Michael Schaub at Bookslut tells me two things. One, there is a blog called Language Log, which is for those who are very interested in the finer points of the English language, including the origin of pseudo-Chinese proverbs and matters of that sort. And two, that there is now a book based on excerpts from the blog and called Far From the Madding Gerund.
I used to know what a gerund was, once, before my brain went. And a gerundive. Because they're different. I think.
The Frontlist is a brand-new UK-based web site which offers a service to writers who are in search of a publisher or agent. Basically, the idea is that you submit a sample of your novel. Then you are asked to write critiques of the work of several other authors who have done the same. And finally, if your own novel (extract) proves to be highly popular with your peers, and gets to the top of the hit parade, so to speak, it will be considered by a publisher or agent.
The service is free, in principle, but if you want to have sight of the critiques of your work by other would-be novelists then you are asked to pay a one-off fee of £10. So it isn't going to break the bank.
Theoretically, this vetting process offers a kind of slush-pile filter which might well be attractive to hard-pressed editors and agents. The first editor to agree to look at work which has been vetted in this way is Jason Cooper at Picador (part of Pan Macmillan). Simon Trewin, an agent at PFD, has also said some kind words about the project.
Some unpublished writers will think that this is a wonderful idea, and will rush to submit. Others won't. I myself would need some persuading that a community of unpublished novelists is the group best qualified to assess either the commercial or literary value of my work. I am profoundly unenthusiastic about the whole critique-by-your-peers process, whether on creative-writing courses or anywhere else.
However, it is quite clear that this entire operation is being run by thoughtful and well-intentioned people -- idealists, even -- who are going to be doing a great deal of work for close to zero money, and it would therefore be churlish to be unkind about it. Suck it and see, is my advice. Maybe it will work for you.
Future of the media
The Creative Commons blog announces that the Future Exploration Network has just published a report on the future of the media. There's a chart which makes it all perfectly simple.
Mickey Spillane is dead
Mickey Spillane has died. At one time he was thought of as the crudest and most vulgar and most violent of the writers of hard-nosed thrillers, even before the fear of prosecution for four-letter words went out of the window.
I once heard a British TV interview with Spillane in which he said that he never rewrote anything, and no one ever needed to edit his stuff. Except once, when he had his hero machine-gun some 44 commies. Apparently the editor thought that figure of 44 was a bit too high to be credible: 34, possibly...
All those statements were probably the purest bullshit, designed to impress the viewers. Anyway, I could never get on with the books, but the Robert Aldrich-directed version (1955) of Kiss Me Deadly is one hell of a film. See it if you get the chance.
Wayne goes sleepy-bye-byes
Wayne Rooney, as UK readers will know, is a footballer of some note. He has a £5 million contract to 'write' five books, a deal which defies all comment, but I keep an eye on what he is up to.
Wayne has a perfectly charming live-in girl friend -- sorry, fiancee -- called Colleen. This week the newspapers say that he feels so guilty about this habit of visiting brothels that he has told Colleen that she can spend as much money as she likes. But the bit that caught my eye was in the Times.
There it says that Wayne can't get off to sleep unless there is some soporific noise in the background: television, hair-dryer, hoover... I wonder -- do you think the sound of Colleen's vibrator has the same effect?
Kevin Curtis Barr
Kevin Curtis Barr is an artist who has a presence on Digitalconsciousness.com, along with many other artists, and he sent me an email with some of his work attached. Interesting enough in its way, but quite frankly it took me a hell of a time to figure out what, if anything, it had to do with books.
Turns out, if you read Kevin's biography closely enough (and I have to say that some wouldn't bother), that he is the author of Welcome To The Graphic Design Age.
'This book features art and poetry; within it's (sic) pages are poems about Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey, Princess Diana and legendary songstress Chaka Khan. The art centers around Hollywood stars like Tina Turner, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez and Vin Diesel to name but a few.'
Well, if nothing else, this shows you that self-publishers can now publish a heavily illustrated full-colour book for a tiny fraction of what it would have cost even ten years ago. And that's worth knowing about.
Reading on Writing
There's another Kevin in town, Kevin Allison, and this one has a blog on The Editorial Department, where there's lots and lots of stuff about writing and editing and publishing. Subject of the blog is mainly short stories and how they work. It's a wee bit lit'ry for me, but then you know by now but that I am a convicted philistine. How else would I know about Mickey Spillane? Flannery O'Connor he wasn't.
Book-blog has moved
Debra Hamel has moved the Book Blog from blogspot.com to Typepad, and you can now find it here. Result is a sleeker, more easily navigable site. Latest post is about Marilyn Johnson's book on the great obituarists.
I would have thought that obituary writing was fairly modest-level journalism, but I've noticed before that Americans seem to give the obituary editor of a paper rather more prestige than do the English. Some years ago, Esquire magazine ran a profile of the senior obit man at the NYT, which puzzled me somewhat.
Here in the UK we tend to commission an obit from a distinguished person's peers, usually well before the VIP's death, and get it updated from time to time if the individual insists on surviving. I've never actually written an obit for the Times, but I've known a couple of people who have. Going rate about £100 (ten years ago).
Mention here, last Friday, of the annual Bulwer-Lytton prize, prompts m'learned friend C.E. Petit Esq to point out that, a couple of years ago, irked by the fact that the prize is awarded for awful fiction only, he dashed off a non-fiction example of the joys of legalese.
What is terrifying, he says, is that his parodic effort is actually shorter and less convoluted than a lot of real legal writing. And he's absolutely right; here in England we specialise in that kind of thing. It's beyond parody.
Speaking of videos and podcasts, which we have been recently, you really need to know that there is a radio station for writers which broadcasts on the web, 24/7: Writers FM. Seems hard to believe, but there it is. Just click here - and make sure that you have the speakers of your computer switched on; mine are usually off.
When I tuned in, there was a Brit (judging by his accent) talking to Nick Daws (another Brit, I deduce) about his method for writing a book. Apparently the book-writing business is really simple! How could I have failed to understand this?
The other day I turned on my car radio, something I seldom do, and quite by accident I happened to hear 'I wish I was a punk rocker' by the internet-famous Sandi Thom. And you know what? This girl can actually sing! Not only that, but even a deaf old man like me can hear the words. I was so surprised and grateful I very nearly blubbed.
This girl could go far. If you want to hear her for yourself, visit her web site, and click on the Now Playing link.