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Showing posts from February, 2010

My "Italian" writing

The good news: I made lots of progress today on the replotting of the first part of my novel. The bad news: Mark sneaked up behind me and FILMED it. Here's a snippet. This is what he calls my "Italian side" coming out, which is pretty funny, because as far as I know, I have no Italian heritage. The other irony is that I was so into what I was doing I didn't even hear him, and he was right there!

Now you tell me: am I the only person who talks to her computer this way? :)

Make 'Em Wait: Delaying Reader Gratification

Popular nineteenth century novelist and playwright Charles Reade once famously shared this advice on writing: "Make 'em laugh; make 'em cry; make 'em wait."

Today, I'm taking a few minutes to focus on the last facet, that of "wait time," in the art of storytelling.

To keep the reader flipping pages, the writer strives to quickly raise compelling questions by giving incomplete information in the form of intriguing dialogue or narrative. There's no shortage of advice on how to set hooks that appeal to reader curiosity.

To look at one example, here's a quick snippet from the opening of one of my recent romantic thrillers, Beneath Bone Lake (Lovespell, May 2009):

The boatman’s paddle dug deep beneath the moss-green surface, biting and twisting like a switchblade’s killing thrust. Pulse thrummed and muscles burned as he dragged the canoe forward, threading through a swamp-dank maze of pale trees, the ghost sentries of a forest flooded years before.…

Writing Forgives You

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Preparing for a university lecture this week, I found myself typing this rather unexpected sentence: "Writing, my friends, is a forgiving process."I looked up from the screen. I tried to conjure the incredulous faces of the undergraduates in Malloy 020. I tried to guess at their thoughts. (Is the woman mad? Has she seen all the red ink on my last assignment? Does she know anything about grades? Expectations? Standards? Honors? Does she know how hard writing is for me? Does she have any idea how I beat myself up over it--or how sometimes I just give up and don't care? Does she actually get paid for saying stuff like this? Should I forgive her?)I reached for the keys. "I marvel at it. At how forgiving writing is. Look at how you can take a pass at a sentence. And then another and another and another. Each time trying to bring it closer to what it is you are quietly, or urgently, trying to say. And writing allows you to do that."Writing is forgivin…

One Smart Reader's Advice to Novelists

Over at Salon.com, reader Laura Miller's blog offers some of the best advice to novelists I've ever seen.

Check it out, and thanks, Laura, for sharing some absolutely true observations about what really keeps readers turning pages.

Of literary agents and magical goats: one writer begins her "journey"

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I have a recurring dream. I'm fifteen again, and I'm back at my old high school in Virginia, sitting in a classroom. I'm dressed like a combination of Little Red Riding Hood and Oz's Dorothy, with red cape and braided pigtails. On the small, school desk in front of me sits my manuscript, dogeared and unfinished.

"Kathryn, report to the literary agent's office immediately," says my principal, over a loudspeaker.
"NOW?" I say, looking up at the speaker with fear. The speaker doesn't answer. I get up, my whole body shaking, and pick up my manuscript. Then I walk. Down a long hallway that seems to get longer and longer the more I walk, and then finally outside, to a sidewalk that never ends. I walk past bushes and rainbows and marigolds, until I finally see it in the distance. The old trailer I used to have my Spanish class in in high school, complete with a dancing Senora Pickeral.

I blink. She beckons me to come closer. I do, and the …

Hang on! Colleen Thompson's "Touch of Evil" hits bookstores this week!

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In bookstores this week: Touch of Evil, novel #16 from my home girl, Colleen Thompson. Here's a review by the fabulous Jo Anne Banker.

Beneath every innocent small town, with its friendly faces, the familiarity of family, and the comfort of acquaintances known since childhood, exists an alternate world of greed, gossip, petty jealousy, and personal failures that can easily slide into a touch of evil.

Sheriff Justine Wofford's personal failures have left her alone raising her nine-year-old, autistic son, Noah. She also finds herself under investigation by Texas Rangers when financial problems prompt her to accept without question extraneous funds that appear in her late husband's bank account. Too late does she realize the good `ole boy network of business men in Dogwood, Texas expect a return on their investment in the form of awarded county budget contracts and her "looking the other way" when necessary.

She's even blown the only good thing to come into her…

Make Your Own Book Preview Video

A few weeks ago, I posted my home-brewed book preview video for my brand spanking-new (as of today) release, Touch of Evil. After checking it out, several people asked me how to do it, so I thought I'd share what I've learned about the process.

This isn't meant to be expert or in-depth advice, just a few quick tips to get you do-it-yourselfers started. I also don't mean to hold up my book video skills as a super-fabulous example but as an illustration of some of the techniques I describe. (And if you're inspired to rush out and buy my new book, so much the better. I'll cop to that.)


1. If you're running Windows XP or higher (I'm presuming it's still on Vista and Win7), you should have a program on board called Windows Movie Maker. Here's a link from Microsoft to help you get started. Or if you want something more basic, try Wendy Russell's About.com post here.

Or if you're like me and hate reading instructions, open the program and start pl…

Pants on fire. Never. Good. Thing. (Can Cameron movie option survive implosion of Pellegrino's Hiroshima book?)

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Baby Jesus and I cry a little every time this happens. A little over a year ago, I had this to say about a bogus Holocaust memoir that made a fool out of Oprah and editors at Berkley. Now, apparently the story told by an elderly WWII vet who claimed to have witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima turns out to be fake, and the mushroom cloud is rising over a book that received a starred review from PW, was lauded by the NYT as "sober and authoritative," and optioned by James Cameron for the big screen.

Last Train From Hiroshima, out from Henry Holt in January, is Charles Pellegrino's deep dive into the personal stories behind this pivotal moment in history, including gut-wrenching stories from survivors and eyewitness accounts from those who flew the mission. From the article that appeared in the NYT Saturday:
Mr. Fuoco, who died in 2008 at age 84 and lived in Westbury, N.Y., never flew on the bombing run, and he never substituted for James R. Corliss, the plane’s regular f…

Dueling Hesters: Two books that pick up where "The Scarlet Letter" leaves off

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Sipping coffee from my favorite cup this morning. On the back it says "The scarlet letter was her passport to regions where other women dared not tread." These two authors dared. Deborah Noyes and Paula Reed take up the story of Hester and oops baby Pearl from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. (Click here for Kindle freebie of the classic.)

Deborah Noyes's 2006 debut novel, Angel and Apostle, got big critical love, including a PW review that ends: "Noyes engages with atmospheric charms of time and place...she delivers an ending revelation that would surprise Hawthorne himself." (Read an excerpt here.)

This month, romance novelist Paula Reed makes her hardcover historical fiction debut with Hester: The Missing Years of the The Scarlet Letter: A Novel. (Hey, nobody told me we're allowed more than one colon per title!) Reed is a high school English teacher, who works through The Scarlet Letter every year in class and says she always finds something…

Why We Need Stories

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Here's a quote I just had to share, from Karl Iglesia's brilliant book,Writing for Emotional Impact.

Because life is often frustrating, illogical, and chaotic, we turn to stories for meaning and structure. We look for answers and for universal values because we want to know how to lead our lives -- how to treat one another, how to love, how to triumph over obstacles. We also turn to stories because they explain the world emotionally rather than analytically. One can say, then, that stories are our metaphors for life, our blueprints for living...

If you haven't read Iglesia's book, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's one of those extremely rare books on writing I've been actively highlighting, marking up with copious notes, and telling every writer I know they ought to have a copy. I own shelves of books on craft, but this is one I'm certain I'll be referring back to often.

And by the way, I paid full retail for my copy after author Pat Kay recomm…

Moving the Spirit: A Creativity Workshop

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Dear friends, just a quick post to announce I'll be leading a creativity workshop in Galveston, Texas this weekend--Galveston, that hardy community that is busy re-creating itself after the ravages of Hurricane Ike. The energy, the resolve, the will on that island is wonderful to behold and be a part of. Our workshop--I say "our" because this afternoon is something we'll all be creating together--will bring together local citizens as well as out-of-towners. My thanks to those of you in Galveston and Houston who have already signed up, and my thanks for spreading the word to your friends in south Texas.

But what is a creativity workshop, you may ask? It can be many things, but in all cases it is a quest to open our minds, re-ignite and recharge our spirits, build new creative energy and spark new ideas in the fellowship of others. Creativity so often strives and is experienced in solitude: yet it needs encouragement, thrives on recognition, warms in company, delig…

Lessons for the Long Haul

Next week, my sixteenth book comes out, but compared to many writing in the romance genre, I consider myself a novice, still learning so much from my mentors.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear my good friend, Patricia Kay present an outstanding workshop on "The Emotional Connection." Pat's definitely a long-hauler in this business -- just this week she made her fiftieth (you read that right - 50th!) book sale. (Congratulations, Pat!)

I've learned so much from talking to, critiquing with, and watching Pat over the years that I thought I'd share a few of my favorite lessons.

1. The more you give, the more you get. Pat's given countless hours to teaching and mentoring young (both chronologically and in terms of experience) writers. She's taken time to read the work of aspiring and transitioning authors (this one included) and given honest, solid advice. Avoiding the temptation to turn into one those guru/divas who feels she infallibly knows all, she'…

Marion Maneker breaks it down to the dollar in "Want to Know What a Book Really Costs?"

Yesterday on Slate's The Big Money, Marion Maneker offered an excellent just-the-facts-ma'am explanation of the hard and soft cost breakdown on books and ebooks in Want to Know What a Book Really Costs?:
Publishers say the physical costs of a book—paper, printing, warehousing, shipping and handling returns—account for only about 10 percent of the total. Digital distribution does not erase the need to spend on author advances, editing, marketing, and other functions.

Yes, Virginia, that can be true. Strictly defined, those costs are probably close to 10 percent of the retail price of the book. As astonishing as that may seem to nonpublishers, I'm not so sure the numbers support the publishers' case for higher book prices. So I did a little math for Jack. And I tried to show my work.Maneker goes on to break it down to the dollar, and the real deal might surprise you. Check it out.

Will women writers ever get to be "writers, plain and simple"?

A thought-provoking bit from "Writers, Plain and Simple," Claire Messud's excellent essay in the February issue of Guernica:
The great twentieth-century American poet Elizabeth Bishop refused to be included in anthologies of women’s poetry, insisting that she was a poet plain and simple, rather than a “woman poet.” She wrote that “art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc. into two sexes is to emphasize values that are not art.”

...Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men. It’s a known fact that among children, girls will happily read stories with male protagonists, but boys refuse to read stories with female protagonists. J.K. Rowling was aware of this: if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter, none of us would know about her.

And we don’t change our spots when we grow up. Last year, I was one of nine judges awarding an international literary prize fo…

Reality Check: On the Challenges of Being a Writer Now

Memoirist Dani Shapiro, in a recent LA times article, "A Writing Career Becomes Harder to Scale," beat me to the punch and delivered the topic I had planned to explore in my post this week. I'll let you all read the article, but will echo this much: there is indeed a very tight window, these days, that many of us, all at the same time, are trying to squeeze through, and it takes more determination to be a writer in 2010 than it did when I published my first novel in 1997. That said, Ted Solotaroff, who founded the New American Review and whom Shapiro uses as a touchstone, shares words that still hold true:

"Writing itself, if not misunderstood and abused, becomes a way of empowering the writing self. It converts anger and disappointment into deliberate and durable aggression, the writer's main source of energy. It converts sorrow and self-pity into empathy, the writer's main means of relating to otherness. Similarly, [the writer's] wounded innocence tur…

Even Ideas Need Fresh Air and Light to Grow

The natural inclination of many new writers is to play their cards close to their vest, to keep their best ideas secret so no one else will steal them. Sometimes, these folks get sufficiently paranoid that the mark their submissions with copyright symbols (which mark the writer as an amateur) or imagine James Bond-worthy conspiracies wherein some agent, editor, or movie studio exec steals the million-dollar concept from their rejected submission and then passes the sacred spark to one of their experienced, already-rich-and-famous writers.

Such is the stuff lawsuits are made of.

The truth, however, is more complicated. Early in my career, someone told me (wish I could recall who) that when a great idea comes into the world, it does not come to you alone. And since ideas can't be copyrighted, only their physical expression, the best defense is to create, polish, and submit your version with all due speed and diligence.

But if you keep your thoughts jealously to yourself, you could be …

Love's not Time's fool

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Sonnet 116
William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Saturday morning cartoon: Jeff Chiba Stearns draws an artist's life in Yellow Sticky Notes

Worth Repeating: Raymond Chandler on the "Literature of Escape"

I just ran across Raymond Chandler's terrific essay, "The Simple Art of Murder" (1950) and thought his opinions on the "literature of escape" well worth repeating. Here's a brief excerpt that applies to all the genres as much as it ever has detective fiction.

In her introduction to the first Omnibus of Crime, Dorothy Sayers wrote: "It (the detective story) does not, and by hypothesis never can, attain the loftiest level of literary achievement." And she suggested somewhere else that this is because it is a "literature of escape" and not "a literature of expression." I do not know what the loftiest level of literary achievement is: neither did Aeschylus or Shakespeare; neither does Miss Sayers. Other things being equal, which they never are, a more powerful theme will provoke a more powerful performance. Yet some very dull books have been written about God, and some very fine ones about how to make a living and stay fairly honest…

Is an MFA right for you?

I'm currently teaching a graduate fiction class, but to students whose master's degree is very general. They don't get to specialize in creative writing. Partly because of this, their natural question at the end of every semester is whether or not they should get an MFA, and upon hearing it, I always have mixed feelings. There are a lot of assumptions out there about MFA programs, and a lot of rumors and myths. I thought I'd take a few minutes and try to dispel some of them:

Myth #1: An MFA provides a paid, uninterrupted time to write. Sometimes this is true, but most often it is not, at least not without going into significant financial debt. It's true that most programs try to get their students Teaching Assistantships, but at many schools, that TA is only enough to foot the tuition bill. And the TA itself may end up taking 20 or more hours out of each week, so keep that in mind as well. Teaching is very time and energy consuming. When I decided to go to…

3 Questions with Bev Vincent, Edgar-Nominated Author of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion

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Today on Boxing the Octopus's "Three Questions" series, we welcome author Bev Vincent, whose book The Stephen King Illustrated Companion, has been nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award.

When I first met Bev, he was the president of the Woodlands Writers' Guild, and I could tell right away he was a man with serious plans for going pro. And sure enough, he's made good on many of them. From his website:

Bev Vincent is the Bram Stoker Award nominated author of The Road to the Dark Tower, an authorized companion to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He is a contributing editor with Cemetery Dance magazine and has published over fifty short stories, including appearance in the Bram Stoker Award winning From the Borderlands anthology, the MWA anthology The Blue Religion edited by Michael Connelly, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Doctor Who: Destination Prague and All Hallows. Visit his online store for links to anthologies and books.

BtO: Congratulations on the Edgar nominatio…

Oh, nerds...I love you.

More word nerd art projects by fab Matt Robinson.

(Yes, Jerusha, this is for you!)

CNN reports: Is it bon for Google to scan contents of French library (and hold rights for 25 yrs)?

Call for Submissions to American Stories NOW

Friends, if you have a taste for flash-non-fiction, your submissions are warmly welcomed at my f-n-f site, American Stories NOW. In the past I've shared the work of emerging writers including Cassondra Ellis, Michelle Lee, John Summerfield, Boudreau Freret and Noreen Lape, along with my own experiments in the form. What is American Stories NOW? Developed out of an assignment I often give to apprentice writers, ASN invites you to work within specific parameters, and is a great exercise for enhancing observational and memory skills, listening for the story, writing away from the self and capturing detail. The guidelines are simple. ASN accepts:

--Original, previously unpublished work. Length: 500-1,000 words

--Non-fiction (i.e. "true" stories)

--Stories that focus on a recent ("NOW") event, conversation or encounter here in America

--Stories that focus not on the writer, but rather on another person (or people).

The charge is to develop ourselves, both as writers…

Wise words to a struggling young writer

Mylene's response to Kathrine's post below was way too wonderful to be buried in the comment section, so I'm taking the liberty of posting it up front. What a great example of how we love and mentor each other (especially our younglings) as artists.

Mylene said:

By now you will have dried your tears, and I hope will hear me when I tell you that that was one of the most lucid analyses of one's own work I have every read. It takes talent not just to write, but to know when something isn't good enough. It takes courage not to let it slide. It takes heart for it to mean so much to you that you weep in the quest for mastery. It takes insight to parse the problem and grope toward the solution. You have all of these. You are almost there.

Remember that the frustration you are feeling right now is not ordinary, and that is why it is intense. It is what the choreographer Martha Graham calls "divine dissatisfaction." You are trying to make something that is fit and…

I am not quitting! (even though tonight I think my novel sucks)

Today was one of those days. Finally got time to work on the book after a hectic week of play rehearsals and teaching, and decided to look back at my overall structure. This is not the first time. The first time was after my workshop told me they loved the beginning of my novel and the whole last half, but that there was a solid chunk in the middle that really dragged. So one balmy evening in May, I sat down on the porch with my aerospace engineer husband and hashed out the problems with the plot. I ended up backwards plotting from the end of the book all the way to the beginning, abiding by one principle: be absolutely ruthless. What this meant was that a significant portion of the novel ended up being rewritten, not heavily revised, but completely rewritten, from scratch. I sucked it up, dumped those 60 pages in the trash, and went on with the novel and my life. Over the next eighteen months, I ended up rewriting an even more substantial part of the novel, until my second d…

Macmillan authors are back in biz on Amazon

Looks like things are settling down. Just saw this note on John Scalzi's blog. Looked at several other authors with St. Martin's and other Mac imprints, and they're all back as well.

Whew. For a lot of reasons.

Saturday morning cartoon: Oscar nom "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty"

"She was soon to learn that when it comes to the harsher lessons of this life, beauty is not going to get you very far!"

Really not much I can add to that. Sleep tight?

From E.L. Doctorow, The Creationists

"Wherever fiction begins, whether in the music of words or an impelling anger, in a historic event or the importunate hope of a justly rendered composition of one's own life, the work itself is hard and slow and the writer's illumination becomes a taskmaster, a ruling discipline, jealously guarding the mind from all other and necessarily errant private excitements until the book is done, the script is finished. You live enslaved in the piece's language, its diction, its universe of imagery, and there is no way out except through the last sentence."

Agreed, my friends? Or is there some small piece missing, here, something of the joy of writing, the sense of being enslaved to something that flies as well as plods?

I do highly recommend The Creationists. A nice set of essays, although I bemoan the fact that there is only one woman among the many creative writers whose work Doctorow explores.

3 Quick Tips to Pump Up the Punch in Your Scenes

I've spent nearly a week wondering why I couldn't move forward and complete the scene I've been writing. Until suddenly, the proverbial light bulb flashed and I realized the root problem. I'd been wimping out.

Wimping out happens when you shy away from a scene with real emotional impact and rob the story (and by extension, yourself) of an opportunity to connect with the reader at a visceral level.

Here are some warning signs that you may have wimped out when writing a scene and some tips to pump up the punch:

1. You've put the most powerful, memorable lines in the mouths of a secondary or throwaway character rather than allowing your protagonist to star.

Possible solutions: Is there a way to give your protagonist a terrific comeback, wry or insightful observation, or show him/her driving the events/outcome? Readers love an active character with impact in his/her own life rather than a "dust mote" buffeted by every breeze.

2. You've failed to show a crucia…

Hey, Amazon! I just bought another Macmillan book from Powell's.

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It may be a small thing, but I'm buying a Macmillan imprint book from a non-Amazon online bookseller every day the Macmillan authors' buy buttons are missing from the Amazon site. Here's today's money-where-my-mouth-is salute to author solidarity:

A Whisper to the Living by Stuart M. Kaminsky (Forge, Jan 2010) Click link to buy from Powell's.

Per the flap:
A Whisper to the Living continues the adventures (some would say trials and tribulations) of Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, an honest policeman in a very dishonest post-Soviet Union. Rostnikov is one of the most engaging and relevant characters in crime fiction, a sharp and caring policeman as well as the perfect tour guide to a changing Russia.
Rostnikov and his team are searching for a serial killer who has claimed at least 40 victims. And then there is the problem of protecting a visiting British journalist who is working on a story about a Moscow prostitution ring...and in doing so Rostnikov and his tea…

Latest on Macmillan grrr Amazon

From Macmillan CEO John Sargent to Macmillan authors and illustrators via a paid advertisement in Publisher's Lunch:

I am sorry I have been silent since Saturday. We have been in constant discussions with Amazon since then. Things have moved far enough that hopefully this is the last time I will be writing to you on this subject.

Over the last few years we have been deeply concerned about the pricing of electronic books. That pricing, combined with the traditional business model we were using, was creating a market that we believe was fundamentally unbalanced. In the last three weeks, from a standing start we have moved to a new business model. We will make less money on the sale of e books, but we will have a stable and rational market. To repeat myself from last Sunday's letter, we will now have a business model that will ensure our intellectual property will be available digitally through many channels, at a price that is both fair to the consumer and that allows those who …

John Scalzi's Play on Publishing

Frustrated by the current publishing climate and "give it to me now and give it to me free" attitude of those who feel entitled to download your hard work on the downlow?

If you'd rather laugh than cry about it (at least for today), I highly recommend you click your way over to Hugo-nominated, New York Times bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi's Whatever Blog to read Why In Fact Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon: A Deeply Slanted Play in Three Acts.

You, Mr. Scalzi, clearly rock. And Mrs. Scalzi, I'm sending you a cyber-high five for that appearance in the Third Act.

On Substance

My friends, when you are feeling small and inconsequent, or worry that your work may be small and inconsequent, please undertake the following exercise.Imagine lifting your own weight over your head. Do this deliberately, and in this way: Imagine that you are standing in front of yourself. Imagine you are bending at the knees--say, like a circus performer--and holding your upturned hands out toward yourself. Now: imagine your heels stepping forward and into your hands. Imagine you are slowly straightening and lifing your entire body, your own feet, in fact the weight of your complete being, from the ground up--right over your head.Feel the heft of you? Feel the substance?No small thing.This is what we do every day. We carry ourselves through the world. And our work.We flag, at times. No wonder. We feel small and baffled. Why, we ask ourselves, do we bother at all? Here is where the error lies: in thinking, because we sometimes tire and buckle, that we don't amount to …

Dear Amazon: I just bought a Macmillan book from B&N

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There's an old saying: "When elephants duel, the grass is trampled." I may be an insignificant little blade of grass, but I'm doing what I can to stand with my bro and sis authors who are being trampled in the Macmillan/Amazon pachyderm dust-up. After verifying that Mac authors are still being screwed on Amazon, I went to B&N and bought a new hardcover release from a St. Martin's Press author.

How about it people? If you're a Mac author out in the cold, please post a B&N buy link to your book in the comments below, and anyone else who's willing to put money where mouth is, please join me and post a shout out: Hey, Amazon! I just bought a Mac author from B & N!

The Murderer's Daughters is the debut novel of Randy Susan Meyers, who spent eight years as assistant director of Common Purpose, a batterer intervention program where she worked with both batterers and domestic violence victims. She's also worked with at-risk youth and currently …

PW Reports: Agents Weigh in on the Book Pricing War

Publishers Weekly has an excellent article covering many agents' take on the Amazon-MacMillan flapdoodle. Check it out here.

Not surprisingly, the majority of agents, like the majority of authors, have come down on the publishers' side and against Amazon's bizarre and heavy-handed decision to remove buy buttons from all Macmillan books in any format.

I know a lot of readers (many of whom imagine that JK Rowling, Danielle Steele, and fictional-mystery author Richard Castle represent the typical author, in terms of earnings and lifestyle) don't believe this, but book publishers survive on razor-thin profit margins, and the majority of authors get by on Ramen noodles, coupons, and/or spouses with benefits. With the economy slumping, countless editors and other publishing personnel have found themselves jobless and even more midlist authors are seeing their royalties slashed and options declined. So believe me, we're not insensitive to the readers who want and need to sa…

Literary vs. Commercial Fiction: A Necessary Divide?

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Over the past couple of weeks, we've been talking about the distinction between literary and commercial fiction, and speculating about why lit fic is losing so much ground. Of course, this phenomenon is not new, and neither is the two-way snobbism. In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne famously attacked that "damned mob of scribbling women" for selling hundreds of thousands of copies of books, while he and other more "serious" writers struggled to hold their own in the marketplace. "Dollars damn me," wrote Melville at age 30 in 1851, deep in debt and headed towards financial ruin. And yet he and Hawthorne continued to write and continued their famous correspondence, even as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin went from its serialized publication in an antislavery magazine to a wildly popular book and oft performed play.

Yet who do we read now? Who is most often assigned in high school and college classrooms? The answer is less straightforwar…

Meet me in Montana (as the song says)

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Headed back to Montana today, camping out at my favorite writing retreat (aka Mom & Dad's place) between speaking gigs. First stop, Missoula Community Medical Center's Voices of Hope event at the Hilton Garden Inn, Wednesday Feb 3, 4 - 9:30 PM. From their website:
One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during his or her lifetime. We are firm believers that knowledge is one of our most powerful allies when it comes to the battle against cancer. That’s why Community Medical Center sponsors this event each year. We invite you to take part in this free event including panel presentations with a variety of medical experts and survivors as they discuss treatment, beating cancer and what it means to be a survivor.Then it's back to Helena, where I'll do a couple workshops and keynote for the Rocky Mountain Theatre Festival at Carroll College, Feb 12-13, an amazing event hosted by Helena's Grandstreet Theatre.

Looking forward to seeing many old friends and con…