Call of the Writing

Imagine how rewarding it could be to have a tradition of sharing the day's pages with a few fellow writers around the fire as Jack London did early last century at Wolf's Lair. He'd read aloud what he had written that day and get real-time reactions from friends.  If Buck's howl resonated in the imaginations of his listeners, then the passage succeeded.  Buck's extraordinary connection with his canine ancestors as he dreamt of freer days in the pages of the manuscript that would become Call of the Wild (published 1903) came alive in the flickering darkness and Jack knew that what compelled him had found its voice; his pen had touched truth that morning.  When that happened, imagine his excitement.  He had penetrated the universal heart and borrowed a pulse or two of Life.

First Edition

That arrangement among fellow writers was unusual back then. In today's publishing market where only 'finished' manuscripts are read by agents or editors, much less published, it may be vital to a writer's survival.

 

The CAT'S TABLE | Michael Ondaatje

Occasionally, good writing penetrates the walls we build around ourselves, The Cat's Tableopens the shutters and windows to let sunlight in, and reminds us of who we are, what events shaped us, and hints how we got to this particular place. Michael Ondaatje's writing does this for me.

Some events take a lifetime to reveal their damage and influence.

This truth, a defining presence in Ondaatje's writings, is a powerful current in the flow of this novel. The Cat's Table is understated and life-affirming, with a cast of characters that capture a lifetime of experiences during several weeks at sea.

The Cat's Table (Vintage International)

BEYOND THESE WOODS | Mark Roger Bailey

It is a pleasure to announce the release of my new novel and an exciting new character: Beyond These Woods -- featuring epidemiologist and rogue scientific gadfly, Dr. Lotte Keene.

Beyond These Woods

Lotte has fought and won many virus battles, yet after witnessing the death of her closest friend, Charley, in a horrific Brazilian disease outbreak, she has put the Centers for Disease Control and her high stakes war against pathogens in dangerous hot zones behind her.

Her skeptical relationship with authority and inconvenient habit of being right have stunted her career and undermined her professional reputation. Now, as she struggles to come to terms with life without Charley, she glimpses a telltale repetition of the symptomology of Charley’s sudden death … this time in California’s High Sierra Thunder Peak Wilderness. This clue to the cause of her greatest loss ignites an obsessive need to eradicate the killer. She breaks protocol and goes to Longwood, CA on a mission to confront her darkest fear.

To the CDC, Lotte’s breach of protocol is insubordination. To the environmental activist, Gabriel Fox, she is a complication of his master plan. For America’s elite intelligence apparatus, she is a threat to the nation’s security. For Longwood doctor Ben McCandle, Lotte challenges everything he thinks he knows about medical science.

Lotte Keene must identify the killer in the Sierra old-growth forest, determine if the ‘Ahwahnee Stroke’, as locals call it, is a corruption of Natural Law or a criminal act, and she must stop it before it spreads beyond the Thunder Peak Wilderness. Local suspicions of her motives mount, calculating corporate interests grow more sinister, dark operatives from Washington move against her work… and time is running out.

Dr. Lotte Keene is about to rewrite the rules of biogenetic science and cross the thin red, white and blue line between American principle and power.

BEYOND THESE WOODS is currently available for the Amazon Kindle and desktops, laptops, tablets, iPhone, Android and all handheld devices with the Kindle App available free from your favorite App Store.

Amazon KINDLE

gadfly -- a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions.

The term 'gadfly' was used by Plato in the Apology[2] to describe Socrates' relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. (source: Wikipedia)

 

 

Readers Rule

...if the writer has the energy, determination and persistence to develop more stories, and is open to learning and perfecting his or her craft, then s/he can offer another story, and maybe get a second date, and a third, and perhaps become a couple. How great is that?

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Who is Reading Your E-Book: Trace Its DNA

When a book interests you, what compels you - its genre, theme, cover art, protagonist? If you read more than the first 50 pages, why? What pulls you forward?

What is the optimal length of a novel in the e-book format?

When you finish a book, do you know what it was in the story that drew you on, turning hundreds of pages to the last scene, the concluding paragraph, the cathartic final sentence?

If you are a woman reader, are your answers to these questions different from those answers a man might give?

HipType created this infographic based upon some of the data it gathers from e-readers for authors.  It analyses a wide range of book types and genres.

 

DNA of Successful Books

 

Chip Kidd | Master Book Designer at TED 2012

If you aren't aware of Chip Kidd's contribution to the art, science and intellect of design that illuminates bookstore shelved and influences bookstore window displays, not to mention airport bookstores and newsstand displays, it's time you got acquainted with this leading book designer. If you know of his work, take a few minutes to appreciate this rare appearance by a designer who has asserted his forceful intelligence on every writer and reader in America. Many of us may not have been published by Knopf yet, but the lure of allying with the house that published Carl HiaasenJack LondonThomas MannGabriel García MárquezCormac McCarthyH. L. MenckenToni MorrisonAlice Munro,Haruki MurakamiP. D. OuspenskyEzra PoundAnne RiceAnne TylerJohn Updike, and Edmund White is powerful incentive to keep writing, to persist in crafting stories that entertain, engage, and develop lasting relationships with our readers.

Chip Kidd doesn’t judge books by their cover, he creates covers that embody the book -- and he does it with a wicked sense of humor. In one of the funniest talks from TED2012, he shows the art and deep thought of his cover designs.

[From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.]

Here is Chip Kidd's amusing take on designing book jackets in his 2012 TED Talk. Enjoy.

Thanks to Laura Trombley, president of Pitzer College and biographer of the compelling Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, who shared this link.

WOLVES EAT DOGS | Martin Cruz Smith

In the shadow of the devastated Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Pripyat, Ukraine, nature is reclaiming the wreckage of humankind's worst nuclear accident. Outlaws and corrupt militia co-exist in the toxic detritus that is left in the wake of the government-ordered evacuation years earlier. Scientists come to conduct pure research. Surviving residents with nowhere to go wait for the end that never comes. Weary, they attempt to live with the terrible knowledge of their doom. One telling detail of their reduced circumstances: they cannot have pet dogs because the wolves in the surrounding forests eat dogs. This is not a cliché. It is a living Darwinian metaphor. Arkady Renko, the iconic detective from GORKY PARK, is challenged by his most baffling and enigmatic case yet: the death of an oligarch, by suicide perhaps, but Renko is certain it is the result of a murderous plot.

Smith's prose is deceptively elegant. It seems straightforward like Renko's description of action, yet it is always painted in shades of light, color, and tone. This and Renko's cynical, quietly subversive, brilliantly analytical, melancholy character keeps the mind turning - amused and utterly engaged.

Amazon - Wolves Eat Dogs

Wikipedia - Wolves Eat Dogs

 

Birds In Fall | Brad Kessler

Life is Fragile as Flight

This novel is one of those surprise discoveries. My wife brought it home for me on a whim with some journals. I read the opening sentence and sensed immediately that my priorities for the weekend had shifted.Birds In Fall by Brad Kessler

It’s true: a few of us slept through the entire ordeal, but others sensed something wrong right away.

I was hooked. Wished I’d written it. The voice possessed a sense of moment, a texture of imminent tragedy that gripped me and wouldn’t let me go. The first chapter transported me to far away Nova Scotia and continues to resonate in unexpected ways after the final page of the novel 238 pages later.

BIRDS IN FALL was a critical and popular success. An excerpt was published in The Kenyon Review in the spring of 2006. It won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. And the Los Angeles Times named it one of the ten best books of 2006.

A Novel for Novelists

The story begins aboard a transatlantic flight from New York City bound for Amsterdam. The style is contemporary, spare in setting, and emphasizes action.  It is told in the first person voice of Russell, Ana’s husband. The action is carefully and effectively modulated as he takes up conversation with the woman seated next to him, a concert cellist who is stressed by the airplane’s bumpy ride through increasingly violent stormy night skies.

For example, one of the most visually compelling moments is Russell’s presence of mind in writing his NY address on his forearm with the cellist’s Japanese Maple lipstick. He shows it to her and encourages her to do the same. Ironically, she encourages Russell to include his name in his message to his rescuers, yet he cannot bring himself to do so. This foreshadows his fate as another anonymous casualty of tragedy, vanished, forever lost at sea. Indeed, eighty minutes into its flight, the aircraft ‘enters the sea.’

From there we shift to a small community setting on Trachis Island off the coast of Nova Scotia and the events following the crash. The narrator’s voice changes to third person omniscient and never returns to Ana’s husband in any meaningful way. Despite several telling details set up in the first chapter, few are referenced later in the narrative in which bits and pieces of airplane, passengers, and luggage debris are recovered.

From chapter two onward we follow the innkeepers Kevin and Douglas on Trachis Island and Ana Gathreaux, Russell’s ornithologist wife, who travels from New York City to the inn to visit the site of the catastrophe and learn something more about Russell’s fate. Other victims’ families travel to the island from all over the world for the same purpose. Over time, they each experience punishing, withering grief, hope, frustration, abandonment, and transformation into new lives without their loved ones.

The writing improves in this second voice and occasionally soars like the migrating birds that serve as such an apt metaphor for the flight of time, events, and souls. On more than one occasion, I was reminded of Michael Ondaatje’s poetic prose. That's profound praise for how deft many of Brad Kessler’s passages are.

Recommended

Birds In Fall is remarkable. It is rich with masterful writing and compelling insights into the lives, drives, and lessons that shape us as our migrations intersect across time, place and circumstance.

 

Related Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_Kessler

 

 

Tablet and E-Reader Sales Soar

On a recent flight across the country, at least one in every 12 passengers were either reading or watching entertainment on tablets or smartphones. About 40% of these were reading books. About 1 in every 25 passengers were reading traditional books. This personal observation is anecdotal, of course, but it made an impression. That e-readers are becoming the new norm as personal digital devices become more intuitive, adaptive to personal needs, reliable and affordable is no longer news. Then, a report from Pew Research and the American Life Project was released yesterday. The take-away from the NYTimes article: tablet and e-reader sales doubled over the last year.  Adult users increased from 10% of adults in Dec 2011 to 19% of adults in December 2012.  Increased ownership of tablets is especially pronounced among highly educated users with household incomes exceeding $75,000. In fact, nearly one third of people with college degrees own tablets.

As a writer, I'm pleased to see that many people are choosing to read when they have the opportunity. How they choose to read helps inform my thinking about how my stories should read on the page vs. screen, and how to focus my efforts to improve the reader experience.

Related Article

Table and E-Reader Sales Soar  |  NYTimes

 

Read SAINT On KINDLE

The experiment 2,000 years in the making...

SAINT - The novel of intrigue - e-Book edition

 

Biogeneticist Andrew Shepard resurrects the memory of an ancient in a living human subject. Simon Peter is reborn.

For the faithful, it is a miracle. For the world’s political and spiritual leaders, it is a crisis. For humankind, it changes everything.

Peter escapes from the BioGenera lab in a desperate attempt to return to Rome and to confront the Pontiff, while being stalked by an assassin intent on silencing him once and for all.

First e-book edition

 

SAINT, my novel about the resurrection of human memory via biogenetics and neuroscience, is now available for download to the Kindle and Kindle-friendly devices including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Droid and PC.

Read SAINT on Kindle 

 

Related Links

Kindle & The Evolution of a Writer

 

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal

For Publishers, It's Time To Adapt 

The rising wave of manuscripts moving from writers’ keyboards direct to readers’ hands built momentum recently. In case you missed the rumble of the latest break in this evolutionary cycle, Amazon has entered into publishing, both electronic and traditional paper.  In fact, it is committed to publishing 122 books this fall.

Publishers' responses to Amazon's publishing authors directly is reminiscent in some cases of the record industry's response to iTunes' disruption of its business model in 2001.

David Streitfeld’s article in the NYT captures a sense of the moment.
Other articles by David Streitfeld

2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winners

Congratulations to the two winners of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Winner: General Fiction:

East of Denver by Gregory Hill

Winner: Young Adult Fiction:

Spookygirl by Jill Baguchinsky

Read by Amazon Vine reviewers, Publisher's Weekly reviewers, Penguin editors, and ABNA expert panelists--and voted on by Amazon customers--the two winning authors have each been awarded a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. The announcement was made in Seattle.

There were three finalists in each category. The other four finalists were Lucian Morgan, Phyllis T. Smith, Cara Bertrand, and Richard Larson.

The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-lights | Joseph C. Lincoln (1870-1944)

A short story evolves to become a short novel, and is published. The author achieves success with his modest yarns about life on Cape Cod. He publishes his tales in the Saturday Evening Post, enjoys a respectable living from his writing, summers on the northern Jersey shore, and dies in Winter Park, Florida. Through his stories, readers discover a Cape Cod populated by dreamers and doers, practical idealists who define success in terms of personal codes more than popular myths of the America's 20th century success machine. Readers travel from afar to experience his Cape Cod, and residents help them realize the dream. Soon, the Cape becomes a destination, an ideal of a better time in America, and a vacationer's mecca. In 1911, Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1870-1944), 41, publishedThe Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-Lights his story The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-lights (A.L. Burt Company, NYC).  He was a third of the way through his career as a spinner of popular yarns set on Cape Cod, in a part of the country that was invisible to all but a few thousand residents and their occasional visitors from nearby Boston.  It was a place apart from the nation's rambunctious urban centers, a throwback to an earlier, self-reliant America.  Its people were taciturn, pragmatic, and passionate about life's possibilities. Lincoln distrusted modern progress and so he kept returning in his stories to the childhood home from which he had been taken after his father died and his mother moved him to the mainland. Lincoln's anti-modernist tendencies found expression in stories about this Yankee outpost on a narrow finger of sand so far out to sea that on especially clear days residents might fancy seeing their ancestors' old country to the east. Here adversity was vanquished, justice prevailed, and romance was eventually, ultimately requited.

In The Woman-Haters, once-married Seth Atkins and Emeline Bascom accidentally reunite on a beach at the extreme easternmost tip of the nation.  In this fantasy realm between sand and sea, they see their past actions in new light, comprehend their lives afresh, and rediscover their former attraction.

In 2010, enter Daniel Adams, a veteran writer-producer-actor-director who likes the cut of Lincoln's literary jib. Adams is one of movie-making's working class heroes who keep the dream of movie magic alive by gathering friends, locals, and would-be filmmakers together to put on a show. He attracts popular stars to his troupe, works long hours, stretches a dollar to the breaking point, and captures moments on film that become movie memories for the rest of us.  Previously, he had directed an adaptation of Lincoln's 1911 story, Cap'n Eri: A Story of the Coast into The Golden Boys (2009).  Recently, he adapted Joe Lincoln's The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-lights a full one hundred years after it was published into the small feature film, The Lightkeepers.

Whether The Lightkeepers is a commercial or artistic success is not at issue here. As of this writing, it has grossed an estimated 4.5 million dollars, which does not qualify it as a commercial success in 2010. The 1911 equivalent, by the way, would have been $193,500. Reviews are mixed. Some critics have faulted the language, the staging, and Richard Dreyfuss' interpretation of former sea captain Seth Atkins. Positive reviews have cited The Lightkeepers' grown-up love story, the palpable sense of place, and the distinctively Yankee knack for understatement.

What counts is that Joseph Lincoln lived life and wrote stories his way. He spun yarns that made readers feel good about themselves. And Daniel Adams is living his life and making movies his way. Hats off to both artists. Thanks for keeping the dream alive.

----------------------------------

Related Links

Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1870-1944), Author

The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-Lights (1911)

Daniel Adams, Writer-Director

"The Lightkeepers"

The GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO | Stieg Larsson

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, co-founder and editor of Millennium Magazine, receives a guilty verdict for aggravated libel of the businessman and market speculator, Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to prison for his attack on Wennerström's otherwise well-protected reputation. Mikael knows that he is innocent, yet he is resigned to the fact that the corrupt and admittedly more powerful Wennerström has bested him. Lisbeth Salander is a twenty four-year old misfit with significant socialization deficits. Yet she is a savant, a prodigy at least, in the ways of obtaining information even the most sophisticated private investigators are unable to access.

Henrik Vanger is the elderly former captain of the Vanger Corporation, obsessed with learning the fate of his niece, Harriet, who vanished in 1966.  He suspects she was murdered. Vanger hires Mikael to research and write a Vanger a family history as cover for his real assignment, which is to learn what happened to Harriet.

Blomkvist, seeing no better option for the next year of his currently difficult life, accepts Vanger’s offer. He steps down from his editorship at Millennium; leaves his best friend and occasional lover, Erika Berger; and moves to Hedestad.

Mikael hires Lisbeth Salander to be his researcher.  Soon, the two misfits are extraordinary partners.  Mikael learns that all is not as it appears with the petite, tattooed, anti-social Lisbeth.  For her part, Lisbeth learns that she is capable of trusting another person for the first time in her life. Over time, her feelings for Mikael deepen and she grows in new ways that are foreign, even startling to her. Together, they discover the facts of Harriet’s disappearance forty-plus years earlier and an ugly, depraved, sadistic vein in the Vanger family.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo merits the excitement that preceded its arrival in America from Europe where it is an unprecedented publishing phenomenon. Larsson’s writing has a steady grasp on the pace and dynamics of mystery storytelling. Unfortunately for us, he died after finishing the third in this series.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

McArdle & Ackley Win ABNA 2010

Winner: General Fiction

2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winner Congratulations to Patricia McArdle, winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in General Fiction for her novel, Farishta. Read an extended excerpt, and check out the experts' reviews.

Winner: Young Adult Fiction

2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winner

Congratulations to Amy Ackley, winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in Young Adult Fiction for her novel, Sign Language. Read an extended excerpt, and check out the experts' reviews.

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2009 ABNA Winner: Bill Warrington's Last Chance by Jack King

2008 ABNA Winner: Fresh Kills by Bill Loehfelm

Authors Are Bound to Publish

Literary Entrepreneurs

Self-publishing is leveling what has been a uneven field of competition for authors, for readers, and for book sellers.  Writers still write books on spec, but now they can manage rights, take responsibility for when and how their work is published, participate more fully as equal partners in their work's publication, connect more directly with readers, and be better literary citizens.

Book Publishing is Becoming Self-publishing

The Internet has made every individual a potential publisher. And technology is making every idea, story, and work of art marketable. Even the business side of the transaction is returning to a one-to-one exchange.

JA Konrath has six books in print and thirteen e-books available from Amazon. He has projected that he will earn up to $100,000 this year on sales of his e-books alone. Each sale is initiated by an interested reader who decides to download one of his novels to their Kindle, iPad, PC, Mac, iPhone, iTouch, Droid, or any other of an expanding universe of personal e-reading options. Amazon's online Kindle Store (or Apple's iBook and others) completes the transaction within seconds. No shipping. No waiting. From JA Konrath directly to Ima Reader wherever she is on the planet.

After iPad

There are thirty-nine e-readers on the market. Considering the quantum leap forward in quality of the user experience, it is tempting to rephrase that device snapshot to something more like: the Apple iPad and thirty-eight others.

The iPad provides an excellent, even transformational e-reading experience. It feels good cradled in your hands, on your lap or propped up against your thighs for those middle of the night reads. It has a high resolution color screen that is easy on eyes, especially aging eyes. It responds instantly, enthusiastically to any impulse. Turning the page is almost as satisfying as leafing pages in that 600-page Dickens anthology you've had since Lit 101. And you can look up words in the dictionary without getting up to go find it. Plug in some ear buds and you can even listen to the voice of your choice read your book to you.

The iPad will dash the ambitions of many early e-readers and the field will inevitably narrow to a select few devices. Sony and other quality device manufacturers will accept iPad's challenge and up their game. All for the better. Whatever makes the author's work available in a high integrity transaction, on an enjoyable-to-use device, and to more people is good.

Opportunity is Calling

When in your lifetime did obstacles to getting your work published actually diminish in number? If you have a good book, some appealing cover art, a compelling description and the ambition to grow your audience, now would be a good time to get out there and share your work.

Related:

The Rise of Self Publishing (NYT  26 April 2010)

Which e-readers will the iPad crush? (CNET, 1 April 2010)