Monday, March 1, 2010

February Links & Things

I back up my working data automatically every half hour to a USB drive; specific files and folders (all working data) are backed up nightly to a stand-alone external drive; and the entire "My Computer" (essentially my entire PC) gets backed up to that same external drive once a week. Well, during my weekly backup I have begun to receive bad sector errors, so I ran a disk check upon startup Saturday morning and received four different "File record segment is unreadable" error messages. Disk check fixed the errors so that I was able to then complete the "My Computer" backup, but I'm afraid my hard drive is headed for HDD hell. I have a couple projects that I hope to complete within the next two days, and then I suspect I'll have to replace the hard drive and reinstall the entire "My Computer," and hope that there hasn't been too great a loss of data due to those unreadable file records. Sigh....

Following are my links and such for the month of February. 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.

  • Recent reviews of books from two different authors with whom I worked as editor:

    Canadian author Nathalie Mallet's second book in a series has recently been published by Night Shade Books. Colleen Cahill, in her review on SFRevu, writes: "In her first book, The Princes of the Golden Cage [2007], Nathalie Mallet took a pass at fairy tales and brought us a new version, with the Prince being locked away rather than the Princess. In her second book about Prince Amir, The King's Daughters [2009], we are again in a medieval fantasy setting, but this time we move from the Arabian Nights to a North Eastern European arena. The good news is Mallet continues to bring us a piece full of fascinating characters and intriguing plots, all presented in a compelling style; the bad news (for Amir) is that while the Prince might be out of the cage, life is not getting any easier.... This book is a good read for fans of medieval fantasy, especially those who want something that does not follow the standard plot. You need not have read the earlier work to enjoy this book, but I recommend both of them. On a cold winter's night, you can't do better than snuggling in with The King's Daughters."

    And...Mark Teppo's Heartland, the second book in The Codex of Souls, also from Night Shade Books, is reviewed by @MadHatterReview: "Teppo doesn't suffer the sophomore slump at all with Heartland. In fact, the same level of cleverness and knowledge of the occult still clings to Teppo's prose as this man is a knowledge bucket of the arcane and manages to make it fresh and undaunting.... The Codex of Souls is without a doubt one of the most original Urban Fantasy series going right now. It has stepped away from the pack and embraced a different type of magic and a very different sensibility worth checking out."

    You can read my earlier blog post, entitled "Mark Teppo's Codex of Souls Seeks the Light," on working with Mark on The Codex of Souls series.

  • Ted Genoways, editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, writes a sharp and critical analysis -- nay, a rebuke -- of the literary magazine, its writers, and the colleges and universities that sponsor them: "Last summer, Louis Menand tabulated that there were 822 creative writing programs. Consider this for a moment: If those programs admit even 5 to 10 new students per year, then they will cumulatively produce some 60,000 new writers in the coming decade. Yet the average literary magazine now prints fewer than 1,500 copies. In short, no one is reading all this newly produced literature -- not even the writers themselves.... To pull out of this tailspin, writers and their patrons both will have to make some necessary changes -- and quick.... young writers will have to swear off navel-gazing in favor of an outward glance onto a wrecked and lovely world worthy and in need of the attention of intelligent, sensitive writers. I'm not calling for more pundits -- God knows we've got plenty. I'm saying that writers need to venture out from under the protective wing of academia, to put themselves and their work on the line. Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ's sake, write something we might want to read." Bravo! As of this writing, there are more than 120 comments. (via @Catherine_Asaro)

  • As a follow-on to the above link on the demise of literary journals, is this article (rant?) in the Los Angeles Times Book Section from Dani Shapiro, guest editor for the anthology Best New American Voices 2010, the latest volume in a long-running series, which is coming to an end because the publisher can no longer justify its publication due to declining sales. Shapiro criticizes MFA programs because "creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans. I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score.... The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry -- always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media -- has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all." If you've often heard other writers say (or have said this yourself, or at least thought it): "So many crappy novels get published. Why not mine?" -- then you need to read this piece.

  • Author @JasonSanford blogs about a website he just discovered: "Selecting and aggregating content from the 'independent' publishing world, FictionDaily presents three new stories each day -- a short, a long, and a genre story. Excerpts of stories in each of these categories are presented without reference to the author's name, the title, or the story's publication. If you're interested, you click over to the original publisher to read the story.... To get a sense of the site's goals, I asked FictionDaily's editor David Backer a few questions." If you're into reading online short-fiction, but don't have the time to search out all the sites and stories, then let FictionDaily do the work for you. I think you'll be amazed as to just how much short fiction is being published online: I counted 54 magazines on the list, and that was only through titles beginning with numbers and the first three letters of the alphabet! And enjoy Sanford's mini interview with David Backer, too.

  • Gabrielle Harbowy (@gabrielle_h) has written a blog post after my own heart: "The Last-Glance Editing Checklist." This should be a mandatory exercise for all authors -- novice and award-winning alike -- before they submit a ms. for publication. I recently read an author's whine on the web about how his/her story was rejected within a couple days when others of far lesser quality ("far lesser quality" as in story line; and "far lesser quality" as in the eyes of the whiner) have been accepted and published. So what if he had spelling errors, so what if he had some awkward sentence structures, these were all minor to the story itself, which was -- in his/her opinion -- far better than other stories the magazine published. My suggestion to this individual? Stop whining and start writing better quality, as in content, structure, and spelling. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- will turn off an editor quicker than a ms. that contains typos. Gabrielle's checklist includes "Spelling," "Mechanics," and a "Last, But Not Least" section. Within this blog post you'll find a link entitled "words to watch out for" that will lead you to yet another wonderful post about -- yep, you guessed it -- words to watch out for, like "blonde" and "blond," or "lose" and "loose," words that are constantly being pillaged and plundered in the mss. that I review. Thanks, Gabrielle!

  • @HollyBodger has a great blog post entitled "On Pot Holes... and Craters." Holly had a freelance editor review her manuscript: "[The editor's] letter outlined a list of things she liked as well as a list of questions she felt I left unanswered. At first, I found the list of questions surprising. I mean, I knew the answers to all of them! Ah hem… yeah, that was the problem. When you write a novel, you know the plot and the characters SO well, you don't notice when you've left a hole.... I decided I needed to start my plot from scratch so I could see if there really were holes in it. So this is what I did..." Holly steps you through the process she used to review her book's plots and subplots.

  • Website has a post entitled "11 Little-Known Grammatical Errors That Will Shock and Horrify You" -- in which "11 English words and phrases that we (and by we, I mean myself included -- but not the royal we, as you're included too) seem to constantly (and surprisingly) misuse." Some of these words/phrases include "Try and," "Chomping at the bit," "Barb wire," and "Collide," to name only 4 of them. And in the more than 150 comments, readers provide even more, including "Should of/Would of." What's even more fun is that examples of these errors are provided via TV shows and movies.

  • Author Charles Stross has been posting a series of entries on his Diary entitled "Common Misconceptions About Publishing." The first entry dealt with the misconception: "The publishing industry makes sense." As is typical of Charlie, if you are in fact familiar with his work, he adds just the right touch of sardonicism to everything he writes: fiction and nonfiction alike. The author explains the workings of the publishing industry from his no-nonsense (albeit sardonic) perspective.

    The second part of Stross's series, "How Books Are Made," includes 17 very detailed steps on the " production workflow for a book by a professional author working under contract with a publisher." As of this writing, there are over 200 Comments to this post, which includes a large number of the author's responses to said comments.

    And the third part of the series, at least for now, is entitled: "What Authors Sell to Publishers." In this latter post, Stross goes through the various parts of a contract. He concludes this last entry with: "I haven't run the contract through a word count, but I suspect it's at least three times as long as this blog entry (3842 words). It's certainly much longer than the deed of sale for the apartment I live in..." Again, for a no-nonsense look at the publishing industry, particularly from a "name" author, this series would be a good place to start.

  • The February 10 headline in the New York Times: "Kirkus Gets a New Owner -- From the N.B.A." -- that's Herb Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association. As you may (or may not) recall, the Nielsen Company announced in December that it was ceasing publication of Kirkus Reviews. Herb Simon is also co-owner of independent bookstore Tecolote Books in Montecito, California. Marc Winkelman, who previously worked for Barnes and Noble, has been appointed chief executive of what will be renamed Kirkus Media. According to Winkelman: "Over the years, librarians have submitted a lot of comments to Kirkus about things they would like to see enhanced. We hope to do that and make Kirkus even more relevant in the world of book buying and book reading."

    Then, on February 16, Kirkus itself announced: KIRKUS LIVES! -- with details, most of which were previously included in the NYT piece.

  • Pat Holt, of Holt Uncensored, takes on "The Democratization of Publishing (Part 7,326)" in this blog post about a DIY author. The subtitle on the post is: "Lowly Self-Publisher Educates Wise Publishing Veteran": "This is the story of a self-publisher who did everything 'wrong' to publish a charming and humorous gem that I'm recommending to everyone." Pat goes on to explain how she was critical of practically every aspect of the book -- the title, the illustrations, the typeface, and the lack of a contents page or even page numbers -- but yet the book came together wonderfully, once she was able to experience the book as a whole. Pat concludes: "So now it's my turn to be wrong. It's wrong to force old formats and constraints onto self-published books.... The fact is that 'Travelin' Light…' is a good book because of all that's 'wrong' with it, for one reason because the author trusts the reader to give the book a chance, and we do."

  • "Inside the Writers Studio" is a new writer-centric video blog series that looks to be a real kick, based on the first entry in the series: "Raving Reviews" (Or "How Writers REALLY React to Negative Reviews"). They obviously had a lot of fun making this vid; and I found myself laughing out load a couple times. It's a @PaperRats production, and you can follow them on Twitter.

  • In the mid-'80s, I met Paul Williams, founder of the Philip K. Dick (PKD) Society and editor of the society's newsletter. In fact, a group of us "Dick Heads" would meet at Paul's house in San Francisco for a "mailing party" for the next issue of the newsletter. (One of those other "Dick Heads" was author Jonathan Lethem, who resided in the city at that time, and who has gone on to edit the PKD Library of America series.) After Paul moved to Southern California, our paths crossed only occasionally over the next few years, at conventions. Paul wrote one of the early PKD biographies, Only Apparently Real. Paul is also the "father" of rock criticism and the founder (he was 17 years old at the time) of Crawdaddy, the first serious music magazine, which paved the way for Rolling Stone and other such rags. He has written a three-volume critical work on Bob Dylan, the Performing Artist series. In 1994, he began editing The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, which now numbers 12 volumes. I bring all this to your attention because of a February 9 article published in the San Diego CityBeat: "A beautiful mind," subtitled: "Paul Williams' family copes with the groundbreaking rock journalist's early-onset dementia." In 1995, Paul had a bicycle accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Though it was thought he had made a full recovery, doctors now believe the accident contributed to his illness. The article is a loving tribute to Paul from both his wife, musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, and his 8-year-old son Alexander.

  • And speaking of PKD: Though you may not have read this author's work, if you've been living in this world during the past 20 or so years, then undoubtedly you've become somewhat familiar with his work via the movies his stories have inspired (though not always the best interpretation of his writing, but what can I say): Blade Runner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall, and Next -- and that's not all of them, either. Italian publisher Fanucci Editore has published a collection of Philip K. Dick books, with covers by artist Antonello Silverini. The artist's blog showcases each cover, with the Italian as well as the English title of each book -- all 28 of them! Stunning, surreal, and thoroughly enjoyable just for the art itself, even if you're not a PKD fan. (via

  • Ah, the beauty and innocence of the young, or at least the young at heart. I will end this months "Links & Things" with this compilation of more than 100 early photographs of some of the most famous people in the world: Elvis, Madonna (also with her sibs and parents), Johnny Depp and Kate Moss, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Angelina Jolie with parents John Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, Sean Connery, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Page, the Beatles, Stanley Kubrick, Liza Minnelli and mother Judy Garland, Natalie Portman, Che Guevera, Charles Manson, and more -- even a baby picture of Adolf Hitler. Stunning photos. I'd like to know where/how the compiler of these photos found them all!

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