Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Great Big Musical Saturday

This is going to be a quick, completely personal post. I have a busy day ahead of me.

I am not a particular fan of Monty Python. Despite my dearest friends' earnest efforts to convert me, that type of humor simply doesn't appeal. So when a close friend asked if I wanted to see the musical Spamalot, I later made a previous engagement and pled off.

Then the assault came from a different front. One I couldn't so easily ignore.

About ten years ago, my sister-in-law K decided a subscription to the Dallas Summer Musicals would be a good learning experience for my six-year-old niece (Yes, my brother and sister-in-law are the complete helicopter parents). K purchased three seats (front row center) at the Dallas Music Hall so that she, my brother and my niece could attend a half dozen musicals every summer.

There have been lots of funny family stories that came out of those three seats. When L was in first grade, her teacher called K to say she had some concerns about the child.

The teacher had instructed the children in her class to write a sentence using the word "hair." Fresh from a weekend viewing of South Pacific, my precocious niece wrote the sentence, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair."

The twenty-four-year-old teacher, who had never heard of South Pacific, was appalled by L's choice of sentence, prompting the phone call home. K was forced to explain the reference.

Now, ten years later, the lovely sixteen-year-old L is a veteran of every major musical ever produced on stage, which brings me to my present dilemma.

K cannot attend the play today. My brother P called to ask if I would like to go to lunch and a matinee of Spamalot with him and L.

Of course, I agreed to go. I never ignore opportunities to spend time with my brother or niece. Monty Python or not, I'll be there front row center at 2:00 PM.

And, because I spent thirty minutes last night figuring out how to post videos to this site, I'm going to share a scene from Spamalot with you.

Pray for me.

I've already decided that--as a reward for attending Spamalot--I'll be at the late viewing of the new Die Hard movie tonight. Bruce Willis' wise-cracking John McClane is all the grail I need.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tommy, This One Is For You

I've thought about posting this video to my blog for some weeks, but the moment never seemed right.

In the unlikely event that you haven't already seen this, it is the first performance on Britain's Got Talent by Paul Potts. Paul is . . . was a cell phone salesman who went on the British version of American Idol.

The British program has been around longer than its US counter-
part and, in fact, spawned Idol and brought Simon Cowell to our shores.

I have probably watched this video twenty-five times. And--no matter how often I watch it--Paul's performance never fails to leave me tearful.

At first, I thought it was because Paul was a modern day Cinderella--the shy little nobody who reaches for the glass slipper, surprising everyone and upending their preconceived notions. But in the weeks since first seeing this video, I've come to believe that explanation is too facile.

Here you have an overweight man in a cheap, ill-fitting suit. He has terrible teeth, too-short hair and a tentative manner. Then he opens his mouth to sing, and you forget everything . . . everything except that glorious voice that was God's gift to him.

How did he find the confidence to try out for this show? How did he find the wellspring of hope that enabled him to stand on endless lines to audition, alongside younger, far more beautiful people?

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

Never, never, never give up.

Both those lines were spoken by Winston Churchill, and they embody what it means to keep on going--even when success is not assured and hope may not be justified.

This week, a writer I admire a great deal had a sudden attack of nerves. He commented that he'd lost his self confidence as a writer and was intimidated by the size of the task before him. I thought of this performance then.

Tommy, this one's for you--with love.

Oh, BTW, in case you're wondering, Paul did win the talent search. You can find both his semi-final performance and his winning performance here.

More on MySpace and Facebook

Earlier this week, there was a very interesting comment by Laura Vivanco, who always writes such wonderful posts. She was responding to my comment on Wednesday that it's never too soon to start a blog or an account on MySpace.

Laura said:

I recently read that MySpace and its competitor, Facebook have got different populations. I'd only ever seen MySpace mentioned and I'm not on either of them, but it got me curious about whether some authors might find it advantageous to market themselves in both or make a choice about using Facebook. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the article:

"Social networking websites are increasingly splitting along class lines, according to one prominent academic.

"In recent years networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have seen remarkable growth and become some of the most popular destinations on the internet. But Danah Boyd, a researcher at the University of California and internet sociologist, said populations of different networks were now divided on a rough class basis.

"Her evidence, collected through a series of interviews with US teenagers using MySpace and Facebook over the past nine months, showed there was a clear gap between the populations of each site.(from The Guardian).

I responded as follows:

Laura: I've read Boyd's article and am ambivalent about it. I suspect she is describing "what was" more than "what is" or "what will be." While I'm not a sociologist, my understanding is that social networks are living entities, constantly changing. We can look at a snapshot in time, but the minute the photo is taken, it begins to become a part of the past.

Because the history of the two sites is very different, it's natural that their growth patterns should have been different as well.

MySpace began only three months before Facebook did, but has four times as many members as Facebook has. This is mainly due to the fact that, from its inception, MySpace was available to anyone with an email address.

Facebook began in the spring of 2004 at Harvard as a "university" networking site. For more than two years, you had to have an "edu" email address to get onto Facebook (or be invited aboard by an existing member).

However, about nine months ago, Facebook was opened up to anyone with an email address. Many of the existing members were outraged by this move.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the demographics now that both sites are available to anyone wanting an account. I expect the "exclusivity" label of Facebook will gradually diminish under an onslaught of outsiders.

Interestingly enough, when the US military banned MySpace, they did not ban Facebook. Boyd says that this is because the officers used Facebook and the enlisted noncoms used MySpace.

Since these networking sites are vital to communication with family, my guess is that the noncoms will simply shift to accounts on Facebook, further diluting the university-only feel of the site.

Americans tend to resist attempts to classify our society by "class." More importantly, commercial enterprises seeking to promote their services/wares will continue to advertise on both sites, raising the stakes.

MySpace sold to Rupert Murdoch last year. Rumors keep circulating about the potential sale of Facebook. If a large media company either buys Facebook outright or partners with them, the push will be to increase membership to increase the advertising rates. I suspect the market will win out in the end.

Thanks for raising a really interesting point, and one that is not often openly discussed.

I was intrigued by Laura's comment, which I had not seen echoed in the American press. I, therefore, paid particular attention to the overseas news stories about MySpace and Facebook this week.

Yesterday, MySpace launched MySpace TV, a video sharing initiative that will permit users to upload and view video clips in the same way they now do on YouTube. This underscores the fierce rivalry for users that exists among the social networking sites.

The London Times reported on Wednesday that "A recent report by Park Associates, the analysts, found that users of social networking sites are 'chronically unfaithful' with nearly half regularly using more than one site and one in six using three or more."

I was less impressed with a story in The London Times yesterday that trumpeted the headline, "MySpace 'stands to lose top spot by September'."

To support this claim, the reporter Rhys Blakely pointed to a 4.4% dip in visitors to MySpace from April to May in Britain and a less than one percent corresponding dip in US visitors. A ONE MONTH dip.

First of all, I think it is incredibly poor math/science to predict a trend based on one month's data.

Moreover, this dip follows on the heels of that US Army ban on May 14 on the use of MySpace and eleven other social networking sites (not including Facebook). As I said in my comment to Laura, a natural reaction on the part of soldiers and their loved ones will be to shift to a networking site that is permitted by the military.

Out of curiosity, I went looking for data on the numbers of visitors to the social networking websites in May.

On a website called Compete, I found the following for US visitors in the month of May:

Given this data, I seriously doubt whether MySpace is going to lose its top spot in the next three months.

It will, however, be very interesting to see how the demographics of MySpace and Facebook evolve now that both are accepting new accounts from anyone with an email address. Will Facebook lose its exclusivity cachet? Will young people simply open accounts in both places and flip back and forth between the two?

Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On Rain and Querying

A word about all the rain in Dallas. This time of year, drought is usually the problem--not flooding. Usually when I see the Trinity River in the spring, the water is so low, you could cross the riverbed without getting your feet wet.

Today the Trinity was at 38.64 feet, closing in on the 39-foot flood level.

Average annual rainfall in Dallas is about 34 inches. It is not even the end of June, and we've already surpassed that figure. In fact, we are only 3/4 of an inch from the wettest June on record for Dallas.

On tonight's news, they showed a homeowner whose backyard is so saturated with water that his in-ground swimming pool is being forced upward and outward from the ground.

Every day, Dallas County Public Works trucks are in my neighborhood to cart off the trees that are toppling over because they've become so top heavy.

And the forecast is for more rain for the next few days. Pray for us.

I received an email from a newbie writer last night. The manuscript for his novel is complete; he's ready to start querying agents. He's been reading advice on writing a good query letter, and complained because of the conflicting information he's getting.

His question to me: "How important is it that I include marketing info with my letter?"

Before I start, let me include the usual disclaimer. What follows is my opinion and worth what you've paid for it ;)

I believe the confusion on the issue of "marketing" is attributable to the difference between fiction queries and non-fiction queries.

When you check a literary agent's website, you'll generally find a list of the genres that agent represents. Agents KNOW the fiction markets they represent. It's not likely that you'll be able to tell them anything new about those markets. I always figured I'd be embarrassing myself by trying to tell the agents I was querying about their business.

On the flip side, non-fiction books are generally written by experts in specific fields. A psychologist writes a self-help book on self-esteem. A retired army major writes about military strategy. A chef writes a book of recipes. A real estate salesman writes about the top tricks of the trade for selling a house.

It's unlikely that any one agent will know the details of all those markets. For this reason, books on preparing a non-fiction proposal usually suggest that the writer include information on the potential market for the book. That means data on the size of the market as well as on the number of competing books available.

While I'm on the subject, there are other differences between fiction and non-fiction queries.

A first-time author should have finished his/her novel before querying it. However, non-fiction books are often sold on the basis of a proposal that includes a couple of sample chapters and the outline for the rest.

Happy Querying.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Espresso, Anyone?

This post is for Peter, who raised the issue of using the Espresso Book Machine for self-publishing in the comments to my recent post on the EBM.

You'll recall that I recently recommended Tim O'Reilly's blog, O'Reilly's Radar. There's a link to it under "Other Helpful Sites" on this blog.

Yesterday, O'Reilly's Radar hosted a debate on the EBM and self-publishing between Mike Shatzkin, whom I've often mentioned on this blog, and Jim Lichtenberg of Lightspeed Publishing and a frequent contributor to Publishers Weekly. You can read it here.

How To Get Published--Backward

Will Clarke came to speak to my writers' group last night. He's the author of two books, Lord Vishnu's Love Handles and The Worthy: A Ghost's Story.

Will himself admits he's a great example of how to do everything wrong and still end up in the right place.

He wrote his first book ten years ago and immediately found a well-known agent. She primarily represents self-help celebrities like Dr. Phil and Stephen Covey. Although she loved his first two books, she couldn't find a publisher for them.

Will decided to self-publish and went through AuthorHouse. He said the experience wasn't a good one, and he eventually asked for his money back.

By then, he had figured out that he could self-publish through Lightning Source cheaper than he could through AuthorHouse (if he were going to do it again today, he said he'd use Lulu) so he created his own publishing company, MiddleFinger Press, and started selling his book from his website.

A New Zealand screenwriter got his hands on Lord Vishnu and convinced Will to sell him the film option for a dollar. The screenwriter then talked Michael London (who produced House of Sand and Fog and Sideways) into joining the project. London, in turn, convinced David Gordon Green, the director, to come on board, and the three sold the project to Paramount.

Now Clarke had a movie deal, but no broad distribution for his novels. Paramount's book division--Simon & Schuster--made him an offer for Lord Vishnu and gave him a list of agents who might help him negotiate the deal. He went with Jenny Bent, who likes quirky books (and Vishnu certainly qualifies as quirky). Simon & Schuster has now published both his books in hard cover and paperback.

Will gave all the members of my writers' group free autographed hardback copies of Lord Vishnu. I started reading the book last night. According to the Dallas Observer, it's "about a shallow, golf-loving, booze-swilling Lakewood dot-commer named Travis Anderson who is cursed with being able to read and influence minds even as he loses his. It's Kurt Vonnegut by way of Alfred Hitchcock, a screwy comic thriller." The first three chapters were hysterically funny, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

The New York Times did a double review of Will's first two books. Read it here.

Here are the lessons Will says he's learned from his ten-year journey:
  • Learn everything you can about the publishing business. He recommends a subscription to Publishers Lunch and the book Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully! by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry.
  • Be sure you find the right agent--the one who is the right fit for your book. The wrong agent will shop your book but not sell it and leave you in a worse place than when you started. Will says this is because, once a New York publishing house has turned a book down, it will very rarely take a second look at the same book.
  • Focus on viral marketing, selling your book by word-of-mouth. He believes this is far more important than a good book review.
  • Be creative in your marketing efforts. He gave free finger puppets to booksellers, which helped them to remember him and his book.
  • It's never too soon to start a blog or an account on MySpace.
  • Enjoy the actual writing process. It will be the most fun you will have on your path to publication. From then on, it's hard work.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Laura Albert Found Guilty of Fraud In NY Court

On June 16th, I did a post here on the fraud trial of Laura Albert, who was being sued by the film production company that had optioned her novel Sarah.

The production company, Antidote International Films, had thought they were contracting with JT Leroy, who was supposedly the son of a truck-stop prostitute. When they found that the writer behind JT Leroy was actually "a mother and otherwise obscure novelist from Brooklyn Heights" (according to the New York Times), they cried foul.

Last Friday in a Federal District court in Manhattan, a jury found that Ms. Albert had defrauded the production company by signing a movie contract under false pretenses.

According to the Los Angeles Times (LAT), the jury awarded $110,000 to Antidote, which had claimed they'd spent that much on a film treatment before learning the truth. In addition, the jury awarded $6,500 in punitive damages.

"U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said he would determine later whether attorneys' fees would be awarded." (LAT)

Albert's attorneys had argued that their client used the "JT Leroy" persona to buffer her from a horrific past that included sexual abuse and childhood trauma. The New York Times described Leroy as "a sort of imaginary survival apparatus that allowed her (Albert) both to write and to breathe."

Antidote's attorneys, predictably, took a dimmer view of the JT Leroy nom de plume. They pointed to the instances where Ms. Albert had paid a friend to appear as JT Leroy in public in order to promote her book.

Ms. Albert, of course, condemned the verdict while saying she expected it.

So is this the end for the novel Sarah? Maybe not.

"Steven Shainbery, the proposed director of the film, testified that when he learned who had truly written Sarah an inspiration came to him to make a "meta-film," a triple-layered movie that would blend the novel with the lives of its real and purported authors in a project he took to calling Sarah Plus." (NYT)

Stay tuned to see whether Sarah Plus has legs.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Espresso Book Machine, Part II

This is the second of two posts on the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) and its potential impact on the industry.

As I explained yesterday, the EBM is a product of On Demand Books. An article that appeared almost exactly a year ago on
June 26, 2006 in Publishers Weekly (PW) reported that On Demand Books was the brainchild of former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein and former Dean & DeLuca president and CEO Dane Neller, along with technology expert Thor Sigvaldason.

The EBM itself was invented by Jeff Marsh, who "created the precursor to Espresso, the Perfect Book Machine, five years ago. Since then he has printed several thousand titles, mostly self-publishing projects, and has continued to refine the machine, which prints a date and time stamp inside each finished book and tracks each book printed to facilitate publisher payments." (PW)

Engadget reported in December that another iteration of the EBH costs about $50,000 and "can produce two books simultaneously in seven minutes, a time which includes all the printing, binding and cutting involved. The machine even slaps a snazzy laminated full-color cover on its creations. Books top out at around 550 pages, and right-to-left texts are possible. Production cost is about five cents per page . . ."

When PW asked about the EBM, Epstein said, "Our goal is to preserve the economic and ergonomic simplicity of the physical book."

Epstein "laments the disappearance of backlist and ready access to books in other languages. By printing from digital files, ODB hopes to make warehousing—and much of today's distribution model—obsolete.

'In theory,' said Epstein, 'every book printed will be digitized, which means the market will be radically decentralized. A bookstore with this technology, without any expense to themselves [other than the machine] can increase their footprint.' Of course, that also means that Kinko's or Wal-Mart can transform themselves into mini-bookstores, especially given the machine's affordability." (PW)

Sara Nelson had a lukewarm article about the EBM in today's Publishers Weekly. She said, among other things, that the turnout for the unveiling of the EBM at the New York Public Library was not large and did not comprise "many of the industry types who are 'supposed' to be high tech and cutting edge and into gadgets."

Nelson quoted the executives from On Demand Books saying "the Espresso machine is, ultimately, a delivery system, and they expect to license, not sell, the medium-size-closet devices to retailers, libraries and even hotels. Consumers could go to one of these machines and download a book . . ."

Then she says, "But how realistic is this plan? When can we expect it to catch on? Certainly not until copyright issues are addressed . . ."

I think Nelson is short-sighted and that Epstein's comment to the effect that "the market will be radically decentralized" is on target. I just think that this decentralization will start from the ground up, not from the top down.

Here's why.

It's no secret that the trend in ownership of the publishing industry has been to centralize. Over the last three decades, the majority of publishing houses have been bought out by a handful of large media companies. Independent publishing houses are increasingly rare.

But change is on the horizon. While ownership of publishing houses has been limited, the Internet has been fragmenting the book market itself. Consumer choice is increasing. Consumers can now buy physical books, audio books, e-books, or download podcasts.

I've repeatedly said that digitization and print-on-demand technology will break the stranglehold the large publishers have on the system. They no longer are the only ones in possession of the technology to produce a printed book.

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it can't be put back. If the big seven media companies fail to embrace this new reality, the change will come despite them.

Sara Nelson's comment about copyright issues neglects the fact that copyright belongs to the writer. The writer is the one who leases that copyright to the publisher.

Publishing houses need to recognize and understand the implications of digitization, POD technology and Internet social networking. These innovations are already shifting the power base of publishing. Unless big media moves quickly to share more of their profits or provide more services (like advertising) to their authors, the change will begin from the ground up. Authors will find other publishing partners--maybe new, smaller boutique houses, maybe bookstores like Borders or B&N, maybe online publishers.

Sara Nelson ended her post this way:

Maybe, as Epstein & Co. suggest, everybody--publishers, chains, independent stores, customers--will save money thanks to reduced warehousing, printing and shipping costs, not to mention the certain misery and miserable uncertainty of returns. But will that gain be enough to offset the loss of the joy of browsing? Will pricing change? Will 20,000-sq.-ft. superstores be redundant? It seems to me that in a time when new technologies promising revolutionary effects are being trotted forth at a dizzying pace, the responsible thing for their promoters is to envision how we are all going to work with it--or not. Otherwise, the cautious fear that Epstein decries among publishers is perhaps well-founded, and the slim turnout on Thursday understandable.

She did get one thing right--although I believe her statement should be addressed to a different group of people.

The responsible thing for PUBLISHERS to do is to envision how we are all going to work with this new technology.

If they don't, they'll find authors making new deals with new partners.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Espresso, Anyone?

This post, and the one that follows, are for Stephen Parrish, who emailed me to ask for my take on this subject.

On Friday, GalleyCat reported that the New York Public Library has installed the first Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which will be on display through September 7th.

According to the press release from On Demand Books, the company that produces the EBM, the Espresso Book Machine is a "patented automatic book making machine [which] will revolutionize publishing by printing and delivering physical books within minutes."

The Open Content Alliance (see my post of November 6, 2005 here) is making available digital copies of some of the 200,000 public domain titles in their database so that the EBM can print and offer free copies of books for visitors during the demon-
stration. A few writers like Chris Anderson, who wrote The Long Tail, have given permission for their in-copyright books to be printed, too.

Four other demonstration projects are planned for the New Orleans Public Library, the University of Alberta campus bookstore, the Open Content Alliance in San Francisco and the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont.

The press release indicated that "Beta versions of the EBM are already in operation at the World Bank Infoshop in Washington, DC and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (The Library of Alexandria, Egypt)."

Fourteen months ago, when the EBM was installed at the World Bank, the InfoShop reported:

The new fully automatic book machine, developed by On Demand Books LLC with initial funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will revolutionize book sales by printing and binding a single copy of a book at the point of demand. The machine can produce 15–20 library- quality paperback books per hour, in any language, in quantities as few as one, without any human intervention.

On a global scale, this would eliminate the costs of shipping and warehousing, returning and pulping unsold books, while allowing simultaneous global availability of new books. Print jobs can be initiated from the machine itself or from any locally connected computer using nothing more than a web browser.

Last July, Newsweek reported that "the machine can print the text for a 300-page book, with a color paperback cover--and bind it--in just three minutes and for only a penny per page. It will retail for less than $100,000."

Let's talk about what the EBM means. Let's start not at the narrow end of the funnel, with writers, but at the broad end of the funnel with readers. And not just the readers in the U.S., or in other developed countries, but with readers in the third world.

According to the World Bank's Poverty and Growth blog, the print-on-demand technology of the EBM "offers the opportunity to deliver development knowledge and content to students, practitioners, media, and simply interested individuals in a way they could not be reached before." The prohibitive costs of printing, shipping and warehousing books for underdeveloped nations limits the amount of printed material that can be provided to poor areas of the globe.

EBM machines strategically placed on a regional basis around the third world would make available information in their own language to peoples who have never had access to books. That's powerful mojo.

In my next post, we'll talk about other consequences of the EBM.

Don't Go In That Room!

Most of my childhood was loving and sheltered. But there were moments of unexpected violence and terror. With that peculiar reasoning children use, I convinced myself if I could handle scary things, I'd be better prepared for those moments of terror. In systematic fashion, I set out to conquer as many scary things as possible. From the time I was six or seven, I insisted on getting on the most frightening amusement park rides Coney Island and Atlantic City had to offer. I never turned down a dare. And I saw every scary movie I could get myself into.

I think those early experiences hardwired my brain because I'm still drawn to horror movies today.

I'm not talking about the slasher films that are so popular among teens; I mean real horror movies.

This afternoon, while I was cleaning house, I heard an ad for 1408. On impulse, I checked my computer for movie listings, saw there was a show starting in ten minutes, picked up my car keys and wallet and left the house. I arrived at the theater as the credits were rolling.

The film is based on a Stephen King short story. For anyone familiar with Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, there are obvious parallels. A hard-drinking novelist suffering from depression ends up trapped in a haunted hotel built a century ago. But where The Shining takes place in remote Colorado during a blizzard, 1408 is set at 14th and Lexington in New York City during the heat of summer.

John Cusack is Mike Enslin, a middle-aged man who lost his faith in God when his young daughter Katie died of disease. The once talented novelist abandoned his grieving wife and his career to embark on a search for ghosts. His clear intent is to debunk the paranormal--and, by extension, the existence of an afterlife. Enslin travels from place to place, staying in supposedly haunted houses and hotels, looking for things that go bump in the night. He has written one book on haunted houses already and is looking for a final chapter in his "Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms."

When he receives a postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York with the penned message "Don't enter Room 1408," Enslin is at first amused because the numbers add up to 13. After researching the Dolphin, he becomes convinced the old hotel will make a perfect finale for his next book. Fifty-six people have died in Room 1408 since the hotel opened.

Getting into Room 1408 is not a cakewalk. The Dolphin Manager Gerald Olin (in a small but great cameo by Samuel L. Jackson) refuses to let another guest into that "f***ing evil" room. He's had to clean up four bodies during his tenure as hotel manager and does not relish the prospect of seeing Enslin carried out feet first. Enslin refuses to back down, however, citing a civil rights law, and Olin finally hands him the old-fashioned brass key to the room (magnetic card keys don't seem to work on 1408).

Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom does an effective job of building the tension before Enslin even steps in the room. By the time the writer puts his bag down in Room 1408, my skin was tingling.

Cusack gives a great performance, especially since the movie rests largely on his shoulders. If you don't count the ghosties and ghoulies, he is alone on the screen for most of the film. While his performance as Mike Enslin is not as showy as Jack Nicholson's turn as Jack Torrance in The Shining, his character is much more likeable than Nicholson's over-the-top character. You want Enslin to regain his lost faith. You want him to survive his duel with 1408.

There are lots of small reminders that Stephen King wrote this story. His trademark technique of using ordinary items to invoke terror is everywhere. My favorite was the repeated use of The Carpenters' 1970 hit single "We've Only Just Begun" as the room mocks Enslin.

There were also the flashes of humor that are a King staple. Alternating creepiness with a laugh is a great technique--similar to offering sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses during a heavy meal.

Every paranormal trick in the deck of cards is played: ghosts prancing through the room, unexplained noises, walls that ooze, quick movements on the edge of the screen--you name it, they use it. The ninety-four minutes whizzed by.

The theater I attended was packed. I actually had to sit in the first few rows because all the other seats were taken. But this is not the typical summer slasher fare that teenagers seem to relish. Although the audience responded appropriately during the screening, I heard more than one boy complain that the movie wasn't scary enough after it ended. I blew the comments off as either disappointment at the lack of gore or testosterone posturing.

I liked the film. Ebert & Roeper gave it two thumbs up.

I'm also looking forward to Live Free or Die Hard this Wednesday. I know. I know. The two sequels were lame, and Bruce Willis is over-the-hill as an action hero. But I loved the first Die Hard movie. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to give #4 a try.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thriller, Anyone? Visit Thomas Perry

From time to time, I've written about a favorite author. Since I'm deep in the middle of one of those favorite authors' newest books, I'm going to do a quick review here and get back to finishing the novel.

Thomas Perry is an American author who won an Edgar Mystery Writers Award for Best First Novel in 1983 for his debut book The Butcher's Boy. In the quarter of a century since, he has written thirteen more novels.

I did not discover Perry until 1995 when I read Vanishing Act. The heroine of Vanishing Act is a half-white, half-Indian member of the Seneca tribe in upstate New York. Jane Whitefield specializes in helping people disappear. Fearful people come to her, looking for new identities and new lives.

Like many of my favorite characters in fiction, Whitefield is a moral person who operates outside of society's laws. In Vanishing Act, she helps a battered woman wanting to escape her abusive husband, a gambler who witnessed a gangland shooting and a young boy seeking to avoid a bitter custody battle.

But the real focus of Vanishing Act is the man John Felker, who claims to be an ex-cop with a contract out on his life. Whitefield finds herself deeply attracted to her new client, which clouds her judgment of him.

The book was a suspenseful thriller and became the first of the popular Jane Whitefield series. Perry wrote about Whitefield five times--once a year from 1995 to 1999. On his website, he says the following:

I am often asked whether there will be more books about Jane Whitefield. The answer is that I do intend to write about Jane again, but at the moment the next installment in the series is not what I’m working on. I like to think of Jane as alive and well, living off-camera in Deganawida, New York, waiting for me to bring her next client to her door. I’m enjoying writing stories about other characters at the moment, but I will pick up her story at some point when I feel that I have something new say about her.

After I read Vanishing Act, I went back to read Perry's earlier books. My hands down favorite is his first, The Butcher's Boy.

The Butcher's Boy is a paid assassin, an expert at his chosen field. He completes an assignment to kill a politician and heads to Las Vegas to pick up his fee. His employer tries to doublecross the Butcher's Boy--not the best decision. Perry describes the action this way: "While he works his way across the country attempting to survive and avenge the betrayal, a number of people in police agencies notice that something big is going on, and try--with incomplete and late information--to construct coherent interpretations of the violence. Only one, a Justice Department employee named Elizabeth Waring, comes close."

The Butcher's Boy is a terrific read, and I was thrilled to learn that Perry went back to reprise some of the characters in his 1992 novel Sleeping Dogs.

On Thursday, The New York Times did a review here on Perry's latest novel, Silence. I picked the novel up at B&N at 8:00 PM last night and am about halfway through as I write this just before 1:00 PM on Saturday afternoon.

Silence is interesting--a blend of characters that might appear in either The Butcher's Boy or Vanishing Act. Jack Till, an ex-cop who now works as a private detective, once taught a woman how to disappear from her high profile life. Now, six years later, her ex-lover is charged with her murder. Till tries unsuccessfully to convince the authorities that Wendy Harper is not dead. Feeling the burden of guilt for an innocent man charged with a crime that never happened, Till sets out to find Harper.

Unfortunately, Till is not the only one looking for Wendy. A pair of hired killers, Sylvie and her lover Paul, are also trying to complete a contract for a hit that their predecessor failed to fulfill.

I can highly recommend Thomas Perry although I'm partial to The Butcher's Boy novels or the Whitefield series. If you like suspenseful thrillers, try the book I'm reading now--Silence--or find one of the earlier novels. You'll thank me.

Off to finish my book. Have a good day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tools of Change for Publishing

This is the 800th post to this blog.

I'm amazed to be writing those words. A friend asked me how on earth I wrote 800 posts. I responded, "One post at a time."

I wasn't being flip. It was the absolute truth. When I first began blogging, every day was a struggle to find something to write about. But, somewhere around the sixth month, that changed. I began to find lots of things to talk about and really began to enjoy the process. Now it's as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth or feeding the cats.

In November, 2005--three months after I started this blog--I wrote a post about a man I admire. His name is Tim O'Reilly, and you can read that post here.

O'Reilly is one of the few people for whom I readily use the word "visionary" as a descriptor. His O'Reilly Media has consistently proven itself to be on the cutting edge of publishing. This week O'Reilly's blog reported:

One of the compelling lessons of the digital music revolution was that people wanted to acquire and share songs, not albums. The analogies to books are imperfect, because books tend to be more of an essential organic whole than albums, but even with books, especially reference or tutorial books, it's certainly possible that someone wants only part of a book. Based on this idea, we've had a goal for quite some time to enable "by the chapter" purchase and download. We've finally got this working, just in time for rollout at our Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, which starts on Monday with tutorials, and with the full conference program on Tuesday.

Go to virtually any O'Reilly catalog page (well, actually, 350 books are live as of Saturday night), and in addition to the existing options (buy this book, buy a downloadable pdf, buy reprint rights, read online with Safari), you can now buy individual chapters for $3.99 each.

You'll find O'Reilly's blog here.

The "Tools of Change for Publishing" conference O'Reilly is referring to was a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss the future of the industry. It was held from Monday to Wednesday of this week in San Jose, California.

I've been looking for any tidbits I can find coming out of that meeting. O'Reilly is a big open source advocate, and I was hoping he'd have video of the presentations available on the conference website. As of Thursday afternoon, they were not yet there. My other hope is that Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace videotaped the meetings and will post them on his website the way he did the meetings from BEA.

There was a nugget that drifted out of the conference courtesy of Publishers Weekly. Here it is:

Manolis Kelaidis, a designer, engineer and lecturer at Britain's Royal College of Art, and his extraordinary project bLink, an idiosyncratic effort to create a book that combined the qualities of the physical book with the digital functionality of a computer—the next generation book. Constructed with embedded electronics and conductive inks, it's the prototype of a bound and printed book that, believe it or not, includes hyperlinks like a Web page. A reader can use a finger on the book's paper pages like a computer's cursor on the screen. Touch the paper hyperlink and a Bluetooth signal opens a Web page on a nearby screenthat serves up information, music, translations or video that correspond to that link, as if the book were a paper and ink computer.

Kelaidis has turned his love of the book into a book-device that thrilled an audience brought together to plan the end of the print book. The audience responded with a long and resoundingly enthusiastic standing ovation—the only one given these past three days. Yes, it's basically a quirky (though rigorously conceived) art project, but Kelaidis made the old-fashioned book new again, using digital know-how. His book clearly touched some kind of emotional hyperlink in an audience that wasn't as cynical about its attachment to the traditional book as the previous three days may have suggested.

I'll report more details from the conference as they come available.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More on Triskelion

I'm drinking a glass of ice water to clear the bad taste in my mouth. I just checked the Dear Author website here and read a post that made me sick.

Someone using the name "Anony2" posted the following comment on the Triskelion situation:

Just a few questions…

What leads anyone to believe that a contract with Triskelion is worth the paper it is printed on?

Ms Studts did not communicate with you when she needed you, why would she deign to do so now?

So what if your contract is breached? Where is your compensation going to come from?

A wise man once told me that “a good deal with a bad guy is a bad deal.” We may write about romance but it’s time to put the business cap on and leave the romantic notions behind.

Triskelion Publishing burned through someone’s money with big promises and nothing to back them up. You were warned months ago and anyone who stuck around deserves what they (don’t) get.

Oh, and where are those “Triskelion is a family” folks now?

It is hard for me to imagine the kind of person who could post this comment. I have a vision of someone standing over another person who has tripped and fallen. Instead of reaching a hand down, the bystander starts to kick the person on the ground in the ribs.

Life is about risk. We take them every day. Some risks are small, some are more calculated. Two of my favorite writers, both known as great humorists, had something to say on the subject of risk:

Will Rogers said, "You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that is where the fruit is."

Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Okay, the Triskelion writers took risks. And this last one didn't pay off. That's not a reason to rub their noses in it.

I'm going to end this post with the comment I left on Dear Author for Anony2:

Anony2: Those aren’t questions. Your post is pure schadenfreude.

The closest we can come to an English equivalent of schadenfreude is “taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.” In other words, malicious glee.

You can dress it up by pretending to be business-like, but what you’re really doing is crowing. It’s unattractive and petty and explains your “anonymous” tag.

I’m not a Triskelion author, but I feel sorrier for you than I do for them. They will move on. You’re stuck inside the skin you inhabit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Publisher Plans To Close Its Doors

About three weeks ago, I did a post here on the difficulties Triskelion Publishing was experiencing.

This morning, visitors to the Triskelion site were greeted with this message:

Sadly, Triskelion Publishing will be closing its doors on July 2, 2007. We'd like to thank our readers for all their support and our authors for providing endless pleasure and memories that we will treasure forever.

I felt so sad to read the news. I can still remember how pleased I was to write a post here a little over fourteen months ago announcing that Triskelion had been made a RWA-approved publisher.

The news of Triskelion's pending closure spread like wildfire. There were comments on blogs everywhere.

I'm a member of one of the Trisk reader loops. Late this afternoon, author Lynne Connolly posted the following on the loop:

To Kristi Studts and Triskelion Publishing

I request return of rights to

The Chemistry of Evil
Eternal Beauty, Eternal Darkness
The Haunting
Rubies of Fire
Diamonds of Ice
Precious Cargo

You do not have a signed contract for Liquid Crystal, so rights revert to me.

I cite clause 13

Publisher may, at its discretion, remove the Work from publication or distribution for reasons of poor sales or other reasons deemed by the Publisher to be injurious to Publisher’s or Author’s best interest. Publisher shall notify Author of its decision to withdraw the Work and upon receipt of such notice this contract shall terminate and all rights will revert to Author.

K. Studts made such notification on June 20th, 2007, when she announced Triskelion Publishing would cease trading on July 2nd 2007.

Therefore from 3pm, USEST, June Twentieth 2007, when I received such notice, all contracts have terminated and the rights have reverted to the author.

This is a public announcement that I acknowledge that termination of contract and have reclaimed the rights to my works.

Within two hours, another writer--Samantha Gentry--posted a similar message.

Lynne also posted her public notice message on the Dear Author site.

Jane on Dear Author indicated that she had heard from a source that Triskelion will be filing Chapter 7 (Liquidation) rather than Chapter 11 (Reorganization). If true, that essentially kills the hope that the company will attempt to create a plan to pay off their debtors and stay in business.

In 1623, John Donne wrote his famous Meditation XVII. Included in the sermon were these words:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Every writer, published or unpublished--whether a Triskelion author or not--is diminished in ways great and small by this news. I feel a sadness for my friends who are pubbed by Trisk and for the members of the Triskelion team. I wish all of them well.

A PSA For My Readers

I'm a little late posting this morning, and I'm going off subject for my own version of a public service announcement.

I've mentioned before that my dad was Italian and my mother is Irish. My paternal grandfather owned property on a lake in New Jersey where there were half a dozen bungalows at which the family congregated on weekends and holidays during the summer months. My oldest brother and I were turned loose with more than a dozen cousins to play and swim. Unfortunately, both of us inherited my mother's fair coloring, not my father's olive complexion. While our cousins browned and tanned, A and I cooked and burned. More than once, I ended up in a doctor's office with a serious sunburn.

Fast forward to today when I'm paying for the sins of my youth. Unfortunately, I have more than a nodding acquaintance with skin cancer, which is the subject of this post.

What follows comes from the website with additions from my own experience:

  • The skin is the body's largest organ.

  • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in this country, surpassing lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

  • About one million Americans develop skin cancer each year.

Skin cancer begins in the cells, the building blocks of our bodies. Every day skin cells grow old and die, and new cells take their place. Sometimes, this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the skin does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass called a growth or a tumor. These growths can be benign or malignant.

A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This may be a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, or a change in an old growth. Not all skin cancers look the same. Skin changes to watch for:

  • A small, smooth, shiny, pale or waxy lump

  • A firm red lump

  • A sore or lump that bleeds or develops a scab

  • A flat red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly and may become itchy

There are three types of skin cancer. The two most common are Basal and Squamous. Both are most often seen in the parts of the body most exposed to the sun (face, head, neck, arms and hands). Basal cell cancer is slow-growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and organs inside the body.

The most serious type of skin cancer is called a melanoma. It is rarer than the other two, but causes the most deaths. It is easily cured in the early stages, but is lethal when left untreated. Around 160,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed worldwide annually, and the World Health Organization reports about 48,000 melanoma-related deaths each year. It is more frequent in males and caucasians, and is more common in white populations living in sunny climates.

I had my first basal cell cancer in my twenties. An alert physician noticed it during my annual physical and referred me to a dermatologist because it was in a prominent place on my face. Unfortunately, in the years since, I have had several others on my face and arms. I've become quite good at recognizing them.

For that reason, it came as a huge shock when, ten years after my first basal cell cancer, I DID NOT recognize my first squamous cell cancer. I was shaving my legs and noticed what looked like an small, unhealed sore on the front of my left leg. Looking at it, I couldn't remember where or when I had banged or scratched myself.

I was scheduled to see my gynecologist that morning, and--as an example of how heedless I could be--I mentioned the sore, saying that I didn't even remember hurting myself. He took one look and told me to get to the dermatologist immediately. Since my dermatologist was in the building, he had his nurse call downstairs and get me worked into the schedule.

Within two hours, the dermatologist had excised the lesion and sent the skin off for biopsy, warning me that he was pretty sure it was a squamous cell cancer and, if so, I would need radiation treatment. The doctor was right, and the cancer, which I had not even noticed before that morning, had already metastasized (spread) to nearby cells. Because the lesion was at a place where my skin was thinnest on my leg, right above the bone of my shin, I had three weeks of radiation treatment targeted directly at the affected area.

That experience frightened me deeply. I had become complacent, confident that I could recognize the signs of skin cancer. I had not spotted this cancer for what it was. Had it not been for a couple of fortunate coincidences (shaving my legs on the morning I was going to see my gynecologist and my even mentioning the spot to him), that cancer might have gone unnoticed and untreated for a much longer period of time.

Since that experience, I visit the dermatologist twice a year. Yesterday, I made an unscheduled visit only four months after my last appointment. I called to explain that a small skin tag I'd had for years (again on my left leg) had suddenly started to grow.

My dermatologist didn't have an opening, but when his nurse reported my call, he told her to have me come in that afternoon, and he'd work me into the schedule. I arrived at three and, by four PM, the skin tag had been removed and packed off for a biopsy, and my wound had been cauterized (yuck!) and bandaged.

Please. If you have anything on your skin that looks unusual, go to this page here and look at the photos to see if your spot looks like any of them. Better yet, call your doctor and schedule an appointment.

Why don't you and your partner examine each other's bodies tonight? It can be a sensuous experience. Just make sure the room is lit well enough so that you can see anything unusual.

Maureen Reagan, the daughter of President Reagan, died prematurely at the age of 60 as the result of an untreated melanoma. I grieved when I heard of her death because it was so unnecessary.

Please look after yourself. I care.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is McDreamy As Dreamy On A Tiny Screen?

The New York Times had an interesting story on Sunday about ESPN's plans for creating contest for cellphones.

ESPN has a vision. The company believes cellphones and other mobile devices "are natural platforms for its content. Consumers waiting in line, riding a bus or sitting in a cafeteria will use their phones to watch sports commentary or to check scores just as often as they glance at their wristwatches."

There are skeptics who question whether anyone will be interested in watching videos on a tiny cell screen. Of the auxiliary services offered by cellphones, the most popular is text messaging. Only 7% of those who use their phones for more than calling watch videos.

ESPN has had some bumps on their path to developing a cellphone business. After introducing an expensive cellphone and service for sports fans, they shut the business down in less than a year for lack of interest. Now they are developing short videos that sports fans can watch during spare moments during the day.

And, the venture seems to be working. More than nine million fans visit ESPN's cellphone site each month.

According to The Times, ESPN isn't alone in their vision. CBS, MTV, the Associated Press and the Hearst Corporation are all investing in original cellphone content.

ABC is showing hour-long episodes of "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" via the Sprint cellphone network.

Esquire, a Hearst Corporation men's magazine, has created a cellphone site that lists the best bars in America.

And, the market is still waiting to see the impact Apple's new iPhone will have on consumer behavior. Will the iPhone change the way people use their cellphones?

The article points out that "Underlying the interest in cellphones as the Next Big Media Platform is a generation gap: younger people use cellphones more than their baby-boomer parents do--and for a lot more than chatting. More than three-quarters of 18- to 26-year-olds use some type of data services--compared with 44 percent of the general population--and their time spent messaging, downloading content, watching video and surfing around the mobile slipstream is also higher."

ESPN is counting on these young people as the customers of the future. One executive said, "People are more mobile. They commute more, they travel more, they are out of the house. They are going to want mobile content."

Changes At The Top of Yahoo

Okay, I give up. Dinah has achieved a new personal best. Two days after I bought Collar #7 (or #8--I've lost count) and had a new tag engraved for her, she came home nekkid again, the little slut.

I'm simply going to have to trust that if she manages to get lost (fat chance), whomever she gloms onto will have her checked for a microchip. My budget simply can't stand any more kitty collars.

Speaking of someone who is going to have to go on a budget, the CEO of Yahoo got handed his hat on Monday. The shareholders were not happy with his performance and even less happy with his $71.7 million executive compensation. The Associated Press ranked Terry Semel at the top of their executive pay survey for 2006.

Let's see. He lasted about six months into 2007, so that means he'll only make $35.85 million for 2007. Dear heaven. He'll have to sell the house and let the staff go. The shame of it.

Yahoo's co-founder, Jerry Yang, is taking over the CEO job while Susan Decker will become president.

It remains to be seen whether the new team can restore investor confidence.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Videos?

This will be a quick post. The weatherman says that the thunderstorms will be back after midnight, and I want to shut my computer down before then.

The Los Angeles Times had a story on Friday about the increasing use of videos to advertise upcoming books. "Once a novelty, book videos are increasingly common and, publishers say, essential. Hyperion Books, Harper Collins and Penguin Group (USA) are among those using them."

Sue Fleming, Simon & Shuster's vice president and executive director for online and consumer marketing, was quoted saying, "I don't know if we're reaching people we wouldn't otherwise be reaching, but we are reaching people who are not necessarily reading book review sections or always watching a TV show."

The article says that no one is claiming videos can increase sales, but publishers and bookstores think they do help--"especially if they catch on at YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet." The goal is to help readers get to know the author and his/her book.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Writing Scams & Those Who Enable Them

Remember that pair of posts I did on June 1 here and June 2 here on how to spot a literary scam?

I just got an email from a writer thanking me. Here's part of his email:

Dear Maya, The Manhattan firm, Mark Sullivan Assoc. has an advertisement for new writer's in the Writer's Digest, August, 2007 issue, pg. 93, for which I pulled up his firm on the Internet only to find many red flags, your site was the most informing, thank you.

I'm posting this for two reasons: (1) We can't remind writers often enough to beware of scams, and (2) I have a deep disdain for Writer's Digest's advertising policies.

EVERYONE in the industry recognizes the twenty worst literary agencies. That P&E list has been floating around for more than a year. Yet here is a publication that purports to "help" writers taking advertising from questionable "agencies."

I stopped my subscription to Writers Digest long ago. If more writers would do so and send them a letter telling why they're cancelling the subscription, MAYBE Writer's Digest would behave more responsibly in their advertising practices.

I'm not saying they have to vet every advertiser. I'm saying that, IF YOU'RE GOING TO CLAIM TO BE A RESOURCE FOR BEGINNING WRITERS, at a minimum you should refuse to accept ads from those entities whose questionable practices are well known to everyone else in the industry.

Writer's Digest, the ball's in your court.

Of Onions And The New York Times

I spent Saturday afternoon running errands--buying everything from cotton balls to automotive antifreeze to either the seventh or eighth collar and tag for Dinah (I've lost count of how many I've bought her in the last six months. Suffice it to say, we're into three figures dollar-wise by now).

I also managed to score some sweet corn and sweet onions while I was out.

Although I know Georgia is rightfully proud of their Vidalia onion, I'll put the Texas sweet onion up against theirs any day of the week. Lots of people don't know that onions are Texas' leading vegetable crop. Texas A&M University is constantly churning out new varieties of pest-resistant onions. My middle brother almost had an orgasm a few years ago after planting one of A&M's "special" onions in his garden.

There is no better meal on a cool spring evening than shrimp scampi, buttered corn on the cob and Texas sweet onions--eaten on a dimly lit patio surrounded by the smell of rain-soaked grass.

Speaking of onions, The New York Times recently premiered its book blog, which it calls The Skim. Dwight Garner is the columnist. He got into a discussion in the comment thread of the column with a disgruntled romance writer during his first week on the job.

I'm going to offer a portion of their conversation here. Warning: I've edited both Garner's posts and those of the writer, Jennifer Weiner.

Jennifer began with this salvo:

Can you give us some insights into how reviewers make their choices? Do you all get a supersecret list of which books/authors/imprints are important enough to merit a mention? Have reviewers noticed that it’s the same tiny handful of authors who get written up everywhere, while there are authors — and, in the Times’ case, entire genres — that never get mentioned at all?

Garner responded by directing her to a quote by Sam Tanenhaus, the NYT Book Review's editor:

Our mission is very simple: to publish lively, informed, provocative criticism on the widest-possible range of books and also to provide a kind of snapshot of the literary culture . . . There are many, many books published each year . . . Our job is to tell you which ones we think matter most, and why, and to direct your attention to authors and critics who have interesting things to say, particularly if they have original ways of saying them.

Jennifer tried again:

What are the criteria for making the cut? What are the previewers looking for? Tanenhaus never says . . . Writing romance – a genre that the book review has never covered even in the cursory roundup form – gets an automatic skip (unless, of course, your book is roman-a-clef-ish chick lit that gores a recognizable NYC sacred cow. . . I’d love it if someone at the Review could spell out what qualifies as literary enough to notice, what gets automatically dismissed, and how a memoir about anal sex fell into the first category.

Garner's condescending response followed:

Reviewing romance novels: whew. We don’t have room to review so very many things we’d like to; is reviewing romances really the best use of our space? Can’t the readers who love them find news of them elsewhere?

Who does do a good job of reviewing them, anyway? Who is the Lionel Trilling of romance critics? Maybe we should hire that person, whoever he or she is.

Jennifer stuck to her guns:

So, to recap….

1. It’s important for The Book Review to weigh in on the new DeLillo because DeLillo is important. It’s not important for TBR to spare so much as a mention for the new Jodi Picoult, which will sell many, many more copies than the new DeLillo because Picoult isn’t important, and readers will find out about her anyhow. Carry this argument to its logical extreme, and you end up with the paper’s film critics saying, we’ll review the new Almodovar, because Almodovar is important, but we won’t waste a word on “Knocked Up,” because it’s popular and viewers will find out about it anyhow.

2. We don’t have room to review romance, but we have made room to published roundups for mysteries and sci-fi.

This strikes me as problematic, especially given how many more readers buy romance than any other genre. And I don’t think it would be that hard to find someone qualified to write smart, discerning reviews separating the wheat from the chaff.

3. I still wish someone at TBR [The Book Review] would take readers behind the curtain and explain how the reviewers and previewers decide what’s important enough to cover. The DeLillo is a given; no quarrel there. But why review Dana Vachon? Because the book got buzz? A big advance? Did the editors think his book was better than the hundreds of other debut novels that didn’t get covered this spring? Why did Sally Koslow’s LITTLE PINK SLIPS get two Times reviews, when the vast, vast majority of books like hers get none? Because she’s a well-connected New York City magazine editor? Because the book was took thinly-veiled shots at a real-life celebrity? Just…why?

Garner decided to abandon the field:

Thanks for your note. All the assignments we make are subjective, for sure, and we miss good books *all the time* — interesting bad books, too — and we definitely agonize about it. And try to get it right.

It’s good to have your comments to chew on.

Hope you’ll keep reading. I’ll be looking (really) for that great romance novel critic.

At this point, other women--probably as annoyed by the condescending tone of Garner's earlier posts as I was--jumped into the fray. My favorite comment was posted by Charlene:

What I’m getting from your comments, Dwight, is that you feel the romance genre is not even worthy of respect.

This apparent scorn for the genre concerns me, especially since it doesn’t seem that you’re dismissive toward science fiction, which has as many bad books by percentage as romance does (if not more). It makes me wonder whether part of your apparent dismissal stems at least unconsciously from the fact that romance novels are largely written to appeal to women while science fiction is mainly written to appeal to men.

Regulars to this blog know that I'm an avid reader of The New York Times. I love the Gray Lady, but that doesn't mean that I can't recognize when it is being arrogant and elitist.

As one of the posters said, no one expects The Times to review supermarket throwaway romances. However, it would be nice if they would begin reviewing some of what is often called "women's fiction."

Like Jennifer, I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult. Since 1992, she's written fourteen novels. I've been reading her books for almost ten years. Just for fun I did a search on The New York Times website for mentions of Jodi. I got 72 hits. Of those 72 hits, TWO were reviews--both within the last three years. The other 70 hits were two calendar notices of appearances, two news stories in which she was mentioned, an interview in the Long Island Journal, two "Books in Brief," two notices of her wedding back in 1989 and 61 notices of her appearance on either the paperback or hardcover best-seller list. That's right; I said SIXTY-ONE! Show me another author who has hit the best-seller list with such regularity without more attention from the NYT, and I'll show you another writer of romance or women's fiction.

I found the entire exchange between Garner and Jennifer symptomatic of a problem in publishing in general when it comes to what is called "women's fiction."

What is women's fiction anyway? I'd describe it as stories about relationships, families and children--the things women care about. My question is, "Don't men care about these things, too?"

I've told this story before. My youngest brother is a fairly well-known sports columnist. He travels a lot for his job and is a huge reader on airplanes and in hotels. We exchange books and phone calls about books all the time. It took me two years to convince him to try a Picoult book.

The funny thing is that, once he tried one of her novels, he became as devoted a fan as I am.

Sure, I don't read a lot of the purple prose on the market, but I am offended that good material gets short shrift because it's labeled for women. There's something really wrong about that mentality.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

JT Leroy -- Back in the News Again

On December 30 of last year, I did a post here, saying goodbye to the literary scandals of 2006. I listed six of them. Here's the thumbnail sketch I gave of J.T. Leroy:

J.T. Leroy is the pseudonym of writer Laura Albert. Since 1999, Albert has published four books under the name Leroy. She claimed to be a victim of child abuse, a former prostitute who had once been homeless. She also claimed to be HIV positive and transgendered. Her boyfriend's half sister pretended to be J.T. Leroy in public, but beginning in the fall of 2005, rumors surfaced that Leroy was a fictional invention by Albert. It's probably no coincidence that Leroy's first novel, "Sarah," was the story of a 12-year-old boy whose ambition in life was to become a girl lot lizard, or truck stop prostitute. Leroy's phony bio certainly boosted her credibility to write such a novel.

Now, six months later, according to The New York Times, Laura Albert is in Federal District Court in Manhattan, being sued for fraud by a film production company "saying that a contract signed with JT Leroy to make a feature film of Sarah should be null and void, for the simple reason that JT Leroy does not exist."

I read that line and went "Whoa!"

As The Times points out, hiding behind pseudonyms is an old literary tradition. The first classic novel I read on my own, Jane Eyre, was written by Charlotte Bronte under the pseudonym Currer Bell in the mid-nineteenth century. How then can somebody be sued for using a pseudonym?

It turns out that Laura Albert's company, Underdogs Inc., optioned the film rights to Sarah to Antidote International Films Inc., a production company which produced Laurel Canyon. Underdogs was paid $45,000 for the option from 2003 to 2005, and Antidote wants its money back.

Gregory Curtner, attorney for Antidote, gave an opening statement in which he described J.T. Leroy's supposed biography: "The son of a truck-stop prostitute . . . JT Leroy . . . would sit in parked cars or at a diner while his mother turned tricks. He himself eventually turned to prostitution and, after finally picking up a pen to describe his ordeal, tried to peddle his early works to agents, publishers and the like by sending faxes from gas station bathrooms."

This moving story intrigued director Stephen Shainberg (director of 2002's Secretary), "who wanted to work with Antidote and blend elements of JT Leroy’s biography into the narrative of “Sarah” in what Mr. Curtner called a film about 'how art could emerge from a ruined childhood.' The trouble was there was no ruined childhood from which art could actually emerge."


Okay, I begin to see where the issue of fraud enters into the picture. This isn't about Albert's pseudonym--this is about her alleged credentials--or biography, if you will--for which Antidote claims she was paid $15,000 per year.

Of course, Eric Weinstein, Albert's lawyer, had a different take on the issue. He claims that Albert "was physically and sexually abused as a child . . . [and] institutionalized in psychiatric wards and in a group home as a ward of the state. He said she was in therapy for 13 years with a psychiatrist whom she spoke to by telephone while posing as a teenage boy named Jeremy, an embryonic version of JT Leroy."

Do you get the sense that Weinstein is trying to validate Ms. Albert's credentials to write Sarah? In case that strategy doesn't work (she didn't work as a truck stop prostitute after all), Weinstein argues that the contract with Antidote was for the book Sarah, not J.T. Leroy's biography.

He further argues that, after Ms. Albert was outed by New York magazine in late 2005, director Shainberg decided to mix the fictional Sarah with the story of the real life Albert. However, that required Albert grant him the rights to HER backstory, which she refused to do. Weinstein claims that her refusal is the real reason Antidote has dragged Albert into court.

I plan to follow this trial. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, June 15, 2007

Google Is In the Doghouse

Well, sometimes even big boys don't play nice with other children and need to be hit upside the head.

Earlier this week, Google ticked off their biggest customer and learned a lesson in the process.

It seems that Google has been trying to convince eBay to allow buyers to choose between eBay's proprietary service PayPal and the Google service Checkout when paying for items purchased on eBay. Google debuted Checkout a year ago this month. To date, eBay had not agreed to share its electronic payment business. Frankly, I doubt that I would be willing to give up a piece of a lucrative business that I had 100% control over without some major quid pro quo.

Some genius at Google decided to stage a "Freedom Party" in Boston, timed to coincide with eBay's scheduled conference for its online buyers. The purpose of the demonstration was to lobby eBay to permit their clients to use Checkout.

*shakes head sadly* I can't imagine how Google thought this was going to endear them to eBay--who, by the way, was estimated by NetRatings to be the top buyer of search ads on Google during the first quarter.

eBay took exception to Google's planned party and expressed its displeasure in the most direct manner possible.

According to Thursday's Wall Street Journal (WSJ), "eBay said that late Monday it stopped buying ads from Google that appear next to Web-search results in the U.S. An eBay spokesman said the move was part of the company's 'constant experimentation to see what works best' in advertising online."

Yeah, right. Let's call it what it was: eBay got angry, picked up its marbles and went home, leaving Google standing alone on the playground saying, "Oh, rats!"

Google may have been a bit slow on the uptake, but they learn fast. They cancelled the "Freedom Party" and explained that "after speaking with officials at eBay, we at Google agreed that it was better for us not to feature this event during the eBay Live conference."

Well, duh.

eBay isn't saying when they might return to Google for online ads. Rumors are they are shopping among Google's rivals for another display ad service.

I'm thinking Google needs to be bringing roses and candy as a make-up gift.

The Music Industry Also Debates Its Future

Newsday had an interesting tidbit on Thursday.

The music industry is holding the first New York "In the City" music conference at which there were to be panel discussions about the industry's future.

Tom Silverman, the chief executive of Tommy Boy Records and the conference's keynote speaker, ditched his notes for his opening address and instead asked the question: "Why aren't there more bold, innovative new artists?"

Silverman's question prompted the rest of the day's panels to brainstorm possible reasons. "There were discussions dedicated to how digital downloads had turned the music industry back into a singles-focused business." There were also discussions about how ringtones and touring is expected to replace revenue lost by the "plummeting album sales."

Seymour Stein, founder of Sire Records and the impresario who discovered Madonna and Talking Heads, had his own opinion as to why there aren't more innovative music acts.

"We got lazy."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Whither Bookstores?

A member of one of the writers' loops I belong to responded with concern to the news that bookstore sales are flagging. I decided the subject made for a good second (or is it third?) post for today.

First, it's a mistake to tie the figures I reported for bookstore sales this year to the future of the print book. As Shelf Awareness reminds people every month, "under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include 'electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale' or used book sales." And, of course, the numbers do not include e-book sales either.

In fact, the publishing industry is gradually becoming about more options for readers rather than less (please note the emphasis on "for readers"). Print books aren't going away. I do suspect that, over time, the gap in price between print and ebook will grow. You'll have to pay more percentage-wise for your choice to buy that print copy. The ebook costs much less to print and distribute so it will be the more affordable model.

Even if the ebook is cheaper, the print book will survive because--for the foreseeable future--there are people who will prefer reading a print version.

However, the survival of the print book does not necessarily guarantee the survival of the bookstore. We all know that we can purchase print books without visiting a bookstore.

Unfortunately, bookstores have two huge limiting factors that are almost impossible to overcome: geography and bookshelf space.

I love bookstores, but unless it is a VERY special bookstore like Larry McMurtry's Booked Up in Archer City, Texas, I won't travel more than fifteen miles to visit one. Many readers feel the same way, which is why the small specialty stores like the mystery bookstores have moved online. Unless they are in a major metropolitan area, most simply do not have enough fans in their immediate vicinity to sustain themselves. However, on the Internet, they can establish a niche for a virtual bookstore catering to fans from around the world. Geography is not the limiting factor online that it is in the real world.

Bookshelf space is the other limiting factor for bookstores. They have to keep turning the stock over because they don't have enough room for everything. Many customers find it easier to go on the Internet to order a book because the Web has essentially unlimited shelf space, and it's easier to order online than to go to the bookstore and find that a specific book is not available. As the cost of gasoline goes up, shipping costs seem less burdensome when coupled with convenience.

As bookstores become less profitable, the inevitable happens. First, the corporate parent chooses to close the most unprofitable stores, which means that customers have to travel even farther to find a bookstore. Some will; some won't. The loss of the ones who don't will lead to the remaining stores becoming less profitable, leading to yet more closures. You can see where this vicious circle is headed.

To survive, bookstores are going to have to adapt and find a way to make themselves relevant to consumers in a digital age. How they adapt remains to be seen.

Perhaps they will become twenty-first century versions of the French salon. See Wikipedia here for a description.

For the salon model to be viable, the bookstores would have to create rooms conducive to private meetings of reader or writers' groups. This means giving up more valuable shelf space for what would be essentially be empty rooms. Of course, they could charge a fee for the room and/or sell food and drink for clients to cover the cost.

Perhaps bookstores will begin to appeal to self-published writers as a place where they can get help in being edited and printed. There's some indication that Borders is considering this option.

Perhaps they will expand their "clubs," now represented by a discount card to include other valuable member perks. What if you could attend quarterly talks by the most popular authors? Would you be willing to pay for a membership that gave you a seat to an event that was closed to the general public?

The need to adapt or die is a hallmark of evolution. We'll have front row seats to see whether bookstores can reinvent themselves or gradually wither away.

Read on . . . this is a three-post day.

A Summit In Silicon Valley

The San Francisco Chronicle had a story on Wednesday about a series of meetings this week between the media and entertainment industry and the tech firms in Silicon Valley.

Behind closed doors, Google, YouTube, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems will be meeting with the members of the international council of the Paley Center for Media, "an organization made up of large media leaders." The group was formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio.

It's expected that the discussions will include copyright protection and new business models for the Internet Age.

Both the media companies and the high tech companies realize they have to come to some kind of accommodation. Digitization has made it easier for entertainment companies to bring music and films to their fans. At the same time, piracy and copyright infringement are huge issues.

It's not expected that any agreements will immediately emerge from this week, but the fact that both sides are meeting is a positive sign.

Bookstore Sales Continue Their 2007 Slide

Wednesday's Publishers Weekly contained this:

After falling 6.8% in March, bookstore sales dropped 6.0% in April, according to estimates released by the Census Bureau this morning. The decline lowered bookstore sales in April to $909 million. Bookstore sales have fallen every month this year, and were down 4.3%, to $5.10 billion, in the January-through-April period. Sales for the entire retail segment were up 3.1% in April and 3.8% in the first four months of 2007.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kindling Questions

Regular readers of my blog will recall that I've been talking about the long-anticipated release of Amazon's new e-reading device, called the Kindle, for the last eight months.

My first post about the Kindle was on September 13 of last year here.

Although I mentioned the Kindle after that, the next post with any substantive info was this past April 19 here.

Since then, although there have been rumors, there has been no announcement from Amazon.

Yesterday, I realized that I hadn't received my daily edition of Publishers Lunch. I went to the Publishers Marketplace (PM) website where they post their information every day and found a long post on Amazon and the Kindle.

I'm going to quote some relevant sentences here:

Publishers Lunch has discovered metadata streams from Amazon that confirm listings of "Kindle Edition" offerings for a variety of books, newspapers and magazines . . .

Nearly all of the mentions we located are not live on the Amazon site itself, but are found in web services feeds that query the Amazon computers for data that's posted on other sites.

There was at least one live link as of yesterday, for a Kindle Edition of the Wall Street Journal--offered for one dollar, with a "subscribe now with 1-click" button . . .

. . . Other periodicals for which we found listings of Kindle Editions through Amazon data feeds include the NY Times, the Washington Post, Le Monde, the Independent, Forbes, Newsweek, Time, the Boston Globe, FAZ, and the Denver Post.

Publishers Marketplace provided a hyperlink to the Wall Street Journal live link, which I checked out. A few hours later, that link no longer worked. Apparently after Amazon got a phone call from Publishers Marketplace, the link was deactivated.

Two things: First, Amazon is obviously not satisfied with just releasing their e-reader. They are putting all the pieces into place so that, when the Kindle comes on the market, you will not only be able to read books, but also be able to read your favorite newspapers and magazines with the touch of a button.

And, second, Publishers Marketplace found lots of links to books for sale via Kindle. They commented:

Nearly all of the hardcovers and recent releases we found have "list prices" of $16.99 or thereabouts -- already lower than the hardcover prices -- and the site further "discounts" from a variety of list prices to an apparent standardized selling price of $9.99. This will naturally make people wonder if Amazon is trying to establish that price point as a common listing, as the closest they could come to a system akin to iTunes dollar-per-song model.

Could the Kindle be the model that captures the reading public the way the iPod did the music market?

Stay tuned . . . and read on. This is a two-post day.

Tribute To A Friend

This post is prompted by an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

Sunday, the writer Arthur Phillips wrote a love story: as he is beginning life with a new dog, he wrote about the elderly beagle who had preceded the puppy in his affections. The story brought a flood of memories rushing back for me.

In December of 1995, I purchased my first house, the one I live in today. Buying this house represented a huge change in my life. I went from being a renter who never worried about things like clogged toilets--I just called Maintenance--to being someone who has to climb up a ladder semi-annually to clean gutters.

While my house is not in a remote area, it is in a very quiet, wooded area. That also required an adjustment. For the first time in my life, when I was alone, I began sleeping with a night light. I had a pair of cats--Shadow and Tribble--but neither one felt the need to bark at prospective burglars or rapists to warn them off. I'm a very light sleeper and every creak and moan of the house had me jumping.

One Saturday evening in the early spring of 1996, a friend and I went to see Janeane Garofalo's movie The Truth About Cats & Dogs. My friend appreciated the movie for what it was--a romantic comedy--and, incidentally, the first time I ever saw Jamie Foxx in a movie.

I, on the other hand, had a epiphany: I needed a dog. In the car on the way home, I announced this revelation. My friend was less than impressed. He pointed out that having a dog was very different from having a cat, that I was away from home a lot and that I was used to independent pets. And, by the way, neither Shadow nor Tribble was likely to welcome a canine brother into our happy little circle.

I remember turning on the car radio to stop the flow of logical, well-intentioned advice. And, there it was . . . the message from God.

Well, not exactly from the Maker Himself. I accept the principle that He needs messengers to carry out His will. In this case, the messenger was a PSA by the Dallas SPCA that they were having a 24-hour adoptathon with reduced prices in order to address over-crowding.

Never one to ignore messages from on high, I decided on the spot to adopt a dog that very night. This required some stealth: we returned home where I hustled my friend out the door on some pretext or another. An hour later, close to midnight, I was standing in the puppy room at the SPCA, overwhelmed by the number of tiny creatures pleading for my attention.

I didn't completely ignore my friend's warnings. Despite my desire for a German Shepherd or a Lab, I accepted that it would probably be better if I got a smaller dog. Further, in view of my two cats, I decided a less exuberant dog was probably a good idea. I wandered the rows of cages, looking for a small, calm puppy.

And then I saw her. She was black-and-white and very quiet. Unlike the other puppies, she wasn't charging the side of her cage. However, she was alert and readily stuck her nose up to my hand when I reached for her. It was love at first sight. AND her identification sign said she was a Border Collie. Thoughts of a smaller, less hairy Lassie sealed the deal. After all, Lassie was intelligent and calm and great in emergencies, right?

Before we left the SPCA, the tiny puppy already had a name: Lucy. What I didn't understand at the time was she also had bordetella--kennel cough. THAT was the reason for her calm behavior. She was, pardon the expression, sick as a dog. Within three days, she was coughing her head off.

The antibiotics cured the bordetella, but also transformed my calm Lassie Junior into Mr. Hyde. Suddenly, she was a maniac--a jumping, running, ball-chasing fool. It felt as though the fairies had left me a changeling.

Lucy chewed everything in sight and proved to be a master escape artist, getting out of my backyard at every opportunity. Fortunately, I had great neighbors, who patiently returned her again and again. And we won't talk about the night she got into a Sakowitz shopping bag and ate one each of two of the most beautiful pairs of high heels the world has known. I hadn't even received the credit card invoice yet, but was left with only one shoe from each of two pairs.

It took two years and several obedience classes, but Lucy eventually became the most wonderful companion anyone could want. She went everywhere with me--to restaurants, work, shopping, and even to Florida two or three times.

I will admit she was high maintenance, which my boyfriend said she came by naturally with me as an example :) But she was also adaptable. When I tired of throwing endless tennis balls for her, I purchased an automatic throwing machine. She readily learned to load it herself by dropping the retrieved balls into the top of the unit.

Lucy was great with the cats. She seemed to instinctively know when she could push and when she'd better back down or risk a bloody nose. When I had to put Shadow down at age twenty, she seemed to sense Tribble's grief. Without warning, she started sleeping side-by-side with Tribble. To my astonishment, Tribble permitted it.

When I shattered my left leg in February, 2002, I was hospitalized for a month. Friends took Lucy and Tribble to their home in North Dallas during the duration. Lucy wasn't having any. She knew her place was with me. In the middle of a violent ice storm, she fell back on her old escape artist skills and headed toward my house. Eight hours later, the owner of a popular bar on his way home at 3:00 AM saw her moving with purpose through the storm. He opened his car door and, glad for the ride, she jumped in. Fortunately, my friend had added a tag with HIS number to her collar and the very kind man contacted him. It turned out Lucy had gone over twelve miles directly toward my home before she was picked up.

In 2005, at age nine, Lucy died suddenly of a genetic heart problem. Her heart was just too big to be contained by her body. I can type those words without bursting into tears--it's been two years now. It happened so fast, she was gone in less than 24 hours. No warning signs, no problems. My vet had checked her out three months earlier and said she was so healthy, there was no reason she couldn't live another three or four years.

During the intervening time, friends have tried to get me to adopt another dog. One even showed up at my door with a puppy. My heart just wasn't in it. Besides, Tribble is simply too old to handle the stress of breaking in another dog. Because she was already nineteen when Lucy died, I went to the SPCA and adopted Bob as sort of a back-up cat. Of course, Tribble is now twenty-one and, despite the occasional scare, is showing no indication she is ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

When (and if) Tribble does die, I will probably adopt another puppy. Until then, I'm content to remember the dear companion who once graced me with her presence and her friendship.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Do Excerpts Help Sales?

The New York Times had an interesting article on Monday morning titled, "A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?"

The article examined a question worrying publishers. "Although excerpts from high-profile books routinely appear in national magazines, some publishers have been having second thoughts about the strategy. Frequently, an excerpt can offer a lift to a book's sales, but there is always the risk that it might offer too much, thus stealing thunder (and revenue) from the book."

As an example, the article points to the Time magazine excerpt of I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story. Knopf sold 175,000 hardcover books but had hoped to do twice that. "I think people felt they'd had their fill."

And therein lies the problem. Publishers need to know what they have inside a book before striking a deal. If there is only one major news item in a book, it can be a huge mistake to reveal it in an excerpt because, once the public has read that excerpt, they may no longer feel compelled to purchase the book. Ideally, an excerpt should whet the public's interest for more, and make them want to buy the book.

Some magazines want to cherry pick, using bits from all over the book instead of one excerpt. This can really hurt sales because, if the readers feel they've read all the best parts in the magazine, why go out and buy the book?

Doubleday is hoping that the 8,200-word excerpt of The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown's forthcoming book about the Princess of Wales, which will appear in the July issue of Vanity Fair, is an example of a magazine story that will lift the book's sales. The director of publicity at Doubleday is quoted saying, "The book is an incredibly rich textured portrait of Diana and all the royals, and it's our belief that readers will be anxious for more."

The magazine world has changed, too. Where years ago, magazines vied for book excerpts, today there are fewer magazines that run excerpts, and they don't pay as well. It's easier for a publisher to walk away from the sale of first serial rights when they're only being offered $1,500 as opposed to $100,000.

A television interview with an author may pay more dividends than a magazine excerpt because of the "greater reach" of TV.

The executive director of publicity for Knopf Publishing Group pointed out that it's also possible to place excerpts on the Internet. " has expressed interest in first serializations."

Choosing where to place excerpts or even whether to place excerpts can be a critical decision for a publisher with a forthcoming release.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Smorgasboard of Stories

It's hard to beat an evening of good conversation over steak and Portobello mushroom fajitas. I'm too drowsy and content to embark on a huge post. So, instead, I'm going to do a sampling of stories that interested me this week:

  • Ellora's Cave and Simon & Schuster are so satisfied with the arrangement they established last year to bring EC anthologies to print that they are going to expand the deal to single titles next year. See the story here.

  • NBC has decided to try live commercials in an effort "to fight the challenge posed by TiVo." According to The Wall Street Journal, "Tuesday's broadcast of The Tonight Show will air a live skit promoting car satellite-navigation devices made by Garmin International."

  • "Shares of Netflix Inc. jumped Wednesday June 6, 2007 amid a rumor the online video rental company could be acquired by Web retailer Inc.

  • Isabelle Marcoux, VP of Corporate Development at Transcontinental Inc., a major Canadian newspaper and magazine publisher as well as one of North America's largest printing firms (info courtesy of Wikipedia), spoke about "The Magazine in the Age of the Internet." She said: "The table-stakes of survival mean getting the fundamentals right: identifying a niche with growth potential, nailing the product delivered to the target audience, and then going one step further with a multi-platform strategy, which is often Web-based." (CNW Group)

And, finally, a story that just tickled my funny bone here. While I'm certain the purpose is noble and the intent sincere, the look on that cat's face says it all: "You'd better not ever go to sleep again because I'm gonna get you for this."