Friday, August 31, 2007

RWA Publishes a List of Publishers

RWA has now published a list of all the publishers that it considers non-subsidy, non-vanity presses.

This designation replaces the old "RWA recognized publisher." After Triskelion went belly-up, there must have been some concerns about RWA's possible liability in conferring what authors regarded as a stamp of approval.

There are 54 print and e-publishers on the list, which is available to RWA members.

Barnes & Noble Reverses Its Stand

Will the If I Did It story never die?

Greed overwhelmed Barnes & Noble's scruples. The bookchain has reversed its decision and WILL carry the O.J. Simpson book according to Yahoo News.

Since the initial decision on Aug. 21 against stocking the book, but selling it online, Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said: "We've been monitoring the pre-orders and customer requests and have concluded that enough customers have expressed interest in buying the book to warrant stocking it in our stores. We do not intend to promote the book but we will stock it in our stores because our customers are asking for it."

I'm Over Myself Already

Okay, today was a much better day.

When I re-read my blog this morning, I felt embarrassed for whining last night. I think the stress of the year-end close at work and the pending book release had me resisting any more change right now.

I did take the bus to work this morning. It was actually a pleasant change. I've done it before when the roads were too icy to navigate. It's always a treat to read a novel instead of fighting traffic.

I got an email tonight, telling me there was a review on the Internet for Bad Girl. You can read it here at Two Lips Reviews. Of course, I was thrilled!

And Harriet Klauser gave Bad Girl five stars, too.

If I can get two good reviews for every bad one, I'll be happy. Bring it on!

For those of you who've been emailing me both on and offline, I've decided that the car goes into the repair shop on Saturday. That evaluation will decide whether I keep it or get another car. Thanks for your concern.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Antidote to a Blue Funk

When you're in a blue funk, it's nice to have friends who send you things to cheer you up.

This is Raymond Crowe from Australia, who advertises himself as an unusualist.

When Women Are From Venus

Men are my favorite sex. I like them--from the littlest guy to the elderly sage.

And most of the time we speak the same language.

Note: I said most of the time. Occasionally--thankfully only occasionally--we face each other across the chasm of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."

I've already said how much I dislike dealing with car problems. I inevitably fall back on asking the men of my life for help, which in this case provided me with unwanted advice.

"It's time to think about buying a new car."

I don't WANT a new car. I LOVE this one. It's been trustworthy, and we've had a lot of great adventures together. I can glance over and see that one little spot on the window where Lucy, my border collie, used to press her nose. She's been gone for two years, but I still wash around that spot when I clean the passenger side of the windshield so there are five little nose prints one on top of the other in a space about three inches wide.

Which is why when the windshield recently got a crack, I pretended to be too busy to take care of it despite repeated encouragement to "Call the insurance company."

And, of course, when I finally admitted what was going on--in the middle of talking about the current automotive issue--the response of "That's silly and superstitious" did nothing to further the discussion.

I adore men. I really, really do. I especially adore this one. However, when I'm looking for emotional reassurance, it's hard when I get back cold, hard logic. I need to grieve for just a little while before I step over the corpse and move on. The female friend I told immediately got it. She reflected back, "Oh, I know how much you love that car."

In a couple of days, I'll be ready to acknowledge the truth of what he's said. Tonight I didn't want to FIX the problem; I just wanted a hug.

Woe is Me

There are few things in life that reduce me to a total babbling idiot. I can take relationship problems, medical problems, financial problems, and employment problems in stride. Car problems, on the other hand, utterly defeat me.

My trusty Ford Explorer is not doing well and, by extension, neither am I. With the upcoming book release and the end of the fiscal year at work this Friday, I simply have neither the time nor the energy to deal with it.

While I don't generally recommend denial as a coping strategy, it worked for me tonight. I pulled the car into the garage, got out and walked away. I'm going to take the bus to work tomorrow and put off thinking about repair shops until this weekend.

I'm a coward, I'll admit it. I just hate dealing with condescending males speaking what is to me a foreign language. I dislike having to ask automotive techs to speak in English when explaining my car's ailments to me, and it's worse when that request elicits a patronizing response.

Oh, well. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll worry about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Denise Brown Will Not Go On Oprah

This morning's New York Times reported that Denise Brown, sister of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, has backed out of the scheduled Oprah show on September 13.

The release of O.J. Simpson's If I Did It was scheduled for that same day, and Brown probably realized she was helping to promote the book.

Update On Triskelion

In the almost two years I've been blogging, I've written about Triskelion Publishing more than one time. The e-publisher opened its doors in 2004 and, in April 2006, I reported here that it had been granted RWA "recognized publisher" status. Most recently, see my posts here and here for posts about the e-publisher's closing of its doors.

Triskelion's home base is in Arizona and, a little over ten days ago, the Arizona Republic did an article on the company's bankruptcy-in-progress.

The newspaper reported:

Triskelion's bankruptcy trustee, Brian Mullen, said unpaid expenses incurred while making the jump from e-book to paperback publisher hit the company hard. Around April, authors' paychecks either bounced or failed to arrive.

There's a meeting of Triskelion's creditors scheduled for September 4. The entire bankruptcy process may take all of 2008 to settle.

In the meantime, Triskelion's authors are caught up in what the Republic describes as "limbo." The copyrights to the manuscripts placed with Triskelion are a part of the e-publisher's assets. Trustee Mullen may choose to sell those book rights to pay off Triskelion's largest creditors.

The Republic interviewed Dr. Erik Menkhus of Arizona State University College of Law and quoted him as saying, "The experience of Triskelion authors serves as an important lesson for all authors, artists, freelancer writers and inventors when it comes to protecting their intellectual property . . . 'It is really critical to have a look at the financial situation of who you are giving the rights to,' he said."

Trustee Mullen encourages all of the Triskelion authors to attend that meeting of creditors next week.

Credit to Publishers Lunch for pointing me toward the article in the Arizona Republic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Borders Reports Quarterly Results Today

Shelf Awareness reports this morning that 20%--that's one in five
--shares of Borders are currently held by short sellers.

For those of you not familiar with the term, "selling short" refers to a stock strategy in which an investor, who does not own the stock, believes that a company's stock will decline in price, rather than increase. In order to take advantage of this insight, the investor "borrows" shares from an existing stockholder in order to sell them.

The short seller's plan is to sell the borrowed stock today and then wait for the price of the company's stock to fall. When (and if) the price falls, the short seller buys back the stock at a reduced price in order to return the borrowed shares to the stockholder. The difference between the price he sold the stock at and the price he buys the stock back is his profit.

This is among the most dangerous stock strategies because, if the short seller is wrong and the price goes up instead of down, the short seller's liability has no limit. If he waits too long to buy the stock back, his losses can be astronomical.

As an aside, there is a less risky (but more expensive) strategy. Instead of borrowing the stock, the short seller can purchase a "put," an option that gives him the right to sell the stock at a certain price by a certain date. He is then "covered." If the stock goes down as expected, he can exercise his put and sell the stock at the higher price. If the stock goes up, the short seller simply allows his put to expire. Then his only loss is the cost of the put.

Either way, the fact that 20% of Borders stock is held by short sellers doesn't bode well for the company's quarterly results. That means one in five shareholders expects the stock to go down.

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

Maya (whose first job out of college was at a stock brokerage house)

A Visit To Tuna, Texas

I've said this before--living in Texas is a little like visiting a foreign country. The people are wonderfully open, friendly and generous. They are also . . . just a little bit different.

A marvelous pair of comedians capitalized on that difference back in the fall of 1981 when they--together with a friend--debuted the play Greater Tuna in Austin, Texas.

For anyone who has not been lucky enough to see Tuna, it's the story of the third smallest town in Texas "where the Lion's Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies." All of the more than twenty inhabitants of Greater Tuna--including the men, women, children and animals--are performed by Joe Sears and Jaston Williams.

The play was a smash hit and led to two more plays--A Tuna Christmas and Red, White and Tuna--in what is now called the Tuna Trilogy. Wikipedia describes the trilogy this way: "The plays are at once an affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes but also a withering satire of same. Of the three plays, Greater Tuna is the darkest in tone."

When I first moved to Texas, I was in cultural shock for years. Today I no longer blink when, upon being introduced, someone asks me "Is Jesus your savior?" And I know "How about them Cowboys?" is the all-purpose Texas icebreaker in social situations. Greater Tuna helped me put everything into perspective, recognizing the good, the ugly and the downright weird.

I've seen all three plays multiples times, but my favorite remains Greater Tuna. A friend recently gave me the video set collection of the trilogy.

There are multiple clips of Greater Tuna on YouTube. I've picked two. "The Judge's Funeral" stars Pearl Burras and Vera Carp, two of Tuna's prominent citizens. Pearl has unfinished business with Judge Roscoe Buckner, who recently died. The Judge, "who hung more people in the thirties than any other active judge," apparently had a stroke. He was found dead in his house in a Dale Evans swim suit.

"The Smut-Snatchers' Squad" features Vera Carp leading a meeting in the Kowita Baptist Church where "even Catholics" are welcomed.


Monday, August 27, 2007

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigns

ABC News just interrupted its 7:30 AM (CST) broadcast to announce that U.S. Attorney General Gonzales has resigned.

Textbooks, Textbooks and More Textbooks

The Dallas Morning News had a pair of articles on Sunday about the textbook dilemma that I've addressed previously here and here.

Both articles were written by professors who write textbooks. Michael Granof is an accounting professor and also the chair of the University Co-op Bookstore at the University of Texas at Austin. Kenneth S. Saladin is a professor of biology at Georgia College & State University.

Dr. Granof argues that a well-organized used book market is what keeps prices of new textbooks so high. He says, "publishers have the chance to sell a book to only one of the multiple students who eventually use it. Hence, publishers must cover their costs and make their profit in the first semester their books are sold, before used copies swamp the market. That's why the prices are so high." He acknowledges the disconnect between a hardcover textbook costing $180 and a hardcover novel costing $30.

He admits the reason publishers come out with new editions every three or four years is to undermine the used book market. This desire for "premature obsolescence" (his words, not mine) is also why publishers bundle the textbooks with CDs and workbooks that cannot be reused.

His suggestion for correcting the situation is to have universities pay a negotiated fee to the publisher based on the number of students enrolled in classes using a particular textbook. He gives the example of $15 per student for a semester. Therefore, the publisher would have a ready stream of income every semester the book is in use (and theoretically no reason to price gouge).

Of course, this fee would be passed along to the students as part of their tuition costs.

Dr. Saladin's argument is more openly self-serving. He says, "The first edition of Anatomy & Physiology: The Unity of Form took me four years and seven months to research, write, review and revise . . . Even before the most current edition of one of my books is off the press, I'm already compiling notes for the next . . . Revising the book takes eight to 12 months, usually working nights and weekends to meet deadlines."

I was amused by the "nights and weekends" comment. Most authors do write nights and weekends in addition to their day jobs. His sense of entitlement was exactly what my experience was of my professors in graduate school. They brought out a new edition every two or three years, forcing students to purchase the latest version.

Dr. Saladin's says that, although anatomy doesn't evolve rapidly, our understanding of it does, and this justifies the more frequent editions. I would say that this suggests the need for electronic versions of textbooks or CD supplements rather than a constant stream of new hardback versions.

I was not impressed by either man or his arguments. This whole setup feels like collusion between textbook authors and publishers to squeeze as much as the market will bear out of students. Dr. Granof is more honest in admitting it; Dr. Saladin spends his column trying to justify the current system.

I have no problem admitting my bitterness is the result of painful experiences in graduate school where it took an entire week's paycheck to cover my book purchases each semester. I'd taken a significant pay cut to work in the psychiatric emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas because of the valuable experience that job offered. The $600 I had to pay out for books each semester (on top of tuition and lab fees) guaranteed I spent my three years at UTA as a financially-struggling student, trying to avoid taking money out of savings every quarter.

The textbook industry gouges U.S. students. American universities need to step up and take action to stop this racket. Remember the percentages: "Nearly two-thirds of those receipts end up in publishers’ coffers. 12 percent of the book price goes toward the author’s royalties, 23 percent goes to the store, 32 percent pays for the publisher’s costs, and another 32 percent is publisher profit, according to the National Association of College Bookstores." (courtesy of Stanford Daily News)

It's time for change.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Did She Just Say?

A friend sent me this video from the Miss Teen USA pageant that aired Friday night.

This is Miss South Carolina, who finished as the Third Runner Up (#4 out of 5 finalists).

Never mind what she was thinking.

What were the judges thinking?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Publishing As Speed Dating

Agent Jonathan Lyons had a couple of great posts at the end of this week--one defining "net royalties" on Friday and another from a children's agent on Thursday. Read Jonathan's blog here.

The children's agent, Edward Necarsulmer IV of McIntosh & Otis, reminded readers that publishing is a very subjective business by saying "one editor’s coal is another’s gem."

I don't think this point can be stressed often enough to newbie writers. I've met writers who gave up after their first round of rejections from either agents or editors. Despite spending months, or even years, writing a manuscript, they tucked it away forever after five or six rejections.

Unlike many other professions, writing is a solitary task. It requires self-motivation and self-discipline to forego spending precious leisure time in order to sit staring at a blank page.

It also requires a fair amount of courage to share what you've written with others. I came to think of it like a child learning to walk. First he crawls (shows a chapter to his nearest and dearest), then he takes his first steps (shows it to other writers) and finally he runs (sends his manuscript to agents and editors).

The sooner you can begin that process, the better. Among the mistakes I made was not sharing my work soon enough. Instead of finding critique partners while I was still writing my first novel, I waited until I had a completed manuscript.

I'd strongly recommend that any newbie writer seek out critiques as soon as possible. For one reason, good critique partners will help you break poor writing habits (over-dependence on adverbs, poor punctuation, too much telling rather than showing) before they become too entrenched. For another, you begin developing calluses on your ego--a necessary and important step before you start sending your manuscript out into the world to fend for itself.

After a few years in the work world, most employees learn to accept professional feedback. They recognize professional criticism is about the work, not about them personally.

Even though I'd been in the business world for years--both as an employee and as a supervisor--I still had to learn that lesson all over again when I started writing.

I was a psychiatric social worker for years. In that profession, we had to learn to empathize with our clients--I thought of it as becoming a mirror reflecting back what I saw and heard. A mirror doesn't feel what it reflects. I summarized by employing such empathetic phrases as "I hear what you want is . . ." or "So you're telling me that you feel . . ." The client heard me expressing what s/he was trying to say and could then be confident I understood the situation from his/her perspective.

Empathy is distinct from sympathy. Sympathy steps over the line into sharing the experience with the other person. Sympathy is best described when one person tells another, "I know how you feel." The unspoken end of that sentence is often "because I've felt it before."

When a social worker or cop or nurse moves into sympathy, their own feelings become engaged and their ability to help the client is impaired because professional judgment is no longer the only factor in the dynamic. Some people call it maintaining a professional distance; I always thought of it as not jumping into the ocean of emotion with the client. When I did that, we both risked drowning.

Writing--for me, at least--involves lowering that professional wall so I can tap into the emotions of my characters and write as though I were experiencing what they are experiencing in the here and now.

Then I finish the manuscript and must put on a different hat--that of the professional selling a product. But this isn't a widget, this is a product that is a part of me. And, because of that, it's easier to feel bruised by rejection; to feel as if it's not just the product that's being rejected, it's me.

The critiquing process helps toughen the skin for those inevitable rejections and helps remind the writer that this is a business. An agent or editor assesses the work to see if it is likely to sell. If not, it's a pass. No matter how hurtful that rejection may be to the writer. It's business, nothing personal.

Even so, agents and editors are human, too. They have their own likes and dislikes. It is far easier to sell a manuscript in which they believe.

And, if they don't feel that special something for your manuscript, maybe the next agent will.

Think of it as speed dating. Sure, you have to talk to a lot of people, but maybe . . . just maybe . . . the next one will be THE one.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fall Movie Previews

Okay, you all know how much I love movies. Old movies. New movies. I just love good films.

My friend Carleen directed me to TV comedy writer Ken Levine's blog. Ken did a three-part post this week previewing fall movies.

Here are my three favorite comments:

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING – Nicole Kidman – THE INVASION, FUR, and BEWITCHED – is only one bomb away from television. Will this family drama by Noah Baumbach (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE) save her, or does she join the cast of BONES next fall?

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH – Francis Ford Coppola directs his first movie in ten years. Financed by his winery. There was going to be a big car chase scene but the 2005 Zinfandel crop was disappointing.

SLEUTH – Who knew psychological torture could be such fun? Remake of the Michael Caine/Lawrence Olivier starrer (sic). Caine plays the Olivier part in the new version. And Jude Law plays the other. You’re probably saying, “that part requires a real actor. How did Jude Law get the role?” He’s also the producer.

Go here to read Levine's blurbs on 66 new films.

And, for the record, I don't care if the screenplay is by Neil Gaiman or that it does star Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins. I was so traumatized by my reading of Beowulf in junior high that I find it difficult to believe anyone can turn that epic poem into a pleasurable viewing experience.

On the flip side, two of my favorite old movies are a pair of bookends: Sleuth and Deathtrap. In 1972's Sleuth, Laurence Olivier plays a wealthy older man who invites his much younger wife's lover to his country home for a deadly battle of wits. The tagline read: "If it was murder, where's the body? If it was for a woman, which woman? If it's only a game, why the blood?"

Ten years later, in 1982, Michael Caine played the older man while Christopher Reeve played the younger guy in Deathtrap. Caine is an aging playwright who hasn't had a hit in years. Reeve, a former student, sends him a play to read. The play is so perfect that Caine invites Reeve to his country home where he contemplates murdering the young man and stealing his work. Using a line from the play, Deathtrap is so perfect that "a gifted director couldn't even hurt it."

I can't imagine a remake of either film--especially a remake starring Jude Law. Of course, the part of the young lover requires a certain smarmy sexiness that Law possesses naturally so maybe it will be playing to type. We'll see.

BTW, yesterday's USA Today also took a look at the fall previews complete with photos here.

Today's a two-post day. Read on for the second post.

The Class of 2011

For the tenth year, Beloit College (Wisconsin) released its "Mindset List."

The college explains that the annual list "is to identify a worldview of 18 year-olds" entering college as freshmen.

Beloit says:

The "Class of 2011" refers to students entering college this year. They are generally 18 which suggests they were born in 1989.

The list identifies the experiences and event horizons of students as they commence higher education and is not meant to reflect on their preparatory education.

If you want to feel old, continue reading:

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
  3. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
  4. They never “rolled down” a car window.
  5. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
  6. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  7. They have grown up with bottled water.
  8. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  10. Pete Rose has never played baseball.
  11. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  12. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  13. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  14. Music has always been “unplugged.”
  15. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  16. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  17. They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  18. The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
  19. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  20. Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.
  21. Eastern Airlines has never “earned their wings” in their lifetime.
  22. No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
  23. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  24. Being “lame” has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  25. Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
  26. Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
  27. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  28. They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola “MagiCan.”
  29. They were too young to understand Judas Priest’s subliminal messages.
  30. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
  31. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  32. They grew up in Wayne’s World.
  33. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  34. They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as “The Joker.”
  35. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  36. American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
  37. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  38. On Parents’ Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.
  39. Fox has always been a major network.
  40. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-Head laugh.
  41. The “Blue Man Group” has always been everywhere.
  42. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  43. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  44. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  45. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  46. Most phone calls have never been private.
  47. High definition television has always been available.
  48. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  49. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  50. Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.
  51. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
  52. Time has always worked with Warner.
  53. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  54. The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
  55. MTV has never featured music videos.
  56. The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.
  57. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
  58. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  59. They’re always texting 1 n other.
  60. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.
  61. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  62. They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said “goodbye to rusty cars.”
  63. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  64. Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.
  65. Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
  66. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  67. Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
  68. Burma has always been Myanmar.
  69. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  70. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another Player In The Textbook Arena

On August 6th, we talked about the textbook dilemma facing American students here.

In that post, I quoted the study that the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) released in May on the cost of college textbooks, including recommendations on what could be done to make them more affordable.

Among the eight categories of solutions, the ACSFA recommended that universities implement a textbook rental program.

This idea isn't new. The Raleigh News & Observer reported earlier this week that North Carolina's Appalachian State University instituted a textbook rental program in 1938. "Now it's so popular it's a recruiting tool for the university."

The News & Observer reports: "In March, the UNC Board of Governors passed rules designed to reduce the cost of textbooks. Most notably, by January 2008, each campus must have either a book rental program or a system to guarantee that books for large introductory courses would be bought back at a set price."

Nearly two years ago in 2005, Senator Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) estimated that textbook rental programs would save students in New York state approximately $266 million a year.

Now there's a company poised to take advantage of all the attention being paid to textbook rentals.

Chegg (as in "chicken or egg") was started in 2003 by Iowa State University students as a campus online marketplace for textbooks. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the company "was born out of the founders' frustration with the used-book buying policies at their university bookstore, which buys books from students for a pittance then sells them to other students at a markup."

Using a model similar to Craigslist, Chegg eventually added access to computers, housing, events tickets, furniture and other items/services students need. Chegg can be found here. It expanded across the country, incorporated in 2005, and now has a presence at more than 2,000 campuses across the U.S. Last July, a group of investors offered the company a $500,000 cash infusion. Then they got another $2.2 million in funding last December.

On July 31, 2007, Chegg issued a press release, announcing the launch of Textbookflix, a new textbook rental service. Located here, Textbookflix allows students to rent textbooks at a cost up to 60% below retail price.

The program works this way:

  • Textbookflix has more than two million titles available and ships from locations around the country in order to insure the fastest possible arrival
  • The average rental price is 40% off the book's list price, although some textbooks are rented for up to a 60% discount
  • There are no monthly subscription fees
  • The student registers and enters his/her list of needed textbooks. The books are shipped within one or two days with an estimated arrival time of two to four days after that
  • The student is charged $6.99 shipping for the first book and $2 for each additional book. The return shipping cost is included in the rental price. The student prints off a return label from the "My Account" section of the company's website
  • If the "My Account" section has a "Buy Me" button next to the book's title, the student can purchase the book at a discount
  • The student has a two-week grace period in which to return the book for a full refund if the course is cancelled or if the student decides to drop the course. After the two-week period, the student will be charged a 50% penalty
  • Books must be returned by the date the school semester ends (or the student must contact the company to ask for more time). After the day the semester ends, there is a $25 late fee assessed. A week after the semester ends, the student is charged the full cost of the book
  • Limited highlighting of important passages within the book is permitted. Writing in the book is not

It will be interesting to see the impact Textbookflix has on the market.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Poll of Reading Habits

Stephen sent an email, directing me to the new Associated Press-Ipsos poll on reading in America released yesterday. Thanks!

The poll was conducted from August 6 to 8th via telephone interviews with a random sampling of 1,003 Americans from every state except Hawaii and Alaska. According to Forbes, the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly and went to only listed and unlisted home landlines.

The results were weighted (adjusted) to confirm that responses reflected the population's makeup, using factors such as race, sex, age and region. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

The pollsters estimate a margin of sampling error of three percent plus or minus, meaning only a three percent variance from the entire country's makeup.

The results?

Both good and bad. One in four adults read NO books in the last year. The typical respondent claimed to have read four books in the last year. Forbes reports: "half read more and half read fewer [than four]. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven."

The Associated Press reported on previous, similar polls: In 1999, a Gallop poll reported people had claimed to have started at least ten books in the past year. In 2005, people reported starting at least five. The question asked was slightly different from that asked in this newest poll; however, it seems in line with the results of this poll.

The Associated Press (AP) also reported on a study by the National Endowment for the Arts titled "Reading at Risk." The study was done in 2004, and I blogged about it a year ago here.

In discussing this latest poll, the AP said: "Among those who said they had read books, the median figure--with half reading more, half fewer--was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger."

Forbes says:

Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.

I find it interesting that the people who read the most and the people who read the least are both older. There's a bell curve in there somewhere [grin].

Of English Muffins and Consumer Activism

I grew up watching old movies with my mother on television. Since she adored Cary Grant, we saw every movie he ever made (over and over). Mom also told me countless stories about Grant.

I remembered one of those stories tonight while I was eating my ready-made Cobb salad from my local supermarket. There was one-half of a hard-boiled egg in my salad. Where did the other half go, I wondered?

That egg reminded me of a story Mom had told. I googled and found it in an article titled "The Cary Grant That Nobody Knows," by Geoffrey Wansell (written in 1984).

Grant was reputed to be a penny-pincher, but Wansell argued that the star simply hated to be cheated. He pointed to this incident to illustrate what he meant:

A curious and comic instance of this occurred at the Plaza Hotel in New York. He [Grant] had ordered coffee and English muffins (plural) to be sent up to his room for breakfast. When they arrived, there were only three half slices, or one-half slice less than two.

“I asked the waiter why, and he didn’t know,” Grant said. “I called the head of room service, who also didn’t know. I went up the line. No one could explain.” So he telephoned the hotel’s owner, Conrad Hilton, in Beverly Hills, “but his office told me he was in Istanbul.”

Undeterred, he then telephoned Hilton in Istanbul to ask why he had been brought only three half slices of muffin at the Plaza in New York when the menu clearly stated, “muffins.”

“Conrad knew the answer,” he recalled later. “It seems a hotel efficiency expert had decreed that all guests left the fourth slice of muffin on their plate. As a plate cleaner-upper, I was appalled.” And he proceeded to tell Hilton that he should immediately alter his menu to read “muffin and a half.”

“It cost me several hundred dollars in phone calls,” Grant added, “but ever since, I have always gotten four slices of muffin at the Plaza.”

I know just how Grant felt. I wanted the other half of my damn egg. But there are other things I want more.

Last Wednesday, I blogged about the renewed interest in O.J.'s book here. I said:

It makes my skin creep to think of ANYONE profiting from the death of Nicole and Ron. I can't remember ever associating the word "evil" with an inanimate object before, but this whole project is misbegotten, and I wish the book-buying public would just join together to help the book die.

Publishers Weekly (PW) reported today that Barnes & Noble has announced they will not carry If I Did It in any of their "traditional" stores. They will, however, carry it online at their website.

Borders told PW that they would carry the store in their bricks-and-mortar locations with a spokesperson justifying the move by saying "there will be customers who have an interest in purchasing the book.” The spokesperson went on to say that Borders “will not promote or market the book in anyway.”

I think I'm going to send both bookchains an email, letting them know what I think of their respective decisions. I'm not going to address the on-line issue. If a reader wants the book badly enough to wait a week for it to arrive, there's nothing I can do about it. I just want to slow down those impulsive buys. Call it a cooling off period.

Within a few days after the release, the newspapers and magazines will carry all the titillating excerpts, and interest in buying the book will wane.

I have membership cards to both stores. Perhaps I can influence Borders' decision to carry the book in their stores.

And--before I get hate mail--I do believe in freedom of speech. I'm not suggesting that the publication of the book be prevented or even that the sale of the book be stopped. Just that the stores insure that the consumers who buy it are really committed to owning it.

And, as a consumer, I have a right to voice my opinion, too.

I think Cary Grant would approve.

P.S. If you are so inclined, the link to offer feedback to Borders is here. Scroll down to just below the line about "Corporate/Organization Discount" and fill in the form.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Feel Pretty, Oh, So Doggone Pretty

You know how sometimes a day just gets off to a weird start? Today was like that.

I'm pretty basic--not a lot of frills. I wash my hair every morning. Instead of using the blow dryer, I comb my short hair out and let it air dry. It's naturally wavy so it curls, and then I just finger comb it the rest of the day. I don't even carry a comb in my purse (actually, I don't even carry a purse).

Yesterday morning I'd put my bathroom comb into my carry-all bag so I could actually comb my hair before getting up in front of an audience last night. When I got out of the shower this morning, no comb.

I'd been so tired last night, I'd left the carry-all bag (with comb) in the car. My choices this morning were to go out to the car in the driveway wrapped in a large towel, or to locate another comb somewhere in the house. As much as my neighbor Gary might appreciate the towel dash, I decided to look around for another comb.

Remember--I've told you I'm pretty impatient. I opened four or five drawers in my bath and in the hall bath. On about the fifth drawer, I found the pet grooming stuff. There, right on top was a brand new flea comb (with the tag still on) that I'd purchased for my border collie Lucy before she went on to that Great Fire Hydrant in the sky.

Don't make a face like that. It had teeth, didn't it? Teeny, tiny fine teeth.

In fact, the flea comb (with a real imitation leather handle) did such a great job that it's my new hair drying comb (until the nearest and dearest sees it anyway).

For those of you who might be reading this blog for the first time, I figured you might as well know what it's really like around here.

Back to business.

Home, Sweet, Home

It's 10:16 PM, and I just got home from my talk at the Richardson Public Library. I'm beat.

It was a lot of fun. There were about 55 people in attendance. They asked great questions, and we ran about fifteen minutes over the ninety-minute deadline. A half dozen people were brave enough to share their query letters with the group, which gave us more to talk about.

Many thanks to my critique partner, Maria Zannini. She met me for dinner beforehand and helped lug all my paraphernalia into and out of the library. She also acted as my page turner for my easel--the mike didn't stretch all the way to the easel.

Thanks, too, to my dear friend Carleen who shlepped all the way to Richardson from her university to support me. She helped to hand out things and to lug all the stuff--which seemed to have multiplied like the fishes--back to my car.

I was thrilled to see my friends Rob and Cherrie Lamon from the Irving Writers Connection. I'll be talking at their writers group next month. Another IWC writer, Patricia Ferguson, was there with one of her friends. It was so nice to see a few familiar faces in the audience.

When I first started thinking about talking to groups, I decided there were three subjects that I could probably talk at least semi-intelligently about:

1) What you need to know about the industry before you seek publication
2) Writing a query letter
3) What you need to know when you get The Call (from an agent or editor)

Cindy Wright, the Program Chair, had asked me to present on #2. Next month, I'll present on #1 for IWC.

Tomorrow, after I'm rested, we'll get back to business.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Come See Me

I've never actually had much sympathy for my friends with small children when they've complained about how hard it is to go anywhere with a baby. They talk about the car seats, diaper bags, porta-cribs, pacifiers, strollers and toys to be packed into the car before they can leave the house.

Well, I don't know if a first novel can be compared to a baby, but I just finished packing my car for Monday night's talk at the Richardson Public Library. All I can say is it's a darn good thing I have an SUV.

I had to pack: my easel and pad, my table top copy of my cover, the free-standing copy of the cover, the business cards and business card stand, the handouts and a few copies of the book. I've gone to Europe with less baggage.

If you live in North Texas, come see me Monday evening at the Richardson Public Library at 7 PM.

Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Basement Room

We'll be talking about query letters. What to do and what not to do.

As a part of that discussion, we'll also be talking about the following:

1) What do you need to know about the publishing industry BEFORE you start querying?
2) What's up with bookstores today?
3) What's so special about how books are sold?
4) Why do I care about POD?

I'll also talk about what I did right and what I did wrong over the past four years on my way to getting an agent and a publisher.

Talk to you later.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What Was He Thinking?

A year ago, Dr. Louann Brizendine's book The Female Brain claimed that "85% of twenty- to thirty-year-old males think about sex every fifty-two seconds."

That's 1,662 times a day.


Yet, that's about how often I think about the upcoming Septem-
ber 4th release of my book, Bad Girl.

I'm having headaches a couple of times a week. At first, I attributed them to sinus problems. But, when my stomach joined my head in rebelling, I had to admit it was nerves.

I'm a big girl. I know how to handle stress. I have long lists of things to do, and I'm keeping busy.

Still, I find myself fantasizing at least once or twice a day on ways to publicize my book. I'm doing the usual stuff--talks in the community, multiple giveaways of books, book signings. I'm thinking about asking friends to blog about the release on September 4th, and offering to do interviews for other bloggers. In other words, I'm strategizing about public relations.

But my imagination doesn't touch Bill Schneider's.

Bill is a writer, living and working in Provincetown on Cape Cod. On May 17, 2004, when gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Provincetown--long a haven for gay residents and visitors according to the Boston Globe--decided to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples from out of state.

The Provincetown municipal staff quickly became overwhelmed with requests for information from all over the country. The Weekly Dig quoted Bill himself: "'At the time, the town clerk was begging for help as people came into town,' said Schneider. 'I said that I can help with PR, so they kept calling me back, to help with volunteer efforts. One thing led to another, and I started working in the tourism office'."

Initially hired at $31,000 annually as assistant tourism director, Schneider was promoted in 2006 to director of the tourism office. He earns $47,000 to put a publicity spin on Provincetown and to promote tourism.

As I mentioned earlier, he's also a writer with three books he's self-published through ASJA, an imprint of iUniverse: Second Chapter (April, 2005), Sand Dollar (July, 2006) and Crossed Paths (March, 2007).

It's Schneider's efforts to promote Crossed Paths that have caused controversy and provided Bill with more publicity than he may have anticipated.

Schneider posted a notice on his website here that he had been interviewed on Oprah and that his book had been selected as one of Oprah's Book Club picks. He even posted a transcript of the segment. The transcript has since been taken down, but here's a portion (courtesy of the Cape Cod Times):


Oprah: The latest author to join my Book Club is a friend of mine who has just released his third novel, Crossed Paths, which is based on a true story about two young men who met in 1976 during America's Bicentennial. It was a time when our country was in turmoil. Disco and punk rock battled for radio airplay as our nation recovered from the Vietnam War. Coupled with the sexual revolution and divisive nature of the Watergate scandal, the rest of the world thought America was out of control.


Oprah: In direct contrast to the turmoil surrounding our country, Will - a flight attendant from southern California - and Adam - a medical student from Memphis, Tennessee - met and fell in love.


Oprah: Crossed Paths is a roller coaster journey through these two men's unique lives.

So fasten your seat belts: because you are about to meet the author of Crossed Paths, who flew in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts just to spend some time with us today. Please join me in welcoming Bill Schneider.

Oprah: Bill, I must tell you that I immediately fell in love with this book when I first read it.

Schneider: Thank you. Thanks very much.

Oprah: Crossed Paths is truly a gem of story. Tell me how you came to write this very poignant book.

Schneider: Well, Oprah, it's a story that really tugged at my heartstrings: and, ah, I felt very certain about this being a story that needed to be shared. Not only because of the incredible love these two young men discovered, but, ah, also because long before I wrote this book, I found myself wondering the same thing that I think we all ponder from time to time ... 'Why are we here? What is our purpose?' And while I contemplated those questions, I was, ah, compelled to share this passionate love story: because it reinforces the importance of chance meetings, and every so often, a romantic rendezvous is more than just a coincidence. It's something that is, ah, simply meant to be.

Oprah: Let me set the stage for our audience. The characters in your book are Will and Adam, two 25-year-old men who met at a disco in southern California. And they do something that was just not allowed during the 1970s. They fell in love. What strikes me as very ironic is how coincidental the similarities are between now and then; and how vibrantly you set the stage for that period in time.

Schneider: Yeah, it's true. The Vietnam War then; and the War in Iraq now. Gas prices are soaring now just like they were during the seventies... but we don't have gas rationing. At least not yet, anyway.

Oprah: Please don't even think about making that a reality.

Schneider: It's funny how history tends to repeat itself.

Schneider also claimed that Oprah had interviewed him for his first book Second Chapter, but that the interview never aired.

In addition, he reported on his blog that Crossed Paths was being turned into a feature film and that the producers wanted him to write the screenplay.

Boston's Weekly Dig was the first to question Schneider's claims, posting a copy of a rigged photo. Take a look at the photo with Bill's swollen head and Oprah balancing the book on one hand here. I caught the story at Friday's Mediabistro's Galleycat here.

On Thursday, The Provincetown Banner reported that Schneider had admitted to fabricating the stories about Oprah.

The Banner said, "Schneider admitted the falsehood, calling it 'an error in judgment' but wanted to publicize his story of a doomed relationship between two gay men."

On the same day, the Cape Cod Times quoted two officials from Provincetown:

"There’s not any conflict that I’m aware of with Bill’s personal web site and the town,” Provincetown Town Manager Sharon Lynn said. “His employment is not affected.”

Resident Lynne Davies, a former member of the town’s visitor services board and currently a member of the board of selectmen, has worked directly with Schneider since his hiring.

“He is a great guy,” Davies said. “I trust him. He’s a good friend. I read his books and they’re wonderful. I’ve read some of the reviews and they seem to be terrific. My understanding is that we’re just waiting for the stickers to say he’s part of the club.”

If Ms. Davies sounds as though she is two beats behind the ball on this story, there's a reason. She had a personal relationship with Schneider which the Cape Cod Times revealed yesterday: ". . . another selectman, Lynn Davies, who has defended Schneider, said she was hired to be the Webmaster for his Web site and had posted the Oprah claims without questioning them."

Ouch. Nothing like defending someone in public and then finding out you've been lied to.

The town manager is also singing a different tune. This was reported in the same article:

Yesterday, selectmen chairwoman Mary-Jo Avellar and Town Manager Sharon Lynn said the town will investigate whether Schneider misused his office.

"It doesn't look good does it?" Avellar said yesterday.

"If there is anything untoward, I'll find it out and handle it appropriately," said Lynn, the town manager.

I've always heard that any publicity is good publicity. But, if you lose your day time job as a result, that publicity had better be worth it.

What on earth was Schneider thinking????

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moon Called and Blood Bound

I've now officially added another author to my small stable of favorite paranormal writers.

Someone recommended recently that I read Patricia Briggs' Moon Called. I read the first five pages on and decided I liked the author's voice. The recommendation came at precisely the right time. I was looking for something to order to bump my total to $25 so I'd get free shipping on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

One of the reasons the book appealed to me was that it was a new twist on the rapidly-becoming-tiresome werewolf/vampire plotline. The protagonist of Moon Called is Mercy Thompson, a thirty-something skinwalker living in the Pacific Northwest.

A skinwalker is the Native American version of a shapeshifter. Mercy's mother had a brief fling with an itinerant Native American, who died in a car accident before Mercy was born. When Mom reached into the crib to pick up her baby and found a coyote pup instead, she knew she had a problem. Fortunately, a relative was able to direct her to the leader of the werewolf nation so Mercy was dropped off to be raised among shifters. Only the head werewolf's dominance prevented the wolves from killing the coyote, their natural enemy.

In Moon Called, the only paranormal creatures who have made themselves known to humans are the fae although the werewolves are considering going public. The vampires have too large a PR problem with image to even entertain the idea.

Mercy ran away from the werewolves at sixteen, became a mechanic and now operates her own small automotive repair shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. Because skinwalkers were mostly eradicated by the vampires when they came to America, she has no clan of her own. She tries to keep a low profile, but it's sometimes difficult. Her next door neighbor is the local werewolf Alpha, one of her customers is a vampire and the guy who sold the shop to her is a gremlin. There's also a witch working for the vamps.

The story starts when a hungry, dirty teenager comes to Mercy's garage looking for work. Her preternatural senses tell her this is a new werewolf, and he doesn't belong to her neighbor's clan. Although she knows it's a very bad idea, the kid's desperation leads her to feeding him and giving him a job.

The next day, an ugly trinity of men and werewolf come looking for the kid, and Mercy leaps in to help him, embroiling herself in murder, kidnapping, and a supernatural political nightmare.

The book worked for me. Mercy is full of attitude and tough without going over the top. She reminds me of the young Anita Blake (pre-erotica). Mercy's sense of aloneness and her understanding/acceptance of the werewolf culture are skillfully written. There's also humor and action (two things I can never resist).

When I finished Moon Called, I went looking for another Mercy Thompson book. Turns out, there is only one: Blood Bound, which I finished last night. The third in the series will be released in January, but a short story using characters from the books (although not Mercy herself) is on the market now.

If anything, I liked Blood Bound better. Briggs has already established her world and her characters and, in this outing, concentrates on the action. There's a demon loose in the Tri-Cities and--to make it worse--he's in a vampire body.

Despite how powerful the vampires and werewolves are in comparison to Mercy, it turns out her version of supernatural makes her the only candidate to go after this monster who quickly racks up an impressive number of kills. You see, Mercy is largely immune to vamp magic (which is why the vampires killed off the skinwalkers).

My only quibble is that Briggs seems a little too leery of romance--or maybe it's sex. She skirts around the subject with all the main male characters in love with Mercy, but with her running from them all. This will get tiresome really fast if Briggs doesn't commit soon. Mercy's over thirty, for heaven's sake. By now, she's living with one werewolf on a platonic basis (despite the fact that they were lovers when she was sixteen. And I am so not buying into their being "platonic" now), and is living next door to another werewolf AND, by the end of the book, has an unexpected love interest.

If you like urban fantasies, I can recommend this series to you.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Flacking The Book

As we move closer to the release of Bad Girl, my calendar gets more interesting. On Monday night, I'm giving a talk to the Greater Dallas Chapter, an offshoot of The Writers League of Texas. I have half a dozen other talks lined up over the next six weeks.

Lots of things to do beforehand: had to find a P.O. Box so I'd have a physical address for my new business cards and needed to contact the publicist at NAL to send a "higher resolution tiff" of the book's cover to the printer who is making up the table top display.

I'm a very comfortable public speaker with years of experience. My nearest and dearest pointed out recently that I'm a total ham, happiest with a mike in my hand.

It wasn't always that way. As a teen, I had tons of attitude on the inside--all covered by a heavy coat of shyness on the outside. My mother found my first job for me because I was too afraid to go on an interview.

All that changed when I was nineteen. In the spring following my sophomore year in college, I made the mistake of whining to my father that my college classmates were going on exotic vacations to Europe, California, and even Maine, while I was going to have to get a stupid summer job.

Daddy refused to rise to the bait, merely saying it was a shame I had so little imagination that I couldn't figure out how to find a way to travel and work at the same time.

Of course, proving him wrong became my raison d'etre. I sat down with the yellow pages and wrote a dozen letters to the first twelve travel agencies in the phone book, extolling my virtues as a tour escort.

It so happened that Amazing America Tours was a division of Greyhound Busline. When they called to invite me for an interview, I almost passed out. I had no idea what a tour escort did, but I was determined to prove my father wrong.

Before I knew it, I was hired as an escort to lead forty elderly tourists from St. Petersburg, Florida to New England, Quebec, Montreal, Niagara Falls and back. Over a three-week period. There was no script, no instructions beyond a list of hotels and tourist attractions we were scheduled to stop at along the way.

I was cute with my curly red hair, freckles, and little short skirt that wasn't much longer than my navy jacket. Old people weren't threatening to me and, over the next 21 days, I became a microphone whore. I introduced bingo games, I played books on tape, I offered puzzles with dime store prizes for the winners and I had pages and pages of historical facts on every state we passed through.

At every tourist attraction, I met escorts from other travel agencies. I made dates with tour escorts and bus drivers to meet in cities ahead of us for dinner and sightseeing. After my little old people were tucked in for the night, I ate lobster in Bangor, rode the ferry back and forth across the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and toured the Thousand Islands of New York.

Greyhound got so many compliments on me as an escort that I had a job waiting whenever I had a break from school. I did the Canada run three times and the Mardi Gras run twice. One of those times, my aunt and uncle were visiting New Orleans. My aunt still talks about the time I made a date for beignets with one guy, for a luncheon po'boy with another and for shrimp creole with a third. I explored New Orleans with each guy, but then brought him back to my aunt and uncle's hotel room and explained that I had to spend time with my relatives. These guys were a lot older than the boys I was used to, and I wasn't confident of my ability to manage them.

Once the coast was clear, I headed out again to meet the next date. I don't think my aunt ever told my parents. If she had, I'd have spent the next five years in a convent school.

Those two plus years with Greyhound cured me of my shyness and guaranteed that I would always head straight to the front of the room where the microphone was. Coincidentally, I've had jobs that required a fair amount of public speaking.

So, no, I'm not worried about doing my own little local book tour. I'm actually looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moving Toward Downloading Books On A Cell

Today is a three-post day.

Shelf Awareness reports that HarperCollins has begun a pilot program in which readers can sample fourteen releases on their iPhones. Cell phone users can view the first ten pages of the books before making a choice to order a hard copy from a list of retailers.

Here's a list of the books currently available:

Winning by Jack Welch & Suzy Welch
Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury
The Burnt House by Faye Kellerman
Love is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison
The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson
Ike, An American Hero by Michael Korda
Life On the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
Beyond the Body Farm by Bill Bass
A Killer's Kiss by William Lashner
Soul Catcher by Michael C. White
Obama by David Mendell
The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg

Go to Harper Collins "Browse Inside" website here, or open the Safari browser on your iPhone and go to to access the titles.

Brian Murray, president of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, released a statement in which he said, "Our digital warehouse [which has 10,000 titles in it] gives us the unique opportunity to quickly offer access to our titles on the newest technology, and we encourage people to provide feedback about their experiences."

The Ja(y)nes over at Dear Author took a look at the first few pages of Obama and were not impressed. Read their critique here.

King Sighting

Shelf Awareness had a small item this morning about an incident that occurred on Tuesday which made me smile.

"Traveling unannounced in Alice Springs, Australia, Stephen King quietly signed six copies of his books in a Dymocks store on Tuesday and was reported to the staff by a customer for 'defacing' books."

The manager of the store, Bev Ellis followed King out of the building to Woolworths where she introduced herself. King introduced her to his companions, and they spoke for a few minutes before she left the group to continue their shopping.

Need A Part-Time Job For Christmas?

Do you have a manuscript that's crying out to be published? Have you had trouble finding an agent or publisher? Don't give up hope.

Go to work for Borders Bookstores.

On Monday, Borders Group issued a press release saying:

Borders Group is holding a fiction writing contest open to all employees in Borders and Waldenbooks stores, the distribution centers and the company's corporate office. Employee authors are eligible to submit manuscripts appealing to readers in any of the fiction categories. At least one employee whose title is selected as the winner by a panel of judges at the corporate office will be awarded a book deal including the full support of Borders merchandising and marketing arsenal.

The press release goes on to say:

Borders' first exclusive and proprietary novel, "Slip & Fall" by Nick Santora, was released in June and has since reached bestseller lists at "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Boston Globe," and was named as a top summer read by "USA Today."

Get yourself a part-time job at Borders and check the rules for submitting. You have until January 31, 2008 to submit the manuscript.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bookstore Sales For June, 2007

Tuesday's Shelf Awareness reported on the bookstore sales for June, 2007.

Bookstore sales were $1.13 billion in June, down 6.6% from $1.21 billion in sales for the same period in 2006, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Year-to-date for the first half of 2007, bookstore sales were $7.33 billion, down 4.5% from $7.68 billion for the same period in 2006.

Shelf Awareness compares those figures to total retail sales in June, which rose 4.6% to $343.9 billion and 3.7% for the year to date.

Of course, this information comes with the usual disclaimer from the Census Bureau. These figures are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

Read on. This is a two-post day.

Life Is Full of Tradeoffs

I eat a salad at lunch so I can have Blue Bell peach ice cream for dessert.

I love the delicious, sensuous scent of Shalimar perfume on my skin. At $115 for 2.5 ounces, I indulge in it, but I refuse to step inside a Bath & Body Works Shop to be tempted by bubble bath, body lotions or scented soap.

I don't subscribe to cable television so I have more disposable cash with which to purchase whatever books I want during the month.

And here comes my latest tradeoff.

Despite the titillation value of the upcoming O.J. Simpson tell-all, I'm going to forego buying it so that I can live with myself.

On Tuesday, Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, called for a boycott of If I Did It, O.J.'s book about her sister's 1994 murder along with friend Ron Goldman.

According to USA Today, "Denise Brown said she was 'shocked and horrified' to learn that a literary agent for the Goldman family had reached a deal to publish the controversial book."

That literary agent, Sharlene Martin (of Martin Literary Management) says the book will be published with Simpson's original manuscript intact, but include commentary.

On Monday, a spokesman for Martin announced she had a deal to publish the O.J. Simpson book, but she did not name the New York publisher. It's expected that the publisher will be identified today.

Interestingly enough, according to USA Today, Martin delayed the naming of the publisher to give the house "time to prepare for an expected rush of publicity."

That delay also gave Denise Brown an opportunity to jump into the fray.

The Goldman family was awarded rights to the book in order to help them satisfy the $38 million judgment they won against O.J. after he was aquitted of the murders in 1995. The Goldman family has also created a Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice, to which they claim a portion of the sales proceeds from the book will go. The new foundation was set up to help victims of violent crime. No announcement was made as to what percentage of the sales will go to this foundation.

I have to admit a lot of sympathy for Denise Brown's position. She accused the Goldman family of hypocrisy for publishing a book that they had condemned when Simpson first announced his intention to publish it.

An attorney for Fred Goldman, Ron's father, pointed out that Brown and her family had first "sought a share of possible profits from the book for themselves" according to USA Today.

It makes my skin creep to think of ANYONE profiting from the death of Nicole and Ron. I can't remember ever associating the word "evil" with an inanimate object before, but this whole project is misbegotten, and I wish the book-buying public would just join together to help the book die.

God bless him, but I think Fred Goldman's rage against O.J. has morphed into something much darker, a need to crush Simpson and to thwart him at any cost.

I, for one, will forego the opportunity for a momentary guilty thrill in reading the book in order to be able to look myself in the mirror the next morning.

UPDATE: Right after I published this post, I received a copy of today's Publishers Lunch, which reported the new publishing house for If I Did It: " . . . Eric Kampmann's Beaufort Books (distributed by Midpoint), and a Reuters piece cites a publication date of October 3."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Last Word on Pottermania

Now that the dust has settled on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it seems fitting that one publishing giant should comment on another. Therefore, Stephen King devotes his latest column in Entertainment Weekly to a thoughtful commentary on J.K. Rowling and the publishing juggernaut she built.

King begins with 1986, the year that R.L. Stine wrote his first teen horror novel, Blind Date. King does his usual self-referential thing (less charming than it once was) by describing Stine as "the Stephen King of children's literature." But he also spends some time comparing Stine--"perhaps the best-selling children's author of the 20th century"-- to Rowling--the undisputed queen of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I've had an off-and-on love affair with King's work for my entire adult life. Even after all this time, his cheeky audacity can still shock and amuse me. In comparing Stine to Rowling, he says, "He's largely unknown and uncredited...but of course John the Baptist never got the same press as Jesus either."

After that bon mot, King gets down to business. He compares the two authors' writing styles (Stine was "an adequate but flavorless writer" while Rowling grew to be "an incredibly gifted novelist"). He also points out other differences. Stine's kids were kids forever while "Jo Rowling's kids grew up...and the audience grew up with them."

King then compares the two authors with the larger literary world:

. . . unlike Stine, Rowling brought adults into the reading circle, making it much larger. This is hardly a unique phenomenon, although it seems to be one associated mainly with British authors . . .

I've described myself as having a low-brow entertainment agenda. I spend a lot of my time reading dry, scientific detail and (only) slightly livelier news accounts. When I read for entertainment, I want to be seriously entertained.

There was a time when I had implicit trust in Stephen King to do just that. He forfeited the right to that trust in the late eighties when he allowed the dreck he'd written in a drug-induced haze to be imposed upon his Dear Readers.

His story mastery--and, equally important, the cheery optimism--I'd grown to rely upon disappeared. I didn't like the new darker, nastier King--he scared me . . . for real. The delightful chills had been replaced by a crazed grimness that caused me to retreat in alarm.

Fortunately for both of us . . . he went into rehab, and I grew up. Today he's sober, and I'm no longer a dewy-eyed girl who places faith in feckless troubadours.

King ends his EW column with the optimism that drew me to him in the first place. Far from bemoaning the lack of reading among kids today, he says:

The kids are alright. Just how long they stay that way sort of depends on writers like J.K. Rowling, who know how to tell a good story (important) and do it without talking down (more important) or resorting to a lot of high-flown gibberish (vital) . . . It's good make-believe I'm talking about . . . J.K. Rowling has set the standard: It's a high one, and God bless her for it.

And God bless Stephen King.

You can read the entire Entertainment Weekly column here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Dustup Down Under

There's a tempest brewing down under.

In last Wednesday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), entertainment writer Susan Wyndham broke a story about a letter the biggest bookstore chain in Australia sent to its small to medium publishers.

A copy of the letter from Angus & Robertson (A&R),
dated July 30, was almost breathtaking in its "unmitigated arrogance." Its author, Charlie Rimmer, the Commercial Manager for the A&R Whitcoulls Group, announces "some changes to the way we manage our business." He goes on to explain that "We have concluded that we have far too many suppliers, and over 40% of our supplier agreements fall below our requirements in terms of profit earned."

I'm going to stop here for a moment to dwell on the concept of
"we have far too many suppliers." We're talking about a bookstore, folks, not a supermarket. These aren't vendors of green peas, where one brand might easily be substituted for another in a recipe. These are books, B-O-O-K-S, not freaking widgets.

But, wait, there's more . . .

To correct this lack of profitability, Mr. Rimmer attaches an invoice to each letter, giving the publishing house six weeks to PAY THE DIFFERENCE to provide A&R with what they BELIEVE is an acceptable level of profitability.

Along with the invoice comes the threat. If the publishing house fails to respond to this extortion, "we will have no option but to remove you from our list of authorised suppliers."

And like the old Popeil commercials, we're not finished yet . . .

Rimmer includes a new contract with a laundry list of expectations including a standard rebate (with room for growth), a minimum marketing commitment and the expectation of a 5% daily interest rate on any funds not received by the 7th of each month following a quarter close.

And, finally, the piece de resistance . . .

Rimmer graciously offers a ten-minute appointment at a time of his own choosing to discuss these matters.

Sweet Mercy!! The brazenness of this missive left me speechless.

The following day, August 9th, the Sydney Morning Herald provided not only a photocopy of the actual letter but a copy of a response to Mr. Rimmer by one of his suppliers, Michael Rakusin, director of Tower Books. The response is so wonderfully to the point that I'm simply going to direct you to the link so that you can read it yourself here .

Angus & Robertson has 180 bookstores in Australia and, according to its website, an 18% share of the Australian retail book market. Its sister company, Whitcoulls, has 76 stores in New Zealand and, according to the website, "a 40% share in books, 30% share in personal stationery and 25% share in the video/DVD markets." In May, 2004, both companies were purchased by Pacific Equity Partners, an Australian investment company.

On August 9th, ABC News reported:

Around 160 publishers have been sent letters from Angus and Robertson, some with invoices and some with invitations for a meeting to discuss the sales performance of their books.

Marie McCaskill from the Australian Publishers Association [APA] has told ABC local radio in Sydney it's an unprecedented step that suggests an alarming trend.

The APA is not calling for a boycott of A&R at this time. However, if you read the comments on the SMH website [over 185 of them at last count], Australian readers are taking personal stands on this issue. Commentator after commentator promises to take his/her business elsewhere.

Some thoughts.

The SMH reported that Pacific Equity Partners is considering bringing A&R public. This effort might be an attempt to improve margins before a public offering. Of course, a public relations disaster like this is not likely to help the company's public image.

Another thing that occurred to me as I read the letters was that this sounded like the kind of power Wal-Mart is reputed to wield over its vendors. Perhaps A&R thought that its size in the Australian market gave it the clout to pull a stunt like this. How dumb was that?

ABC News reported that no one from A&R was available to speak to them, "but the company has issued a statement saying it has extended the date for negotiation by two weeks. Angus and Robertson also says it is committed to stocking a wide range of titles and supporting Australian literature."

Dave Fenlon, general manager of A&R, wrote to Crikey, an influential Australian blogger on the arts. In part, he said, "I understand that Crikey and its readers are alarmed by the negotiations that Angus & Robertson is currently seeking with a number of its suppliers. I also understand that the correspondence sent to some of our suppliers has caused offence . . . I completely acknowledge that the tone of this correspondence was inappropriate."

Do ya think?

Go here to read the entire letter to Crikey.

It appears the sharks are circling the Australian bookstores as well as their American counterparts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Impotence of Proofreading By Taylor Mali

A dear friend who spent many years teaching college English and who now works at another university sent the attached video to me.


It is written and performed by a high school teacher.

Amazon Announces Two New Services

This post was suggested by Stephen Parrish who sent me Friday's Publishers Weekly (PW). I hadn't gotten around to reading that edition yet and very much appreciated the heads up.

Stephen pointed me toward an article announcing that " is offering customers two new services: access to galleys and the opportunity to publish their own works."

The first half of the announcement was pretty straightforward although a little surprising. PW reported that, via a program called Project Vine, "readers with a history of posting accurate and helpful book reviews" will be invited to receive advance galleys for further reviews.

I went to the Investor Relations section of and used the search function to look for "Project Vine," which I'd never heard of before. The search did not result in any matches. A Google search offered references to either the PW article or to a Japanese software.

Publishers Weekly said an Amazon spokesman indicated invitations have gone out to the site’s “top reviewers,” to become Vine Voices. The new reviewers will not be paid by Amazon.

I was amused by the snarky tone of a headline in New York Magazine: "Today in Book-Critic Obsolescence: Empowers the Unwashed Masses."

The second announcement by Amazon was covered by a press release, which said:

CreateSpace, part of the, Inc. group of companies (NASDAQ: AMZN), today announced the launch of a new online Books on Demand service. Also announced today, the company is no longer charging setup fees for books, audio CDs and DVDs. Authors, filmmakers and musicians can now offer their works to millions of customers on, and via their own free customizable eStore without any inventory, setup fees or minimum orders.

"The new CreateSpace Books on Demand service removes substantial economic barriers and makes it really easy for authors who want to self-publish their books and distribute them on," said Jeff Wilke, senior vice president, North American Retail, "The service will also give millions of Amazon customers access to an even greater selection of books, just as CreateSpace's DVD and CD on Demand services are adding significant selection to our movie and music catalogs."

Back in July, 2005, Amazon purchased CustomFlix, a California distributor of on-demand DVDs. Their services have been expanded to include on-demand books and CDs. On August 3, CustomFlix changed its name to CreateSpace. The Amazon press release said the new name "represents the company's expanded mission to provide a range of on-demand, self-publishing offerings to independent content creators."

Wikipedia's entry for CreateSpace says that "On July 30, 2007, the National Archives announced that it would make thousands of historic films available for purchase through CreateSpace."

In recent weeks, I've mentioned my belief that the lines will begin blurring between publishers and booksellers. And back on May 20, 2006 here, I said:

The traditional print houses have become so accustomed to "owning the game" that they have not yet realized the Internet and POD technology may mean the end of their control over publishing. The move by Simon & Schuster to demand indefinite rights to books is a perfect example of that arrogance.

Giant printing presses are no longer the key to the kingdom of publishing. The large houses face competition on two fronts: from the Internet giants and from the e-publishing industry.

When I say Internet giants, I'm talking about Google,, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. Of the five, I suspect the biggest direct competition will come from either Google or My money is on Amazon. The biggest dark horse IMHO is eBay.

. . . the Internet companies were the first to realize the power the Internet had to change the face of publishing. Both Google and Amazon started by offering to help traditional print houses market their print books. However, I don't think that either company will stop there. It is not a big stretch from marketing other companies' books to marketing original content yourself.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Spider-like, We Feel the Tenderest Touch"

Okay, I'm venting here.

For at least the seventh time this month, I just walked through my yard and ended up with a faceful of spider web. Not a Kodak moment.

For the most part, I'm pretty darn tolerant of our creepy crawlie neighbors. I never kill spiders . . . okay, when I first moved into this house, I use my car to roll over and squish the dinner-plate sized tarantulas on my property. I've since realized that they don't present much danger although I still don't like turning over a rock and finding a hairy spider the size of my palm under it.

Recently one of our Research Assistants began screaming bloody murder. I ran toward her office expecting to see a dead body, a rapist or at least a pair of purple Mary Jane Crocs. Instead, the silly fool was backed into a corner hollering at a cricket. I scooped the little guy up and rode down the elevator with him cupped in my hand so that I could release him into the atrium garden outside my building.

But . . . I draw the line at huge, intricate spider webs situated at a height to cover 5'3" women. I don't like the webby silk in my hair, I don't like the strands draped over my lips and I certainly don't like snorting them up my nose.

I've lived in my house for over ten years and cannot remember a problem of this magnitude before. Sure we have a couple of nasty days of web worms in the spring, but--sweet mercy--these spider webs are getting really, really old. I'm guessing it has something to do with all the rain and now all the heat. I'm having nightmares of Arachnophobia.

Maya going off to wash her face again because she still feels creepy

Print Or Electronic Publishing?

I'm late posting today. I had to recover from last night's outing to view The Simpsons movie.

I wiggled out of going last weekend by suggesting The Bourne Ultimatum. Fairness demanded that I reciprocate--despite the fact that I am not a big Simpsons fan. But the upside is it took them eighteen years to make the first Simpsons movie. Maybe I'm safe for another couple of decades.

Two readers suggested subjects for today's blog. I'm going to yield to ladies first and go with Katy's request today, but will go with Stephen Parrish's suggestion for tomorrow. Thanks to both of you for your emails.

Katy's email to me read in part:

I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to evaluate the differences between getting published by a major publisher compared to a smaller house or (especially) an e-publisher. I know that the future will include more ebooks, and Samhain has some sort of contract with one of the big houses (which one escapes me at the moment), so those who are writing for them might get to ride the beginning crest of the wave... but I'm having trouble bring all the tidbits of information together in such a way that I can discover whether I'd be happier submitting to Samhaim or another epublisher, or to hold out for an agent to help me get to a major publisher.

I talked about this a little in November, but am happy to revisit the subject. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on large New York publishers rather than regional presses, university presses or other small publishing houses. And when I refer to an e-publisher, I'm talking about the better-known names.

First, let me say that I don't think this necessarily has to be a case of "either/or." Increasingly, there are writers who are comfortable moving back and forth between the two mediums of print and electronic publishing. Off the top of my head I can think of MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, Sylvia Day and Shelley Bradley.

And, as Katy said, we are seeing relationships being developed between print and e-publishers so an author's books can be seen in both mediums. Simon & Schuster has formed a relationship with Ellora's Cave, and Kensington has done the same thing with Samhain.

Let me run through the major differences between the two mediums first.

New York Print Publisher: You're more likely to get an advance, and your books will be sold to the two biggest markets: bookstores and libraries. As a new author, your royalty percentage will be on the low end (6% to 8%), and it can take a long time to see your book in print (usually about a year although it can sometimes take longer).

This is a huge investment for the publisher, and they're going to want to see a return on that investment. Your sell-through percentage is critical (Sell-through is the percentage of copies sold versus the percentage of copies that were distributed. Example: 12K copies were printed and 10K copies were sold to retailers and libraries. After returns, 4K copies were actually sold. Four thousand copies versus the 10K distributed would be a sell-through percentage of 40%).

The last I heard, the average advance was $5,000. I'd welcome hearing from anyone who has more up-to-date information than that. Of course, you have to earn back your advance before your royalty payments start (that's why it's called an advance).

Online publisher: The chief advantages that all online publishers have over print publishers are that they can publish a virtual book with very little investment and with a great deal of speed. For these reasons, online publishers rarely pay advances, but their royalty percentages are much higher (from 33% to 50%).

Before you get excited about the higher royalty percentage, remember that making money depends upon how many books are sold. Therefore, the size of your target audience is critical. This is where those bookstore and library sales can tilt the balance. Even if we assume the prices of the print book and of the e-book are the same (not likely), seven percent of 3,500 books sold is a better deal than 35% of 500 books sold.

The critical issue in how much you'll make is how big an audience the e-publisher attracts.

Common wisdom has it that print houses are much more selective than on-line publishers in the quality of work they accept. I think this is less true of the biggest on-line publishers. What I do think is true is that on-line houses are much more comfortable taking risks in the type of work they contract for. Print publishers are much slower to respond to trends. M/m erotic romance is huge at the on-line houses right now, but is not as common in print.

Common wisdom once had it that an indicator of quality writing and career advancement was being able to start out at a lesser known e-publisher and move up to the better known e-publishers or over to print. The danger was that some writers got too comfortable with the lowered bar for quality at the smaller e-publishers and developed sloppy habits (head hopping, squishy characterizations, over-used plots). But the same thing could be said about formula print novelists. Writers simply need to be committed to constant improvement of their craft.

Katy, IMHO, the decision of which direction to take comes down to a few questions:

1) How well do you tolerate long waits? It can be tougher to get an agent than to get published. Can you persevere for what might be a long time, continuing to write while sending your manuscript out to multiple agents?

2) How well do you tolerate rejection? Can you continue to send your manuscript out and stay positive despite receiving multiple rejections?

3) How important is it to you to hold a physical book in your hands? Will you be satisfied with an e-book?

My book will be released September 4--two years after I finished writing it. Half of my friends opted to go the e-book route, and they've been published for more than a year. And not just published. Multi-published by multiple e-publishers. I'd be lying if I said I didn't second guess my decision half a dozen times over that first year. But I opted for the longer road.

Only you can answer these questions for you. Good luck.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Falling Off The Wagon

Two things happened to me yesterday--I experienced age discrimination for the first time, and I fell off the wagon after ten years' abstinence.

Twice a year, my job demands I visit Bethesda, Maryland--home to the National Institutes of Health. It gives me an opportunity to interact with my fifteen peers from around the country. But it's also a logistical nightmare--because of Tribble.

Now that my little Manx cat is over twenty and incredibly frail, leaving her when I travel presents problems. My vet does not usually offer boarding services although he has occasionally accommodated me. I try not to abuse him.

The easiest thing on a practical level would be to leave her at home and ask someone to check on her twice a day. But I have an unreasonable fear of leaving her there and having her die while I'm away. Every day when I return home from work, I have to steel myself to the possibility that I'll find her tiny cold body inside. I wouldn't want someone else to find her that way, and I wouldn't want to learn she died during the time I was out of state. I know it's irrational, but that's the definition of irrational--a fear that defies logic.

So, I've been boarding the three cats each time I traipse off to Bethesda--at a cost of $50 a day. It would be cheaper to leave Bob and Dinah at home, but I think Tribble does better surrounded by her homeboys.

Yesterday, I learned that Petsmart is now offering boarding services. There's a Petsmart on my way to the airport, which would save me nearly an hour in the round trip to my current kennel. I picked up the phone and called Petsmart to make a reservation for three nights in September.

Everything went fine until I gave Trib's age. The young woman taking the reservation was noticeably shocked. "Oh, we're not set up to give medication," she said.

"No problem," I replied. "Tribble isn't on any medication."

She paused. "We'll need a list of her health issues."

"Outside of drinking a lot of water, she has no health issues," I responded. Before she could jump in, I added, "I've already had her checked. She isn't diabetic."

"Just a minute, please." Without waiting for me to agree, she put me on hold. I waited for about three minutes for her to return. Since I was scheduled to be out of the office today, I was trying to finish a grant application before going home yesterday.

"I'm sorry," her voice made me jump. "We won't be able to board Tribble."

Of course, I asked to speak to the supervisor who had just discriminated against my little girl. Yes, I acknowledged to the supervisor, there was a distinct possibility that Trib might pick those three days out of the more than eight thousand she's been alive to shuffle off to glory. I was prepared for that eventuality.

Would I be willing to let them talk to my vet? Of course.

I didn't even argue when they asked to examine Tribble before mid-September. I said I'd be happy to bring her by for an audition. The supervisor reluctantly accepted the reservation.

Satisfied that I'd just simplified my life, I went back to writing my grant. As grants go, it's a small one, but it's dear to my heart. It's an epidemiologic and ethnographic study of the "cheese" heroin epidemic in the Dallas area. Twenty-four teenagers have now died from mixing black tar heroin with over-the-counter medication. The kids have mostly been Hispanic.

My cell phone rang. It was the Petsmart supervisor. The store manager had made the decision NOT to accept my three cats for boarding. My request to speak to the manager was rebuffed. Tribble and I were victims of age discrimination.

The rest of the day didn't go any better. It was nearly 7:30 PM before I was able to upload the grant to the university's internal grants management system. Grants Management will spend the day today obtaining all the requisite signatures before sending the grant off to Bethesda.

On my way home, I swung by my eye doctor's office where they'd left four boxes of contact lenses in their mailbox for me to pick up. That's when temptation hit.

Ahead of me stood the golden arches.

A decade ago, I'd sworn off fast food. I've mostly kept that oath--with a couple of exceptions. I still eat Long John Silver's fish fillets and, once in a great while, I'll eat a hard taco from Taco Bell. But I've avoided Mickey D's with a steely resolve that has frankly surprised even me.

Like most addicts who fall off the wagon, I yielded to a sudden, impulsive act. Before I could repeat my mantra, "Remember your arteries," I was in the drive-thru line ordering a fish fillet sandwich and . . . a small french fry.

In the last ten years, I've dreamed of McDonald's golden, salty french fries.

As I drove toward my home, I nibbled on the fresh, hot fries.

S-H-O-C-K!!! They weren't as good as my memory. I know they've changed the recipe in the ensuing years, but OMG. Here I'd been fantasizing about them for years and I didn't even want to finish the little bag. By the time I got home, I was happy to throw the rest of the fries and the fish sandwich away.

I guess it's true. You CAN'T go home again.

Unless, of course, you're Tribble. Then you can't LEAVE home.