Monday, October 30, 2006

Video Game Madness

Since I need to make up for the fact that I've abandoned my PlayStation 2 in the hopes of being more productive, and won't be purchasing PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Wiiiiiiiiii unless I'm somehow cloned, I decided to link to some of my favorite video game Internet articles. They're enjoyable even if you never owned the old Atari.

The Worst Video Game Titles of All Time
Somebody actually created a game called "Jumpman. " Talk about excitement...

The 20 Worst Video Games of All Time
If I had a dollar for every hour I spent as a child trying to get E.T. to get across that freaking canyon, I'd own my own publishing house by now. Plus this is just a hilarious article.

The 10 Scariest Video Games of All Time
A really good list, but I feel they should have included every "Resident Evil" game here. Especially since the scariest video game moment ever occured in "RE:2" when the Licker smashes through the one-way mirror...I'm going to have nightmares tonight...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Today Was a Good Day

And so after three months of nail-biting suspense, with emotions that ran from excitement to fear to homicidalism (I'm making that word up), my wife and I officially bought an apartment today. We are now proud homeowners of a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and the proud owners of a mortgage that would make a grown man weep. Still, it's a relief to finally be moving out of the studio. Not that it hasn't been, well, cozy, but we all know cozy is just another word for, "The apartment is kind of narrow, I hope you don't mind only being able to sleep one at a time." It's a great feeling to say I'm a homeowner. Now if we can just take down all those mirrors the previous owner installed all over the walls...

Also, I got a message from my editor of the, "If you want to have a good weekend, you'll call me back" variety. Of course I called her back--probably would have put out an APB if necessary. It turns out there are some amazing things in the works for THE MARK, most of which I can't really talk about until they're officially official, but my publisher is aiming for a first printing that made my eyeballs do that Arnold Schwarzenegger thing from "Total Recall." I feel so unbelievably lucky to have a publisher putting this kind of thought and support into THE MARK.

Plus I sent back my copyedited manuscript this week. There are few things more enjoyable in this world than debating whether "buttcrack" should be one word or two. Galleys should be ready in about 6 weeks or so. Saying I'm excited is like saying Middle America doesn't get Borat.

Of course there's a ton of work to be done by and for my publisher to properly support THE MARK. As my editor said (or was it Bill Parcells?), the bigger the meal you're trying to cook, the more cooks there will be in the kitchen. Still, better that than having one, harried cook whose hair is falling into the soup and who can't find the pepper.

Doesn't matter, though, cause I'm game. I have "Eye of the Tiger" pumping through my veins right now. I'm indestructible. I'm a machine.

Wait...My foot fell asleep while I was typing this. Ow. I'm not a machine. I'm a man with a foot that hurts. And a mortgage. Pins and needles. Ow.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


'Borat' Screenings Slashed in the US
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's controversial new comedy movie has been cut from more than half the 2,000 US cinemas it was supposed to debut in this weekend over fears film fans won't get the comic's Borat character. In the film, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Great Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, Cohen plays an offensive Kazakhstan TV journalist trying to get to grips with life in America. The movie has already upset politicians in Kazakhstan, who insist the comedian's character paints a terrible picture of their country, and now film distributors in the US fear cinemagoers will find the movie more offensive than funny. The film was scheduled to open in 2,000 cinemas across America on Friday, but it will now bow in only 700. Movie executives at Twentieth Century Fox pulled the plug on the wide opening after the film tested poorly. Distribution official Bruce Snyder tells the Los Angeles Times newspaper, "Our research showed it was soft in awareness." Fox bosses hope to add cinemas a week after the film opens.

Is this another one of those "Middle America just doesn't get it" reactions? Is Middle America really as stupid as people in New York and L.A. think?

If not, why do the coasts have such an aura of superiority?

If so, why can't we do something to educate these yokels so we don't have to destroy our cultural institutions because they're simply "too sophisticated"?

I mean, we can find 3,000 screens for "Big Momma's House 2" and every stupid Hilary Duff vehicle, but can't get 25% of that for a movie that actually looks funny?

I'm either really pissed off at Middle America for being so dumb, or pissed off at New York and L.A. for thinking it's so dumb. Can we get some sort of state-by-state I.Q. test so we can put this to bed?

Either we better educate Middle America, or force media executives in NY and LA to watch "Deuce Bigalow 2: European Gigolo" on endless repeat until their brains shrink to the size of peas and then spontaneously combust.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What Book Do You Wish You Had Written?

Ok, time for another poll. Today's question is: What book do you wish you had written?

I'm not just talking about the most successful books ever (so Harry Potter, THe Bible, and THE DA VINCI CODE are off limits). And no KaavyaGate jokes either.

What book, after finishing it, made you wish you had the talent and ability to write such a masterpiece?

My personal choice is Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER. It's simply one of the most harrowing and beautiful books I've ever read, and takes the crime drama to unheard of heights (and depths), with characters that resonate, a slambang plot, and the kind of ending that's both incredibly satisfying but makes you want to read more. It's the kind of book that I can only dream of writing one day.

So what book, after putting it down, made you think, "I wish I had written that?"

Friday, October 20, 2006

Unless Your Name is Endy Chavez, I Don't Want to Talk to You

And let's just say I won't be jumping all over that Aaron Heilman proposal.

I wanted to touch on yesterday's New York Times article, the umpteenth piece basically saying, "Wow, there are a lot of big books this Fall!" I wrote one myself over at M.J.'s blog, and while I admit it wasn't particularly insightful, it probably does show how much people are buzzing about how many major authors have books dropping between now and Christmas (not even counting Grinfrey's, which comes out December 26th).

That said, Sarah again had a terrific point in that people are largely looking at this influx as negative (each book has a shorter shelf life, because next week three others will take its place, so many titles might underperform). Of course the negativity comes from each publisher as an individual, as each house wants the best placement for its Fall books and has a ton of money at stake. Her point is that the-glass-is-half-full argument should be that with so many big books coming out, bookstore traffic could increase, which would lead to a boom for the entire industry.

It's no secret that the biggest book season every year (barring Christmas) is whenever a new Harry Potter is released in hardcover. The Bookscan sales charts go through the roof, and not just for Potter titles. More people are in stores, more people are buying other books besides Harry, and all is (sort of) right with the world.

Of course, there's no Harry coming out this Fall. What will hopefully happen, though, is that the cumulative effect of all these blockbusters will have more people reading, more people in stores, more people buying books (whether from established authors or, even better, giving newbies a try).

Buying the new Stephen King might renew someone's passion for horror novels, so they give Sarah Langan's debut THE KEEPER a shot.

THIRTEEN MOONS might make a reader ache for some more historical fiction, and grab a copy of Robert Hicks's THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH in paperback.

All this talk about Thomas Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY might make someone go out and read his spellbinding novel THE CRYING OF LOT 49.

Laurell K. Hamilton's MISTRAL'S KISS might make readers pine for more vampire tales, so they go check out Charlie Huston's ALREADY DEAD and NO DOMINION. Then they'll check out Charlie's other work, get in the mood for some badass noir, and read Duane Swierczynski's THE WHEELMAN and THE BLONDE.

Maybe someone will read AMERICA: The Book in paperback, then check out Thomas Harris's HANNIBAL RISING, be hungry for some fava beans, a nice chianti, some chopped liver, mixed in with a little comedy, and pick up a copy of Amy Sedaris's funny and lavishly designed cooking/entertaining guide, I LIKE YOU. And then a copy of JEWTOPIA just because.

Bottom line, too many books, not enough co-op space, but hopefully many more happy and hungry readers.

Also wanted to touch on Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog post responding to the Wall Street Journal piece on the climate of blockbuster books. I agree with much of what she says, but in the end most publishers still do look for that "franchise" author, the one who can churn out books on a semi-regular (if not yearly) basis, adding considerably to the bottom line. When a blockbuster works, like THE THIRTEENTH TALE and THE HISTORIAN, the windfall for the publisher (and author) is astronomical.

But at the same time, most publishers have divisions that "pay the bills," releasing relatively inexpensive books that sell well and continue to backlist (such as business and reference). These are books often fly under the rader because they're "unsexy," published with little or no fanfare, but rake in the dollars year after year (and the backlist is the lifeblood for most publishers). Give any publisher a business author with a decent message and dozens of annual speaking engagements, and they'll be quite happy for a long time.

And let's keep in mind that, in the end, the Journal, as well as any other news source, wants to write pieces that are sexy. Blockbusters and million dollar advances are sexy. Jim Collins's FROM GOOD TO GREAT is not sexy. Though I'll give anyone three guesses as to which one brings in the most dough.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


According to my physician, I've done "something" to my rotator cuff. So this morning I'm off to a shoulder specialist to see if "something" can be diagnosed.

In the meantime, there's a new post up at M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype.

And, as promised, video footage of Kevin Federline getting whupped like a redheaded stepchild (with bonus footage of the same happening to Steve-O and Chris Pontius). Click the top right vid.

Yesterday must have been "Whup a Lame White Guy" day...

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Case of the Mondays

Hopefully I won't be too cranky today, but I somehow mangled my shoulder over the weekend, and have gotten a total of 10 hours of sleep the last three nights because every time I put pressure on it I feel like Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon."

Random thoughts:

I saw "The Illusionist" Friday night, after hearing terrific things about it. It was an enjoyable fable-like film, but I was a little disappointed at it's relative superficiality, and weak ending. On the plus side, it starred the always-reliable Ed Norton (who I still feel got robbed for Best Actor in "American History X"), and a truly fantastic performance from Paul Giamatti as a morally conflicted police inspector. Giamatti deserves an Oscar nom at the very least, and ever since his, er, star making turn as Pig Vomit in "Private Parts," I think the guy is incapable of turning in a bad performance. Plus the film has the added fun factor of watching Jessica Biel flounder about in a horribly miscast role that should have gone to Keira Knightley or Scarlett O'Johanasson (i.e. someone who can act in a period film).

I bought a novel on Thursday I'm very excited about. Great concept and wonderful, witty writing. After zipping through 130 pages, I made copies for the whole department who literally read it overnight, and greenlit an offer the next day. As an editor, it's always nerve-wracking when you express love for a book on submission, because to an extent you're staking a piece of your reputation on it. If people love it, all is well with the world. If they hate it, they won't trust you as much the next time around (insert "Peter and the Wolf" analogy). I've had enough projects shot down to know that the best editors only bring up submissions they really love or think have a chance (I fondly recall one edit meeting in particular where I was gonged out of the room before I could even finish my pitch). Thankfully this author made things easy by writing a great book that everyone loved.

I just started reading Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES, which I've been meaning to get to for ages. Full report when I finish it. Just learned that a book I inherited and edited has been assigned for a review in the NYTBR. Hopefully this will allow Sam Tanenhaus to sample a tasty brownie from Ed Champion.

A very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the difficulty of publishing bestsellers, specifically through the lens of this season's two biggest debuts, Jed Rubenfeld's THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER and Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE.

And tonight on WWE Raw, WWE Champion John Cena apparently has a verbal confrontation with Kevin Federline (read that again), and kicks the holy hell out of Mr. Spears. And if you think I'm going to miss PopoZao getting his ass handed to him, we can't be friends any more.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Warms the Heart

Putting aside any snark for the NYT's article today on Naomi Novik having "just sold" the film rights to her Temeraire series to Peter Jackson (which the author reported on her own blog nearly a month ag0), it's just thrilling to see a debut author, especially one whose first novel didn't receive nearly the hype as many others, achieve such success. I read HER MAJESTY'S DRAGON--haven't read the next two in the series--but damned if this isn't something every writer dreams of.

HUGE congrats to Naomi (and to Peter Jackson, of course, because these should make fantastic movies).

On another note, I saw "The Departed" last night. One of the best movies I've seen this year, if not the best. If this doesn't get a slew of Oscar nominations there's no justice in the world. At the very least, Jack Nicholson, Leo and Marky Mark should all be considered for acting noms, Martin Scorsese (duh) for direction, and William Monahan for a flat-out gangbuster script. If this loses out to some pretentious drek to appease old fogey voters who can't stand violence (like the travesty of "Shakespeare in Love" winning over "Saving Private Ryan") I might have to pull a Frank Costello and beat someone to death with my shoe.

I'm not a big fan of either actor, but Leo and Marky knocked their roles out of the park. Leo as a cop, despite being born into a family of criminals, who goes undercover as the protege of ruthless mob boss Frank Costello (Jack), and has to cope with his family history as well as the fact that any day could bring a bullet with his name on it. Marky plays Martin Sheen's pitbull deputy on the Boston State Police, who brings such the most energy and humor to this kind of role since Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas." Easily Marky's best performance since Dirk Diggler (and that's a compliment). Great story, great storytelling, and enough terrific scenes to keep you talking about it long after the film ends.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Buzzing Once Again

I have a new post, my first in well over a month, at M.J. Rose's Buzz Balls and Hype. Check it out.

And to keep up the interactive,er,ness, what upcoming books are you most excited to read (coming out this fall or otherwise. And don't say THE MARK, or I'll know you're lying). Personally I'm looking forward to Stephen King's LISEY'S STORY. I loved BAG OF BONES, and I'm hearing this is in that vein.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

In an effort to make "The Man in Black" more interactive, and in an effort to cut down on 1,000 word posts because all they do is pilfer 1,000 words from THE REGULATOR (a.k.a. Henry Parker #2), herewith is another online poll.

I'm curious to know what genres (fiction and/or non-fiction) lit blog readers tend to gravitate towards. If you could be so kind, list what genres you read the most, in order from most read to least read. I am paying attention to these results, and hope to draw some sort of conclusion from the various polls. It could be an incredibly misguided conclusion, but we'll have fun jumping to it.

For example, my reading list would read something like this (this is different from what I edit):

1) Crime fiction (mysteries and thrillers)
2) Literary fiction
3) Narrative non-fiction
4) Humor/pop culture
5) Graphic novels
6) Memoirs/Biographies
7) Sci-Fi/Fantasy
916,836) Erotica
916,837) Westerns
916,838) Erotic Westerns

P.S. LET'S GO METS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where Have All The Bad Boys (and girls) Gone?

Last night I began reading LUNAR PARK by Bret Easton Ellis. I read AMERICAN PSYCHO and LESS THAN ZERO in college. All I knew about Ellis is that he was one of the few authors who, at one time, was also considered a "celebrity." But first let me backtrack.

I was born in 1979. I grew up watching "The Transformers" and idolizing Darryl Strawberry (silently weeping). My favorite books were the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. I knew as much about the "Literary Brat Pack" as I knew about the Rat Pack. I read LESS THAN ZERO and AMERICAN PSYCHO years after they were published, which enabled me to read the books without hearing the cacophony of hype surrounding their publications. I believe I would have enjoyed LESS THAN ZERO more had I read it when it first came out. AMERICAN PSYCHO unnerved the hell out of me, but it's a brilliant and fascinating read whose blunt satire still holds up today.

The Literary Brat Pack was composed of, at various times, Ellis, Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz, Mark Lindquist, Donna Tartt, Peter Farrelly, and a few "glamorous" publishing insiders. They all achieved tremendous literary stardom at early ages, and gave the tabloids plenty of fodder with their booze, drug, and sex-filled escapades. They did advertisements that these days are saved for down-on-their-luck telvision stars (i.e. Teri Hatcher circa 2001), they all got massive film deals, and were the toast of the town during the decadent 80's. Reading LUNAR PARK, a mixture of autobiography and novel whose main character is named Bret Easton Ellis, it's clear these packers were everywhere, were wanted by everybody, and had the world at their fingertips.

Fast forward 20 years. There's no such thing as a literary "Brat Pack." There are perilously few mainstream writers under the age of 30, and nobody who, like Ellis or McInerney once were, could be called "The Voice of a Generation" with a straight face. There are some who have gained a modicum, or more, of stardom--Jonathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith, Nick McDonell, Marisha Pessl-- but none of them have, like Ellis, "done ads for Ray Ban."

In the 80's, the Brat Pack was considered the epitome of literary sexiness. Brash, arrogant young kids who claimed to know the world better than their elders, who often acted in real life like their fictional creations did on the page (save Patrick Bateman, thankfully).

So where has all the brashness gone? I'm not saying authors these days need to go out, suck down a few 8 balls and have an orgy with Michael Wolff, but if you haven't noticed authors tend to get very little mainstream press coverage unless a) their books were bought for an ungodly amount of money, b) they're a celebrity "writing a book" (i.e. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie) or c) they unleash some jaw-dropping newsworthy bombshells (more a non-fiction staple). Since the late 80's and early 90's, the literary establishment seems to have lost its sexiness. And I don't think it can rely on Justin Timberlake to bring it back.

These days authors spend the vast majority of their time either writing, promoting, or writing about writing and promoting. The mainstream media (which exists far outside the blogosphere), with few exceptions, seems to believe that authors just aren't very interesting. And certainly not worth covering.

Personally, I hate how little ink contemporary authors are given compared to their counterparts in other forms of entertainment. But I don't quite know how we would change it. Surely it can't be as simple--or destructive--as, "Go on a bender, sleep with some supermodels, check into rehab and check out with a bestseller." I can't stand seeing fucking (excuse my Spanglish) K-Fed on the cover of Details and Lance Bass or Ashlee Simpson on the cover of anything, like they ever created anything worth paying attention to. Suddenly Paris Hilton is the spokesperson for our generation. How the hell did that happen? Who approved this shit?

So what are we, both in the publishing industry and behind the writing desk, to do about this? How do you bring "coolness" back to authorship? How do authors and publishers reclaim the entertainment field from vacuous celebrities? We can't concede the battlefield, but we can't simply repeat history.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Didn't Do It

Somebody asked me if I wrote this post on Gawker. The answer is no (after all, I am technically a frat boy of the editor variety) . I've had enough Gawker "love" for several years. And I'd like to refrain from commenting other than saying I love my job, honestly, and love everything that has to do with books. I can't imagine working in another industry, and with any luck I won't have to.

I will comment, though, on the poster. If you don't like editing, if you hate the pay, hate the authors, and hate the industry, quit. Trust me, the industry will survive, and I don't think HR will lack for resumes on filling your seat.

I'm all for trying to throw back the curtain that hides much of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. I don't see why authors shouldn't be as enlightened as possible when trying to shepherd their book into the world. And I certainly know I've written some angry and bitter things, though I'd like to blame them on bad moods or lack of caffeine.

Anyways, a few random thoughts on some publishign brouhaha (not necessarily new, but I'm still catching up).

--Lot of people criticizing publishers for paying too much for blogs based on books. I actually agree with our friend Tucker Max in that when publishing a book based on a blog, it has to be in the vein of what made the author popular in the first place. Which is why the vast majority of blog-to-books have been nonfiction, save a few (i.e. ANONYMOUS LAWYER and Dana Vachon's upcoming tome).

--I don't think publishing bloggers is a bad thing. I've done it myself. But I think that 99% it's important to publish the author rather than the blog. Blogs are a way to discover voices more than anything, and while places like Gawker emphasize the "rate of failure," I guarantee it's no greater than most other genres.

--Authors being "stupid" by taking large advances. First off, you'd have to be stupid to prefer a miniscule advance to a larger one. True with a larger advance there are greater expectations and the higher the potential fall, but anyone with a brain would prefer a strong first printing and a good promotion budget to a low four figure first printing and a review in your high school newsletter. Many great careers have begun with small advances, just like many careers have "flamed out" after failing to meet large expectations. But since none of us can see the future and nothing is ever certain, 99 times out of 100 I'd advise the author to take the money and hope for the best. Sometimes authors do, in fact, take smaller offers from houses their feel would publish their work better, and bless their hearts for it. But not everyone has that luxury.

Monday, October 02, 2006


First of all, happy Yom Kippur. I will be atoning for my sins later this morning. If you'd like, I'd be happy to atone for yours as well.

Bouchercon is over, and the awards have been doled out. Congratulations to all the winners, as well as the losers, because it's pretty darned cool to be nominated for an Anthony in the first place.

I've been reading a lot of Ed Champion's stuff lately (and not just of the Lev Grossman-bashing variety), but this post from Bouchercon thoroughly depressed me (and it wasn't just the sea of grey, wireless mediocrity that did it).

I haven't met "Sunshine" in person yet--though we actually hammered out a deal for the debut novel by some guy named Dave--but the more I read about him the more I want to. Or the more I want to crawl into a fetal position and hope he never crosses my path. One or the other.

After a solid second place finish in my fantasy baseball league in 2005, my team "Johnny Drama" completely collapsed and finished 8th (out of 10), a stunning 38 points out of first place. I'd like to thank Rich Harden, Alex Rodriguez, Jhonny Peralta, Richie Sexson, Coco Crisp, Chad Cordero, Mark Buerhle, and everyone else on my team who underperformed in 2006. I will try to atone for your sins. Special thanks to Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux whose late-season spurts made August and September fun. Special "unspecial" thanks to A-Rod who put up the most depressing .290-35-121 year in baseball history.

I'm a huge fan of Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, and I think A DANGEROUS MAN might be the best entry yet. Check out CAUGHT STEALING and the Anthony-nominated SIX BAD THINGS if you haven't yet. And then be glad you have both of your kidneys.