Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thursday September 9 7pm

An event you do NOT want to miss:

RiverRun books in Portsmouth NH (just an hour north of Boston) hosts the incredibly talented Jess Walter, author of THE ZERO, and CITIZEN VINCE. His new novel is called THE FINANCIAL LIVES OF POETS and if I was more organized, I'd have it in my hot little hand instead of on order.

Also on the program is some debut author dude. Ferrell something, Sean I think. The novel just "sucked..." You might want to read it and see if you agree.

"A fantastic read from start to finish"

Have you overlooked THE BREACH?

John DeNardo at SF Signal did but when he did read it, well, you can read what he said right here.

Further cracking up via Jeff Somers

No, no, no.

"This is a fictional memoir."

noooo no no.

For starters, publishers are a trifle leery these days of "fiction" and "memoir" appearing in the same sentence. Frey-tened you might say.

Second, if it's fiction, and thinly disguised, you can STILL get sued, and LOSE. Anybody can sue about anything, but until last year, we all comforted ourselves that the disclaimer "this is a novel, I made it all up" would protect us.

After the court case in Hall County, Georgia, that changed.

So, no "fictional memoirs" and no "thinly disguised roman a clefs" As a novelist you always got to make stuff up; now you really have to.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Birthday Who?? Writing Contest

There's a very delightful friend having a birthday today Monday, September 6

In her honor, let's have the last writing contest of summer!

I'm not sure what the prize will be but we'll think of something delicious!

Usual rules: Tell me a story in 100 words or fewer. If you identify the birthday celebrant by name, so much the better.

Use these words in the story:


Contest opens now and runs till 11:59pm. 24 hours start to finish. All times are Eastern Shark Time.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

I love it when the clients get clever!

Tonight on twitter is was business as usual: biting wit, some discussion of The Wire, SundaySoup, and welcoming Kathleen Ortiz back from Florida.

Then here came Kari Dell. You will remember her as the author of the hilarious blog Montana for Real. She tweeted this:

For your Sunday afternoon amusement, the next four or five tweets shall comprise the best shark joke ever, in honor of You Know Who. (that would be me)
Father and son sharks come upon a bunch of shipwreck survivors thrashing around in the water. Father says, "Follow my lead."
"First, swim a bunch of circles around them with just your fin showing."
They did.
The people thrashed harder and screamed a lot.
Then the father said, "Okay, now we can eat them."
And they did.
Afterward, the son said, "Why did we have to swim circles around them?"

"Because they taste better without all the crap inside."

Well, of course I thought that was the funniest thing I'd seen since someone chastised me for responding to an email query sent to me with the wrong agent's name on it.

And now here's Kari's final tweet, and the real punchline:
I've gotta say it: Now we know why you circle the lobby 5 times before settling in to take conference pitches. #waitstodie

I'm still laughing.

Of course there's only one thing to say now: Alaska Here I Come!

Get yourself a good SDT

The Shark Delay Team has five members. They rotate duty schedules so someone is always on call.

The call looks something like this:

SHARK: Oh my F/ing G/ing D/ing H/ing Hornswoggle Hootenanny! Did you see THIS! Can you believe THAT! Oh MY GARAMOND. I must set them straight! Here's the text of my reply (email drenched in gasoline proffered)

SDT#1: (reading text) Egad! My eyeballs are on fire!

SHARK: I'm amazingly cogent when I'm furious aren't I?

SDT #2: Step away from the keyboard, Shark. Here, let's play some nice Bach. Light a candle, not a blowtorch. Would you like a cupcake?

SHARK: Are you daft? Didn't you see this? Read this, I added a new pithy phrase and snide point (waving flame singed email text)!

SDT #1: (wiping soot from eyes) Sit down SharkForBrains. Do. Not. Hit. Reply.

SHARK: What? I must reply! The fate of the free world, not to mention my ego, depends on my personal one and only refudiation of this malicious and totally stupid blog post. I Must Reply or..or Die! (grand theatrical leap out of the water, splashing noises and shrieks of terrified swimmers)

SDT#2: Have you picked the hymns? Called the priest for last rites? Because I will murder you myself if you touch that keyboard. AND I will take all your scotch.

SHARK: oh. Hmmm. (pause for conniving thoughts)

SDT#1: No. You cannot connive your way past us. We have the liquor cabinet key.

SHARK: (whimpering noises)

SDT#2 (comforting tone): Put it aside. You can always send it later.

~~Later arrives~~

SHARKFORBRAINS: oof. That was really not a good idea. Thank goodness yet again for the Shark Delay Team. Saved!

I mention this to you, who perhaps do not come unglued quite so readily, because now that query season has reopened I'm hearing back from people who aren't happy that I respond with a form letter, or respond too soon.

Quick reminder: the only reply to a rejection letter is either "thank you" or silence. No other option.

I need trusted friends to talk me off the Reply ledge periodically. You might too.

The reason is *Not* a mystery!

Yes indeed EVEN by Andrew Grant is on the bestseller list at Seattle Mystery Bookstore!

It's not a mystery about why:

"Think a young, British, Jason Bourne framed and trapped in New York City and running for his life. Think about a new author on the scene who writes action like a veteran. Think about trying to put this book down, and then clear your calendar: it ain't going to happen."

—Ridley Pearson

Gimme back my money!

Not a phrase any author wants to hear, let alone his agent but honestly...yowza!

A marker of how things have changed in publishing

One of the veterans of publishing, Larry Ashmead, has died. His obituary in the New York Times notes without comment that:

Early in his career, Mr. Ashmead ran ads in a local newspapers announcing that he was coming to town to hear book ideas. That openness to ideas extended to junior employees at Harper who thought they had written masterpieces — a type of writer not exactly popular with editors.

But he finally read Kate Morgenroth’s psychological thriller about a mass murder in a retirement home, partly because she had baked brownies for the office. The novel, “Kill Me First,” was published in 1999, received good reviews and was followed by more books.

Can you imagine an editor running ads in a local paper to hear book ideas now? The very thought sends me (and most likely them) under the desk quivering and sobbing.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Required reading

Laura Lippman. If she's not on your must-read list, put her on it. Now.

The first books are the Tess Monaghan series, which is good. Then there are the stand-alones, which I think will be considered classics.

The latest is I'D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE. I just finished reading it and I'm in awe.

I've yammered for years about Ken Follet and THE KEY TO REBECCA and THE EYE OF NEEDLE. What knocked my sox off with those books is how Follet changes how we feel about characters so deftly we only realize it later. The character we think is the hero in KEY TO REBECCA, the first character we see, isn't. Only later, much later, do we realize that.

What Laura Lippman does is more nuanced: she makes us wonder about the characters. We think Eliza is one thing, then we start wondering if maybe she's something else. Walter is the bad guy... right? This sense of wanting to find out about the characters kept me turning pages. And because Laura Lippman is a brilliant writer I not only found out, I was surprised by the ending and not disappointed at what I found out.

I think this book should be required reading for every writer.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Be Confident: Let your writing do the talking

What are you?

Multipley published?
Award winning?
Cantankerously represented?


You're a writer. Even if your books have not been published. Or if they have. Or if there is more than one. You may have won an award (congrats!). You may be agented, not-agented, soon-to-be-separated from the agent from Hell.

But: you're a writer.

That's all you need to tell me, and you don't need to tell me even that. Let your writing show me you're a talented and amazing writer. Show me. Don't tell me.

I'm cantankerous, sardonic and perpetually annoyed enough at this stage of my career that I don't believe anything anyone tells me.

"I was nominated for an Edgar" means I look up the Edgar list for that year.

"I have been published before" means I look you up on Amazon.

"My agent slithers" means I call up Barbara Poelle and ask why she's letting you go.

All you need to do is tell me about a novel I want to read. And I'll read it. Have confidence enough to let your writing speak for itself. You're a writer. I'm a reader. That's all we know, and all we need to know (sorry Keats, couldn't resist.)

What rhymes with lunatic?

Some days ago I made an off-hand reference to a poem by Yeats. The ever-clever, and highly utilitarian Meredith-the-Godsend gave me a quizzical look. (I am used to those by now; they come most often when I talk to myself in the office a bit too loudly)

M-t-G's look did not say "pipe down, I'm working here" as much as it did "what the hell are you talking about over there bucko."

Aha! The moments I live for! When I can pontificate (at length!) from my superior reservoir of knowledge since I am older than M-t-G by a factor of 600 and have the laugh lines to prove it.

"Yeats," said I. "It's a poem by Yeats. You know, the guy who wrote The Widening Gyre." Well, of course he didn't write The Widening Gyre, he wrote The Second Coming of which "turning and turning in the widening gyre" is a line.

Ok, the superior reservoir of knowledge obviously needs to be skimmed like a swimming pool after a downpour, but still you get the point.

I went on and on (and on!) about the value of reading poems. How they Enlighten! Make you Smart! Witty! Educated! I might even have issued a reading list. Threatened a quiz.

And now it turns out that reading too much poetry can turn you into a lunatic.

(link lifted ruthlessly from BookNinja)

This explains a LOT about Jeff Somers, demigod