Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November Links & Things

I'll be offline throughout the Thanksgiving weekend -- and the following week I'll be finishing my current project. So, I decided to post this month's Links & Things now, as opposed to later.

About this current project: I'm editing/copyediting the forthcoming (third) "Bob Howard/Laundry" novel by Charles Stross, entitled The Fuller Memorandum, to be published by Ace Books next year. The first two titles in this series are The Atrocity Archives (2004) and The Jennifer Morgue (2006), which I had acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press. And thanks to Charlie Stross's recommendation, I am able to work on this third title as well. I'm on target to complete my work on this book next week, after which I hope to blog about how this project came about.

Until next post... Here are my links and such for the month of November. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • For those of us who bemoaned the demise of Firefly on Fox seven years ago -- and must now content ourselves by watching the series on DVD -- the writers of ABC's Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion, gave a bit of a shout-out to Captain Mal Reynolds with this opening clip from the Halloween episode. This is just pure fun!

  • And in the same spirit, here is Jimmy Fallon with a spot-on impersonation of 1970s Neil Young, singing "The Prince of Bel-Air." I am a die-hard Neil Young fan, and if I was just listening to the audio of this performance, I would swear it's the man himself. The only thing missing would be the myriad patches on Neil's/Jimmy's jeans. A wonderful performance.

  • Every month there's always some big blowup in the world of writing and publishing; last month it was the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines, and this month it is the new Harlequin Horizons imprint. Essentially, Harlequin announced a new imprint for self-publishing. When they reject an author's submission -- a work that's not good enough to be published by the Harlequin name -- they will suggest/recommend the Horizons imprint through which the author can self-publish said book that wasn't good enough for Harlequin. Unfortunately, the author will pay to have this book self-published, get only 50% of the NET (not cover price) of each copy sold, and Harlequin makes all the rest of the money. In response, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) have dropped Harlequin from their "approved" publishers list. Jackie Kessler, an author of dark fantasy and paranormal romance ficition, has done a line-by-line breakdown of Harlequin's response in her current blog post; as of this writing there are more than 125 comments.

    Update: In an article in the San Francisco Examiner, Harlequin has announced that they will rename this self-publishing imprint, thus removing the Harlequin name. And, the
    Mystery Writers of America have also threatened sanctions against Harlequin, removing their name from MWA's list of approved publishers as well, if Harlequin does not respond to accusations by December 15.

  • If you are a fan of cover art, web site presents "A History of Science Fiction Classics, Told in Book Covers." The books include 1984, Brave New World, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Fahrenheit 451, I, Robot, Neuromancer, Stranger in a Strange Land, and War of the Worlds, to name but half of the titles. From hardcover dust jackets to paperback covers, with a few foreign editions thrown in for good measure, the covers are all here. Some great cover art, to be sure.

  • For all you Fantasy geeks: on SciFi Scanner author Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) talks about "The Eight Worst Anachronisms in Fantasy" movies. For example, in Kate and Leopold (2001), Leopold, Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman) knows the plot for the opera La Boheme -- a play that didn't premier until 1896, yet the movie takes place in 1876. In King Arthur (2001) barbed wire is used, but it doesn't get invented until 1874. The comments provide additional examples. So, words of wisdom for all Fantasy writers: Do you homework! Fact-check!

  • According to, "A group of US authors, including Ursula K. Le Guin, is bypassing the traditional publishing process by publishing direct on Amazon's Kindle and Sony's e-reader. Book View Press was founded earlier this year by members of Book View Café, a co-operative of 27 award-winning and bestselling authors." Other authors in the collective include Vonda McIntyre, Sarah Zettel, and Laura Ann Gilman. In fact, Ms. McIntyre is serializing her novel Superluminal (Houghton Mifflin, 1983) on Book View Café, with free weekly downloads. Chapters 1 through 11 are currently available.

  •'s Media News for Wednesday, November 4, presents a podcast by Peter Ginna, publisher and editorial director at Bloomsbury Press. According to mediabistro: "Ginna fielded questions from a listener about how to get a start in publishing during this difficult time for the media industry. The publisher also discussed his new blog, the hardcover pricing war, and the most important skills needed to work in 21st Century publishing." Here's an excerpt from the interview: "You have to recognize you are going into a very volatile industry. I think the most important thing for anybody going into the industry now is to really learn as much as you can, and, to the extent that you can, master social media. That's going to be the most important channel that publishers have to sell books. It's one of the areas we've been struggling with -- so many of the traditional avenues that publishers have used to communicate with readers...are disappearing or dwindling or being transformed themselves. The great promise of the Internet for publishing is that it's the most effective way we've ever had to get the word out about our books to potential readers."

  • Author Leah Cutter writes, in a blog entry entitled "Flow": "I define writer's block as the strong desire to write, but no words show up, for an extended amount of time. I'm very lucky. I don't get writer's block. There have been times in my life when I haven't written, but that bubbling up need to write, that boiling of words just under the surface, wasn't there. I was busy with other things, happy to be distracted. I do, however, have problems with flow sometimes."

  • Why does an author need an editor? Writer and editor Yvonne Perry explains why with very cogent examples. I was quite impressed with what she had to say. Here are a couple examples: "After several rewrites and re-reading, an author can easily get so close to his own writing that he is not able to see his own errors. Some may not even be aware of the mistakes they are making because they are not familiar with style guides or grammar rules.... Another reason authors should have their books edited is because an unedited or poorly written book is a legitimate reason for a publisher to reject it. It is difficult enough to get a book accepted by a conventional publisher without having to further reduce your chances with a book that an agent can't 'sell' to a publisher or acquisition editor." Unfortunately, what turned me off to this piece is the fact that the author is inevitably selling her services and that of her company to authors seeking editors. If you can get past this (toward the end of the article), then as an author, or editor, you will find some value here. (via @BookBuzzr)

  • Fantasy author Jaye Wells shares with us one of her typical days as an author, in a guest post "A Day in the Life" on the Orbit Books blog. Here's one entry: "10:30 Really shame self into closing down Internet. Sometimes crowbar is necessary." Sounds like, ahem, some of my days working from home... If you're due for a work break yourself, this blog post is a must read.

  • John @Scalzi received an email in which a fan wrote: "You talk about money and writing a lot, so let me ask you: What is it with writers and money? Lots of them seem to be in financial hot water these days." To which Scalzi responds, in detail, with ten numbered points: 1) Things are touch all over; 2) It's not just writers who make lousy financial choices; 3) Writer pay is generally low and generally inconsistent; 4) Writers often lack what meager social net actually exists in corporate America; 5) Writers, like many people (even presumably educated folks), often have rudimentary financial skills; 6) Writers are often flaky; 7) Writers are often irrational risk-takers; 8) Writers are often attracted to other creative folks, including other writers; 9) Writing can be expensive; and 10) Writers write about their situations. There are over 75 responses as of this writing, which are well worth reading as we hear from a lawyer and a musician, among many others.

  • GalleyGat ( speaks to the increase of "orphaned books" as a result of editors being laid off at the various publishing houses. When an editor acquires a book for a publisher, the editor typically champions that book through the entire publishing and marketing process. When a book is orphaned it often tanks because there is no longer anyone in house to act on the book's behalf. GalleyCat gets input from a number of top editors and agents in this article.

  • Henry Baum of Self-Publishing Review, whom I have quoted and linked to in a number of my Links roundups, writes that "Traditional Publishing Is Still a Mess" -- and I would like to add "Agenting" to that title as well. Henry quotes directly from Twitter and blog posts from unnamed agents as proof of the "mess." Regardless of how good the book is, if the agent doesn't think s/he can easily sell it, fuggedaboudit -- it's all about marketing and sales. [Anyone for another angst-ridden YA vampire romance?] And when it comes to a self-published book, the agent isn't even interested unless you've already sold 10,000 copies. Let's think about that: If you've sold 10K copies of a $15.00 trade paperback, and let's say you've only made 75% net of that sale price, considering printing costs, marketing costs, etc. -- well, that's over $110,000! Who the hell needs an agent then!

  • But speaking of agents... Literary agent Nathan Bransford blogs about "Moving the Needle," which he defines as "'making an impact' for those not fluent in Corporatese." Nathan discusses how everyone -- authors, agents, publishers -- wants to make an impact, but it has become harder and riskier to do so. He concludes his essay with: "Unless the industry finds a better way to minimize their massive risk-taking or find new tools to move the needle, publishing will continue to bow before the increasingly fickle whims of the zeitgeist and the Internet hive. And the only thing worse than failing to push the needle is accidentally sitting on it."

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a report (in PDF format) entitled "Innovative Technologies from Science Fiction for Space Applications," in which they cite past and present SF literature, art, and movies as the source for new technologies. According to the report: "Altogether some 50 fact sheets and 35 technical dossiers covering some 250 concepts and technologies were generated as a result of the study. In addition, artists submitted over 50 space-art images which they believed encapsulated the essence of many of the ideas found in science fiction." The Propulsion Techniques section includes Ram Scoop Devices, Solar-sails and Light-sails, Warp Drives, Ion Drives, Anti-Matter, Fusion Drives, and Pellet Propulsion.

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