Friday, July 21, 2006

Smile: it's Friday

Not a knockoff

Publishers Lunch reports that Kathleen McGowan's The Expected One is written as fiction, but that, according to the author, it actually mirrors her own life. She believes, you see, that she is a descendant of a marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. (Thank goodness they were actually married, that's all I can say. So many people don't bother, do they?) What is more, the visions experienced by the novel's main character are verbatim accounts of Kathleen's own visions of Mary Magdalene.

But, er, haven't we heard something like this before? Ah yes, but this is quite different.

'Everyone's going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon,' says Kathleen, 'but I'm not.' By way of evidence she adds that she began working on her book in 1989. The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003. So that's all right then.

Apparently Kathleen originally self-published her novel last year, but it sold only 2,500 copies. Imagine the disappointment of that. Still, now she gets a second chance, because Simon and Schuster are running a first edition of 250,000 copies. Full story in USA Today.

Digital options for Updike

A while back we noted that John Updike (a literary novelist of note, in case you're wondering) was not keen on the digital world. He likes proper books. Well, that's OK.

Publishers Lunch points to a letter in the New York Times in which Joni Evans points out that participating in the digital age is optional.

Updike does not have to join the revolution. Digitization is optional. The Internet operates in the world of Also, Either/Or, Not One Way. Updike's intentions of privacy and intimacy are safe; his copyright thoroughly protects his choice to remain nonenhanced, nondigitized, nonhyperlinked and nonsearchable.

But what is good for John Updike is not necessarily good for the millions of authors the current system has locked out. Creativity does not flourish when books can't find publishers or when audiences cannot be sustained. Those authors whose works remain unpublished, out of print, out of stock or out of date will be the ones to march in the digital revolution. Updike is a large, elite fish in a small pond. The digital pond is primarily for other species — smaller, less recognized, exotic fish that need the oxygen this new world provides.

Couldn't put it better myself. Joni Evans, by the way, has worked for many years as an editor, publisher and literary agent. She's a known name.

More on illustrated diy books

Last October I wrote a piece about how you can produce your own fully illustrated books by using the facilities of Lulu.com.

At Christmas, Mrs GOB and I were given a beautiful calendar, put together by our son-in-law, and featuring photographs of our grandchildren for each month of the year. And that got me looking at how he did it. It turns out that there are now lots of online firms which will do digital calendars for you. You can order just one copy if you wish.

The print quality of our gift calendar was extremely good. Not absolutely top quality, by comparison with, say, an art book issued by Thames and Hudson, but quite enough to satisfy all but the most critical eye.

Now, thanks to Galleycat, I have read an NYT article on further developments in this field. Perhaps the most promising of these is the service offered by Blurb.com (which seems to be for US customers only at present, but that will change). If they can produce a book which satisfies an amateur astronomer I think it likely that the result might also satisfy those ultra-picky amateur specialists in fine-art black and white photography.

When that's been demonstrated, then an age-old problem will be solved. There are lots of people around who would love to publish a book of art photographs, but who (a) can't find a commercial publisher to touch it (for obvious reasons: high cost, small sales), and (b) can't afford the £10,000 plus to finance it themselves via the old technology.

At blurb.com, even doggies can publish a book. (Take a look if you don't believe me.)

It's tough at the top

Publishing News reports (link from booktrade.info) that Ravi Mirchandani is leaving UK's Heinemann. PN understands that 'the move was not his decision'. So, in other words, he's been sacked.

Heinemann (established in 1890 and at that time, of course, independent) is now part of Random House, which is part of Bertelsmann, which is a big international media group. Such groups exist solely to make profits for shareholders and not to enrich the literary culture of our time. And when you look at Mirchandani's track record you see that he is a very lit'ry chap indeed.

The lit'ry stuff presumably isn't making enough money (hardly surprising), so Mirchandani gets the boot. Tough, but logical after its fashion.

The Book Bar

There's a new book blog/resource in town, and it's called The Book Bar. Very new as yet, but quite a lot there already.

It's the brainchild of Jessica Ruston, who tells us that she writes and works for a small publisher. She immediately gets into my good books by admitting to having read Katie Price (aka Jordan)'s Angel. Verdict: 'It's pretty appalling. But also rather wonderful.' Sounds right up my street.

Jessica also mentions Never the Bride, by Paul Magrs, which I'd not heard of before. Apparently it's about the Bride of Frankenstein, who lives in Whitby, and it's as weird and funny and quirky as that suggests. Just a minute -- I thought it was Dracula who lived in Whitby? Or am I more confused than usual? I shall just have to read it.

In case you're thinking of doing something similar, be warned. It takes a lot of time and effort to set up a site like this.

Danuta Kean's new web site

Another extremely valuable resource for writers is to be found on Danuta Kean's revamped web site.

Danuta is an award-winning UK journalist of long standing. She writes a regular column for The Author, which is the house magazine of the Society of Authors, and has written for most of the leading newspapers; she also interviews authors on Channel4Radio.

There is an enormous amount of valuable information for writers on her web site, with more to come, including all The Author columns. As a sampler, try her piece about super-agents. Yes, folks, it could happen to you. Keep the faith. But just don't hold your breath; you might go very red in the face.

Seriously though, that one article is in itself a valuable insight into how modern publishing interlocks with everything, notably TV. And you thought it was enough just to write an interesting book? Oh, dearie, dearie me.

And finally...

I warned above that it takes a lot of time and effort to set up a halfway decent blog. But there are also other risks.

This week most of the UK papers reported the case of La Petite Anglaise, a young Englishwoman living in Paris, who blogged about her daily life in the French capital and lost her job as a result. Lynne Scanlon pointed me to a particularly detailed version of the story in the Telegraph.

La Petite's employers claim that she -- gasp of horror -- used the firm's time to work on her blog, and that she made them look stupid. Well, not nearly as stupid as they look now.

I'll tell you this for sure. You don't have to read her blog for very long to discover that this girl has been around the blogosphere for some time, and knows how to look after herself. And express herself. So far she has not named names. But if I were her former employer I would be feeling very, very nervous. There's ways to do things and ways to do things, and they done it all wrong.

7 comments:

The apple polisher said...

The photo book future is already here. A site called photobox will print you "A bound hard-cover book in a choice of colours with 20 to 50 pages of your best pictures and captions printed directly onto double-sided silk coated paper." And all for £20. I know one or two friends who are photgraphers I'd happily pay to produce such a book. Sadly, I suspect the demand is driven by twee baby photos for granny.

Francis Ellen said...

On The Expected One:

I think they should give the next Nobel prize for literature to the poor soul who
had to edit this shit. It has the look of truly dreadful writing squished through
a grammar machine. Here are a few excerpts from the book. I've taken the liberty
of doing a little auspicious editing myself in hopes of landing a job with S & S.


To sever a human head from its resting place on the body is a messy and difficult
business. It requires strength, determination, and a very sharp instrument. Those
who murdered Roger-Bernard Gélis had all of these things, and used them with the
utmost efficiency.
Those who murdered Roger-Bernard Gélis had previously tried
to sever a human head from its resting place with a blunt saxophone and found it
a messy and difficult business, and even the utmost efficiency had not been enough
to sever Jean-Claude Francoise’s head from its resting place. Where it still resides,
like a big French weather balloon.


Like most Western women, she was forced to fend off the unwanted advances of Jerusalem
street merchants.
The Western women ignored by Jerusalem street merchants did
their best to elicit an advance they might fend off but there was no telling which
Western women might pass the muster in the unwanted advance department. Some were
relentless in their efforts to hawk their wares or services. Others were merely attracted
to the petite woman with long red hair and fair coloring, an exotic combination in
this part of the world.
But not as exotic as the huge woman with dyed red hair
who wrote the first draft.


Her cousin Peter, an expert in Middle Eastern studies, had prepped her for the
culture of the Old City.
Peter had studied Middle Eastern Studies at the famous
Crackerjack Institute of Bad Writing. ‘Take this horsecock,' he said, pressing a
heavy wooden two-by-four into her pale, alabaster hand. 'If any of those pongos try
anything just give them a taste of this guy.’


Maureen was painstaking about even the tiniest details in her work and had studied
the evolving culture of Jerusalem carefully.
After all, if Jesus hadn’t knocked
up Mary Magdelene, and if Dan Brown hadn’t reworked a few nut-job theories, she’d
probably be sitting right now, in Denny’s eating donuts instead of fending off unwanted
advances from Jerusalem street merchants.


So far it was paying off, and Maureen was able to keep the distractions to a minimum
as she focused on her research, scribbling details and observations in her Moleskine
notebook.
She remembered now how the mole had not been pleased when she applied
the sharp instrument to the head that rested upon its body. That too had been messy,
but she used the utmost efficiency and now she had the notebook she required to outline
her story.


Maureen stood, riveted, by a vivid scene of haunting humanity: a male disciple
as he tried to shield Mary, the mother of Jesus, to spare her the sight of her son
carrying His cross. Tears stung at the back of her eyes as she stood before the image.

She wondered where all the female disciples had gone. She wondered if her eyes had
turned inside out. She wondered if the advance would really be seven figures or
were Simon and Schuster taking the piss?


She was thrown abruptly into the middle of a mob. All around her was chaos — there
was much shouting and shoving, great commotion on all sides. Maureen had enough of
her modern wits about her to notice that the swarming figures were robed in coarse,
homespun garments. Those who had shoes wore a crude version of a sandal; she noticed
as one stepped down hard on her foot.
The leader of the mob wore a cummerbund,
another sported velvet gloves, still, with enough of her modern wits left she could
see they were crimson, matching the blood that spurted from her nose as the glove
came to rest upon it. The pale, delicate skin of an imaginary thin, white woman drove
the natives wild with lust.


Most were men, bearded and grimy. Just like the ones you might see on television.
But they were well-researched; every detail etched into the moleskin notebook with
accompanying sketches and limericks. The women were worse; as if from another age
they were much fatter than the stunning red-haired beauty upon which this true story
is based.


The omnipresent sun of early afternoon beat down upon them, mixing sweat with
dirt on the angry and distressed faces around her.
It was everywhere, that omnipresent
sun, mixing sweat and dirt on faces, I tell you.


She was at the edge of a narrow road, and the crowd just ahead began to jostle
emphatically.
"Don't jostle so emphatically!" She cried. A natural gap was
evolving, and a small group moved slowly along the path. The mob appeared to be following
this huddle. As the moving mass came closer, Maureen saw the woman for the first
time.
"Did you see that natural gap evolve?" she implored. "Are you with the
small group or the huddle? Should I move and let this moving mass past?" But the
woman ignored her.


A solitary and still island in the center of the chaos, she was one of the few
women in the crowd — but that was not what made her different. It was her bearing,
a regal demeanor that marked her as a queen despite the layer of dirt covering her
hands and feet.
And she was white... and thin. These natives knew their better
when they saw it. They were peasant stock, destined for a career in suicide bombing
or street merchandising. As an American she could do nothing to hide her natural
superiority. And she was thin.


She was slightly disheveled, lustrous auburn hair tucked partially beneath a crimson
veil that covered the lower half of her face.
She knew she should have shaved
that morning. She promised herself that the very next day she would go to the crimson
veil shop and buy the kind that covered the other part of her face. The last thing
she needed was lustrous hair turning the natives into madmen. How could an Arab possibly
resist a thin, white American woman with lustrous red hair after all? Maureen
knew instinctively that she had to reach this woman, needed to connect with her,
touch her, speak to her. But the writhing crowd held her back, and she was moving
in the slow-motion thickness of a dream state.
Then she remembered Peter's words
"Use the horsecock. Use the horsecock." As if in a dream she laid into the crowd.
After splitting a few heads it became clear to the writhing crowd that a thin, white
American woman with lustrous hair and the demeanour of a queen was amongst them.
She managed to connect with the woman, touch her, speak to her. "Do you speak English?"
She mouthed the words deliberately, the way one must when confronted with simpletons
who can't speak American. She tried again louder this time. Peter had told her that
she might have to shout loud to be properly understood for Middle Eastern people
were very stupid indeed. After all, why would anyone with half a brain live in Jerusalem
instead of America?


As she continued to struggle in the direction of the woman, the aching beauty
of the face that was just out of her reach struck Maureen.
It struck her hard
in the neck. At first she thought it might be a blunt instrument, perhaps the saxophone
those murderers had used in the first chapter with utmost efficiency. But then she
realized that it was the aching beauty of the face that struck her. It was the kind
of beauty she had imagined that time in front of the mirror after she had eaten thirty
donuts in one go and her husband Peter had started addressing her in some accursed
foreign tongue.


The woman's eyes, huge and bright with unshed tears, fell somewhere in the color
spectrum between amber and sage...
She kept the little color spectrum in her
moleskin notebook. She flicked the eyes off the notebook in disgust. Her crimson
veil slipped, a native noticed her regal demeanour then her lustrous red hair. He
spat some words at her in a foul tongue and she could see from the corner of one
eye and the back of the other that he was holding a boner in his hand and smiling
like a madman. Using her modern wits she brought the horsecock down upon his head
with the utmost efficiency. She would explain things to the consul later. He would
be entranced by her demeanour. This native was probably a terrorist anyway. No matter.
...an extraordinary light hazel that reflected infinite wisdom and unbearable
sadness in one heart-searing blend.
The reflection of infinite wisdom and unbearble
sadness in one searing blend suggested writing, the like of which, has not been seen
since early Geoffry Archer. ...The woman's soul-swallowing gaze met Maureen in
a brief and interminable moment, conveying through those improbable eyes a plea of
complete and utter desperation.



The child looked up with huge hazel eyes that echoed her mother's. His Adam's
Apple echoed his father's as he proceeded to yodel a strange and wonderful incantation.

Jessica said...

Thanks for your nice comments about The Book Bar, I'm having great fun with it and have lots of ideas for ways to develop it in the future. I possibly should have mentioned that Never the Bride isn't published till August, so it's not around just yet.

lady t said...

I've read The Expected One and it's a decent entertainment-so what if the author wants to go around saying she's descended from Mary Mags and Jesus,atleast she's able to make public appearances,unlike John Twelve Hawks who lives"off the grid"!

Remember the days when we had folks who said they were Napoleon or the last of the Romanovs? Many of them were harmless,sweet souls. Besides,writers are a wacky bunch,don't you know:)?

Disgusted (Tunbridge Wells) said...

Sir

For how much longer do you mean to subject your loyal readers to the paranoid ravings of Francis Ellen? All decent people must by now have grown weary of his long and abusive posts, generally couched in the vilest language.

But this time he has gone too far. Not content with launching a savage and unprovoked assault on the saintly Susan Hill, he has now aimed his bucket of filth at the only known direct descendant of Mr Jesus Christ and Ms Mary Magdalene.

It is clear that Mr Ellen rejects out of hand Kathleen McGowan’s claim, and would not be at all interested in seeing the evidence. Well, I speak as the reincarnation of Judas Iscariot -– a fact which I generally conceal in view of the hostile reaction I have come to expect -– and have the DNA evidence to prove it. What do you think of that, Mr Ellen?

Mr Ellen has, as he keeps telling us, written a book. It is entitled The Samplist, and much as I hate to upset him, my research suggests that “samplist” is not a word in the English language. How can he expect people to take an interest in his book if he cannot even get the title right?

More in anger than in sorrow, I note that this deplorable volume has attracted favourable reviews in the Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Scotsman and a number of other places. Could there be any more graphic illustration of the declining literary standards of our time?

Once again, sir, on behalf of all decent people, I entreat you to stop giving this dreadful man a platform from which to spit on his audience.

Disgusted
Tunbridge Wells

P.S. I have just discovered that Mr Ellen comes from Glasgow. I am not surprised.

ivan said...

I don't know what people have been smoking, but John Updike is the most computer literate author around. You only need to read Roger's Version. Okay. He prefers the book to the screen.
But he knows all about the screen.
He knows how Bill Gates works.
He knows how you and I work.
Hell, I'd be an elitist too!

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