Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cutest Dalek ever? You decide.

Via Forbidden Planet UK.

Green Man Review: The Elizabeth Bear Edition

Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite writers. Green Man Review is one of my favorite online literary review 'zines. So then, could anything be better than an entire edition of Green Man Review devoted to the books of Elizabeth Bear? I think not. Enjoy!

Dear Blogger: Your linkbacks are broken all to hell.

Please to be fixing.

Thanks,

Me

Terry Pratchett is honored with knighthood. Ook!

Fantasy writer Terry Pratchett has been knighted (along with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant!) as a member of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his services to the world of literature. (Or as the Guardian UK put it, "a dubbing for for creating a flat world on top of a turtle.") BBC has more about the story here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ACLU steps into the Arkansas gay parent adoption fray.

Via long-time Swiveteer Jeff Richárd, a link to this welcome news: The ACLU has stepped into the recent gay parent adoption ban passed in Arkansas:
In the lawsuit filed today, the ACLU argues that Act 1 violates the federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Participating in the case are 29 adults and children from over a dozen different families, including a grandmother who lives with her same-sex partner of nine years and is the only relative able and willing to adopt her grandchild who is now in Arkansas state care, several married heterosexual couples who have relatives or friends disqualified by Act 1 who they want to adopt their children if they die, and a heterosexual woman who wants to be a foster or adoptive parent but can’t because she lives with her partner of five years. The complaint was filed this morning in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Read the whole story here.

Update: Cleo the Dog has been found and she's home safe!

So happy for Kim and Cleo!

If you live near Vancouver, BC, can you please help find this dog?

Writer Kim Werker's beautiful dog Cleo has run off, spooked by the sound of the avalanche-explosives. If you live near the Vancourver, BC area, can you please help her look for her dog?

Edit to add: Cleo has been found!!! She's home and safe!!!



"Rejection is not for sissies."

And speaking of Rachelle Gardner's wonderful blog (yes, we were - look down a couple of posts), she has a great post up today on how we as agents have to learn to deal with the reality of constantly having to reject people. (Let's put it this way: it's not fun.)

This bit of wisdom, from a conversation with her husband, is particularly relevant:
“And YOU don’t cause a writer to have a bad day, either. You’re just the messenger, delivering some hard truth."
Read the whole thing here.

Adventures in query disasters...

Via Fire Drill, I found this hilarious post by one of agent Jenny Rappaport's interns documenting what can only be called a query disaster.

People? Don't do this. Just don't. M'kay?

Temporary comment moderation on...

...to combat some aggressive spambots that seem to have targeted this blog. For the time being, all comments will be moderated. I'll turn it off when I think the spambots have gone away. But don't worry, I get through moderated comments pretty fast.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Get out the vote...for my pal Kelley Eskridge!

Okay, Swiveteers! You have a chance right now to do one last good deed for 2008 (and Lord knows we could all use the good karma this year!): As many of y'all know, writer Kelley Eskridge recently started a radically-different management consultant company called Humans At Work. One of the coolest things about Humans At Work is her Leader's Manifesto, a management teaching program that she gives away online entirely for free. (Yes, you heard that right - FREE!)

Well, Kelley has a chance to have her Leader's Manifesto distributed to a much wider audience, published as a professionally designed PDF file for free by an online organization that'll also help publicize and distribute it. Here's how you can help: The organization will publish the manifestos that get the most votes online. If you can spare five seconds of your time, click here and cast a quick vote for Kelley's manifesto. The Swivet thanks you and so does Kelley! Now, go vote!

Happy Boxing Day!

Also, happy first day of Kwanzaa. And, if you are of the Welsh persuasion, today would be Gwyl San Steffan, otherwise known as St. Stephen’s Day. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, in Wales of olden days, Gwyl San Steffan was celebrated very much like a messy BDSM play party:

Some activities that took place on this day seem peculiarly Welsh, including that of "holly-beating" or "holming." In this, it was customary for young men and boys to slash the unprotected arms of female domestic servants with holly branches until they bled. In some areas it was the legs that were beaten. In others, it was the custom for the last person to get out of bed in the morning to be beaten with sprigs of holly and made to carry out all the commands of his family.

Yeah. Um. So...okay, then! Really, really happy this particular holiday didn't carry forward into the 21st century.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Swivet would like to wish you all...

...a very happy Chrismahanakwanzakah-Solistice (or whatever ancient-myth-misappropriated-by-a-Judeo-Christian-tradition you choose to celebrate)!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why does winter seem to come as a surprise to travelers every year?

Okay, a teensy rant here: It's winter. Surprisingly, winter shows up very single year at the same time. (Astounding!) And with winter comes winter weather. Which means snow and ice. Snow and ice are not conducive to airplane travel (and, well, most other kinds of travel). Airports shut down.

Every single year in the history of air travel, airports have shut down during the holidays due to crap weather.


And yet, every single year, people get stranded at airports and behave as though this is the very first time that this has ever happened. I just watched a woman on the Today Show crying that she had been stranded at an airport for three days. Um, and??? What exactly did you expect?

People get stranded at airports every year in the winter. If you insist on traveling by air during the holidays - which, coincidentally, happen during the winter every single year!!! - you really need to deal with the consequences of your idiot decision like a grown-up.

Or maybe? STAY HOME NEXT TIME!

Grumble grumble grumble...not enough coffee in the morning to face whiny people on the Today Show...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I have absolutely awesome clients!

I have many vices: sleeping in, single malt scotch, extra-dark chocolate, and repeatedly watching pretty much any movie starring Kristanna Loken, no matter how dreadful it may be. But perhaps my single biggest vice is good coffee. Freshly-roasted and preferably whole bean. So I was thrilled to get to the office on Friday and discover that my awesome client Kelly Gay had sent me a pound of the absolute best coffee on the planet: Kaladi Brothers, an amazing coffee company located in Alaska. Thanks, Kelly! You rock!

I first learned about Kaladi Brothers by reading Dana Stabenow's wonderful Alaska-set Kate Shugak mystery novels. Then, when I was working at Del Rey, I had occasion to talk to a bookseller in Anchorage, Alaska, who assured me that not only was Kaladi Brothers real and - indeed - the best coffee on the planet, but that her roommate also worked there and would I like to try some? A week later, a pound of fresh Kaladi Brothers coffee beans arrived arrived in the Random House mailroom; the next morning an addiction was born. It really is the best coffee on the planet!

By the way, you now know the one thing that Sarah Palin and I have in common: our favorite coffee. Here's a pic of the almost-Vice President holding onto her Kaladi Brothers coffee cup:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Interesting Google searches that have led readers here:

Nothing amuses me more than seeing some of the keyword strings that lead people to this blog. I'd be curious to see if anyone out there who's landed here by accident later came back and became a regular reader. In any case, here are some of the more interesting keyword searches from this past week:
reaper's justice
hanukkah cartoon parisi
protein comics
baby got boobs
notable twitter feeds
mexican bobcat
tips on calling bobcats
neanderthal dna
naked gay therteen year olds (sic)
where the dear and the antelope play in a part of africa (again, sic)
one puppy three tales
the amazing bouncing rat
snore pillow

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kitten vs. Slide

Poets & Writers interviews agents Jeff Kleinman, Daniel Lazar, Julie Barer, and Renee Zuckerbrot.

Great feature in this month's Poets & Writers Magazine, interviewing four of my colleagues: Jeff Kleinman, Daniel Lazar, Julie Barer, and Renee Zuckerbrot. This is an absolute must-read; a long article but worth taking the time. A couple of good excerpts:
How else have things changed? Did everybody read that end-of-publishing article in New York magazine?

LAZAR: I read it and couldn't decide if I should buy up every issue I could get my hands on and throw them off the top of the HarperCollins building, or if I should throw myself off and make it faster. But I talked to Amy Berkower and Al Zuckerman and Robin Rue, who have been in this business for a lot longer than I have, and they all said, "We read that same article every single year."

BARER: People who are not in the business say that to me all the time. "Oh, isn't publishing dying?"

ZUCKERBROT: But the music industry is dead. Of all the media that's really dying or dead, it's music. Books are healthy compared to music. But when people talk about the Kindle and the Sony Reader? Books are pretty much a perfect technology. So all this stuff about how e-books are going to—

KLEINMAN: You freak! What are you talking about? These things [grabs a book] are Paleolithic!

ZUCKERBROT: It's portable. It lasts. If you want to read something, what's broken about it?

KLEINMAN: I don't want to read it there. I can't search that. It's heavy.

ZUCKERBROT: Are you serious?

KLEINMAN: I'm totally serious.

LAZAR: I agree with you, but I don't think the Kindle is the answer. It's going to be something that's not here yet.

ZUCKERBROT: Maybe in fifteen or twenty years.

LAZAR: But whatever the iPod of books is going to be, it's going to come sooner than we think. It's going to change things.

ZUCKERBROT: But does that change the fact that people don't read the way they go to the movies or the way they buy music? That's the question.

KLEINMAN: No, the point is that you simply have to make the device and the medium more interesting to people who do listen to music and go to the movies.

ZUCKERBROT: Don't you have to make the words on the page more interesting? Or is it a combination of the two?

LAZAR: Yeah, I think it's both.
and this...
Tell me ten things in the query process that can make you want to reject something immediately.

ZUCKERBROT: When I get an e-mail that says, "Dear Agent..." and I can see that I'm one of seventy agents who got it.

KLEINMAN: Bad punctuation, bad spelling, and passive voice.

BARER: Is it wrong of me to say that handwritten letters make me uncomfortable? Does that make me ageist?

LAZAR: Writers who will have a lawyer send you something "on their behalf." It's ridiculous, and you also can't get a sense of the author's voice, which is what the letter's all about.

ZUCKERBROT: When people talk about whom they would cast in the movie version of the book. I received three of those this week!

BARER: Anything that says something like, "This is going to be an enormous best-seller, and Oprah's going to love it, and it will make you millions of dollars."

KLEINMAN: Desperation is always good. "I've been living in a garage for the past sixty years. Nobody will publish my book. You have to help me."

BARER: I love it when they tell me why nobody else has taken it on—when they tell me why it's been so unsuccessful.

ZUCKERBROT: Or they've come close and they will include an explanation of who else has rejected it and why. "Julie Barer and Jeff Kleinman said..."

LAZAR: If they're writing a children's book, they'll often say, "My children love this book."

BARER: Right! I don't care if your children, your mother, or your spouse love it. All of that means nothing to me.

KLEINMAN: When it's totally the wrong genre. When they send me a mystery or a western or poetry or a screenplay.

BARER: Don't lie. Don't say, "I read Kevin Wilson's short story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and I loved it so much that I thought you'd be great for my book." Because guess what? That book isn't coming out until next April. You just read that I sold that book, and you suck. You're a liar! That kind of thing happens because everybody subscribes to Publishers Marketplace, and nothing against Publishers Marketplace—I live for it, it's a very useful tool for me—but I think for writers it perpetuates this hugely obsessive cycle of compare and despair.

Closed for the holidays! Heads up!

Just a brief heads up that FinePrint Literary Management will be closed from December 23rd through January 5th. And, while I'll probably be blogging here during that time, I'm officially taking a holiday break from reading queries, partials and fulls as well. Mostly I just look forward to reading actual books. (Ya know, the kind that have been already published.) I've got an enormous pile of books that want reading; as soon as I sort out which order I'll be reading them in, I'll post a list here of my holiday reading. (Among them will absolutely be The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange by Mark Barrowcliffe, published by the wonderful indie publisher Soho Press.)

So, if you're planning to send me a query sometime soon, you may want to wait until after January 5th.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guest blogger Courtney Summers on building a working relationship with your editor.

Thinking up topics for guestblogs is hard. Especially when you insist on tying everything back to Jeff Probst*. Anyway, you know who is awesome? ~*Colleen*~. Because she suggested the topic for this one just out of the blue and I was like YESSS on the inside because she saved me at least thirty hours of mulling... though it did take me like, a bajillion hours to to type this. I'm always so fashionably late with these guestblogs, you guys. It's a fashionable crime. But enough of that! Gather round, Swiveteers, for today we are going to talk about building a working relationship with your editor.

The day my agent called to tell me St. Martin's made an offer on Cracked Up to Be isn't one I'll soon forget. One of the most vivid parts of that exciting memory is when Amy started telling me about the person behind the offer--"Her name is Sara..."--and a little voice inside me went, Sara could be your editor. Editor! That's a big, six letter word for a writer. Until that day, I'd only ever read about people who had editors and now I was going to become a person who had one.

What.

My brain snapped. I was as nervous as I was excited (extremely so) and I wanted to make sure Sara's belief in me and my novel--and as Lou Anders pointed out, that's truly where the editor/author relationship begins--was well placed.

Building a working relationship with your editor takes time and effort. The year I've spent working with mine on Cracked Up to Be has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I've had--and continue to have--a totally awesome time being her author.

Each author/editor relationship is unique. Sometimes they can be the stuff of nightmares, sometimes they can be the stuff of Disney fairytales, but here is a fact: getting a book ready for publication is hard work for everyone involved. Here is another fact: having a functional relationship with your editor definitely makes it way less hard. It makes it fun! Awesome, even!

Now, I don't know if I'll ever feel totally qualified to give advice on uhm, anything, but if you're in the process of building a relationship with your editor--or you want to be prepared for when that time comes (and it will!)--I humbly share with you these tips based on my experiences and hope they help you with your own.

~*Trust is the foundation of any relationship.*~

The first thing to remember is your editor wants what you want: for your book to be the BEST it can be. They might have different ideas than you do for how to go about doing that--ideas you've never even considered, have maybe considered, or ideas you might not want to consider--but unless your editor is Corinne from this past season of Survivor (can you believe what she said to Sugar at the final Tribal Council?! MEAN!), these ideas do not come from a malicious place, I promise.

The next is that you have a voice. Don't be afraid to use it--your editor wants to hear it. One of my earliest worries after I accepted the offer from SMP and before I talked to my editor for the first time was that I wouldn't have the freedom to say 'no' to anything, lest I become labeled a Problem Author Nobody Ever Wanted to Work with Again. So I prepared to say yes. To everything. Seriously, I was one trip away from the hair dye aisle to being hottest Stepford Author on THE BLOCK, y'all.

... And what a boring and uninspired experience that would've been, if my editor had let me get away with it. Which she didn't. Because she's a rockstar.

See, the lovely thing about writing is all the possibility words hold and it's all that possibility that has me writing in the first place. There can be so many different paths to get to one resolution and your editor wants to explore as many as they can with you until you find the perfect one for your story. So don't be afraid to be engaged. The editorial process, while intimidating, is a dialogue--a back-and-forth--and not to get all Cosmo on you guys, but Communication is Key. Talk it out.

(On the flipside, while you do have a voice--please don't yell at your editor with it. And please remember all the possibilities of words when you are convinced not one of yours can be changed. Tip number whatever this one is: never go into the editorial process believing you won't be edited. Nobody's that good. Not even Jeff Probst. And he's amazing.)

I shouldn't even have to say this one, but: editors are people. Offer them the same courtesies--both professional and personal--that you expect to be extended to you.

And finally, the most important advice I can give you: listen. The fabulous(ly sexy) Alan Rickman once said something fabulous(ly sexy). He said, "All I want to see from an actor, to me, is the intensity and accuracy of their listening."

Sexyface was obviously talking about acting and how much of an actor's response is defined by how well they listen to their fellow actors. The believability of their response, the room to experiment, to interpret, to make a character and a scene really ~*sparkle*~ alive depended entirely on how well they were listening. This is so relevant to the editor/author relationship, it makes Alan Rickman even more sexy than he already is (Oh, Alan! Marry me! But don't tell Jeff!). So listen. Listen to your editor because, as my dear Alan goes on to say, you can then, "work on it and shape it and talk about it."

And really, ain't that what building a working relationship with your editor is all about?

And the answer to that question is 'yes', just in case I didn't write this good... Sara dosn't edit these blgopsots, so its entirly p ossible!1;...

* Sugar was robbed!

In lieu of actual content I bring you...

BABY SEA OTTER! Because I think this is about all the serious I can handle today. Enjoy! (Via Otterdance.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

James Frey to write "third book of the Bible".

No, that's not a headline from The Onion. According to the Guardian UK, James Frey's next adventure into not-memoir will be a fictitious third book of the Bible.

Alrighty, then.

Paperback or Hardcover? How a publisher makes the decision.

I somehow missed this excellent piece by my friend Moonrat over at Editorial Ass. Moonrat (see how I cleverly avoid the use of a gender pronoun right there?) discusses the editorial and publisher decisions that go behind determining whether a book will debut in paperback or hardcover, and why.

One of many things that Moonrat addresses is the myth that a paperback book doesn't get review coverage, therefore a paperback debut is doomed to failure. As a publicist who for years gleefully smashed this ridiculous notion by getting major review attention for writers like China Mieville, Richard K. Morgan, Alex Irvine, Elizabeth Moon (her Speed of Dark was a paperback original, unlike her hardcover space operas; Elizabeth Hand reviewed it on the front page of the Washington Post Book World) and more - all of whom were published as paperback originals at Del Rey - I was thrilled to see this. It continues to baffle me that people in the industry who really should know better - agents, editors, publishers, publicists, marketing folks and authors - still adhere to and perpetuate the very 1977*-notion that a book must debut in hardcover or it will be an abject failure.**

In fact, forcing a new author to debut in hardcover - particularly a new novelist - is often the fastest way to drive that author into obscurity permanently, because low hardcover sales will set the sales model for the sales estimates of the next book, even if the next book is a paperback original, thus ensuring that fewer copies are ordered. (Moonratty goes over the concept of modeling in-depth in the essay.)

Anyway, go read the essay now.

*In 1977, Del Rey published Terry Brooks' debut novel The Sword of Shannara as an oversized trade paperback, with illustrations by the Bros. Hildebrandt. It became the first ever trade paperback work of fiction to hit the New York Times bestseller list. However, Lester Del Rey was told repeatedly that the book would not be reviewed unless it was in hardcover; to combat this, Del Rey published a miniscule number of hardcovers to send to reviewers. His strategy worked and The Sword of Shannara was reviewed by Frank Herbert in the New York Times Book Review. (If you can find one of those rare hardcover editions of TSOS, by the way, they are probably worth a fortune.)

**This is tied into that other great publishing myth: Reviews sell books. They don't.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book sales may be down, but genre book sales are up.

Via Cheryl Morgan, a link to this post by Paula Guran where she analyzes genre book sales, comparing this year's sales to last year's, coming up with some numbers that may surprise you.

New discovery: Copyeditors group blog Blood Red Pencil

Bookmark this blog. Good stuff.

New Publishers Marketplace book industry headlines "Automat"

For those of you who are still looking for another reason to justify spending $20 a month on a subscription to Michael Cader's most excellent Publishers Marketplace, here's another: PM is now testing a beta version of a book industry news headline aggregator called The Automat. It pulls up book and publishing industry news from hundreds of sources, including blogs, RSS feeds and newspapers, and compiles them nicely on one easy-to-navigate page. I'm finding it wonderfully useful so far.

"If Twilight was 10 times shorter and 100 times more honest..."

I posted this on Twitter yesterday but forgot to add it here. Seriously funny!

Has Google's settlement with the AAP hurt libraries?

Thoughtful op-ed by Library Journal EIC Francine Fialkoff on how the recent Google settlement with the American Association of Publishers may actually impact libraries:
Clearly, the public had little standing in the negotiations that led to the recent agreement in the class-action lawsuit against Google for scanning books from library shelves. An author friend, a strong advocate of public libraries though not a current user of them, naïvely wondered how could this happen. Well, the suit was never about the public interest but about corporate interests, and librarians did not have much power at the bargaining table, no matter how hard those consulted pushed. While there are many provisions in the document that specify what libraries can and can't do and portend greater access, ultimately, it is the restrictions that scream out at us from the miasma of details.

Even the libraries that were initial partners (or those that become partners) in the Google scan plan don't fare well. They get a single digital copy of each book from their collection—mind you, they've paid for these books already—and can print a replacement copy only if a new copy isn't available at a “fair price.” They can allow faculty and students to “read, print, download, or otherwise use five pages of any book in its LDC” (library digital copy set) for books “not commercially available,” but they can't use the LDC for interlibrary loan or e-reserves. There are all kinds of potentially costly, nightmarish administrative minutiae, including a security plan and annual audits of usage and security.
Read the entire piece here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ballantine senior editor Mark Tavani shares his thoughts on the state of book publishing today.

My former colleague Mark Tavani, a senior editor at Ballantine Books (where he edits - among others - the wonderful Charlie Huston!) guest blogged over at writer Laura Benedict's blog where he shares his thoughts about the state of book publishing today. He uses a brilliant analogy to illustrate the way that changes in the book business tend to generate hysteria in ways that major changes in other industries don't:
A few months back I read about how Starbucks was shutting down a few thousand locations. I can say I didn’t notice anyone freaking out and running around, screaming about how coffee was going out of fashion. That’s because coffee’s fine, as we all know. People love coffee, and coffee will almost certainly be around for a long time. But the industry had outgrown itself…plus, they were charging something like twelve frickin’ dollars for a grande whatchamahoozit…. But I digress...

Maybe fewer books get published. Maybe some publishing folks have to look elsewhere for a paycheck. I don’t say those things lightly, because I love those books, and I’m one of those publishing folks, and I have a lot of friends in the industry. But on the bright side, maybe fewer books will mean better books. Maybe, over time, books will regain an elite status that I sense they once had. Maybe, in the end, books won’t qualify precisely as mass entertainment, but entertainment for a sizable if select audience.

At any rate, I think that’s a story I could stand to hear told.
It's a great essay and you should absolutely go read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Guest blogger Max Leone: Seven holiday book recommendations for the teenage boy in your life.

(I'm posting the following for Max)

The holiday shopping season has started again, and if you are the parent or relative of a teenager, you are most likely desperately wishing you knew what to get them, desperately wishing they wanted something different than what they asked for, or you lost your home and live in a cardboard box in a back alley. If it’s one of the first two, you most likely wish that you could interest your son in anything composed mainly of ink and paper, in the belief that it will magically expand his mind and lead him to fame, power, and harems of supermodels.

In response, I have composed a list of seven books that would make great gifts for the teenager in your life. Since getting a teenager to read anything you recommend is similar in difficulty to melting a glacier with a hair dryer, I have not only explained why each book would make a good gift, I also note how unlikely the book is to be used in an English class, on a scale of one to five elbow patches, with one being “would use it if desperate” and five being “has burned it and written impassioned essays on how it is corrupting our youth”.

Books are listed from awesome to life-changing in order.

Disclaimer: These books may contain swearing, violence, sexual situations, political commentary, jabs at religion, humor, content, dancing, card games, bright colors, etc.
Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide To Hoaxes And Other B.S. by Alex Boese: This book is one of those things that is exactly what it says on the cover, but that short subtitle doesn’t do it justice. It has a vast amount of information on subjects as diverse as Bonsai Kittens, Emperor Norton, and Ghosts in Jars. Will be re-read many times, likely because some of the information is so weird, it may take multiple tries to get your subconscious to believe it.
  • Rating -- 4 Elbow Patches: It’s non-fiction, which disqualifies it from English class, but this rating applies to other classes as well. After all, examinations of human strangeness are nowhere near as important as things like calculus and Mesopotamian history, which will undoubtedly come in handy hundreds of times throughout life.
SMARTBOMB: The QUEST for ART, ENTERTAINMENT, and BIG BUCKS in the VIDEOGAME REVOLUTION by HEATHER CHAPLIN and AARON RUBY (Copied more or less word-for-word from the book cover. It looked much less ridiculous there): Though the title alone makes it illegal to bring this book onto an airplane nowadays, it is another book that will be re-read countless times, as proved by my copy looking like a walrus sat on it. For several hours. Anyway, it features great information on the history of videogames. Recommended for gamers and non-gamers alike.
  • Rating- 2 Elbow Patches: Videogames are a major new entertainment medium, and this book is one of the most informative works written on them. Sounds perfect for a class, right? Unfortunately, there are still many teachers who are unaware that this industry has expanded beyond Pong. Any mention of them at a faculty meeting is guaranteed to garner at least one “harrumph”.
The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks: If your teenager chooses to read this book, then this blog post may be the last they read, on account of their move to a cave in the Himalayas to avoid the security cameras that follow you everywhere. A great, thrilling novel, but as I mentioned, the story about ancient conspiracies and surveillance techniques will make you very paranoid. Another non-airplane read, due to the scanners that monitor your carry-on bags for subversive material (which I really hope I made up).
  • Rating- 1 Elbow Patch: Only the fact that it was published in the last decade keeps it off reading lists, but still great. Will likely degrade to a zero rating, assuming the vast government conspiracy does not take over first.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata: Let’s get this out of the way. Death Note is a twelve volume manga series. With that said, I believe that it deserves a spot on this list. An engrossing story about a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. Great characters and plot, and so suspenseful, after the first volume your son/daughter probably need medication while waiting for the next bookstore visit.
  • Rating- 6 Elbow Patches: There comes a time in every man’s life when he must break the scale he has made. And for me, that time is now. Death Note is a graphic novel series. The average professor would likely handle it with tongs and a face mask.
THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE by JOHN HODGMAN (another case of Smartbomb syndrome. Also, the subtitle would likely take up most of this page, so I have opted to omit it): This immensely bizarre book is a definite masterpiece that can be enjoyed be almost anyone. It is a collection of fake trivia and history (including 800 hobo names), delivered in such perfect literary deadpan you often wonder if the author actually believes it. Recommended as a gift for everyone, except possibly gerbils.
  • Rating- 5 Elbow Patches: I could go on about how even I can’t think of any possible reason to use this book in a classroom besides as a doorstop, but there is one major reason why it would never make it. It contains not only HUMOR, but humor that is ACTUALLY FUNNY. In fifty years it will get over this roadblock as humor grows and mutates, and then some lucky teacher will have a great doorstop.
GOOD OMENS (sadly, Microsoft Word cannot produce the many pointed tails and halos that adorn the cover) by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: This novel is the main cause of my “jabs at religion” disclaimer. In fact, it’s a full-on satire of religion, the apocalypse, and other things humans have invented to keep themselves from laughing. The like the book above, generally great for anyone.
  • Rating- 2-5 Elbow Patches, depending on individual teacher’s religiousness: Suffers the curse of humor, but may win the hearts of some teachers with its overall awesomeness. In the case of the very religious, let me just say that some of my descriptions of these ratings are exaggerations. The part about book burning is probably not.
Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett: In this list, I limited myself to one book per series. Had I not, the whole thing would be filled completely with Discworld books and would likely be significantly longer. This is the best Discworld novel I’ve read so far, as well as one of the best books I have ever read, and possibly ever will read. The average teenager has probably read dozens of stories about dragons now, but that will only make this book even better. It is ridiculously funny, deep, and is a great introduction to the series. Whatever other books on this list you buy, make sure to buy this one.
  • Rating- 1 Elbow Patch: It may be funny, but it’s also quite profound and demonstrates what literature is capable of as a medium. I could honestly see an English teacher using this book. And he will have one of the world’s luckiest classes.

Introducing guest blogger Max Leone, thirteen-year-old boy and voracious reader.

A new guest blogger at The Swivet!

Some of you may remember Max Leone, the thirteen-year-old boy from North Jersey who wrote to Publishers Weekly back in November to set folks straight on what exactly it is that a teenage boy likes to read. It was a wonderfully funny - and smart! - letter, so much so that some people questioned whether a thirteen-year-old could actually have written it. At the time, I mentioned in a comment thread that I'd be happy to have Max as a guest blogger here if he wanted to go into more depth about how to get teenage boys to read.

About a week later, I received the following email:
Colleen-

My son, who's enjoying his little whirl of cyber-attention immensely (and can't believe he hasn't been flamed once yet) would like to take you up on your offer to write now and then about books on your blog. He asked me to find out what the parameters are: how long can he write, what should he cover (or avoid), and so forth. As for me, I'm just happy when he spends time on something other than playing World of Warcraft or watching reruns of Japanese reality tv shows.
I was thrilled and - after a little back and forth with Meg (Max's mom), setting some ground rules (like making sure that mom was cc'd on all our correspondence), Max was ready to start blogging.

I asked Max to write a bio for himself. Here's what he came up with:
Max Leone is currently a teenager. He is being stalked by abandoned houses. Things he has eaten include glue, Ben Gay, and paella. His current projects include staring at pictures of dogs and wondering what “convivial” means. He lives in New Jersey with an assortment of reptiles, amphibians, and humans. He cannot wait to discover what new and exciting psychological problems will arise from writing about himself in the third person.
Max's mom assures me that most of the first three sentences are true, and that Max currently lives with two lizards and a frog. Additionally, Max is a huge fan of Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show.

Anyway, please welcome Max to The Swivet!

Kelly Gay on finally signing your first contract...

Yikes! I'm behind schedule in posting this. I spent the day running around to appointments and moving office furniture around at the agency and catching up with colleagues at the Random House building. Which means, of course, that I haven't been anywhere near my computer all day.

Anyway..

My wonderful client Kelly Gay, author of the forthcoming urban fantasy The Better Part of Darkness (Pocket, Summer 2009) is guest-blogging over at Tia Nevitt's Fantasy Debut, talking about how it feels when you finally sign your first contract. She's also taking questions, so feel free to hit her up in the comments section.

Monday, December 8, 2008

If you really want to learn more about the publishing industry...

...then I suggest starting with the late Olivia Goldsmith's 1996 romantic satire entitled (ironically) The Bestseller. It's biting and snarky and tongue-in-cheek and dark and irreverent and hilarious and utterly engrossing and - in more ways than I can possibly count - spot on in its portrayal of an industry that was - even in 1996 - still being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century. (We're all still working on getting it into the 21st; be gentle!)

The book is long out of print, but you can easily find a used copy online.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A brief history of the tramp-stamp (and other hilarious similarities) on urban fantasy covers.

Gakked from Kameron Hurley. This is brilliant!

The 21st Annual Indie & Small Press Book Fair

While big corporate trade publishing may have suffered a temporary collective brain fart these past couple of weeks, there's another segment of publishing that is thriving: small and independent presses.

Some of the best new writers - especially in fiction - come out of these great alternative publishers, publishers like Small Beer Press, Soft Skull Press, Manic D, Soho Press, Akashic Books, and others.

This weekend you can meet some of the people behind more than one hundred of these small, innovative publishers (and buy some great books while you're at it!) at the 21st Annual Indie & Small Press Book Fair. It runs all weekend at the New York Center for Independent Publishing, located at 20 W. 44th Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues.

So instead of sitting around at home and bemoaning the Great Publishing Meltdown of 2008, why don't you go out and explore a segment of the publishing industry that seems to be doing something right? (And pick up some awesome gifts while you're at it!)

** Oh, and if you see me, say hi! I'll be the fat dyke with glasses wearing a bright orange hoody and a black pea coat, looking perpetually cranky. (I'm not; I just look that way.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Help an independent publisher keep her home!
Vera Nazarian needs your help!

My colleague Vera Nazarian, publisher of Norilana Books and herself a genre writer, has been hit hard by this recession as well as a series of unforseen family crises, and she is now in imminent danger of losing her home.

If you can donate some money or offer up goods or services for auction, please do. Click here for more information. And please repost this on your own writing blogs and journals.

Remember that the SF/F writing community will only survive as a community if we behave as a community.

They like me! They really like me!

Authoress Anonymous just informed me that my status at Preditors and Editors has been upgraded to the coveted (and bright pink) "recommended".

* blush *

Thanks, guys!

Guest blogger Lou Anders on The Author/Editor Relationship

"Where's my check?" was probably not the most tactful response to my effusive welcoming email, an email praising a new author's magnificent manuscript and their powerful storytelling skills, and enumerating all the many reasons I was thrilled to add them to the Pyr roster. Checks are notoriously late in this business, but in this case, the signed contracts back from the author hadn't even reached me in the post; I'm not even sure they were signed as we'd just made a verbal agreement with the agent that morning.

Uh oh
, I thought, this doesn't bode well for the author/editor relationship.

And it is a relationship.

My wife is always ribbing me that I just work with my friends, and that's true to a large extent, but - BUT - as I remind her, they were all business colleagues first and friends second. I'd asked illustrator John Picacio to do the cover of my first anthology within about five minutes of meeting him, and it was only later that he revolved into one of my best friends. Chris Roberson says we hit it off at the 2001 World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, but he doesn't track bright on my radar until he delivered the astoundingly-brilliant "O One" for my anthology, Live Without a Net. (The story is online at that link in its title - check it out.)

Publishing, like the film industry I worked in previously, is a business of friends. Sure, there's jealousies, back-biting, rivalries, hurt feelings, egos, crazy folk, etc... but for the most part, you work with people you really enjoy working with, because if you are going to spend a year or more enmeshed in someone else's imagination, it's a whole lot nicer for both of you if you can get along with them as people too.

It's nice for the authors as well. While some of them grouse about their editors (sometimes you get the impression that's almost a stock response with some writers - though none of mine of course), editors are the middlemen (or middlewomen) between authors and publishers. They aren't just there to hack and slash the heart out of your manuscript. An editor is also said manuscript's chief advocate inside the publishing house.

My parent company, Prometheus Books, produces about 100 books a year, roughly 29 of which are Pyr titles. There is no way that publicity, sales & marketing, the art department, and all the scores of individuals from the various departments that will work on creating, editing, shaping, packaging, producing, and promoting the novel can read every book. So it's the editor who advises publicity on how best to pitch a work, or what campaigns to include it in. It's the editor who coaches sales on how best to pitch the novel to buyers. It's the editor who briefs the art department on what the novel is about.

It's easy for an individual book to get lost amid the whole list - your editor is the book's primary champion in-house, keeping the rest of the (often quite large) team excited about it, and making sure it doesn't drop of the radar.

There's a reason why authors follow editors when the latter change jobs, and why conversations with your editor about sporting events, comic books, TV shows, and the price of tea in China are all classified as "working conversations". The editor is your editor because he/she loves your book and picked it out of the hundreds (thousands!) of other manuscript, pitches and proposals that crossed his or her desk(top) in any given year. Building a relationship with an editor starts with realizing this.

Publishing houses can be large, intimidating entities; they switch your book in the schedule for nebulous reasons, market - or fail to market it - in weird ways, stick a cover on your masterpiece that utterly betrays its content. But your editor is your friend in this, the insider with one foot out the door, who's there because he/she thinks you are a genius. How can you not get along with someone that thinks that of you?

[Now, don't worry, I totally get what you are going for here, but can you trim this by 20 percent, add a sex scene, and make the hero a heroine? Thanks, friend. Do that and we're gold.]

Cleis Press call for story submissions from married same-sex couples

A letter from Brenda Knight, Associate Publisher of Cleis Press:
We at Cleis Press want to take positive action to raise awareness in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8. To that end, we are publishing a book (and quickly!) entitled My Gay Marriage, for which the mission is to educate and inspire readers about this basic civil right. Our book will show many wonderful and moving examples of committed couples and enduring same-sex spouses and families.

Our aim is to send a powerful message to the public about this "movement based on love," and to further galvanize what we see as the chief civil rights movement today. The proceeds from My Gay Marriage will go to like-minded organizations, such as www.MarriageEquality.org.

We greatly appreciate your time and consideration of this. We see you as an important voice for this cause and would welcome your participation of the story of your relationship. We are requesting your essay be between 3000 and 5000 words. Again, many thanks, and we hope to hear from you soon!

Many thanks,

Brenda Knight
Associate Publisher
Cleis Press & Viva Editions
bKnight@cleispress.com

Please email Brenda directly with your submissions.

Best resignation letter ever.

(Click to make bigger.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest blogger Courtney Summers on being true to your story and not short-changing the reader.

I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to weigh in on my last guestblog. Y'all made that discussion good times, folks. Good times. Especially Jeff. Or "my Jeff", as I like to call him.

Anyway, I loved hearing what everyone had to say. Your opinions were quite ~*sparkly*~ and I'm not the least bit surprised because if Swivet readers are anything, they are generally this. Many interesting points, comments and questions were raised surrounding the myths I listed. How do you write for teens when you (potentially) have to answer to their parents? Do new YA authors reduce their chances of getting published/read if they take these kind of risks? Is it better to play it 'safe' as a YA author?

As I stressed in comments, the overall point of the blog entry was not to encourage YA authors to write a certain way, but to let them know they shouldn't let certain misconceptions about the genre inhibit their writing and to, above all, be true to the story they want to tell. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that's my answer to all three of the questions above. Be true to the story you want to tell, no matter what that story is, because you can't please everyone. Really. It's impossible. The minute you start trying to, the computer you type your novels on will EXPLODE! I know this from experience. I have the scars to prove it (oww, my face!).

One of the easiest ways to paralyze yourself as a writer is to anticipate all the people you might offend. Adjusting yer words in hopes of preventing this will compromise your work and short-change your readers, and I can guarantee you this: teenage readers know when you're short-changing them. Whether you're inserting a swear word because you think it's what they want to read, or leaving one out because you're afraid of crossing that line for fear of negative response from their parental units -- they can smell it.

Yes, that's right. Short-changing your readers will make you smell.

Truefax: getting published is hard. It's also true that risky, gritty material might present its own set of challenges on your path to publication, and your path post-publication, but you know what? G-rated writers don't have it any easier. On more than one occasion, I've heard writers worry they aren't edgy enough for the market and this keeps them from breaking in, or worse, it will leave them overlooked by their key demographic. It goes both ways. So what exactly is a poor author to do?

Say it with me now... be truuuuuee.... to the storrrryyy....

In closing, I leave with you this: when the first two chapters of Cracked Up to Be went live on the Internets, one of the very first comments (and not the last like it, I'm sure) was, "I would never buy that book for my son nor would I suggest he read it. Never. Sorry."

But you know what? That's okay, because at least I don't smell.

And if I do, well, it was always important to me that I smelled on my own terms. In staying true to the story I wanted to tell, I like to think I've accomplished this. And if we've learned anything from the Twilight series, HOW you smell makes all the difference in the world.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gots me a date with Edward Cullen.

(Don't wait up, Jeff!)

~*fin*~

Major restructuring at Random House, Inc.

And one week after Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's publishing identity crisis, in what will surely come to be known as The Year that Publishing Pooped Messily All Over Itself, news comes down from Random House, Inc. about a major (MAJOR!) restructuring. From Marcus Dohle's memo (which is published in full at The Observer):
The Random House Publishing Group, under the leadership of President and Publisher Gina Centrello, will expand to include the imprints of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, including The Dial Press, along with Doubleday’s Spiegel & Grau.

The Knopf Publishing Group, led by Chairman Sonny Mehta, will expand to include the Doubleday and Nan A. Talese imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group.

The Crown Publishing Group, under the direction of President and Publisher Jenny Frost, will expand to include the other imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group—Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and WaterBrook Multnomah.
Bantam Dell head Irwyn Applebaum has resigned, and Doubleday Broadway head Steve Rubin will step down, although he'll eventually find a new place within the Random House corporate structure.

Okay, I'm going to channel my inner Douglas Adams and say this loud and clear for all of you, one more time:

DON'T PANIC!!!

Random House went through this once before, nearly ten years ago, when they were purchased by Bertelsmann and merged with Bantam Doubleday Dell. They went through it again six years ago when Little Random merged with Ballantine. Miraculously, everyone lived. (Although some lived without their jobs, unfortunately.)

Things will be confusing for a while, yes, but publishing will not implode, explode or fall apart utterly. It's merely evolving, as all businesses do.

And, more importanty, the sky continues not to fall.

Proposition 8: The Musical! starring Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black, Allison Janney and a buncha other liberal actor types...

(gakked from David J, Schwartz. Thanks, man!)

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die