Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elvis (Cole!) has left the building

This story on Gawker about a guy being "investigated" by private eyes just cracked me up!

Banned Books Week

Here's a hilarious story by Nicki Leone about a a reading she did for Banned Books week some years ago. I wonder if she'd reprise it for a fundraiser? Heck, I'd pay!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Northern Illinois Univ Press to JetReid: Drop Dead

Publishers Weekly carries the announcement today that NIU Press is adding an imprint to focus on literary fiction set in or about the Midwest and written by authors with significant ties to the region. NIU said Switchgrass (the imprint) is “committed to enhancing the cultural landscape of the Midwest”

Well, my thoughts briskly turned to who I've got on my list that's from the Midwest, until my eye reaches this sentence:

According to Alex Schwartz, NIU Press/Switchgrass Books director, agented manuscripts will not be accepted for consideration, in order to provide both emerging and established writers a venue to “have their Midwestern voices heard.”

WTF?? Last time I looked my job IS to get my authors heard so I'm not sure why they think BARRING agented mss from consideration is a good choice. Even if they just opened the incoming query guidelines to include unagented writers, they'd be better off.

Presses that don't like agents make me very very suspicious.

So, if you send stuff to these guys let me know how it goes.

And if you get an offer remember to NEVER sign an agreement with anyone unless you have it reviewed by a person familiar with publishing contracts. That doesn't have to be an agent. Contract review specialists or lawyers work just fine too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman, adieu

I recently linked to a post by client Steve Ulfelder about Paul Newman and LimeRock.

He said it best, so here it is again.

I never thought of Paul Newman as getting old; for me he'll always be Henry Gondorff

Monday, September 22, 2008

And here you thought the Pink octopus was all sweetness and light


Kansas is still there!

They survived us!

And they were kind enough to give us a very useful thank you gift! It's clear someone did some research and discovered it's very hard to find a wristwatch that fits right if you have eight legs.

A clock is perfect, and the inscription is perfect: Thank you for your time, KWA.

More like, thank YOU for a well organized conference and an excellent group of participants who were attentive, fun to work with, and well prepared. Now that I know where Kansas is, I might have to fire up the broom again and go back.

Let's Review

Q: I heard about your blog at a writer's conference this weekend. I'd like to send you a query but I absolutely do not want it posted. Can you guarantee that?

A: This blog does not post queries that come to my agency. Ever.

I do post on a blog called Query Shark. The queries that are posted there are NOT queries to the agency. They are queries sent to the Shark for the purposes of getting critiqued.

The queries to the Shark are acknowledged upon receipt and filed separately from other queries. To be considered for Query Shark, the query must actually say "Query Shark" in the subject line so no query can be posted in error.

Any questions?

If you don't know Floyd Skloot, you should

Floyd Skloot is a master craftsman. He's got a new book coming from the University of Nebraska press. You'll never see a book trailer about it and in fact, unless you go looking for the book, you might not run across it.

I'm a long time fan his. I well remember when he was stricken with a terrible illness that left him with a debilitating fatigue. The last reading I attended at Looking Glass Books in Portland was for The Night Side published by Story Line Press. Floyd just casually mentioned that doing the reading meant he'd have to be in bed for a week from the resulting exhaustion. I remember thinking how lucky we all were that he would still do these appearances at all because it was such a pleasure to hear him read and listen to him talk about his work.

Here's Harvey Freedenberg's review of Floyd Skloot's new book The Wink of the Zenith, stolen shamelessly from this morning's Shelf Awareness email:

The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life by Floyd Skloot (University of Nebraska Press, $24.95, 9780803211193/0803211198, September 1, 2008)

This collection of 17 essays is the fourth in a series of memoirs poet and novelist Floyd Skloot has written since he was stricken in 1988 with a rare virus that temporarily devastated his memory and left him unable to write. But it's the first that unearths the roots of his writing life, providing a moving, humorous and thoroughly delightful exposition of that subject.

Skloot's recollections range widely, from his childhood in Brooklyn, through an unlikely stint as an analyst in the Illinois Bureau of the Budget, to an often-comical recent trip to France. There are many highlights in the collection, but two essays that focus on Skloot's college years stand out. The first recounts his work recording books for a blind English professor who became his mentor. "I got an education in how language flowed or failed to flow," he writes, "how breath acted as a hidden punctuation within the rhythm of prose." His description of the challenges and rewards of reading The Sound and the Fury aloud reveals new aspects of Faulkner's work. The other describes how his senior honors thesis required him to read all 14 of Thomas Hardy's novels, in the process gaining a rare appreciation for the arc of a writer's career.

Not all of the essays focus directly on writing. Skloot chronicles the summer he spent pretending to be one of the Hardy Boys, on the lookout for spies and other evildoers at the Lido Hotel on Long Island. Another relives the summer of 1958, when an erroneous diagnosis of leukemia turned out to be nothing more than mononucleosis ("I wasn't in fact fatally ill, just inconveniently ill."). There are reminiscences about his mother's decline and death from Alzheimer's disease, made all the more poignant by the troubled relationship Skloot had endured with her and his own loss of memory.

Skloot is self-deprecating almost to a fault and serves as a companionable guide as he wanders along some of the back roads of his writing recollections. The significance of writing to his identity is clear, which must have made the lengthy impairment he suffered all the more painful: "Great writing . . . could stop time and thereby make time come to life, transporting the reader, as it must have transported the writer, into another dimension."

It's impossible to know whether, with this volume, Skloot finally has reassembled all the "shards of memory" scattered by his illness. If it is, we can be grateful for the hard and sometimes painful work it took to gather them and share them in such an eloquent and affecting form.--Harvey Freedenberg

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What the Pink Octopus is reading

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
Available: January 2009

Here's the intro letter from Reagen Arthur that says exactly what I think, only better:

When everyone at Little, Brown first started reading and talking about Beat the Reaper, the same thing kept coming up: when was the last time you had this much fun reading a book? I mean outrageous, audacious, I-can't-believe-he-just-said-that fun. It's a thriller -- with footnotes! Footnotes that are as funny and entertaining as the text!

It's got a complicated, sympathetic good guy, very scary bad guys, and a break neck pace that if it ever pauses to draw a breath, uses the next breath to jump into a shark tank. It's got good advice should you ever consider getting your tongue pierced --DON'T-- or if you've ever wondered about alternative uses for your own shinbone.

Josh Bazell is a doctor and it turns out that he's also a writer, a natural born storyteller whose brilliant and exuberant first novel I hope you will love as much as I do.

Pink Octupus rating: Eight Tentacles Up!

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm off to Kansas!

Joanna the godsend and I are winging our way to Wichita this weekend. We're very much looking forward to seeing everyone attending the conference!

The blog will be dark for the duration; I'm taking my spiffy new Kindle, not my laptop this time.

All email will be read by my asssssistant, but as you can see, working the keyboard is a bit of a challenge..and the voice activated software wasn't too sssssuccessful either.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Michael Connelly's new book trailer--interesting stuff!

Book trailers are getting better.
Take a look at this one about Michael Connelly's new book.

There are three parts. Part one is brilliant.
Parts two and three are the more normal trailer format.

The question of course is: are these trailers effective in boosting sales?
My answer is yes and no.

Would I buy and read Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict if I had not seen these?
Probably. I'm a long time fan of his work, and I liked The Lincoln Lawyer a lot (The Brass Verdict brings back the character from that novel).

But, I'm not sure I would have been aware that it's being pubbed soon, October 14, as I am now, after seeing, and liking these trailers. So yes, they are effective for pulling established fans in early.

Would it entice me to buy the book if I wasn't a fan already? I don't know.

What I do know is there's a big opportunity here for smart people who know how to put together compelling video trailers for not a lot of money.

The only problem in these well produced, big name star featured trailers is they will effectively eliminate most of the home made book trailers.

I think we're going to be needing those services a lot more every year. And if you do that kind of work, hell yes I want to hear from you. Please feel free to email me! I'll be the one reading The Brass Verdict on my Kindle!

The perils and foibles of memory

Last week I was on the spit over at BookRoast.
Somewhere around 11:38pm a fragment of a poem lodged in my brain.
I was sure the phrase was "adventurer in an unknown country."
I googled.

I spliced/sliced/diced and prestidigitzed all combinations of those words.

Then today one of the readers emailed to ask Is this what you were looking for?

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
--T.S.Eliot (snip from The Fourth Quartet)

and yes, yes it is.

Interesting how I remembered the emotional sense of the poem rather than the actual words.
And that is why I realized I must memorize poems, rather than, as I have up till now, just look them up when I want to read them again.

(Thanks Dylan for finding this!)

on my list of suspicious circumstances to avoid:

would be missing out on reading Chasing Smoke!
(click on the image to enlarge and see all the great blurbs!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Give that girl a book bag!

People have been sending me photos of their books after I posted the link to BooksOnTheNightStand. Some of them just defy description..not to mention gravity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gimme electrons!

If you're looking for an e-reader and I haven't terrorized you into a Kindle yet, here's info on the new Sony e-reader, available at Target.

--stolen from Publishers Marketplace of course!

So, they told you you had to have a blog

I found this blog through one of my Twitter pals and was immediately struck by the idea how much easier this format would be for writers than trying to dream up blog topics all the time. Club up with three or four other writer pals and all of you discuss one book.

For starters, it moves the discussion off you and for some of my clients that's a huge plus since they are shy and writerly and all.

For second, it's of more universal interest than the usual "here's what I had for breakfast today"--of course, I'm totally interested in what you had for breakfast if you're my client but you want an audience of more than one person!

For third, the people who write the books you're discussing (and agenting/editing/publishing them) will find your blog. Of course this means you have to write cogently and leave off the personal diatribes (this writer SUX!) for this to be an advantage, but I'm not too worried about that with most of you.

And you don't have to discuss front list books; you can discuss books you think should be classics, books you've been afraid to read; books that you failed to understand in high school but now get...there are a lot of books to choose from!

Food for thought.

And hell yes I want to read the book the Three Guys discussed on Friday. I wonder if I call up Reagan Arthur tomorrow under the guise of pitching her something fabulous I can sweet talk her into sending me an ARC?

Courtney Summers is going to be a HUGE star

It's not often I read a blog and instantly know I want to read everything this author writes.

I do with Courtney Summers.

She's ably represented by Amy Tipton here at FinePrint which is great for me cause I just plan to threaten her with bodily harm if an ARC of Cracked Up To Be doesn't appear magically on my desk very soon.

Courtney has a fresh compelling riveting voice. Read her stuff.

Books on the Nightstand!

Books on the Nightstand is conducting a giveaway!
Send a photo of your nightstand and you're eligible for the drawing.

The pink octopus is up to her tentacles in good stuff. Here she is:


Now I know who's up at midnight on Saturday night!

Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed about the new website.
It was extremely helpful to have your eyeballs scoping out all those extra spaces, unclear phrases, and errant punctuation marks!

I closed the comments on the earlier post because I'm not going to be working on the site again for awhile.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

See if I messed up!

I've spent a lot of time here telling you all what to do and how not to annoy me if you query.

How about we reverse the situation!

I've just updated my website and here's your chance to find out if I can't spell, can't write, and am generally incoherent.

Here's the link.

If anything isn't clear; if there's a question you'd like to see in the FAQ; or, something you think should be there but isn't, let me know.

Comment column is fine; a little public humiliation is probably deserved!
Email, fine!
Laughing at me at the next conference, not so much!

Have at it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Need a house in Canadia?

Well, here ya go.
Never say this isn't a full service helpful blog.
Oh...if you do buy it, I'll be coming to visit every summer.
It only took one look at this:

to have me dust off my passport!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

10 Things I Love About My New Kindle

10. I was able to buy and read Pixie Warrior at long last;

9. It's easy to hold; less bulky than paperbacks, lighter than hardbacks;

8. I can adjust the size of the print;

7. I can upload manuscripts and read them just like I would read a book. This is a HUGE benefit to you who are sending me manuscripts;

6. I can take reading out of the office much more easily. No more losing pages in a good breeze at Coney Island!;

5. No more hauling manuscript pages! My Sherpa days are now truly over;

4. No more reading full manuscripts on the screen. My eyes are dancing with joy;

3. I can easily take all my clients manuscripts with me when ever I go to lunch with an editor. Want to see the first page? Want to see the blurbs? Here, read them on the Kindle;

2. I can download and read the first chapter of books at no cost. This is a super smart marketing move. (More on why at the Dead Guy blog);

and the thing I love most about my Kindle:

1. I always have a copy of Jane Kenyon's poem Happiness with me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday night cruising around the internet

I'm nosy. I'm always looking around at websites of commenters on this and other blogs I keep. I like to do it cause it feels as if I'm wandering around a fabulous treasure trove with less dust and fewer opportunities to break china.

So, I'm slinking around tonight and I happen upon illustrator Bonnie Adamson's site.

And I love this

And this

And I wish I knew more about kids' book illustrators than "I love these" but I don't so I just have to be a delighted consumer instead of an agent.

oh just shoot me now

See, I adore Chris Eldin, I do.

So when she asked if I wanted to get roasted, I *thought* she said "do you want to get toasted" and I said, sure, here's the address of the local watering hole, see you there in five.

But no. She did indeed mean roasted, and so I am on the spit for BookRoast next week. I'm sure the flames of Hell (being Satan's literary agent and all) will be involved.

Fortunately I can see what's in store for me, cause I'm on Friday, and there's quite a stellar list ahead of me:

Mon, Sept 8: Evil Editor
Tues, Sep 9: Editorial Anonymous
Wed, Sep 10: (publishing related topic)
Thurs, Sep 11: Moonrat
Fri, Sept 12: moi

Chris briefly lost her tenuous hold on sanity and said this thing started at 6am.
After I stopped laughing, I mentioned I'd be showing up around noon.
So, instead, it starts at midnight on Friday Eastern Time and all those sleepy heads who go to bed with the birdies will miss the first of the fun.

Courtney Summers-you heard about her here first*

Courtney's first book is coming in December. It was the first book my colleague Amy Tipton sold, and the first book the editor bought. (We all had a good time joking around about that with Amy of course: "three first timers walk into bar...")

So, I would have read the book, of course. But now, after seeing Courtney's book trailer I WANNA read this book. I bet you will too!

So, I ordered my copy today even thought it's not available for the Kindle :((

*as it turns out, I posted this a while back BEFORE I was supposed to! Oops, bad bad Courtney Summers fan!

If you think you've seen this post before, you're right. There were some issues with the cover (hang on to your galley if you have one..they're collector's items now!) and it had to be redone.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Out of the woodwork

I don't mind when commenters disagree with me. Well, I mind, but I can live with it. I don't mind if commenters think I'm full of it (again, yes, but ok).

The rule here though is if you think I'm the horse's patootie, and want to say so, you have to write cogently. And you have to make some sort of reasonable argument. And I'd prefer if you didn't use invective to try to make a point. Unless you can do it stylishly.

For the time being though, I'm going to leave the political stuff to someone else. I'm a bit dismayed at the idea that people with such poor command of the ethics and rubrics of rhetoric even read this blog. And if I've offended you, well, I'm ok with that too.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What hath Oz wrought?

I got a phone call this morning from JFK. Two of my clients at the airport, passports in hand.

Somers: Janet! Wake up you tawdry slacker!
Ferrell: Yea! Janet! Wake up!

Me: What the hell are you two up to?

Somers: I sent you the final draft of Eternal Prison this morning.
Ferrell: I've had it with mortgage applications!

Me: Are you guys going on vacation together or something?

Somers: Not vacation.
Ferrell: We're moving to Australia.

Me: Um...do Mrs. Somers and Mrs. Ferrell know about this

(brief silence)

Somers: You're our agent. You get to negotiate our departure terms.
Ferrell: Tell her I'll FedEx the loinfruit home for Christmas for a week.

Me: Wait guys. You're successful established guys. You've got careers! You've got an agent! You've got wives! Homes! What the HECK are you moving to Australia for??

Somers and Ferrell: THIS

Another sign I'm the true owner of the ruby slippers

I know this means I have low moral character and should probably join Bart Simpson at the blackboard to chalk out "I will not chortle at the misfortune of art museums ever again" but this did make me laugh.

I particularly love the "hey lady, seen our painting anywhere down there" phone call.

*thanks to Steve Ulfelder's blog for the morning snortle

Crit groups

I think critique groups can be a very powerful tool. Several of my clients are involved in crit groups; even the published writers. Crit groups aren't just for beginners.

Here's a post from Karen Kennedy's blog about the value of hers.