Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Future of Publishing
Part 4

Read here to see what this is all about.

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

Please do not throw out the beautiful baby with the bathwater!
Do not get rid of the whole system - fix what doesn't work. Maybe betting the farm on hoped for blockbusters isn't the way to go anymore. Instead, maybe use P.O.D. to bring the brighter literary lights (that may not have celebrity status or other hook, but nonetheless are solid stellar work) to the market. We have the technology. We CAN rebuild it (publishing, that is).
The agents, editors, designers, production people, marketers, sales reps, acquiring librarians, critics, reviewers, bloggers, etc. etc. - they are all doing a fantabulous job of putting great books in front of the readers who will most appreciate them. That's not broken -- what's broken is a business that exists to serve shareholders and not readers. Subsidy publishers - in spite of their claims to even the playing field for authors are no better - as they live to serve the paying author (again, no one paying for book production seems to care too much about the end user - reader). That needs to change. Put the reader first, Jason. Put the reader first.
Kat Meyer, editor,

For starters, admit that newspapers are dead and spend marketing dollars accordingly. If somehow, newspapers find a way to survive going forward, then they become an opportunity. Second, publishing needs to get a clue about the Internet and electronic publishing. People are still reading, but you have to put the words where the eyeballs are. Print books also need to advertised as such. Right now, there's no standardized non-proprietary format for ebooks. Both publishers and authors act more hysterical than the recording industry (which deserves everything bad that's happened to it for its own shortsightedness) about ebooks. That needs to stop and a lot faster than it's happened in recording. Third, ditch the returns system. It's an illogical system profitable only for the big chain stores. Fourth, break up the big distributors. I'm sure Borders and BN will howl with agony over this idea, but we have reached a point where distribution suffers from a near monopoly.
Jim Winter, reviewer for Mystery Scene and January Magazine

Expanding on Scott Sigler's previous answer: when the iPhone App Store first appeared, I immediately made both books of my 'Max Quick Series' available as $5.99 downloads for the iPhone. In addition, I also made the first six chapters of the first Max Quick book (The Pocket and the Pendant) available as a free app download. As a result, my free sampler got *a thousand downloads per day* in the first two months, and I converted hundreds of these into sales weekly. In fact, in the app store right now -- after nearly six months -- my sample book is still at #41, still ahead of samplers by established authors. Before this, like Scott Sigler, I had made my books available as free podcast audiobooks. I've received over 2.4 million downloads to date. Like Sigler, JC Hutchins, Mur Lafferty and Seth Harwood, I've built an audience online via podiobooks, twitter, facebook and email. I know them, they know me. Which leads me to the first thing I would do: the iTunes App Store book section (both ebook and podiobook) is not very well organized. Publishers, authors and Apple should work together to create a better 'iTunes of Books' experience. This should be inclusive of new authors and established authors: the chain should not be locked up. The benefit to the publisher is access to a crowd-sourced farm league of new author talent: it comes to them already proven, with an established audience.

Jason’s received some interesting and even provocative responses, although I have one caveat – most of the answers are critical of the publishers and the way they go about their business. Silly advances for silly books; anachronistic marketing; a failure to adapt to the latest technology; in short, most people complain that publishing companies are clinging to an outmoded business model. This may all be true, and the Good Lord knows that I’ve had my fair share of disappointing experiences with publishers, as most writers tend to have; but is there an element of mote-and-beam going on here? In other words, no one writer has said that the one thing they’d do to change book publishing for the better is write better books. For all the hand-wringing about publishers’ inability to incorporate the interweb into their marketing model, how many writers have incorporated the interweb into their writing? How many writers have thought to themselves, for example, about the sea-change in other forms of popular art – movies, TV and music – and audience appetite for a blend of reality and fiction? There’s a generation of potential readers coming through for whom the Fourth Wall doesn’t exist. Last night, for example, I watched the ‘Family Guy’ episode in which Peter ‘outs’ Luke Perry, with the character of Luke Perry voiced by Luke Perry – although Lois refers to the character as ‘Dylan’, his character in Beverly Hills 90120. On Wednesday I watched the documentary ‘Anvil!’, the story of how an aging metal band from Canada are still trying to make it in their fifties. As a movie, or even a mockumentary, it would have been very funny in the ‘Spinal Tap’ mode; as a documentary, a real take on the rock ‘n’ roll dream, it was simultaneously soul-destroying and inspirational. Next Thursday, I’ll be getting along to see ‘Notorious’, a biopic of the Notorious B.I.G., who – regardless of your opinion of gangsta rap – made art of his life, of experiences that are possibly fictionalised but certainly rooted in an authentic, relevant reality. I can’t remember the last time I read a book that left me hollowed out and yet bursting to make something new, the way ‘Anvil!’ did. Or, for that matter, a book that makes me laugh like ‘Family Guy’ does because – bonkers as it is, and with no respect for the boundary between truth or fiction – it taps into the experience of our utterly confused cultural narrative. This morning, on the web, in the space of an hour, I read a short story, took on board the responses to Jason Pinter’s question, checked last night’s football scores, watched a book trailer and two music videos, downloaded the latest Anthony and the Johnsons album, and watched an extended trailer for the ‘Notorious’ movie. Can, or should, that kind of disjointed cultural mish-mash influence my own writing later on, when I grab a quiet couple of hours? Not the specific elements; but the jump-around nature of it, and the blend of reality and fiction? Maybe it’s because I watch a lot of movies, reviewing them for a living, and read a lot of books, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to suspend my disbelief when confronted with a story I know is pure fiction, regardless of how good it is. For that matter, just look at the Oscar noms for ‘Best Picture’ – Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire are all, to a greater or lesser extent, examples of the collision between fiction and reality. I’m currently working on a story in which the name of one of the main characters, Billy, is a nod to Kurt Vonnegut and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, which is the last book I read, when I re-read it last May, to really suck out my guts and make me think about life, the universe and writing (I subsequently read ARMAGEDDON, but it’s not Vonnegut’s finest moment). Billy, my Billy, is actually a character from a novel I’d written about five years ago, who last May turned up in my back garden wanting to know why he’d been forgotten, and condemned to the limbo of the unpublished ghosts. The result was a book called A GONZO NOIR, which is currently under consideration with a U.S. publisher, although I’m not optimistic about its chances; nonetheless, I’ve started a new story, in which Billy returns, telling me about this guy he’s met on Crete, Sebastian, who claims to have been involved in a Nazi war crime, but who has been left in the limbo of an unfinished manuscript after the untimely death of the author, who may or may not have been writing a novel based on a true story. Can I help Sebastian finish the story and get him out of limbo? Whether anyone will want to read that story is a moot point. And I’m not claiming that the notion of meta-fiction is so new and fresh that, to come back to Jason Pinter’s question, it’s going to change the industry – Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Flann O’Brien, Italo Calvino and, going a long way back, Laurence Sterne, are all favourites of mine.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that if there’s problems with the publishing industry, it extends to all elements of the industry, and that includes, vitally, the writers. Maybe, just maybe, a central issue for the future is that the audience, and certainly the generations coming through, won’t be content with straightforward fiction, in the way that even the best animated movies from Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney will, for adults, always be just kids’ movies.

Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 3. If you work in publishing (author, editor, agent, critic, bookseller or reporter) and would like to participate, email me at with your response to "What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?" and I will post it.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Future of Publishing
Part 3

Read here to see what this is all about.

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

A. Understand no one will buy a book that they don't know exists. Have you ever walked into a supermarket and said to a clerk - I want to buy a cereal you never heard of and neither have I?
B. Stop reacting to every social networking trend as if it is marketing. Blogging, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are all well and good for people who are social networking and for authors who are right for it but publishers can't use them instead of real marketing solutions.
C. Institute and option system for some books the way Hollywood does. Option a book, take it out in eformat -for free-see how it does - if it does well go for the full price and bring it out in paper.
D. Be honest with authors and make them your partners.
E. Offer higher royalties if the author is willing to forgo part of his/her advance to put it into marketing.
F. Pay more attention to models like Twelve, Vanguard and Bob Milllers -which is publish no book you cannot afford to market.
G. When you sell the hardcover offer the ebook and audio free.
H. For one week, before an authors next release comes out offer a title from that authors backlist as an unlimited free ebooks. Do this for every single author. Do it in audio too.
I. Understand sampling is not five pages-its a totally free book and nothing makes a reader buy a book than being in love with the author's work.
J. Don't remainder books. Give them to hotels to so every room has a library and people can discover more books.
K. Test every cover. Create an online testing program so no cover goes out without you being sure that it conveys what the book is about and will attract readers.
L. Get more books in non bookstores.
M- More ideas over at my blog often...
M.J. Rose, author of THE MEMORIST, editor of Buzz, Balls & Hype

In my post Cri de coeur, I recount the story of an author whose in house publicist spun empty promises, then did practically nothing to promote the book. I hear this story over and over again, from authors published by houses big and small. And now I'm hearing from authors whose editors and/or publicists have been let go just before publication, so there's no one to champion their books inhouse. And there's no one to offer any guidance about what the authors are supposed to do now. The one thing I would change is to have publishers treat ALL their authors as business partners, not just as product suppliers. This means publishers would do the following for each and every author, not just the few whose books are anointed as lead titles:
--Explain the publicity process well in advance, preferably with a written guide.
--A few months before publication date, schedule a sit-down (or phone-in) launch meeting between author, editor, agent, publicity staff and freelance publicist (if applicable). In that meeting, have honest, forthright discussion about how the publisher, author and any freelancers can best work together to promote the book. 
--Just as important: detail exactly what publisher and author expect of the other, and what the publisher will--and won't--do.
--Be truthful with "orphaned" authors. Tell them who's going to take care of their books, and what they can do to pick up any slack.
Bella Stander, book publicity consultant for commercially published authors

Publishers should start with niche marketing. Time and again, they pay inflated prices to book an ad in a huge daily which probably has the net effect of selling 100 books. Books like The Shack have proven that word of mouth is the most effective means of marketing and the old model of having a million people see an ad for a book in a day and then bank on that to sell a 100,000 copies should go by the wayside. Niche and targeted marketing is by no means a new idea, the problem is that publishing is very antiquated and I'm not implying that the industry is run by an elderly crowd--when the old guard retires, the new people are always ready to continue the same bad habits.
Anonymous, literary magazine editor

The industry needs to do a better job of marketing itself. Not specific titles (which they also don't do terribly well), but the idea of books and reading in general. The success of books like The Da Vinci Code and Marley and Me show that consumers are willing to buy and read books. What we need to do is convince them to do it more often. Publishers should find new ways to promote reading as a leisure activity. There are still a lot of people out there who like to read -- we just need to reach those people and remind them of how much fun it is.

Last week I signed a new deal with St. Martins/Thomas Dunne Books for my next two novels. I was one of the writers who got caught in the Houghton-Miflin Harcourt merger. In fact, my novel Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere came out in hardcover last summer and now it's completely in limbo, no plans for a paperback release at all from Harcourt. Which brings me to my one thing I'd do to change book publishing: make all formats of a book available at once - hardcover, trade, mass market, e-book - whatever version people want to buy. I guess I could have said, "Embrace the technology," and push it even further. If I'm going to buy a book online, why can't I click on whatever version I'm willing to pay for? Also, I'd like to see e-readers get a lot cheaper, or even be give-aways from e-book of the month clubs or from publishers if you're willing to agree to buy two dozen books in the next year, like Columbia House used to do. I'd still like to be able to browse bookstores, though, so I wish bookstores would "stock" e-books. I could browse, talk to the staff (the best part of bookstores) and get my e-reader loaded up. I've been saying for a while that publishers and booksellers have to stop thinking of themselves as printers, trucking companies and warehouses and start thinking about what it is they really do - choose, design, edit and know their stock and their customers.

I was a Publicist at Bloomsbury & Walker for 4 years and recently left for a job at an internet startup because I didn't see the traditional book publishing industry adapting (just panicking and crumbling) as the world changes around it. My thoughts are below.
1. Get rid of returns. No other business in the world has a model that matches the absurdity of the buy-and-return model that Barnes & Noble and other vendors enforce on publishers.
2. Publish less. Stop the "spaghetti against the wall" approach of rush-publishing too many barely-edited books that won't be promoted, budgeted for or even bought into stores and focus on the carefully planned publication of a select number of strong titles in order to give them the marketing and promotional support that they deserve. Retail buyers will be less overwhelmed and won't reject as many books for being too similar. Editors will be able to actually edit instead of just acquire. Marketing and publicity departments will be able to make solid plans with actual budgets. This requires boards of directors, stockholders, publishers, retail buyers and editors to reevaluate their priorities and profit models but they aren't currently making a profit so, why not?

Stay tuned for Part 4 tomorrow. Read Part 1. Read Part 2. If you work in publishing (author, editor, agent, critic, bookseller or reporter) and would like to participate, email me at with your response to "What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?" and I will post it.

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The Future of Publishing
Part 2

Read here to see what this is all about.

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

Publishing has long existed in a top-down, trickle-down mentality. A book is acquired, then editorial bosses have to get excited, then sales and marketing have to get excited, then bookseller accounts have to get excited and finally, oh, there's this pesky reader who's supposed to buy the finished product, but by then the deck is often stacked. But we're in an on-demand culture, where people don't want to be dictated to but want the freedom - perceived or real - to choose what they want when they want it. And when the reader is so far removed from the process of making books, there's this huge disconnect that's now even bigger. So it's a huge challenge, but publishing's going to have to adjust its mentality from top-down to bottom-up; engaging the reader as early as possible. Knowing not just anecdotally but quantitatively what readers want to read, how they want to read it, and making books available in as many formats as they wish. But that's not going to be easy - and I wish everyone luck as we figure out how to adjust in this very scary, but also very opportunistic and very exciting time.
Sarah Weinman, editor, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind

I'd get the major publishers together on a standard e-book format, one that's DRM-free and not tied to a device (like the kindle). Most important, we need to get e-book prices down. Charging the same price (or more!) than a hardcover for a digital file is absolutely ludicrous--we're hamstringing this technology at a crucial phase in its development.

One major thing that has to change is the attitude that publishers (and their editors) are the gatekeepers of quality. There seems to be an ongoing perception that only a select few people in New York City high rises have the golden touch, the ability to know what is "good fiction" and what is "bad fiction." These gatekeepers decide what gets published, and what stays forever on the slush pile. While that skill set has its place, in today's world there are far better options for making business decisions. By embracing free content, the zero-cost distribution model of the Internet, and learning how to monitor which authors can generate their own audiences, publishing can see what's going to sell by doing a rather basic measurement -- watch the people who buy the books, and see what they like before you print anything. The marketplace won't tell you exactly what books will fail, but it will tell you what books will succeed. The recent article in Time Magazine identifies several such examples, like Lisa Genova's "Still Alice" and Daniel Suarez's "Daemon." Both books were rejected dozens of times by agents and publishers who "knew" the books would not sell. Genova and Suarez self-published via different strategies, then generated sales to end customers, proving that they knew their potential audience better than the experts. 
(,9171,1873122,00.html). My story is another example. I have hundreds of rejection letters from the people who "knew" what would sell and what would not. I started giving my stories away via podcast, and three years later hit the NY Times extended list with my second hardcover, CONTAGIOUS. Cory Doctorow continues to prove, over and over again, that if you give your content away, fans will discover you, fans that are happy to pay for your work. Upcoming novels by J.C. Hutchins (7th SON, St. Martin's Press) and Seth Harwood (JACK WAKES UP, Three Rivers Press) will outsell the vast majority of new authors hitting shelves at the same time. Does it make sense to regularly hand out advances, pay editorial, production and sales staff, pay print costs, distributions costs and take returns on books that are proven to no one other than a handful of staffers who work under one roof? Repeat this formula for the hundreds of thousands of titles printed every year, and it's no wonder the system is collapsing in on itself. Publishing needs to start watching free content, monitoring it like pro football scouts watching the college ranks. Authors that can build an audience before Big Publishing ever steps in are the "blue chip" recruits of the literary world. People like Mur Lafferty, Matt Wallace, Mark Jeffrey and Tee Morris already have thousands of people listening to their stories -- why haven't publishers snatched them up? These people have proven their potential to readers, not to editors, not to publishers, and not to critics. It's a business, and happy readers are what makes everything happen. 

I would like to see publishers spend less money on the big celebrity and political books so that debut novelists, and other authors of serious fiction and nonfiction can get a fair shake. There are so may great, media-driven books that do not get their just deserts regarding publicity and advertising budgets because there is so little money left over after the million dollar advances go toward books that will never, ever earn out their advances. If money were more evenly distributed, more authors would earn a reasonable income, more books would receive media coverage, and there would be more balance in the industry as whole which would serve authors and readers alike.

The industry could use more sex, rock and roll, and any other form of recreation that will permit the austere types to loosen up. The inability from some to pursue fun and to foster curiosity was bad enough before all the layoffs, but it's now reached a catastrophic level. If you're working at a house, you could lose your job tomorrow. If you're a midlist author, you could be dumped tomorrow. If you're an independent bookstore proprietor, tomorrow you may not have the energy to prevent yourself from decking the insensitive lout who boasts about how he'll buy the book you've highlighted on the table at Amazon. Good eggs are disappearing and it's all very sad, but the true eggs will stay. Remember that nature abhors a vacuum. If we approach these concerns with anything that might cause us to remain bouncy and buoyant, then we're one step ahead of the dour D-Fenses who will implode and start metaphorically shooting people in the streets tomorrow. If you're not passionate about books, get out of this business. If you're not willing to fight for something better, get out of this business. If you're not willing to dust yourself off the ground, get out of this business. If you're not helping others and you're being selfish about preserving your meager place on the ladder, get out of this business. If on the other hand you're living in the present and paying attention to the future, and you have the chops and the fortitude to persuade the stubborn holdouts (even if it means bracing a John Anderson-like blow, as Jeff Dowd did last week), then you're absolutely vital to the future of publishing. You're needed. And you must go in and change things for the better.

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow. Read Part 1. If you work in publishing (author, editor, agent, critic, bookseller or reporter) and would like to participate, email me at with your response to "What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?" and I will post it.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Future of Publishing
Part 1

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

Book publishers need to stop wasting time worrying about whether or not newspapers are going to still be running book reviews. It's not the book industry's job to hold book reviewers' hands through a"crisis" they brought upon themselves. Let the reviewers and their editors figure out, if they can, how to regain their relevance to their audiences, while book publishers concentrate on ALL the ways they can be relevant to readers.
Ron Hogan
senior editor,

As an almost-ex-bookseller, I have to admit that in ten years, I never was able to figure out how co-op worked. (Maybe that is why I am an almost-ex-bookseller). I knew that there was money out there but between ordering, waiting on customers, paying the bills and cleaning the bathroom, I did not have time to research and educate myself. If publishers want independent bookstores to survive, they should offer them the same terms as the big guys and keep any additional monetary incentives simple and easy to decipher.
Terry Lucas, bookseller/librarian

My suggestion to the book industry is to ask publishers to be forthcoming with their authors. We understand that times are tough, and that at least for the foreseeable future, there are going to be ever-increasing financial limitations as to what our publishers can and can't do for our books. If authors know exactly what to expect going in, they can work closely with their publishers to do the best possible job of bringing out each book. The better each individual book sells, the better the industry does as a whole.
Karen Dionne, author of FREEZING POINT

Get rid of returns
1b Get rid of outrageous advances (and thus agents)
1c Start publishing content that is actually about something important
1d Throw all the foreign owners out the door and require that all US media companies be owned by Americans (like the Canadians do)
Margo Baldwin, President & Publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing

More to come tomorrow. If you work in publishing (author, editor, agent, critic, bookseller or reporter) and would like to participate, email me at with your response to "What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?" and I will post it.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Future of Publishing

There have been some recent seismic shifts in the publishing landscape, with dozens of jobs lost, many lists trimmed, imprints slashed, and massive reorganizations changing the dynamic of many publishing houses. After the firing of Publishers Weekly editor-in-chief Sara Nelson (a decision that has spurred some heated opinions), I posted this question on Twitter yesterday:

How will all the layoffs, restructuring and cost cutting solve the industry's #1 problem--getting more books into the hands of readers?

I got some interesting responses, and because of that I decided to try something in an effort to answer that question. I've reached out to a number of publishing professionals in all areas of work--authors, editors, agents, publicists, booksellers, critics and reporters--asking them all the same question:

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

Over the next few days I'll be posting the responses. And I definitely encourage readers to comment on the posts, since you're the ones who, in the end, essentially make or break the industry. And if you're a pub pro who has an answer to the quesiton, please email me at with your response and I will be sure to post it.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Catching up on T.V.

I'm not a huge t.v. guy. For about three years, the only show I watched regularly was "The Sopranos." I started a remarkable number of shows well into their runs, catching up on DVD and then managing to squeeze in the last season or two as they actually ran.

I was always curious about "Lost," so when my spinal surgery coincided with a gift from my sister of a Netflix subscription, what better time to catch up. Last night, my wife and I, after a manic Lost binge in which our DVD player nearly burned out, finally caught up on all four seasons of Lost. So when the next episode airs on the 28th, we'll officially be right where everyone else is. Mainly confused as all hell. My thoughts on Lost?

Brilliant storytelling. So-so dialogue. I'm officially tired of Jack and Kate, but really getting into Ben, Pesmond (Penny & Desmond), Sawyer and Potentially Evil Sun. I'm on the fence with Hurley, but after I nearly coughed out a lung when he threw his Hot Pocket at Ben, I'm beginning to like the big guy. The most baffling thing to me is that not one character has had an all-out freak out. They all seem remarkably unperturbed by the fact that they've spent several months on some sort of magical island, filled with polar bears, freaky science experiments and time travel. I keep waiting for someone to just say, "Wait, hold up. Is anybody else wondering what the f*&k is going on???" 

It's like all the characters live in a world where they've watched so many science fiction movies that they're not even remotely perplexed by what's happening. They're simply like, "We need to get to the underwater station to block the signal being sent out by the evil cadre of mad scientists, because the guy who has clairvoyant flashes had a vision of it." And nobody bats an eye. They're just like, "Ok then. It's a two day hike. Let's go while there's still sunlight." 

I just want one character (probably Hurley) to have a John McClane moment. You know, that moment in "Die Hard 2" when he says, "Another basement...another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?" Just to let us know that the characters (and writers) are aware of how ridiculous--I mean, unusual--their circumstances are.

Right now I have three regular shows: Lost, 30 Rock, and The Office. My agent was cool enough to send over the first two seasons of How I Met Your Mother on DVD, so I've been churning through those. Definitely a show that began finding its legs early on, and probably has already set a record for most penis jokes in a prime time sitcom. The cast is terrific, though I'm ready to commit a homicide on Ted, the eternal buzzkill, the only twenty-something guy who goes to a bar with his friends and spends an hour talking about what he wants to name his unborn children. If you want to know why LadLit as a genre has not and will never work, watch Ted for five minutes. If you don't want to beat him to death after the eightieth time he recites his 'What I look for in the girl I'm going to marry' list, then you're a better man than I.

It's great to see Allyson Hannigan breaking out of the "band camp girl" mold (and her Lily is probably the most relatable character), and Cobie Smulders is really likable as Robin. With any other actor Barney Stinson could have been a total d-bag, but NPH portrays the character with enough of a wink so that you know he doesn't take himself too seriously. Jason Segal is pretty good (and he's a hero for tall, awkwardly proportioned guys!), but after "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" I can't help but feel like he's a bit hamstrung in PG sitcom land. And Ted...sigh...just transport him into a Nick Hornby novel and let him hang out with Rob Fleming for eternity. They can spend the rest of their lives cataloguing mix tapes.

Once I'm through with these shows, there are others I'll catch up on via DVD/iTunes. Here's the list of shows on my queue. Let me know if I should add anything else:

1) Deadwood
2) Battlestar Galactica
3) Damages
4) Burn Notice
5) House
6) Friday Night Lights


Thursday, January 22, 2009

We finally find a good use for Dick Cheney

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009


Starting today, I'll be part of a brand new group blog called Genreality. I'll be posting on Saturdays (beginning January 24th), joining Alison Kent, Joseph Nassise, Carrie Vaughn, Sasha White and Lynn Viehl.

Reality: the totality of real things and events

Do you want to know where ideas come from? Or what a day-in-the-life is like? What about how a person can beat back their doubts and insecurities to become a best-selling author, or how to take your ideas and make tangible stories out of them?

If you want an honest look at what it’s like to make a living as an author, and how these authors get the job done, then GENREALITY is the place to be.

Get to know these best-selling authors as they share not only their ups and downs of living the dream, but tips and advice on how you can too.

Check out Post your comments, and read about the realities of being a genre author.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Edgars, Interviews, and a new blog

I did a pretty lengthy interview with Christina Radish over at Topics discussed include the last few Henry Parker novels, tips for writers, the future of the series, and what I'm working on now. If I do say so myself, it's worth a read.

Lastly, starting next week I'll be joining a brand new group blog called Genreality. I'll be posting on Saturdays (beginning January 24th), joining Alison Kent, Joseph Nassise, Carrie Vaughn, Sasha White and Lynn Viehl. What's cool about this blog is that it features authors from all different genres (mystery, erotica, horror, romance, science fiction and urban fantasy), and should offer a lot of interesting perspectives about books and writing from authors across many spectrums. The blog officially opens its virtual doors on Monday, January 19th, so please come check us out at

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm on Twitter

Since apparently there are still social/networking sites I'm not a member of, I've shortened that list by joining Twitter. You can follow my feed at

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"I Should Have Wikipedia'd Neville Chamberlain"

Great piece from last night's "Daily Show" on what it takes to be a successful cable news pundit. Specifically, a lack of intelligence, decency, and common sense. And here's the full video of the hilariously squirmy Kevin James/Chris Matthews confrontation. Come on, who hasn't had a teacher ask a question you didn't know the answer to where you tried to b.s. your way out of it? (Only I'm assuming you didn't do it on national television) I cracked up when Mark Green said, "Kevin, when you're in a hole, stop digging."


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Frost/Nixon vs. The Dark Knight
(or why Hollywood should embrace its inner blockbuster)

A few weeks ago, I saw Frost/Nixon. I was excited for this movie, as I always love good political dramas, the acting was getting great reviews and it was about a period in history I wasn't that familiar with but seemed riveting. And as I left the theater I felt...disappointed. Not because it was a bad movie--it was not--but because it could and should have been so much better. As Oscar season approaches, Frost/Nixon had made many Top 10 lists and seems a lock for numerous Oscar nominations. Now, if Frost/Nixon gets nominated for Best Picture and/or Best Director over The Dark Knight and Christopher Nolan, there's something seriously wrong with the industry. Frost/Nixon never becomes as good as it should be, whereas The Dark Knight lived up to the massive hype and then some, becoming one of the most exciting, if not provocative movies of the year (if not decade). The Oscars have always had it in a bit for the unabashed blockbuster. Even when films like Gladiator and Braveheart won (both of which I loved) there was an excuse of them being historical dramas, blood-stained period pieces. 

This is not to pick on Frost/Nixon, which is still one of the better movies of the year, but to say that if this movie, which was not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, gets an Oscar nod over The Dark Knight (which, in my opinion, was), it's simple bias towards comic book films and money. Here are my thoughts on Frost/Nixon (SPOILERS ABOUND):

--The directing was workmanlike at best. There was never a sense of Ron Howard making his material better, rather it was simple point and shoot. There is intrigue and passion, but it comes from the performances and the real life historical drama. Compare any scene in Frost/Nixon to the armored car chase in TDK (for my money, one of the top 5 action scenes ever), the bank robbery, the Joker's escape from prison, the Joker's home movies...TDK is just filled with scenes where Christopher Nolan makes what could have been a routine action movie come alive. The five seconds after his escape when the Joker is leaning out of the cop car, lights flashing in the distance, chilled me more than any of the verbal fireworks in F/N.

--Frost/Nixon is filled with fight analogies. As David Frost prepares for his final interviews, the dialogue practically sounds like it comes from Rocky. But here's the problem: Frost never seems to give a damn. Sure at the end he seems to care, and spends all of one night cramming, but in the weeks and months leading up to the interviews it's all about ratings, all about money. You don't care as much if Frost gets Nixon to admit his guilt, because for Frost it feels like the interview itself is the victory. And once Nixon does (sort of) own up, the movie basically ends. There's no sense of how the moment affected history, and Frost doesn't really relish the victory. Other than a brief epilogue, there's no closure, and you get the feeling that it didn't really change all that much. Do you think Rocky would have been nearly as dramatic if the Italian Stallion fought Apollo Creed just for the payday? Instead Frost comes off like a student who stayed up all night studying for a class he slept through the whole semester, and miraculously got a B+. 

--I'm a big fan of Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt, but they're just out of place in this movie. They come off as too silly, undercutting the seriousness of the film's tone and setting and its impact on history. Rockwell is supposed to have a dramatic role, but I just never bought him in it. Platt is funny as always, but one thing this movie did not need was comic relief. Trade Rockwell for, say Mark Ruffalo, and I think the role would have been better suited.

--The acting, especially between the two leads, is terrific. Though I actually felt Michael Sheen did a more convincing job with Frost than Langella with Nixon. Yes the accent and mannerisms are great, but I never felt like I was watching Richard M. Nixon, I felt I was watching Frank Langella's impersonation of Nixon. Still, Hollywood seems to love good impersonations, and Langella will undoubtedly get an Oscar nod.

In the end, Frost/Nixon is a good movie, not a great one, yet it looks to become one of the most decorated only for the reasons that it seems like it should be. Yet two of the most commercial films of the year--Wall-E and The Dark Knight--were also two of the best, easily, and far better that F/N. Yet it seems F/N will get more Oscar nods simply because it has the pedigree to. It is less than the sum of its parts, and the only reason I've thought about it sense seeing it was because I'm depressed at the seeming inevitability of the awards it will reap. If Hollywood wants to reward true creative genius, it should do so regardless of whether or not its characters wear a costume and face paint. Passion and emotion are so difficult to provoke in a film, and the two films I was most passionate about were a film where the lead character wears a cape, and an animated film about a little hunk of junk who barely speaks. But ask me what movies I'll be talking about in 10 years, and I'll show you my well-worn Wall-E and The Dark Knight DVDs.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Snuggie 

In case you haven't yet heard of the Snuggie, watch the below video. It might be the single greatest infomercial of all time, and the most important American historical video document since the Zapruder film. Anyway, once you've watched the video, read this blog by Joe Posnanski. It captures everything glorious about the Snuggie and the people selling it. Remember, if you have a family member that's aching to look like one of the freaky Los Illiminados monks from "Resident Evil 4", the Snuggie is the perfect gift.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Read Charlie Huston Now

Charlie Huston has become one of my favorite contemporary authors, and today's New York Times review of his new book, THE MYSTICS ART OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH, just makes me salivate that much more to read it. His Hank Thompson trilogy was flat out brilliant, and THE SHOTGUN RULE was one of my favorite reads of 2007.

If you haven't read him, stop what you're doing and buy CAUGHT STEALING, SIX BAD THINGS and A DANGEROUS MAN. If vampire noir sounds cool (trust me, it is) check out the Joe Pitt casebooks. 

And as Charlie himself says on, "the paperback version of THE SHOTGUN RULE (has) come home to roost for those folks who like their literature to be flexible enough to fit the contours of their ass when stuffed in a back pocket." 

Really, can you honestly say you won't read Huston's books? If you don't, there's no way we can be friends.


Friday, January 02, 2009

R.I.P. Donald Westlake

What a sad way to ring in the new year, with the loss of one of the all-time titans of crime fiction. There are many more links and remembrances over at Sarah's, but it's really stunning to look back at the last year and see how many legends have passed in such a short time.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!