Archive for General

Funny, and Harsh, Review of the Zuckerberg Book


Sam Grobart has an amusing, and pretty harsh, review of Randi Zuckerberg’s new childrens book, Dot. over at BloombergBusinessweek.

I’d be curious to see the artwork of the book given that Grobart points out the sum entirety of the opus is a whopping 101 words.


The Dangers of Ghostwriting


Over at Salon, Anna Davies offers her experiences with ghostwriting and shares “My dirty secret writing life.” It’s an interesting look into the world of book packagers and those folks who churn out amazingly popular titles.

Now, as one of the commentors suggests, in some ways, ghostwriters are no different than the ranks of studio musicians who perform on record after record. That’s a profession I’ve always admired. While unique, distinctive musicians are certainly appreciated and applauded, I think it also takes a very unique and talented person to play on a jazz record in the morning and then rock out a metal tune in the afternoon and then maybe do an acoustic gig at a coffeeshop in the evening.

Certainly, I enjoyed my own time as a ghostwriter and co-author and would do it again. So I don’t look back and feel as though I’ve lost my soul or anything, as Davies states happened to her.

Nonetheless, the challenges and trials she relates in the article do have some merit. Ghostwriting isn’t for everybody. And for folks who think it’s all fun and glamor, then Davies’ piece is a useful word of warning.

Will Finishing a Book Change Your Life?


GalleyCat referenced an interesting post by Arthur McMahon in which he expresses a bit of amazement at the fact that “Completing a novel didn’t change my perception of life like I expected it to.”

Some commenters at GalleyCat claimed they didn’t expect completing a novel would have any change, they write for themselves, not riches or fans or feedback, and all that.

But I totally understand what McMahon is getting at.

In his full post, available here, he writes that it’s a long-haul proposition. The completion of the first book is but a step towards the next one. And so forth.

It’s worth checking out and then examining your own opinions… Do you think that completing a book will change your life?

A Laugh at Lousy Book Covers

A reader passed along this Tumblr account, dedicated to Lousy Book Covers. Now, obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, so yeah, maybe this one shouldn’t be included or that one isn’t that bad or whatever. But it’s at least a pretty humorous gaze through the results of ten minutes with Photoshop.

Also, while enjoying this one, I stumbled across a blog dedicated to Bad Book Covers.

Like record covers, some of these are so bad as to be almost cool.

Get Off My Damn Lawn! Says the Internet

As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month. To help folks blast through their 50,000 words in 30 days, GalleyCat has been providing writing prompts, tips, and words of encouragement. Most notable is this roundup where they collected two years worth of tips into a single post.

This week, they referred to some words of wisdom from Carolyn Kellogg. It’s a simple admonition, easy to implement, and cheap. And something that all of us writers need to remember from time to time, even if we’re not trying to churn out a novel this month.

Simply go offline.

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Here’s Kellogg’s entire post.

British Author Follows the Money

British writer Steve Boggan tracked a $10 bill as it made its way across America. Along the way, he met a variety of people including farmers, bankers, truck drivers, and other folks. In this excerpt Boggan sums up his 3,500 mile journey.

Maybe I’m too much of a homer, but I cringed slightly when I first read the headline, waiting for the inevitable Borat-inspired jokes about American obesity, selfishness, and inbreeding. That easy and obvious kind of material seems too much for many foreign writers to avoid.

But Boggan recalls a warm and friendly welcome from our specific colony:

“So, while I could imagine being laughed at or even beaten up in London or Newcastle trying to follow a banknote, in America I encountered people who treated my crazy mission as if it were their own. Often, I was exhausted and hungry – and they treated me with kindness and respect.”

Follow the Money: A Month in the Life of a Ten-Dollar Bill seems like an interesting book and worth adding to the to-be-read pile.

Are You a Results Person? Or a Journey Person?

As I’ve been stuck in book finalization mode and promotion mode over the spring and early summer, I got behind in my blog reading. As I’ve been catching up on some of my favorite blogs, a particular post caught my attention. These are both kinda old, maybe you hadn’t seen it before, just as I hadn’t.

Agent and author Betsy Lerner tackled the thorny issue of motivation for results or motivation for “the journey.”. Read through the comments to get a wide range of thoughts on this issue.

Personally, I’m about 60 – 40 (which, I think another commenter also said) in favor of results. I’m simply not zen enough to get fully immersed in a journey that yields nothing, with no hope of yielding nothing. I’d like to say that I would keep going to the gym and putting in two hours on a spinning cycle even if I never lost a single ounce of weight, but I just don’t believe that’s true. Not for me, anyway. I tend to fluctuate by the day (or even by the hour) in terms of sometimes I can get fully and wholly lost in an endeavor with absolutely not expectation for any result. But other times, I gotta be seeing the scale declining or the pages accumulating or the flowers blooming or whatever.

Countdown to Calipari Book?

One of my favorite pastimes is guessing which celebrities and public figures are going to be next in the publishing queue. Maybe some day, I can get Vegas to start setting odds on my little parlor gam.

So this morning, I’m wondering how long it will be for University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari to sign a book deal.

Coach Cal published Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life in 2010. Ever since the success of Pat Riley and Rick Pitino tomes in the eighties, basketball coaches (seemingly more so than other athletic leaders) churn out business related books whenever they’re in the news.

Calipari’s ability to quickly merge superstar egos into one year units would seem to be particularly interesting to CEOs and the white collar set. Coming off last night’s national championship victory for the Wildcats, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Calipari’s name in the book deal news soon.

Lies, Damned Lies, And Publishing

Scott and I have been discussing the Mike Daisey fiasco and something stuck out for me during his This American Life interview and, more important, in the reactions by various tech visionaries at various online outlets. “He’s a liar,” they said. “He’s a fraud.”

“Me made us care about something that wasn’t true.”

While I will never defend Daisey and his ridiculously overblown stories (I cover Foxconn at TechCrunch) I would like to point out that, in a way, Daisey is not in the wrong or, more correctly, the industry that produced him, mainly the literary establishment, created him and his ilk out of the necessity for endless amusement.
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A Halloween Terrifying Ten Library

[Editor’s Note: In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I turned to novelist and horror aficionado Stephen Graham Jones to make some recommendations on ten frightening books. He’s a prolific writer whose All the Beautiful Sinners was recently re-released as an e-book by Dzanc Books. So stock up on some Jones and also check out his terrifying recommendations for your weekend pre-Halloween festivities.]

I know I’m supposed to do Ten Books for Halloween here—and, I’ve got six hundred swimming behind my eyes, so the only real chore here’s selection (I think I could do ten from the seventies, ten from best sellers, ten from friends, etc). And, yeah, the idea of ‘ten,’ I know, it’s that you’ll find one or two on there to actually hit, given the time. And that’s provided I don’t stack it with Swan Songs and Stands and House of Leaves. And that you trust my selections.

So, my compromise, it’s to pick books that are short enough, to only pick five of them, and to go for ones that are mass market paperback, so they can fit in the pocket of your costume (because of course about now’s when you start trying everything on, doing all the dry runs through the neighborhoods and halls). And, as for why the mass market trick? Could be nostalgia; I suspect we’re nearing the end of the mass-market-books-littering-the-shelves days. And, I’m not sad, don’t get me wrong—all for e-booking our way into the sunset, here—but, for me, growing up in the eighties, horror meant mass market. I think back then I thought only textbooks came in hardback/cloth. And of course I had no idea what a ‘trade paperback’ might be. A factory second, maybe, I don’t know.

And, the fourth thing I’m doing here that’s not what Scott was asking for it, it’s to provide more of an annotated curriculum—to shuffle some movies in with the reading, so as to build up to that perfect night at the end of the month. Something like:

1. Bentley Little’s The House
This is a truly creepy work, is one of only two three novels to ever thoroughly penetrate my dreams (other two: Breakfast of Champions and Lunar Park). It’s the haunted house, definitely, but’s so different from any other haunted house I’ve seen. This book terrifies me.

2. John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns
From the Masters of Horror series. It’s not really a counterpoint to The House or anything, but like the uppercut that comes right after the jab, stands you up on your toes and makes you see the darkness.

3. Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game
It’s a rock ’n roll horror novel, one of those stories that only ever has one foot on the ground at a time, and just, in that signature Barker fashion, pulls you along by your eyelids. And, for my money, it goes pretty perfectly with:

4. Return of the Living Dead
Far and away my favorite zombie movie ever, but, too, along with Feast, say, it’s one of a select few that move at the same narrative pace as The Damnation Game. And, I mean, it’s got Tarman, right? That’s really all I need to say.

5. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes
I mean, granted, you have to kind of grit your teeth to get through the occasionally overblown, too-aware-of-its-own-technicolorality prose, and you of course go in knowing it’s YA, so the content’s dialed back, but . . . I don’t know. Something about this one. It’s like Bradbury’s not so much working within some archetypal framework as that he’s taking all his personal archetypes and painting them large and grand on the wall. It’s nice, it’s safe, but it moves, too, and it’s got magic.

6. Midnight Meat Train
Just to get us back up to an acceptable—and necessary—level of gore. And fun. And exuberance for horror. I mean, a guy with a chrome hammer on the subway? And, you know it’s Barker, so there’s definitely going to be something demon-y involved, and, to not acknowledge in some way The Books of Blood . . . you wouldn’t even take me seriously if I didn’t, would you?

7. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
Not simply to reset us to black and white or anything, and not to argue for atmospheric horror over what’s cooking on the shelves these days (um, plenty of it, if you look), but . . . okay, somewhat because there’s no time for The Shining on this list. And what’s a Halloween list without King, right? But you can burn through Haunting in an afternoon, and, what’s fun is you can see all over again how foundational that book was to everything that would follow. And that it still actually, legitimately, works. Very effective.

8. Paranormal Activity
And not just as prep for the third one hitting the box office next week. No, it’s just plain old terrifying, at least to me, is like a bad mix of Tale of Two Sisters and Sara Gran’s Come Closer, but with a lot of Shirley Jackson kind of mis-directs. And, I’ve written on it longer here, so won’t this time around, except to say that, no, it’s not just Blair Witch a decade later. It’s scary, it’s wrong—it’s perfect for Halloween.

9. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door
It kind of makes you all bummed out to be human, and it also makes you realize that all this ‘horror’ you’ve been reading, writing, watching, making? All you’ve been doing’s painting unicorns with flowers in their mouths. Under rainbows. This is the real badness, happening on the page. It doesn’t flinch, and it makes you complicit. Go there, Try to come back.

10. Either Quarantine or [Rec]
Depending on your stance towards subtitles. They’re pretty much the same movie, and, yeah, early on you know exactly how it’s going to go, but still, you get so caught up in the rush of it. It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground, watching this. But you toast those characters, too; they’re doing exactly what they need to do in a horror movie. And what more can you ask?

And, of course, no Halloween, right? Not just because Carpenter’s already on the list, either (Barker’s on there twice), but because, if you’re not already watching some Halloween this month without consulting these kinds of lists, then maybe you need to revisit your priorities. Your allegiances. And, yeah, comic books, man. I’d say American Vampire and Locke & Key, maybe. American Vampire’s just so, so fun—RotLD kind of fun, I’d say—while Locke & Key is some top-notch writing. Slam through all the volumes in a day and you’ll be sitting up that night thinking both that you’re glad you don’t live in Key House and you kind of wish you did, too.

And, just realizing I lied about books that have penetrated my dreams: Douglass Clegg’s Breeder did that as well. It just completely pulled me in, wouldn’t let me go. And I think one of Laird Barron’s stories from Imago Sequence did something to me as well, though that’s all happily repressed for the moment. And, looking back up at my list, now, I see there’s no Ju’on, there’s no Ringu. But maybe that’s just because, if I’m going to take my own medicine, somewhat, and at least mentally peel back through all of these, then those are two I don’t want rattling around in my head when I’m trying to sleep again. Which I’m going to have to do at some point…

Stephen Graham Jones
October 2011