Saturday, April 21, 2007

Noted in passing

Madame Arcati has two stunning interviews with Molly Parkin, part 1 on 13 April and part 2 on 18 April. Surely, few writers can have lived life with such energy and commitment.

Will Entrekin is a writer who makes extensive use of Lulu and MySpace. I try hard, but I really can't take to MySpace. Must be an age thing.

Facebook seems to be another MySpacey kind of thing, and I gather from today's Times that every self-respecting undergraduate is on it -- 19 million of them. A couple of nice friendly guys have invited me to sign up as a friend, or some such, and if I do, I can apparently participate in all kinds of networking opportunities.

Well, this is all very flattering, I dare say, but I was always the world's worst networker in the old days, and the advent of the internet, plus the need to register before you can see anything, definitely holds no appeal. They don't call me grumpy for nothing, you know. But the young and the technologically fluent may like it.

Galleycat quotes UK Association of Authors' Agents president Clare Alexander, to the effect that, in rights deals, the practice of exchanging Canada for Europe is extremely insulting to Canada. Surely it's even more insulting to Europe?

On the subject of self-publishing, C.E. Petit Esq. reminds me that we should beware of that list of self-publishers which crops up all over the place. You know, the one which includes Byron, Hardy, Proust, Hemingway, and so forth. Yes, I dare say these people did, at one time or another, pay to have something published. But the list is usually quoted (by firms trying to sell self-publishing services) with the implication that, if you just spend a couple of thousand dollars or so, you too can become as famous as Byron, Hardy, Proust, et al. And there's a logical flaw in that argument.

Mr Petit also reminds me, reference my complaint about contemporary book design, that there are some very well designed books about -- including some that he did himself, in a former life, e.g. Al Senn's Power, Politics, and the Olympic Games.

In common with a few other people, C.E. Petit also recommends OpenOffice as an improvement on Microsoft Word, and suggests PageMaker 7 or Adobe InDesign for the layout of books. Word-processor programs are apparently inferior to proper layout programs in two key functions: hyphenation and vertical spacing. See also the comments on my practical books for writers post for more hints and tips on this matter.

The debate continues among commenters on my Kathy O'Beirne post. And defenders of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind seem to be organising a bit of a campaign in relation to my two-year-old review of the book. I don't mind these people slagging me off -- everyone is entitled to an opinion. But does the GOB really come up so high on the Google search results that it seems to be the obvious place on which to enthuse about a book to the whole wide world? If so -- crumbs.

Endings are really rather important. And although this article deals with the endings of famous movies, you might get some ideas from it on the tricky question of how to make your novel/short story really memorable.

The link for the movie endings article, by the way, came from RealityCarnival, which is a very strange mixture of links: eclectic, I think is the word. The subjects linked to seem to include everything from the metaphysics of 4-D hendecatopes (no, I don't either) to the meaning of existence and white peacocks. Thanks to Lynne Scanlon for the link.

Waterstone's have issued a new rate card for space in their shops. Yes, they'll sell anything; even a seat in the loo costs £5. Publishers are howling. Report in Publishing News; link from

I knew that Ingram was a big name in US book distribution, but I hadn't realised that the Ingram group has a substantial interest in all matters digital. Among other things, they own Lightning Source. And now they announce that, through VitalSource, they have distributed one billion ebooks in the VitalBook format.

Ali Karim is a formidable reader, collector, reviewer, and all-round fan of the more commercial genres, and he had a fine old time at the London Book Fair. He got to meet Dean Koontz, courtesy of Margaret Atwood's LongPen device, and he also spent a day touring the various stands and bumping into all manner of book-trade luminaries. Best of all, he discovered (hurrah!) that Charles McCarry has a new book out soon.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article on the 50 movie endings. Hard to ever beat Doctor Strangelove, of course.

Other great links as well--it's getting hard to keep up with you even as you post less frequently!

If one takes a look at the pattern of the O'Beirne postings one can't help but--well, let's just say it's amusing to see the silliness that's being played out.

Unknown said...


I recently became books editor on the highly trafficked news and information site Monsters & Critics. Here is a link to it:

The site was founded by James Wray, our Editor-in-chief from Glasgow, Scotland and Ulf Stabe, from Hamburg, Germany, the Lead Programmer, and gets over 4.5 million visitors a month. We are one of the major contributors to Google News; in statistics we are listed among the top ten. We produce half of our content ourselves, and the other half comes from news agencies like DPA or Reuters. Our Talkback feature is popular, it is somehow unique because we allow anonymous comments to go online instantly.

Wray also founded the Tolkien Fan Site The name Monsters & Critics is an homage to Tolkien, the title of a book of essays he wrote. We started with a pure entertainment bias, covering arts, books, movies, DVDs and soundtracks with a strong focus on reviews. Later we added other categories like world news and people and the rest. Today world news and people are our busiest sections and drive the site.

What the owners are looking for us to do in the Books section is to get a higher visibility. We plane to do that over the next several months in a few ways. Step one is to get reciprocal links with popular book review and literature sites online. This is where you come in. As stated, we can offer a high profile, and exchanging links with us will help both your site and ours in the Google rankings, plus whatever click through traffic can be generated. Unlike many sites, we do not want an endless blogroll of sites, merely a few dozen of the biggest and best of sites that feature book reviews (even if occasionally), and those with a lit focus. We’d appreciate it if you would consider and consent to a reciprocal linkage.

For your edification, after this first implementation, here are some other changes on the horizon- and we also hope you might consider contributing a book review, or article on books or literature in the future. It is not necessarily only on fiction or literature, but books of science, history, politics, self-help, genre, etc. that we seek. At this time, no payment is available. However, if the site’s Book section can increase in visibility and traffic, there may be nominal remuneration in the future. But, any posts of reviews will have the added benefit of further reciprocal linkage.

It would work like this: you post a review on M&C first, and we link back to your site in the Bylines- thereby bringing you new readers, and you link to the post on M&C from your site. We’d want to have the first posting rights for a week to ten days, at least. By that time the review or article will be archived and off our front page, and you can repost the piece on your site, with a link back to M&C as to where it first appeared. That way, the post and both our sites get double the exposure.

Also, aside from a blogroll and more reviews and contributors, we will want to try to get longer reviews of classic books and authors- not just the generic book releases we focus on now. If you love, or know someone who loves Twain or Mailer, Grass or Whitman, we’d love to hear from them with a review of a classic book, or essay on an author. This drives longer term readership.

We also want to establish an in-depth monthly interview with quality big name writers, along the lines of the Playboy type interview. These will focus not just on lit and the author’s career, but range far and wide on topics. My first focus will be to try and get National Book Award winner Charles Johnson (Middle Passage). Ther site’s owners are also thinking that, if that becomes a success, and we can land some big names, we may eventually do podcast interviews. In short, we want the M&C books section to be a nexus of lit and book traffic.

After all that, we also have plans to expand the Books section to Books & Literature, by requesting original fiction and poetry and/or reprinting great works in the public domain from Project Gutenberg and similar sources. Finally, we will likely also add a graphic novel section for those who are a bit more pop cultural.

The goal is to leverage M&C’s fanbase over to this section, and shine the light upon deserving books, lit, criticism, reviews, interviews, and writers/bloggers. We’d like you to consider linking with us to help yourself and the larger writing community gain readership.

Please respond and let me know. If yes, send us a link to your M&C link and I or Ulf will add a link back to your site. Let us know if you prefer just a URL link: like or your blog name. Also let us know if you want to contribute reviews or know someone else who would.

You can contact me at

Sorry for the post, but your email is offline. Dan

Suzan Abrams, email: said...

Hi Michael,
I'll say that Entrekin's a prolific writer, his publicity on MySpace is tops - a class act - and no wonder, he's got 2,592 friends or thereabouts.
I don't think it's an age thing at all.
I hold the same apprehension.
Perhaps, because MySpace subtly forces you to answer your doorbell and before you know it, you've got a party of friends trooping into your house. This, metaphorically speaking.
Not practical, if you're a private person.
But perfect if you want a charged exposure & heady momentum.
I think I would settle for an individual website where there is control over a choice of content and a tighter measure of whom I could contact or communicate with.

Peter L. Winkler said...

It would be nice if there was a free or inexpensive software suite that was the functional equivalent of Microsoft Office, but OpenOffice isn't it. I've tried it a couple of times, opening and saving and reopening a file already created in MS Word. OpenOffice crashed.

You get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...


Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.


Anonymous said...

Great link list!
Networking is a tricky issue and some writers are better at it than others. I guess it's something all bloggers and authors got to learn!

BlueRectangle Video book reviews

Anonymous said...

About "Shadow of the Wind" ("La sombra del viento"):

My first language is Spanish so I read it in the original. Well, I started reading it. When I had read about two pages I began to feel impatient: was it as badly written as it seemed to me or was I having some problem? I flipped through the book, read some scenes and was appalled at how ill-written it (the book) was. The dialogues contain all the clchés you find in an American TV series translated into Spanish. I don't know how long Ruiz Zafón has lived in the US but his Spanish is flat, clumsy and semantically very poor (clichés galore, no shades of meaning). They tell me Lucia Graves has made a good job of it so I won't be surprised if the book *sounds* better in English than in Spanish.

Why did it become so successful? According to the people who have read it it has a plot with all the best-seller ingredients. Then it is located in Barcelona, a city which is very much in fashion. It has the right political overtones (perhaps it will annoy some right-wing readers but then there are tens of thousands who are left or left of centre). And, last but etc, it is (so they tell me) fairly traditional as far as narrative structure is concerned, which is a pre-condition for a novel's mass success.

So you have the ideal product for this market of thick-tome fiction readers which still seems to be so wide (I wonder why not read Dickens, Eliot or Collins if that is the sort of fiction you like, rather than these shoddy imitations).

Then someone at a publisher's liked it, had it well promoted and made it into a best-seller. A clever best-seller, too, with *literary* aspirations. Perfect.

Ed Lynskey said...

I enjoyed reading your April 21st blog. Networking via the Internet is an evolving matter, I agree. Thanks for your remarks.

Ed Lynskey

gih said...

Thanks for sharing with this article.