner! Is!.....
elizabethmarianaranjo:
She was a striking girl, all shadow and stillness. Judith watched her carefully. Twenty years teaching middle school had taught her the subtler ways to approach them, the ones who wore solitude like a shell. If you look away, they disappear. But if you look too close, they withdraw. You have to learn to look sideways.
This is such a flawless paragraph. It builds mystery, it's got clever turns of phrase (love "wore solitude like a shell"), and it kicks off what is sure to be a very interesting relationship.

Well done!!

Whew! And that's a wrap, folks. Thank you so much to everyone who entered, you are all rather awesome and this was a whole lot of fun.

Until next year! Or, uh, at least until the next time I get the courage to read hundreds of paragraphs.






Friday, February 8, 2013

The SUFPC No. 5 Finalists! (As introduced by the Dowager Countess)


Goodness me!

It pains me to have been forced to judge an affair as middle class as a first paragraph contest. Are we now to share our inner thoughts with one another in public? Are we all artists, running naked in the streets? How horrid.

Lord Bransford told me that the caliber of entries was the best he'd ever seen in any of his contests, but I found them all perfectly dreadful. If I had to choose a winner it would none of them. I would hate for people to be left with something as pointless as ambition.

However, Lord Bransford informed me that I must choose a selection of finalists, though why he didn't write a will with these instructions and leave them in the care of an unreliable heir I shall never know. All instructions of import should be argued over at great length over the course of many years. What else shall we aristocrats do with our time? Learn to cook?

There were many common threads in these entries, perhaps the most common of which is death in far too many forms. I am all-too-familiar with death having frequented the halls of Downton Abbey, where one must check one's pulse at regular intervals lest you realize you've been afflicted with a mysterious disease and perished before they could even put away the silverware. Luckily I shall outlive you all because you cannot kill the witty.

A weakness in many entries was an excess of chattiness, which I simply cannot abide. Save it for the gallows, where you shall doubtless end up with such excitable loose lips.

Another common trope was that if only the narrator had known what was about to happen then everything would have been quite different. Why yes, I do suppose that if one were a fortuneteller quite a bit about life would be rather different. But we don't walk around gazing into crystal balls, do we? Life is interesting enough as it is, one needn't be so surprised by it all.

Sighing, gasping, waking up, and looking into mirrors were all abundantly accounted for in these paragraphs. I began to wonder if I were reading descriptions of a typical morning for my granddaughter Lady Mary.

And dare I say there is much about England that is changing these days but I'm quite certain the definition of a "paragraph" has not changed. There were far too many revolutionaries who chose to ignore the strictures of the English language. I cannot abide revolutions, everyone winds up disappointed in the end.

Now, these are the honorable mentions, who will be allowed henceforce to bring me tea in the library, provided they are properly attired and have not engaged in any previous desultory behavior.

Matt Borgard
heatherkamins.com
T Aydelott
Liane
JDuncan
Kelly Johnson
Charlee Vale
Crafty Green Poet
Bryan Hilson
Cathrine Bock
harryipants
Joanna
Chad Sourbeer
Eva Natiello
Iliad fan
Irene Pozoukidis
Pamela

The instructions for voting is as follows. I argued with Lord Bransford that no women should be involved in something as sinister as voting, but he insisted that it be open to all. These are vulgar times indeed.

In order to vote for the winner, please leave a vote in the comments section of this post. You will have until Sunday, 7pm Eastern time to vote. Kindly do not e-mail Lord Bransford your vote (gracious me, what is "e-mail," is it some sort of ghastly dance?).

There shall be no campaigning in private or public for yourself or your favorites, and suspicious voting may result in disqualification. Participating in this entire exercise should well be grounds for disqualification, but I suppose it's far too late for that.

Anonymous commenting will be closed for the duration of the voting to ensure transparency. The winner shall be announced on Monday.

The eight finalists are...

Sue Curnow:

The Mazda hit ice. Carter cursed, fought for control, lost it in kaleidoscope swirls, and the vehicle hurtled down a steep bank, jamming Tori against seat and headrest. Terror strangled her heart, breath refused to come and let out her screams. Stillness as the car stopped, engine running, headlights shining on pristine snow. Relief caught laughter in Tori’s throat, until she realized where they’d ended up. The Coldwater River. Confirming her fears, ice cracked loud as a pistol shot. Carter undid his seatbelt. Tori depressed the button on hers. It refused to give despite her frantic efforts. Carter opened his door, got out the car, then bent to peer back in. “Goodbye, Tori,” he said.


Robert Wyatt:

One of the hoariest adages in booklore is that a tale should never commence with a description of the weather, but what is to be done if you wish to tell about a wraith found at your doorstep in the midst of an electrical snowstorm? Skip to the good, warm part in the middle? No. You must tell it as it was.


Crystal:

Peter had seen strangers in the road before, but there was something different about this man...something sinister. Most people passed on their way without a thought for what might lie on the opposite bank of the river that ran beside the road, but this man, in his tattered cloak that fluttered restlessly around him, stood bent and still. He seemed to be staring at a spot on the edge of the road, as if he knew that was where a bridge should begin.


Saille:

It was a good day until fire started falling out of the sky. The sun was just up, and the leading edge of the spring burn was behaving exactly as the kindlers had predicted, which was a relief, because this was Thus’s first year as an outrunner. Ahead, he could hear the high whistles of his herd of capas, and see their broad silver backs parting the grasses, leaving gleaming, vee-shaped wakes behind them. They moved toward the firebreak restively, but without panic. He supposed they must have grazed their way back across it in the night. It didn’t matter. This was the one day that Thus and the other stewards didn’t need to be responsible for their small allotments of the People’s larger herd. A capa could keep out of the way of fire more easily than the People, because capas weren’t responsible for putting it out. He still felt a wash of protectiveness, though. He’d delivered some of the young for the first time this year, turning their tapering heads and soft, wrinkled paws to lie correctly along the birth canal before drawing them, dark and shining, into the world, where the rhythm of their mothers’ hearts gave way to the susurration of the grasses.


elizabethmarianaranjo.com:

She was a striking girl, all shadow and stillness. Judith watched her carefully. Twenty years teaching middle school had taught her the subtler ways to approach them, the ones who wore solitude like a shell. If you look away, they disappear. But if you look too close, they withdraw. You have to learn to look sideways.


Todd Zuniga:

Delia walks over to the couch where I’m sitting, asks me, “Seriously, why’d you manslaughter your baby?” I tell her she already knows I don’t know. “Huh,” she considers as she crosses her arms. Her hair a tangle of grey curls. Maybe, maybe-not Delia has room to judge: she manslaughtered her mother, who was eighty-three.


Cheryl W.:

Time is a funny thing. People often discover this quite young. You can be in time, on time, buy time, waste time, but you can never trust time. Even though some folks will claim time’s on their side, or their ally is time, or they have time, time doesn’t know them from any other of the trillion souls that live and breathe upon the earth. Time is oblivious to us and likes it that way, thank you very much. “Time,” as most people know it, is purely a manmade manifestation of numbers on a watch or shadows on a sundial, even radioactive isotopes oscillating rain or shine, but Time itself is as elusive as the future to a dying man. We desperately seek to control it, manipulate it and force trains to run to it, but as we never understand from whence the universe came or where it’s going, we’re lost in contemplation of Time’s vagaries. For instance: the past can be as alive to a person as the present, seeming to exist as one within the eye of the observer, just as Einstein posited. To those who insist upon it, time - the present and the past - can be experienced simultaneously. Bartholomew Lewis was just such a man.


Chris Bailey:

I would have given Mom a good-bye hug, but StepThad’s arm rested across her shoulder. Like the two of them were glued together. Double hug or nothing.


Congratulations to everyone. God help the winners of this affair.






Thursday, February 7, 2013

SUFPC #5 Word Cloud!

Back because it's tradition, the Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph word cloud! I took all 100,000 words in all the entries and here are the most common ones.

As always, "like" looms large. Thanks to the good people at Wordle for the tool:


Finalists will be announced tomorrow! Yes, really! I will have read all 800+ entries! And judged them appropriately!

Any favorites?






Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp Publication Day!


It's publication day for Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp! The trilogy is now officially complete. Wow!

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe
Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

I started writing Jacob Wonderbar in the fall of 2008 with barely a notion that it would turn into anything, and four and a half years later, after many, many hours of writing and working on this series it's finally complete and out there in the world.

Please check out all three whether you're eight years old or ninety-eight or anything in between or even older. There's something in there for everyone.

And if you don't believe me, here's Kirkus:

Wonderbar #1
Wonderbar #2
Wonderbar #3

Meanwhile, we're having ourselves quite a first paragraph contest!! There's still time to enter, so come on down with your first paragraph and enter the contest! The winner will have their manuscript considered by superstar agent Catherine Drayton. If you don't have a paragraph handy: write one!

And in keeping with all of the themes of this post, I thought I'd post the first paragraph from each book in the Jacob Wonderbar series:

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow

Each type of substitute teacher had its own special weakness, and Jacob Wonderbar knew every possible trick to distract them. Male substitutes with long hair and women in tie-dyed skirts often had a guitar stashed nearby and were just waiting for an excuse to ditch the lesson plan and play a song. The mousy ones who spoke softly and tentatively when they introduced themselves would patiently answer every absurd question Jacob asked them and would be confronting a classroom gone wild within minutes.

Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe

Jacob slammed the door to his mom's car and stomped through the supermarket parking lot. "Jacob," his mom called after him. "I can understand if you don't want to talk about it but please don't take it out on my car."

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

[Oops I can't share this one because it has spoilers!! Sorry!]






Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp: The Book Trailer!

The 5th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge is still going strong! Hundreds of paragraphs are vying for the chance to be Ruler of the Paragraphs and the chance to have a partial considered by Catherine Drayton. Do you have a fantastic first paragraph? Enter here!

Meanwhile, it is publication week for Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, and here's the book trailer!


Thanks as always to the great Brent Peterson for his fantastic work. Check him out at http://www.page2screen.net/

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp is for sale at bookstores everywhere starting February 7 and is available online at:

Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (Kindle)!
Barnes & Noble!
Books-a-Million!
Books Inc!
iBooks!
Indiebound!
Powell's!

Here's the trailer for Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow:

Available at:

Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (paperback)! 
Amazon (Kindle)!
Barnes & Noble (hardcover)!
Barnes & Noble (Nook)!
Books-a-Million!
Indiebound!
Powell's!

And here's Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe:


Available at:

Amazon (hardcover)!
Amazon (Kindle)!
Barnes & Noble (hardcover)!
Barnes & Noble (Nook)!
Books-a-Million!
Books Inc!
iBooks!
Indiebound!
Powell's!






Monday, February 4, 2013

The 5th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge!

UPDATE: TIME'S UP! COMMENTS CLOSED!

It's the grandaddy of them all. The big kahuna. The 32 oz porterhouse with a side of awesome.

It's our FIFTH Sort-of-Annual um don't point out that the last one was two years ago oops too late Stupendously First Paragraph Challenge!!!

Do you have the best paragraph of them all? Will you make Charles Dickens wish he ditched "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" for your paragraph when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities?

Let's see.

First and most importantly: ALL THE PRIZES.

The ultimate grand prize winner of the SUFPC will win:

1) The opportunity to have a partial manuscript considered by my wildly awesome agent Catherine Drayton of InkWell. Who does Catherine represent, you might ask? Why, only authors such as Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), John Flanagan (The Ranger's Apprentice series), Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush Hush), and many more amazing writers. This is a rather excellent prize. You don't even have to write a query letter!

2) All the finalists will win a query critique from me trust me I've still got my query-revising skillz. Said critique is redeemable at any time.

3) All the finalists in the USA (sorry non-USAers, international postage is bananas) will win a signed copy of my new novel, last in the Jacob Wonderbar trilogy, in stores and available online on Thursday, Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp!! Please check this bad boy out I swear you'll love it and you won't even get eaten by a dinosaur:


The Jacob Wonderbar trilogy:

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe
Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

4) All finalists and winners win the pride of knowing that you are in some truly fantastic company. Let's review the now-published authors who were finalists in writing contests on this blog before they became famous and fancy published authors:

Stuart Neville! Victoria Schwab! Terry DeHart! Michelle Hodkin! Michelle Davidson Argyle! Joshua McCune! Natalie Whipple! Josin L. McQuein! Jeanne Ryan! Peter Cooper! Travis Erwin!

Are we missing anyone? I sometimes forget THERE ARE SO MANY.

There may also be honorable mentions. You may win the lottery during the time you are entering this contest. Who can say really?

So! Here's how this works. Please read these rules very carefully:

a) This is a for-fun contest. Rules may be adjusted without notice, as I see fit, but this one will always be here: Please don't take this contest overly seriously. This is for fun. Yes, the grand prize is awesome and I would have willingly picked a fight with Mike Tyson to have had my manuscript considered by Catherine Drayton without ever having to write a query, but please don't let that detract from the fact that this contest is for-fun.

b) Please post the first paragraph of any work-in-progress in the comments section of THIS POST. If you are reading this post via e-mail you must click through to enter. Please do not e-mail me your submission it will not count.

c) The deadline for entry is this THURSDAY 7pm Eastern time, at which point entries will be closed. Finalists will be announced... sometime between Friday and the year 2078. When the finalists are announced this suddenly becomes a democracy and you get to vote on the stupendously ultimate winner.

d) Please please check and double-check your entry before posting. If you spot an error in your post after entering: please do not re-post your entry. I go through the entries sequentially and the repeated deja vu repeated deja vu of reading the same entry over and over again makes my head spin. I'm not worried about typos. You shouldn't be either.

e) You may enter once, once you may enter, and enter once you may. If you post anonymously please be sure and leave your name (no cheating on this one).

f) Spreading the word about the contest is very much encouraged. The more the merrier, and the greater your pride when you crush them all.

g) I will be the sole judge of the finalists. You the people will be the sole judge of the ultimate winner.

h) There is no word count limit on the paragraphs. However, a paragraph that is overly long or feels like more than a paragraph may lose points. It should be a paragraph, not multiple paragraphs masquerading as one paragraph. Use your own discretion.

i) You must be at least 14 years old and less than 178 years old to enter. No exceptions.

j) I'm on the Twitter! And the Facebook! And the Google+! And the Instagram! It is there I will be posting contest updates. Okay maybe not Instagram but pretty pictures!

That is all.

GOOD LUCK. May the best paragraph win and let us all have a grand old time.






Friday, February 1, 2013

These Past Few Weeks in Books 2/1/13

Madison Square Park - Photo by me
First of all, before I get to the bazillion links I have saved up... I smell something. Is that a... I think... why, yes, I think I know what that is. A CONTEST IS COMING.

And not just any contest. One of the big huge ones. It's been too long. This one is going to be good. I'm very excited. Stick. Around.

Or maybe just come back on Monday. You don't need to literally stick around.

Now then, these links aren't going to link to themselves.

A new Jacob Wonderbar is also coming next week! Yes indeedy, the third and final installment of the Jacob Wonderbar series, Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, is coming out on Thursday! Make sure to pre-order so you and the kids in your life can be hipster middle grade readers and say you read it before it was all popular and stuff. I'm very excited to have this series all wrapped up and ready to be read in full:

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe
Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

Whew! Excitement! I swear adults will enjoy them too. They're not just for kids.

Okay now for the real links.

Author Stephen Elliott had a great post called The Problem With the Problem With Memoir, in which he has this priceless quote:
...celebrity memoirs are rarely interesting, despite how interesting their lives appear from the outside. The problem is not that they don’t live interesting lives, it’s that they’re not writers.
In book promotion news, a pertinent question for our age: Why do literary readings always make me want to kill myself? (via The Millions). And Adam Mansbach has a hilarious and very timely post on the state of book promotion: Hell is my own book tour.

Gosh. If I didn't know any better I'd think authors hate self-promotion.

In new book ventures, esteemed blog The Millions is launching an e-book venture, and Random House is launching a Facebook app to help people share and discover books.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you've got no worries all the noise and the hurry seems to help I know, downtown. At least, that's where HarperCollins is going.

In io9 writing advice news, these are the character names that should be banned forever, and here is a writing tip that really does work, in fact I have employed this one myself from time to time.

Agent Mary Kole has advice for getting the most out of a writer's conference, and agent Rachelle Gardner has a new e-book out on deciding between traditional and self-publication!

Publishing industry expert Mike Shatzkin had too good posts lately on the importance of bookstore buying and inventory management decisions and also about what Barnes & Noble's recent contraction announcement means for publishers.

In social media news, Scientific American has a terrific posts on the pros and cons of comment threads and moderation.

GalleyCat has a list of free places to back up your work online.

And award news! You get a Newbery! You get a Caldecott! You get a Printz!

These past few weeks in the forums: mourning the end of Game of Thrones Season 2, making meaning out of the adolescent years, giving yourself permission to fail, your 2013 writing goals, and do you have to listen to everything a beta reader says?

And finally, a seriously awesome article about love.

Have a great weekend!






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