Monday, July 24, 2006


Mom wins prize for gay book

You'll like this one.

The Next Big Writer is a web site which allows writers to post stuff, and thereby to get 'feedback, recognition, and rewards.' From time to time they run competitions, with worthwhile prizes (how about $5000?). And now the Book Standard reports that a mom from Maryland has won the the latest such comp.

Dora McAlpin-Zeeks’s gay-themed novel beat out entries by nearly 200 other competitors to win the $5,000 prize.

The author, who prefers to go by the nom-de-plume Ivey Banks, wrote Out of the Dark, in which teenager Thorn MacDonnell struggles with his sexuality and the fact that he has been diagnosed with HIV and leukemia.

"I’m thrilled Out of the Dark reached the No. 1 spot and I’m very grateful to the readers who put it there," said Banks.

Sol Nasisi, the founder and director of said that, since the site launched in October 2005, more than 13 pieces on the site, including novels, short stories and poetry, have been published by literary journals.

Bottom of the heap

I have known writers (and I was one of them once) who imagined that, because there are no books without writers, writers are therefore somehow important in the general context of the book business. Ah me. What naivety.

For example: Publishers Lunch reports that George Jones (formerly of Saks and Warner Bros), who has just been appointed as boss of the US bookselling chain Borders, has some ideas on how to develop the business (which is in poor shape, with the shares at a three-year low).

His ideas, says PL, apparently do not include being a better bookseller and a smarter merchandiser. Rather: "If we think of ourselves as more than just selling books or music or movies but as being a provider of information and entertainment, then there are a lot of things we can do," Jones said in a telephone interview. "I have a ton of ideas of things I can do with the relationships I built over those years in Hollywood that I think I can tap into that could help differentiate us as a company and make us stand out versus our competitors."

Not a lot of mention of writers there, is there?

The Borders group is a leading global retailer of books, music and movies with more than 1,200 stores and approximately 35,000 employees worldwide. More information on the company is available at the Borders web site.

Penguin warehouse fallout

Galleycat reports that the Penguin warehouse disaster (reported on here with some irritation on 25 October 2004) has had a belated fallout. One of the (alleged) star authors at Penguin, Graham Swift (a lit'ry chap), has gone back to his old publisher.

Or perhaps, Galleycat suggests, this fallout isn't belated. Perhaps it's the first of many such departures when contracts come up for renewal.

Internet porn

The sub-heading here gives you fair warning. Don't read this if the subject of porn upsets you.

However, if you're still here, you should know that M.J. Rose's latest novel, The Venus Fix, deals with the effect of internet porn on the young. There's a review of it on The Huffington Post. What is really interesting, however, is the robust nature of the comments on the review.

On her blog, M.J. says that she didn't think the review said what most of the commenters seem to think it did. Either way, it's certainly interesting.

What (non-fiction) editors are looking for

Galleycat also has a link to an essay by Didi Feldman in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Didi has a ten-point plan (or thereabouts) for writing a (presumably) non-fiction book.

More elderbloggers

Clare of Tunbridge Wells works in publishing, and she has a blog called Three Beautiful Things, on which she simply records three beautiful things which happened to her , or which she came across, in the course of a day. A nice idea.

Clare sends me news of two more elderbloggers, i.e. pensioners who blog (for more of same, see the column of links on the right).

Joe Hyam is 72, a retired journalist, and now a poet and vegetable-grower. He has modelled his own blog, Now's The Time, on Clare's, and uses it to record, day by day, things that he has enjoyed.

Then there's The Old Professor, who's 83 and lives in California. He has a blog called Paulz Place, and he also has a web site called The Old Professor. Actually he doesn't work on that site any more, but it contains some of his earlier stuff, such as a short piece about beach volleyball. With pictures. Heh heh heh. Men don't improve much as they get older, do they?

Both of these will go on the blogroll when my feet touch the ground.

Free New Books

Chris Mitchell, editor of, has created a separate facility on which he provides links to downloadable, and free, versions of (newish) books. It's called (unsurprisingly)

Chris says that he is 'trying to avoid all the old out of copyright stuff as many other sites have already done a great job of gathering those together - mine is all about bringing interesting new books together whose authors have been enlightened enough to put the entire manuscript on the Web.... It's still quite a scary, counter-intuitive thing to do for many people, but it seems to be working well for those who take the plunge.'

Free-new-books already has a link to my own How And Why Lisa's Dad got to be famous, which is nice. And -- writers please note -- he is very keen on hearing from anyone else who has a book available online.

Spike Magazine itself, by the way, is well worth a visit. It's described as a literary/culture site, and covers books, music, art, and travel.

Mumbo jumbo, stick it in the gumbo

Martin Rundkvist kindly sent me a link to a site called Mystic Bourgeoisie, which is dedicated to the exposure of 'numinous lunacy and the sanctimonious narcissism of the New Age' -- i.e. 'the unlikely story of how America slipped the surly bond of earth and came to believe in signs and portents that would make the Middle Ages blush'.

There's some amusing stuff here, with a very serious point to it. The general tone may be deduced from the following reference to Catholic theology: 'As a survivor (I think) of that particular Weltanschauung, I reserve the right to yank its pants down and make fun of its ugly butt as the mood strikes me and without further rationalization or apology.'

Well, ridicule is one way to weaken the grip of superstition, conspiracy theory, and other half-baked theories of the modern world. Education would work better, in my opinion, but it's slow. And since the educators themselves, these days, often seem to have lost touch with reality, it may be a unwinnable struggle.


There's more. A lot more. But it will have to wait.


Anonymous said...

" which teenager Thorn MacDonnell struggles with his sexuality and the fact that he has been diagnosed with HIV and leukemia."

THORN? Why not Brad or, better, Dirk?

And, if things weren't bad enough, he jammed his toe in the doorway...

Existential Man said...

For a fair, balanced and well-written review of M. J. Rose's The Venus Fix along with a short interview of the author related to the book topic, see the Backspace homepage, and scrowl down until you find it in the middle column.

Christopher Locke said...

I'm afraid I may be with you on that "unwinnable struggle" remark. I keep finding books from even academic and professional publishers that are filled with the most preposterous crap. But thanks for the link in any case.

Martin said...

Speaking of Lisa's Dad -- how are sales? In the black yet?

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