Thursday, January 31, 2008

Price of Books Falls in Japan

I'm heading back to work this morning.

This was in the Asia Pulse News on Monday:

Sales of books and magazines in 2007 dropped for the third straight year, falling 3.1 per cent to 2.08 trillion yen (US$19 billion), according to figures released Friday by the Research Institute for Publications.

These numbers are deceptive because, while the number of books sold didn't change, the price of them did. A greater percentage of books sold were cheap cell phone novels that brought down the average price of all books by 3.8 percent.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Optimism on the Striking Writer Front

I'm taking another sick day. This will be a short post so I can go back to bed.

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times reported "guarded optimism" in the ongoing talks between the studios and striking writers.

The [Writers] guild's board of directors, which ultimately has to approve any contract, met Monday to discuss the status of negotiations. One main area of concern is a flat residual payment of $1,200 that studios gave directors for streaming their shows in the first year.

Writers fear that such a rate could one day give networks greater incentive to rerun shows online, where residuals would be a fraction of what producers currently are required to pay.

While the agreement the Directors Guild reached with the studios is being used as a model, the article points out that writers have issues unique to their craft. "Chief among them is securing so-called separated rights to their projects, which guarantee writers additional payments and credit when their work migrates from one medium to another, such as a Web show that spawns a TV pilot."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Buying on the Internet

I'm taking a sick day. I feel really, really awful. After I post this, I'm going back to bed to die.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness for pointing me toward a BBC story yesterday.

According to the BBC, "Polling company Nielsen Online surveyed 26,312 people in 48 countries. 41% of internet users had bought books online, it said."

Nielsen Online said "much of the increase was in emerging markets, such as South Korea and India . . ."

Here's Nielsen's breakdown of the top Internet book buyers by country:

1. South Korea - 58%
2. Germany - 55%
3. Austria - 54%
4. Vietnam - 54%
5. Brazil - 51%
6. Egypt - 49%
7. China - 48%
8. India - 46%
9. Taiwan - 45%
10. UK - 45%

That 58% of Internet users for #1 South Korea translates to approximately 18,000,000 people who purchased books. By contrast, compare that to the U.K. where 45% of Internet users is estimated to be 14,500,000 people.

At only 38% of its Internet users buying books, the U.S. didn't make the top ten list--even though that 38% translates to approximately 57,500,000 people.

These results compare to a similar poll done two years ago when 34% of Internet users had purchased books.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A New Contest

Agent Nathan Bransford has finally taken permanent leave of his senses.

He's posted an invitation to "The Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge" on his blog here.

Essentially, the Essential FPC invites writers to post the first 500 words of their manuscript in the comments section of his blog between now and Wednesday at 5:00 PM (Pacific time).

Nathan and his friend Holly will judge the entries.

As for prizes:

And the prizes! The ultimate grand prize deluxe winner will receive the satisfaction of knowing they have a seriously awesome first page, and will have a choice of a query critique, partial critique, 10 minute phone conversation, or one of my clients' books. Runners-up will receive a query critique or other agreed-upon prize.

It's been slightly over three months since Nathan announced "The Largely Indispensable First Paragraph Challenge," and I'm guessing the holidays helped to blunt the pain of that experience--although I notice May, Nathan's intrepid assistant for that little soiree, didn't volunteer for this outing. She's probably moved out of town and left no forwarding address.

So, come on, you slackers. Get up and going. Hie thee over to Nathan's and post your first 500 words.

[giggle, giggle]

Is Your Novel Fresh And Original?

Agent Jonathan Lyons had a post on Saturday that should be required reading for every would-be writer.

Go here and scroll down to January 26th: "Fresh and Original Ideas."

In the kindest possible way, Jonathan tells writers that most of the query letters he gets are neither fresh nor original.

Every time I walk into Barnes & Noble and see a dozen new vampire novels I know just how he feels. Enough already with the vampires.

Now if you could give me a book where the vampire has an allergy to Type O blood that results in an eating disorder, maybe I'd read it.

Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan.

Briggs Signs With The Dabel Brothers

I had a wonderful writing weekend. It was cold and wet and foggy both mornings, which encouraged me to stay indoors and write.

I took a break to moderate the "Chatting With Joyfully Reviewed" Yahoo group from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (CST) on Saturday. I always enjoy visiting that group, which is lively and a lot of fun.

Because the Dallas Cowboys lost two weeks ago, my poor brother--the sports columnist--ended up in Green Bay instead of in Dallas last weekend. His plan had been to bring me Dancer, my mother's overweight whippet, but the Dallas loss changed the plan. Following advice from readers of this blog, we're going to explore other options to keep Dancer with Mom.

But now, my dog hunger has been piqued. I dogsat Penny, the Lab from next door, over the weekend. Once it warmed up, I took her for long walks on both days. After spending time with her, I was seriously tempted to stop off at the local animal shelter. The thing that stops me is how little disposable time I have these days. It would be unfair to a dog.

I've written about Patricia Briggs on this blog before, first on August 18 here and later on January 12 here. I've now read three books and one short story in her Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. reported on Friday that the Dabel Brothers have signed Briggs to a contract for an original comic series featuring Mercy Thompson. The four-part miniseries will appear in the latter half of 2008. Del Ray will produce a hardcover collection of the series in 2009.

The Dabel Brothers are four brothers (Ernst, Les, David and Pascal) whose company is based in Atlanta. In the seven years they've been in operation, they've earned a reputation as a roving band that has moved from publisher to publisher while turning out high-quality graphic novels based on fantasy novels by famous authors as well as up-and-coming urban fantasy writers.

Since 2001, the Dabel Brothers have worked and then broken off from Image Comics, Devil's Due, Alias Enterprises, Red Eagle Entertainment and Marvel Publishing. A number of those breaks have been well-publicized and vitriolic, with some legal entanglements apparently still lingering.

Even while they've been wandering minstrels, the Dabels have signed deals with top writers to do graphic adaptations of their novels. Their first big client was George R.R. Martin. After the success of their six-book series for him, they signed Robert Silverberg, Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, and Orson Scott Card.

In 2006, the Dabel Brothers added Laurell K. Hamilton to their stable.

Last August, they announced an adaptation of best-selling author Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, which will debut next month.

Jim Butcher's Dresden File novels will be released this year in twelve to sixteen monthly comics for each book.

Thanks to Dear Author here for bringing the ICv2 story to my attention.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Daily Coyote Hits The Big Time

On December 1, I offered you a link to the blog Daily Coyote here.

The Daily Coyote blog came on line in mid-September. I discovered it in November when Dooce recommended it. Just after Christmas, the Chicago Tribune did a story on the blog, which was then logging 30,000 hits a day.

Shreve Stockton, a 30-year-old writer and photographer, lives in a one-room log cabin in Wyoming with her cat Eli. She has previously published a cookbook on Eating Gluten Free.

Two years ago, while riding her Vespa across country from San Francisco to New York, she fell in love with Wyoming. She's been supporting herself as a ranch hand and substitute teacher.

In April, 2007, hunters killed two coyotes, leaving behind a ten-day-old pup. Shreve took the baby in, named him Charlie and started a photo record of his growth. Five months later, she began her blog, posting a photo a day of Charlie, Eli (who was NOT amused by his new bedmate) and her surroundings.

The Chicago Tribune article said:

People are seriously loving this site. Stockton's photos are beautiful, but, more important, they capitalize on a triumvirate of cultural fascinations: blogging, living off the grid (Stockton has electricity and DSL but no running water in the winter) and, perhaps most viscerally and ridiculously, having a wild animal as a pet.

Shreve began by offering to sell photos of Charlie, then she offered to sell calendars of Charlie. Now for $5 a month, you can subscribe to The Daily Coyote.

I am confident she is building a database of names to be used for the inevitable Charlie book. My only question as to whether she would self-publish (she has a niche) or go traditional was answered in the January 14th edition of Publishers Weekly:

Marysue Rucci [of Simon and Schuster] preempted world rights to a memoir by 30-year-old photographer Shreve Stockton titled The Daily Coyote: A Year with Charlie, derived from her popular blog of the same name; Stacey Glick at Dystel & Goderich made the sale . . . pub date is scheduled for fall 2008.

If you visit the site, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the photos in order. We are still five months behind real time although--if you read the FAQ in her blog's left-hand column--you can link to a picture of Charlie today in the snow.

Everyone is holding their collective breath to see what Charlie does next month when mating season begins. My brother, who is an avid hunter, says Shreve should neuter Charlie because one of two things will happen: (1) He'll be killed by a coyote pack, or (2) Unafraid of humans, he will not run from hunters and be shot. I hope my brother is wrong.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rambo Revisited

We went to see Rambo last night--along with half the teenage boys in Dallas County. The theatre was packed.

If you don't remember (or never saw) the Rambo series, here's a cheat sheet on the three previous films. For the record, the first two Rambo movies would be on my top twenty action films list:
  • First Blood: Released in 1982, seven years after the official end of the Vietnam War, the film tells of a troubled veteran having difficulty adjusting to life in the States. Medal of Honor recipient John Rambo is now a drifter. He wanders into Hope, WA, looking for the only other survivor of his elite Special Forces unit, but learns his friend died of cancer as the result of his exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange. When the local sheriff--who doesn't like vagrants--tries to run Rambo out of town, Rambo fights back, using the skills that kept him alive in Vietnam. By the end of the film, Hope is in shambles, and Rambo is en route to prison.

The film was a hit, tapping into the ambivalence many Americans had for both the Vietnam War and its veterans. It depicted post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which as the result of a ground-breaking book in 1980 was only beginning to be understood at the time.

  • First Blood, Part II: Rambo is sprung from federal prison by his old commander, Colonel Trautman. Congress is trying to satisfy families of MIAs from the War by sending a fact-finding mission to see if there are any POWs still alive in Vietnam. The hope is that Rambo will document the fact that there are no U.S. soldiers still imprisoned. Instead, he locates POWs and tries to extract one. His team abandons him, and he's captured by the Vietnamese. He becomes a one-man war, destroying the camp and rescuing the POWs.

This film was a mega-hit, earning $300 million, more than twice what the first movie did. It was the second most successful film of 1985. Early in the film, Rambo asks Trautman, "Sir, do we get to win this time?" I suspect Americans, still smarting over the defeat in Vietnam a decade earlier, embraced the film because, through Rambo, they got to vicariously win "this time." Even President Reagan was a fan of the movie.

  • Rambo III: This film was released in 1988, three years after Part II. Rambo now lives a quiet life in Thailand, where he lives and works in a monastery. Colonel Trautman arrives and asks Rambo to help him deliver weapons to the Mujahedeen, the freedom fighters opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan. Rambo refuses but, when Trautman is taken prisoner by the Soviets, he flies to the rescue. The finale has Rambo and Trautman facing down the entire Soviet force in Afghanistan until the Mujahedeen arrive to help.

Stallone lost his sense of proportion with this film. It was over-the-top, and the finale was just plain silly. said: "Rambo III is the movie that killed the Rambo franchise for the next 20 years. " They were right.

Now, after that over-long build-up, here's my review of Rambo, the fourth film in the franchise.

It is probably the most gratuitously violent film I've ever seen. According to Wikipedia, there are a total of 236 kills or 2.59 kills per minute.

I got the impression that Stallone was trying to redeem the plot from the third film. Why he would pick the plot from the worst of the three movies to revisit is a mystery to me. Julie Benz, the female lead of the new film, came to the series without having seen it before. She said in an interview that Sly asked her to watch the first and second films, but not the third. That says to me he knew he blew the third movie. So why redo it?

This time, instead of the plight of the people of Afghanistan, Stallone focuses on the plight of the Christian Karen tribe in Burma (Myanmar). As the film opens, Rambo is again living quietly in Thailand. He owns a boat and earns a living by trapping poisonous snakes for exhibitions. A group of missionaries approaches him and asks to use his boat to deliver drugs and supplies to the Karen tribe. Rambo refuses.

Just like in Rambo III, the missionaries are caught and imprisoned. One by one, they are being fed to the pigs. Rambo agrees to go back in with a small team of mercenaries to try a rescue.

That's it. That's the ENTIRE plot. The dialogue is limited and stilted. There is no subtlety in the characters. They are all caricatures. The rest of the film is people being blown up, people being eaten alive, people being cut in half or having their throats ripped out, children being shot in the head or chest.

Stallone has been quoted in interviews saying he wanted to draw attention to the genocide in Burma. In my opinion, showing endless shots of people being slaughtered was not the way to do this.

It's obscene.

Stallone is in pretty good physical shape. If the film had any plot or heart, I would probably have enjoyed it. His age did not distract me. What DID distract me was his one-note performance. It consisted entirely of anger. What passed as a smoldering expression when he was younger came across as sullen now.

I'm guessing he decided he could not do the kind of physical performance he did in the earlier films. In the finale, he is manning a machine gun nest. All he does is cut people in half for ten minutes with that machine gun. It was simply gross.

I felt like I was watching a videogame where the object was to kill as many people as possible. Maybe that will appeal to some viewers. It didn't do anything for me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

More Independent Deals With the Writers' Union

The Associated Press released the following today:

Lionsgate and Marvel studios have signed interim deals with the striking Writers Guild of America, the union said Thursday.

The deals followed separate guild pacts with other independent production companies such as United Artists, The Weinstein Co. and David Letterman's Worldwide Pants.

The guild said such agreements confirm it's possible for writers to be compensated fairly and for companies to operate profitably.

Come Joyfully Chat

Tomorrow the Berkley and NAL HEAT authors are going to be chatting in the Joyfully Reviewed Yahoo group. Both imprints are part of Penguin.

I will be joining Alyssa Brooks, Kathleen Dante, Cherie Feather, Joey W. Hill, Julia Templeton, Saskia Walker & Sasha White from 10 AM to 10 PM Eastern Time on Saturday.

I've agreed to take the lead for a two-hour period from noon to 2:00 PM Eastern time (11 AM to 1:00 PM Central).

Joyfully Reviewed has over 1,500 members. If you'd like to join our chat, please go here and join the group.

Friday Morning Political Quarterbacking

The New York Times strongly endorses Hilary Clinton today

Also, during yesterday's Fresh Air on NPR, Terry Gross interviewed Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate online magazine about his new book, The Bush Tragedy.

I found the interview very interesting. Weisberg describes President Bush in light of his family background, saying that nothing the president has done should come as a surprise because he has followed a consistent path throughout his life.

You can read an excerpt or listen to the entire interview here.

To See Or Not To See

Okay, by now, you all know I'm an action film fan. I love fast-moving adventures films, and I'm not disturbed by violence in these movies because it has no relation to real-life violence.

I entertained myself in traffic yesterday morning trying to name my favorite action films. Here they are in alphabetical order:

1) Aliens
2) Blade Runner
3) Bourne Ultimatum
4) Casino Royale
5) Collateral
6) Die Hard
7) First Blood
8) Lethal Weapon
9) The Long Kiss Goodnight
10) Pulp Fiction
11) The Rock
12) The Terminator

You probably know where this is leading.

Rambo premieres today.

First Blood is one of my all-time favorite action movies. First Blood, Part II would probably make my top twenty favorite films.

Of course, Rambo III was god-awful. It was such a huge embarrassment that I can't even believe I'm thinking about going to see the new film.

It's been twenty-five years since the first film and almost twenty years since the third one. Sly Stallone is now sixty-one years old.

I've known more than one guy over sixty whom I found very sexy. Somehow I don't think Sly is going to be one of them.

I'm so conflicted.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More on Yahoo

This morning, the Associated Press released a story on Yahoo that continues where I dropped off last night:

Yahoo Inc., is in early discussions with major record labels over offering unprotected MP3s either for sale or for free as part of an ad-supported service, two record company executives familiar with the talks said Wednesday. . .

Unlike music files that come with copy protections embedded, MP3 files are compatible with most portable music devices, including Apple Inc.'s market-leading iPod media players, Microsoft Corp.'s Zune and mobile phones that play music.

The company's management said last fall it had begun to de-emphasize its subscription model in favor of an advertising-supported music service. Yahoo also expanded it online music pages by adding song lyrics.

The Internet pioneer recently announced plans for a multiyear restructuring plan that calls for the elimination of some of its existing areas of business.

Yahoo Looks Ripe For A Deal

Saturday's Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had an interesting article that suggests Yahoo is ready for a shake-up.

The WSJ makes this case:

Consider the management question. A month after Mr. [Jerry] Yang, a Yahoo founder, took over from former Hollywood studio boss Terry Semel in June, he promised action to turn around the flailing Internet titan within 100 days. Nearly 200 days later, there is little sign of this. Since he took over, Yahoo stock has dropped 23%, while Google's has added roughly 10%. In the past two years, the company's value has been halved, so it is hard to see how investors would oppose a management shake-up.

The San Jose Mercury News had an article on Tuesday that said:

Yahoo is planning to lay off hundreds of people as part of an effort to refocus its sprawling Internet services to compete with rivals like Google and Facebook, according to a source close to the company.

It's unclear whether the cuts will be deep enough to satisfy Wall Street, which has been urging the Internet company to shed as much as 25 percent of its workforce of about 14,000. More than half of those employees are based outside of the Sunnyvale headquarters.

But the source said Yahoo also is planning to hire people to work on new initiatives, so ultimately there may be no reduction in the total head count . . .

Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a recent research note that Yahoo should outsource paid search, automate display advertising and get rid of one in four employees.

Lindsay's suggestions zero in on Yahoo's main problem: They've continued to pursue a strategy of becoming the next best search engine even while losing search market share. The Mercury News says, "Yang has so far rejected the notion of allowing another company, like Google, to sell search advertising on Yahoo's behalf."

The Wall Street Journal had a second article about Yahoo on Tuesday, saying:

"...Yahoo has many strengths, but its primary weakness remains in search, where its U.S. market share has dropped to 17% from 22% a year ago, despite investing mightily to catch up to Google. An activist would almost certainly pressure Yahoo to swallow its pride and hand its search traffic over to Microsoft, or even Google, for a fat fee. Outsourcing search could boost Yahoo's revenue from the business by at least 30% to $3.5 billion, according to some analyst estimates."

Yahoo's pursuit of a larger piece of the search engine pie hasn't always been graceful. They've certainly managed to annoy me. My provider is Southwestern Bell (in partnership with Yahoo). About every fifth time I click on Google, I get a message asking if I'd like to make Yahoo my home page. This is NOT a good strategy for winning over customers.

The Saturday WSJ article said:

Yahoo is expected to provide more information about any cuts and activities it is scaling back when it announces fourth-quarter results Jan. 29. Any cuts would signal to investors that the company plans to maintain or improve profit margins . . .

At the close of market on January 22, Yahoo's stock price was $19.92. The WSJ estimates the market value of their assets at $28 billion. Shareholders would love to have access to the money value of those assets, particularly the Asian Yahoo Japan and Alibaba. The catch would be the taxable consequences of such a deal.

This is the kind of situation where a corporate finance expert with skill in putting together tax-free deals could help.

The Saturday WSJ article ends:

After outsourcing search to Google and reaping the cost benefits of a lessened head count -- another step investors would like to see -- Yahoo's stock could be worth as much as $36, according to a sum-of-the-parts analysis, or as much as two-thirds more than the current share price. For the right marauding investor, Yahoo looks like glistening treasure. Like all worthy plunder, it won't come without some effort. But for an activist hunting for a target, it looks like a pretty appealing start page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Latest News on the WGA Strike

The Associated Press (AP) released a story on Wednesday, indicating that the logjam preventing further talks between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) seems to have been broken.

The WGA and the AMPTP released a joint statement on Tuesday saying they would begin informal talks today in an effort to end the almost three-month WGA strike.

ABC reported on Wednesday morning that the WGA said it would not picket the Grammy Awards ceremony on February 10th. However, no such announcement relating to the Academy Awards on February 24th was forthcoming.

The hopeful signs come after the Directors Guild of America (DGA) reached tentative agreement with the studio heads. The model of holding "informal" discussions prior to the "formal" negotiations apparently was one that worked successfully
during those talks.

Discussions between the WGA and the AMPTP broke down on December 7th when the studios demanded that the writers stop insisting on unionizing writers working on reality and animation shows.

According to the AP:

The [writers] guild agreed Tuesday to withdraw those two issues to "make absolutely clear our commitment to bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations," union executives Michael Winship and Patric Verrone said in an e-mail letter to members. But organizing efforts for guild representation in those genres will continue and will be discussed more fully in the next two weeks, said Winship and Verrone, presidents of the East Coast and West Coast guilds, respectively.

It's no secret that the writers believe they made a bad deal in their last contract. The Guild underestimated the value of the Internet as a medium for entertainment. Their goal in these negotiations is to obtain improved rights in the new media arena.

The AP reports:

The studio executives said the [DGA] deal established a precedent for the industry's creative talent to "participate financially in every emerging area of new media."

The directors won several key contract points, including union jurisdiction over programs produced for distribution on the Internet and payments for downloaded TV programs and movies based on a percentage of the distributor's gross.

But the writers guild was seeking 2.5 percent of such grosses - about three times what the directors' deal provides.

Stay tuned . . .

Little Things That Make A Difference

Yesterday was a day of enjoying little things.

Little things like taking a shower without an arm encased in plastic. Little things like enjoying Viggo Mortensen's Oscar nomination for Eastern Promises. Little things like seeing my
first cardinal of the year sitting on the backyard fence.

One of my personal goals for 2008 was to add a new way for me to help the environment each week. My changes are small, but at the end of the year, I will have made 52 such small changes. For example, I now bring my own net bags to the supermarket when I go shopping in order to avoid using plastic bags unnecessarily. I don't leave the water running when I brush my teeth. I'm using cold water in my washing machine instead of hot.

I'm finding that each time I do one of these small things, I feel good. My changes may be almost negligible, but they're real. And I'm enjoying doing the research to decide what change to add to the list each week.

Speaking of small things, I've spent a fair amount of time on this blog talking about niches--those small markets comprised of a group with a specific interest.

Sunday's Peoria Journal Star had an article titled "Because of Niches, Magazines Still Strong."

The reporter, Steve Tarter, interviewed a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, Samir Husni who is also known as "Mr. Magazine." Husni estimates that "only 10 percent of the magazines published today fall into the general-interest category, down from 30 percent just 20 years ago."

General interest magazines are the broad stroke, intended to appeal to the widest possible audience. These include magazines like Life and Look, which have long since gone out of business.

Niche magazines are the smaller, special interest ones: Crochet World, Farm & Ranch Living, Water Garden News, All About Beer, Bowhunting World, Today's Christian Woman, New Jersey Life and American Cheerleader.

Niche titles are growing at the same time that, over the last 16 years, three general interest titles--Time, Newsweek and US News & World Report--have lost a total of a million readers.

"Publishers no longer launch magazines looking for a million readers. The new face of magazines are niche titles that may never exceed 10,000 in circulation."

Lesson? Identify your niche and mine the hell out of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Lawsuit Here

Monday's New York Times (NYT) has a cautionary reminder for writers: book titles cannot be copyrighted.

On May 12 of this year a new book related to food will be released by W.W. Norton. The book is The Saucier’s Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Though the Great Cooking Schools of Europe, by Bob Spitz.

Raymond Sokolov, the restaurant columnist for The Wall Street Journal, is incensed by the book's title. According to the NYT,
"In 1976, Mr. Sokolov wrote The Saucier’s Apprentice: A Modern Guide to Classic French Sauces for the Home. Published by Knopf, the book is now in its 16th printing . . . "

After reading Mr. Sokolov's rant about Spitz' "bad taste" (I wonder, was the pun intended?), I was mildly amused when the NYT pointed out that humorist S.J. Perleman had written an essay for The New Yorker on January 14, 1956. The title? "The Saucier's Apprentice."

Oscar Nominations Today

If it wouldn't have been disrespectful of Dr. King, I would have titled this post "Free At Last."

Monday at 3:00 PM, I saw my left hand for the first time in 68 days. It was swollen and flaking; it felt tender and stiff; it was the most beautiful sight I'd seen in . . . well, 68 days.

When my surgeon saw the blister the cast had rubbed on my left thumb, he didn't even argue removing it. I offered to wear a new cast for another two weeks. Before deciding, he X-rayed the hand, showed me the five tiny screws and metal plate he'd installed and manipulated my fingers, sending me to my knees in pain.

He decided he didn't want to put a new cast on it. It's time for me to begin working the hand before it gets so stiff, I'll have serious difficulty regaining use of it. So, for the next month, I'm to exercise it. If I don't have full use by the time of my next visit, I'll have to go into rehab.

Six hours ago, I tried typing with it. I couldn't do it. The fingers wouldn't stretch even the tiny distance required to use the keyboard.

Undeterred, I've been trying to type all evening and can finally write this using both hands--although nowhere near as fast as my usual typing speed. But I don't care. Not having to wrap it up to take a shower or having to look at that moldy old cast is worth almost any price.

It's that time again. Today the Oscar nominations will be announced. As I've done in previous years, I'm listing my suggestions for the top six awards.

Here we go:

Best Actor

  • Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will be Blood)
  • Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages)
  • Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters)

I think George Clooney will be nominated for Michael Clayton, but I replaced him with Viggo Mortensen because I really liked Eastern Promises and thought Viggo should have gotten the nomination for History of Violence in 2005.

I was one of the few people who did not like American Gangster. I had such high hopes for it, but thought it was badly paced. However, I think it likely that Denzel Washington will be nominated for the film. I preferred his performance in The Great Debaters so listed him for that.

Ryan Gosling got passed over last year for Half Nelson. He may snag a nomination this year for Lars and the Real Girl.

UPDATE AT 8:25 AM: I missed two here, but I'm not crying. Viggo got the nomination I wanted him to have. George Clooney WAS nominated along with Tommy Lee Jones, whom I had pegged as a Best Supporting Actor. Denzel Washington and Philip Seymour Hoffman were not named.

Best Actress

  • Julie Christie (Away From Her)
  • Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
  • Keira Knightley (Atonement)
  • Laura Linney (The Savages)
  • Ellen Page (Juno)

In 2005, Keira Knightley was nominated for Pride and Prejudice. She lost out to Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. That same year, Amy Adams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Junebug. She lost out to Rachel Weisz. My bet is that Knightley and Adams will battle it out for the last nomination slot for Best Actress this year. I'll confess I was not an Atonement fan, but since I'm not nominating it for Best Picture, I'll give this slot to Knightley.

UPDATE at 8:25 AM: I missed one here. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age grabbed that final slot I gave to Keira Knightley.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford)
  • Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War)
  • Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men)
  • John Travolta (Hairspray)

Casey Affleck was lauded for his roles in two pictures in 2007: Gone Baby Gone and TAOJJBTCRF. I'm betting he'll get nominated for one of the two.

Tommy Lee Jones could be nominated for Best Actor for In The Valley of Elah. I think instead he'll get nominated as Best Supporting Actor for No Country.

Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for 2005's Capote. I think he's more likely to win the Best Supporting Actor nod this year for Charlie Wilson's War than he is to win a nomination for The Savages. I just really loved The Savages.

I wanted to nominate Josh Brolin for either American Gangster or No Country. I threw John Travolta in as a wild card instead.

UPDATE at 8:25 AM: Again, I missed two. Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for Best Actor instead of Best Supporting Actor and John Travolta wasn't nominated at all. Instead Hal Holbrook was nominated for Into the Wild. and Tom Wilkinson was nominated for Michael Clayton.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd)
  • Ruby Dee (American Gangster)
  • Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement)
  • Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)

Since I nominated Travolta for his gender-bending role, it seemed only fair to nominate Cate Blanchett for her role as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.

I think Helena Bonham Carter will get passed over and that would be a shame. She did a terrific job in Sweeney Todd. She'll probably get snubbed in favor of Saoirse Ronin in Atonement.

UPDATE at 8:25 AM: Once more I missed two. I was right about Helena Bonham Carter getting passed over for Saoirse Ronin. Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton edged out my pick of Vanessa Redgrave for Atonement.

I was delighted by Ruby Dee's nomination, the only one for American Gangster. Apparently the Academy agreed with my low estimation for that movie.

Best Director

  • Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men)
  • David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises)
  • Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)
  • Ridley Scott (American Gangster)
  • Joe Wright (Atonement)

Okay, I know the odds are waayyy against Paul Greengrass and David Cronenberg, but here I went with my heart.

Since I snubbed American Gangster and Atonement in other categories, I balanced my choices here with those films.

UPDATE at 8:25 AM: Gina was right. I should have taken a look at the DGA nominations. I missed FOUR of the picks here. The only one I nailed was No Country For Old Men.

The nominations included Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood, Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, Jason Reitman for Juno, and Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Best Picture

  • Juno
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Sweeney Todd
  • The Savages
  • There Will Be Blood

I could have erred by not listing American Gangster or Atonement. I just didn't admire either film all that much. I was torn between Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood. I went with the one most likely to be on the minds of the Academy voters.

UPDATE at 8:25 AM: Again, I missed two. Sweeney Todd and The Savages were edged out by Atonement and Michael Clayton.

Apparently the Academy voters didn't agree with me about Atonement. I KNOW how much they like those big sweeping historical sagas. I do, too, sometimes. Just not this year.

Monday, January 21, 2008

With This Faith We Will ... Work Together

I had today off, and I'm taking tomorrow off, too.

It seemed only right that since MLK gave me the day off, I should spend ten minutes listening to the speech that, according to Wikipedia, "was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address."

Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. President Kennedy had expressed anxiety to his closest advisors that, if there wasn't a large turnout for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it would set back his efforts to push a Civil Rights bill through Congress. The president's fears were allayed when over two hundred thousand supporters showed up.

November Bookstore Sales

Shelf Awareness reported on November bookstore sales last week. Preliminary census estimates put November sales at $1.186 billion, up 7.5% from from the same month in 2006.

Year to date through November, bookstore sales were $14.654 billion, up 0.8% from for the same period in 2006.

"This marks the fifth month in a row that bookstore sales were up over the same period last year--and the second month in a row that year-to-date sales have topped last year's comparable figures."

When we compare bookstore sales to total retail sales in November, we find bookstore sales did better than the market as a whole. November total retail sales were $347,688 billion, up 6.4% over November 2006.

However, retail sales for the year to date were up 4.1% compared to the 0.8% for bookstores.

As always, remember the Census Bureau figures do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Edward Albee's Decree

While I was running errands on Saturday, I wore my Sony S2 Walkman so I could listen to NPR's Morning Edition. I heard an interview that indicated Edward Albee will no longer give professional theater companies permission to stage his Zoo Story alone. He now insists that it can only be staged as the second act in his play Peter and Jerry.

Zoo Story was Albee's first play, written in 1958 when he was just 30. It tells the story of two men who meet on a bench in New York's Central Park. Peter's a married publishing executive and Jerry describes himself as a "permanent transient." The play explores themes of loneliness and isolation.

This isn't the first time Albee's tinkered with Zoo Story. In 1981 he wrote a parody of it called Another Part of the Zoo for a gay benefit. That effort was not well received by the critics.

In 2003, the Hartford Stage wanted to produce Zoo Story, but needed to fill out the stage bill. They commissioned Albee to write another one-act play. To their surprise, Albee came back with a prequel to Zoo Story that he called Homelife. Hartford Stage produced the two plays as one play called Peter and Jerry during their 2004 season.

“They’re still two plays,” Albee told Entertainment Connecticut Central magazine during the play's run. “They can be performed separately. But I think of it now as one play.”

Albee has formalized his belief. Since Zoo Story is HIS play, he insists it either be performed as part of Peter and Jerry or not at all.

He still gives permission to non-professional groups like high schools and colleges to produce "Zoo Story" alone. Zoo Story is a popular choice for schools because, with just one act, it can be easily staged.

Saturday Is For Play

Saturday was the start of a four-day weekend for me. The day was busy because I mixed business and pleasure. I did an online author's chat and later signed stock in a Borders in Uptown Dallas (where Bad Girl is set). I also met my good friend ML for a movie at the Magnolia Theater in Uptown. Afterward, we went across the street to the Taco Diner for Los Cabos salads and two hours of girl talk.

ML and I have been friends for more than twenty years. Around 1990, we both dropped out of the corporate world. She was a VP at a major Dallas bank when she decided to return to school for a degree in design. Shortly afterward I started graduate school for my MSW.

Got home a little while ago to find my friend Colleen here tagged me to reveal six random things about myself, and then to tag six others.

Here are the rules
  • Link to the person that tagged you
  • Post the rules on your blog
  • Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
  • Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
  • Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website

So here goes:

1) I can't stand to put my face under water. When swimming, I use the side stroke and back stroke to keep my face out of the water.

2) I have a Beanie Baby collection. It started when my nieces were very small; I purchased the stuffed animals for them. When they outgrew the toys, I started buying them for myself. Now I only keep the ones given out by sports teams as souvenirs during games. I installed shelves around my study about eighteen inches below the ceiling and put the Beanie Babies up there in display cases. Each case contains one Beanie Baby and the ticket to the game at which it was given out.

3) My favorite color is purple. My good friend Maria Zannini, who is a very talented artist, designed a new website wallpaper for me, which prompted the banner at the top of this blog. I'm waiting for my web designer to implement it on my website--a website I've sorely neglected in favor of this blog.

4) I like most people. The only ones I am guaranteed to dislike are those who use sarcasm to be cruel and who, when called on it, claim they were just being humorous. Invariably, I find these people to be mean-spirited in other areas of their lives. I make it a practice to avoid them on principle.

5) My favorite dessert is custard--whether Mexican flan or French creme brulee, I don't care.

6) The strength in my eyes is wildly different. I wear contacts: +1.25 in the right eye and +4.00 in the left.

My turn to tag six people. In alphabetical order they are:


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oh, Frabjous Day

I'm wearing my Sony S2 walkman yesterday afternoon and listening to the news when I hear a commercial for the network debut of Dexter, the Showtime hit cable show about a serial killer who works for the Miami Police Department. The commercial said the show's first season would begin airing on CBS in February.

I've talked about Dexter on this blog before. Go here for my first post. I fought reading the debut novel for months. The first page was a cliche and the author's penchant for alliteration made my teeth hurt.

When I finally broke down and bought the first book, it took fifteen pages to convert me into a fan. The book had the same sly, dark humor that makes me love the Coen Brother films.

The series by Jeff Lindsay now has three books: Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter and the most recent, Dexter in the Dark.

When Showtime began running a cable series based on the books, I convinced one of my brothers to tape it and mail it to me each month.

After hearing the commercial yesterday, I googled it. Here's what had to say:

In a significant move designed to further strike-proof its schedule, CBS will begin airing repeats of Showtime's cult hit fave Dexter on Feb. 17. The show just wrapped its second season on the CBS-owned premium cable network. The Eye says it will edit the first season of the series -- a graphic drama starring Michael C. Hall . . . as a forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer -- for broadcast at 10 p.m. Sundays. By opting to air 12 episodes of Dexter, CBS will become the first broadcast network to program an entire season of a premium cable series.

Oh, frabjous day!!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Announcement of the Edgar Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2008 Edgar Awards. They are:

Best Novel Nominees

  • Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt and Company)
  • Priest by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
  • Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books)
  • Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best First Novel By An American Author Nominees

  • Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
  • In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group - Viking)
  • Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard (The Rookery Press)
  • Head Games by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
  • Pyres by Derek Nikitas (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original

  • Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
  • Blood of Paradise by David Corbett (Random House - Mortalis)
  • Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks (Serpent's Tail)
  • Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill (Hard Case Crime)
  • Who is Conrad Hirst? by Kevin Wignall (Simon & Schuster)

Best Critical/Biographical

  • The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction by Patrick Anderson (Random House)
  • A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by Maurizio Ascari (Palgrave Macmillan)
  • Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction by Christiana Gregoriou (Palgrave Macmillan)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (The Penguin Press)
  • Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy by Jean Gould O'Connell (McFarland & Company)

The awards will be announced at the MWA's 62nd Annual Edgar Awards banquet on Thursday May 1, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

At that banquet, Bill Pronzini, author of the "Nameless Detective" series will be honored with the 2008 Grand Master Award.

Revisiting the Cookbook Controversy

I've done several posts on the cookbook contretemps between Jessica Seinfeld and Missy Chase Lapine. Both women released cookbooks last year on how to hide vegetables and other healthy ingredients inside family recipes. My first post was here on October 21.

When Lapine sued the Seinfelds for defamation and copyright infringement, I followed up with a post here on January 8th. I also directed readers to The Smoking Gun's website here to read the legal filing.

Yesterday, Publishers Weekly reported that Lapine has signed a deal for a third Sneaky Chef cookbook. "Chase Lapine’s second book with Running Press, The Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on
your Man in the Kitchen
, comes out in April. This third volume will publish sometime in 2009."

My first thought was, "Good for her." My second thought was, "I wonder if the date has been set for the hearing in the case against the Seinfelds? Wouldn't it be interesting if that hearing date is close to the release of the second book?"

As any reader who followed the lawsuit against Dan Brown last year knows, you can't copyright an idea. Lapine's case for copyright infringement feels really weak. However, I felt differently about the defamation case.

If you want to read a legal expert's opinion of Lapine's chances in court, go here to read Julie Hilden's assessment. Hilden is a First Amendment law expert.

Another Update on the Writers' Strike

The big news is that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) reached a tentative deal with the film and television producers yesterday after less than a week of formal negotiation.

The DGA contract doesn't expire until June 30, 2008.

Reuters reported on the deal, saying "The Directors Guild has a history of reaching swift labor pacts with the studios, but the latest deal has drawn unusually intense scrutiny because of its implications for ending a strike by the Writers Guild of America."

The writers' strike has been going on since November 5, but I reported last month here the talks broke off on December 7th.

In a story in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Writers Guild of America (WGA) officials indicated they planned to review the directors' deal. "The guild leaders said that in examining any deal made by the directors, a key issue will be not just how much money is paid for reuse of movies and TV shows on the Internet, but whether the creation of original work for the Internet comes under the auspices of the guild. Mr. Young [Executive Director of the WGA] said that in the near future, the Internet could become a 'pilot playground' for the testing of new shows, and if the work is created by non-union writers, it could dramatically undercut the union's strength over the long term."

Readers of this blog will remember my post of January 7th here about the new show Quarterlife, which originated on the Internet and then was picked up by NBC. Quarterlife will premiere on February 18th.

Network television shows have been available on the Internet for some time. Quarterlife was the first time a show originating on the Internet has gone the other direction to television.

A week after the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke down in December, the WGA turned up the heat by announcing it was going to try dealing directly with individual studios and production companies, thereby going around the AMPTP. Since that time, it has struck a number of these deals.

The WGA sustained a blow this past week when the four major television studios canceled more than 65 writer contracts.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that this move was acknowledgement "the current television season cannot be salvaged" and "development of net season's crop of new shows also could be in jeopardy."

"For the studios, the terminations were in some part strategic. Payments had not been made on the contracts since November . . . By eliminating the deals now, the studios will no longer be obligated to pay the writers even if the strike ends in the next month or two."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Warning: Major Whine

There's a great site online called Rules of Thumb. It collects rules of thumb and publishes them in categories. Find it here.

I'm thinking about sending them a suggested rule of thumb: No cast should be worn more than three weeks because, at that point, its smell and general unattractiveness outweighs the therapeutic value.

I'm supposed to wear the cast on my left forearm and hand until the end of the month. I've made an appointment on Monday to have it removed. If the surgeon wants me to wear one until January 31st, he's going to have to put a fresh one on.

I waste minutes every morning scrubbing the damn thing with an old toothbrush. The windchill is in the teens today, but I can't get my coat on over it--OR MY GLOVES. I wake up in the night with the cat licking it. I don't think of myself as fastidious, but this thing is just gross.

Okay, I admit it. I'm a lousy patient. But it's been more than two months since I've seen my left hand. I miss it.

Whine over.

Media Trends

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) is preparing a scenario planning workshop for this month called "Shaping the Future of the Newspaper."

This week WAN released 66 trends noted by newspaper executives.

If you think about them, there are no surprises on the list. I've written about many of them here. However, seen in aggregate, the list offers a lot to think about.

Remember: these were written with newspapers in mind. I've aggregated and paraphrased:
  • Consumers are becoming accustomed to demanding 24/7 availability of products and services
  • As choices increase, sales must become more targeted to niches, more directed. Mass marketing becomes less important than niche marketing
  • The increased complexity of life has people seeking to simplify their lives
  • Families look different today: there are more single households, older people, unusual mixes of parents and kids
  • Consumer power: Customers are taking control over media on the Internet (blogs, etc.)
  • Paper is starting to talk
  • Viral marketing (word-of-mouth) offers consumers a level of trust
  • The Long Tail Effect: tailoring content to niches. audiences are fragmenting
  • User-generated content offers self-expression and an opportunity for social networking
  • Newspapers may become free
  • We're becoming accustomed to news when and where we want it. RSS feeds allow people to manage their own news feeds
  • GPS technology is permitting localized content
  • Prosumption: the consumer as producer
  • Citizen journalism: consumers want to be more involved
  • Newspapers can offer more in-depth, analytical journalism
  • The trend is toward more visual content than text
  • There's a competition shift. Any company can become another's competitor
  • Customer loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. Customers shift more easily
  • Online-only companies (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) are becoming competitors to newspapers
  • One-to-one marketing. Google can now identify and pinpoint customers' needs

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Agent Moves

Sometimes it's easier for writers to get connected with a new agent just starting out or one moving to a new agency. Today's Publishers Lunch mentioned a couple of changes, which I'm listing below:

After four years as an agent with Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Los Angeles-based Jenoyne Adams has started her own agency, Bliss Literary Agency International. She will focus on middle grade/YA, literary/ethnic-world fiction, and creative nonfiction/women's interest. Levine Greenberg will continue to represent Adams, who is also a novelist, on her own fiction.

At the Stephanie Tade Agency, Dana Bacher has been hired as an agent and subsidiary rights manager. She will represent general fiction and non-fiction, and will develop a new YA and children's book department at the agency. Bacher associate director of subsidiary rights and marketing director, trade books at Rodale.

Memories Of The Nursery

I returned to my in-person critique group on Monday night. It is a community group, open to anyone, and it meets in a bookstore twice a month.

I'd been away for a while--for two reasons. First, I was busy marketing Bad Girl and, second, erotic romance is an inappropriate genre to read out loud in a bookstore. However, since I'm working on a paranormal, I decided to go back.

There were about fifteen people in attendance, four whom I'd not met before. I was introduced to a woman who had written a short story. She's a talented writer, and I'll look forward to hearing more of her work.

Perhaps it was because there were so many new people, perhaps it was because I had been away for a while and was seeing the group with fresh eyes . . . no matter what the reason . . . I found myself reflecting on the hope and bravery embodied in a community writers' group.

It takes enormous courage to join a group of strangers and share your manuscript. I am not at all nervy about speaking in a group or about meeting strangers. However, walking into that group four years ago took everything I had. To sit down among people I didn't know and read my work out loud while shoppers milled around the circle was terrifying. Never mind that those strangers were then invited to share their thoughts on what I'd written.

Looking back, that first reading was both a rite of passage and a covenant of sorts. I had committed to the pursuit and, to mark that commitment, I stood naked in front of the world and declared my intentions. My fear was only matched by my hope.

I learned a lot in that group. I learned to beware of people who attacked me instead of my words. I learned to beware of takers: those who wanted critiques, but who didn't reciprocate. I learned to avoid the narcissists, who regard their work as perfect and anyone who suggests otherwise as the enemy.

I learned "to take it" as my father used to counsel my brothers--to listen to harsh critiques, yet not take them personally. It was about the words, not about me. Contrary to what my heart told me, my work was not me. I found my first small measure of professional distance about my writing in that group.

I learned to give positive feedback as well as negative. I learned to support others as I hoped to be supported. I learned to celebrate my friends' successes and to derive from those successes the hope I needed in order to stay optimistic.

I learned, and I grew.

One of my favorite children's stories is The Velveteen Rabbit. I did not read it as a child. I was an adult trying to cope with disappointment when I first encountered it.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a new toy that is given to a boy for Christmas. Being new and inexperienced, he is shy among the other toys. The only toy that is kind to him is the Skin Horse, the oldest plaything in the nursery.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender . . . "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oprah Gets Her Own Network

From the Associated Press:

Oprah Winfrey is getting her own TV network.

Discovery Communications and Winfrey announced a deal Tuesday where the Discovery Health network will be turned over to Winfrey next year, becoming OWN - the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The cash-free transaction involved Winfrey turning over her Web site to Discovery, while the communications company makes her chairman of the network, which is currently seen in 68 million homes, said David Zaslav, Discovery Communications chief.

"The focus of the channel will be the focus of Oprah's brand, which is the educate and inspire people to live the best life they can," Zaslav said.

Some of Winfrey's stable of regular contributors could be expected to be part of the programming, he said. Winfrey's current talk show, as well as rights to use of reruns, is spoken for until the end of the 2010-11 season.

Will The Pirate Bay Walk The Plank?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had an interesting article on Friday about a legal case in Sweden.

Swedish prosecutors are preparing to charge the operators of a popular file-sharing service with conspiracy to breach copyright.

The file-sharing site is The Pirate Bay (TPB), and its owners have been thumbing their noses at Hollywood for years. The WSJ claims "...millions of people across the world turn to Pirate Bay whenever they want a free movie, game or piece of software."

According to Wikipedia, TPB began in 2004 and, as of 1/3/08, was ranked 169 in the Alexa ranking list of the world's most-visited internet sites. "The Pirate Bay website allows users to search for and download...files from other users... organized in the categories: Audio, Video, Software applications, Games, and, for registered users only, Pornography."

The Journal reports:

The trial will probably grapple with complex technical issues. One question is the legality of BitTorrent, a computer program that breaks up large files like movies into small pieces so they can be transferred quickly over the Internet.

Although The Pirate Bay maintains an index of BitTorrent files, the files themselves are stored on the computers of other people around the world. Because the copyright files aren't stored on Pirate Bay computers, the site says it isn't breaking the law. Police, prosecutors and entertainment-industry lawyers say the distinction is bogus. The MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] estimates The Pirate Bay's Web site generates $60,000 a month in advertising revenue.

The Swedish people are clearly on the side of TPB in this legal argument.

The public delights in the group's attitude toward anybody who sends it cease-and-desist letters, which are often published on the Web site along with Pirate Bay's cheeky replies. Some 157,000 movies, songs and other files can be found on the site, according to the MPAA, and 1.5 million people visit it a day...

While the entertainment industry hopes a guilty verdict will deter other Swedes from file sharing, it acknowledges that making more entertainment available for legal download would help.

"New services are being explored," says Geraldine Moloney, a spokeswoman in Europe for the MPAA. "The industry is committed to offering film fans as much choice as possible."(WSJ)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Golden Globe Books

From this morning's Shelf Awareness:

Movies based on books did very nicely at the dimmed Golden Globes yesterday. Among the winners: Antonement, best drama and best original score; No Country for Old Men, best screenplay (Ethan and Joel Coen) and best supporting actor (Javier Bardem); The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, best director (Julian Schnabel) and best foreign language film; and Into the Wild, best original song.

Moral Balance

The New York Times had a fascinating article on Sunday titled "The Moral Instinct." You can read it here.

The article written by Dr. Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is lengthy and spends a good deal of time discussing the historical and genetic predisposition to morality.

I became very interested when the subject of moral themes came up below:

When anthropologists like Richard Shweder and Alan Fiske survey moral concerns across the globe, they find that a few themes keep popping up from amid the diversity. People everywhere, at least in some circumstances and with certain other folks in mind, think it’s bad to harm others and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members and conformity to its norms. They believe that it is right to defer to legitimate authorities and to respect people with high status. And they exalt purity, cleanliness and sanctity while loathing defilement, contamination and carnality.

The exact number of themes depends on whether you’re a lumper or a splitter, but Haidt counts five — harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity — and suggests that they are the primary colors of our moral sense. Not only do they keep reappearing in cross-cultural surveys, but each one tugs on the moral intuitions of people in our own culture.

Pinker suggests that, while the five moral spheres are universal, each culture ranks the spheres according to its own individual value system.

Think of the Japanese fear of nonconformity (community), the holy ablutions and dietary restrictions of Hindus and Orthodox Jews (purity), the outrage at insulting the Prophet among Muslims (authority). In the West, we believe that in business and government, fairness should trump community and try to root out nepotism and cronyism. In other parts of the world this is incomprehensible — what heartless creep would favor a perfect stranger over his own brother?

So, too, do individuals rank the moral spheres according to which they hold most dear.

I never realized until I read this article that my personal value system is skewed heavily in favor of harm and fairness, and that I hold community and authority as much less important.

I imagine a balance scale with purity at the dead center of the platform, and with harm and fairness weighing down one side while authority and community hang in the air on the other side.

It's not that I don't value community. I do. However, my need for fairness and to do no harm far outweighs my concern for either community or authority.

I recalled an argument some years back with a loved one. I said, "You see the world only in shades of black-and-white."

He responded, "And you see it only in gray."

Thinking of that now, I realize my value of fairness (seeing all sides) was competing with his value of authority (rules were broken).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could acknowledge another's value system and explain our own without demanding that they accept our values or that we surrender to theirs?

When I was a child, the U.S. was known for tolerance and freedom. Today we talk about imposing our democracy on other nations. What happened?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Just For Fun

I love ladybugs, and I love Gerber daisies.

Just for fun, here's a jigsaw puzzle with a ladybug perched on a Gerber daisy. It took me 6:25 to finish. See how you do.



Saturday, January 12, 2008

Urban Fantasy, Anyone?

If I had to pick the genre I choose to read for pleasure right now, it would be urban fantasy. And in the last month, I've read two great books: one by a writer I've read before and the other by a writer new to me.

Iron Kissed is the third in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books. I've written about the series before here.

And I'm thrilled to report that the books just keep getting better. Moon Called established Briggs' world, and Blood Bound allowed her to explore it, extending the boundaries. Now in Iron Kissed, Briggs has found herself. It is head and shoulders above the first two books--which were already pretty good to begin with.

Iron Kissed begins when the fae call in a favor from Mercy. The coyote walker had borrowed a fairy weapon when she needed it. Now the fae need her help in tracking a serial killer who is slaughtering their kind on the Washington state reservation that the U.S. government established for the fairies.

Mercy's efforts identify the killer but, when he's found missing his head, her friend and mentor is mistakingly arrested for his murder. The fae turn their backs on the accused, deciding to sacrifice him rather than risk humans learning their secrets. It's up to Mercy--and her werewolf friends--to find the real killer and get back a collection of missing fae magical artifacts.

One of the things that pleased me was that Briggs resolved the love triangle between Mercy and the two werewolves in her life. I was getting tired of the dance. I liked the way she handled it.

I was so engrossed in the book, I finished it in 24 hours. Obviously, I wasn't the only one to feel this way because Iron Kissed is #1 on Amazon's Urban Fantasy list. I highly recommend it.

The second urban fantasy I bought was Mike Carey's The Devil You Know. I'll be honest to say that, if I hadn't had a Christmas gift card, I might not have bought the book. I don't generally purchase novels in hardcover by authors with whom I'm not familiar. In this case, I'm glad I did.

Mike Carey is an award-winning graphic novel writer. The Devil You Know is the first novel in a series starring Felix Castor, a free-lance exorcist living in London. Castor, who goes by the nickname "Fix," is hired to rid a small but prestigious archive of a bloody-faced female ghost.

The ad copy for the book says, "Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London--just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That's OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It's the living who piss him off..."

Carey's use of language, humor and imagery blew me away. I found myself re-reading passages just because I liked his phrasing. The book is vaguely reminiscent of Jim Butcher's work--a mystery inside a paranormal.

When I finished the book, I immediately went looking for the sequel. Interestingly enough, the second in the series, Vicious Circle, was published first and in paperback.

That book confirmed my impression of the first. While Carey is an unbelievably skilled writer, he has some issues with pacing. The Devil You Know is better written than Vicious Circle, but both are unevenly paced. Still, his great writing style distracted me in the slower sections, and made it less of a problem.

I recommend The Devil You Know, and will look forward to seeing more of Fix Castor.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Publisher Changes Its Mind

When the Cassie Edwards story was first released by the Associated Press on Wednesday (see my post here), Signet--her publisher--told the AP "She has done nothing wrong."

"The copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author's words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original," according to a statement issued by Signet, an imprint of Penguin. "Ms. Edwards' researched historical novels are precisely the kinds of original, creative works that this copyright policy promotes."

Writers on the Internet clearly did not agree. There has been a firestorm of comment on blogs, and most has not been favorable toward Ms. Edwards.

A couple of hours ago, Signet released a new statement:

"Our original comments were based on Signet's review of a limited selection of passages.

"We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards' books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly. We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously."

As stated above, Signet is an imprint of Penguin. My publisher, NAL, is also an imprint of Penguin. I am delighted to see the new comment.

From Today's New York Times

In cubicles across the country, lunchtime has become the new prime time, as workers click aside their spreadsheets to watch videos on YouTube, news highlights on or other Web offerings.

The trend — part of a broader phenomenon known as video snacking — is turning into a growth business for news and media companies, which are feeding the lunch crowd more fresh content.

Go here to read the entire story.

From Today's Wall Street Journal

Ten weeks into the screenwriters' strike, Weinstein Co. has reached an interim agreement with the Writers Guild of America that will allow the independent studio to restart work on new films, according to Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman.

"It's a done deal," Mr. Weinstein said, adding that he expected it to be signed by this morning. The agreement is similar to the deal announced Monday by the WGA and United Artists Films, the independent studio partly owned by Tom Cruise and his business partner Paula Wagner. The UA deal was the first between the WGA and a film studio since Hollywood writers walked out Nov. 5 after contract negotiations with the major Hollywood studios and television networks broke down.

The Queen Speaks

One of the things I admire most about Nora Roberts, the Queen of Romance, is her honesty. She never equivocates and, when asked, she gives her unvarnished opinion.

Asked about the Cassie Edwards controversy, Queen Nora told the Associated Press (AP):

"Given the side-by-side comparisons I've read, it seems clear Ms. Edwards copied considerable portions of previously published work and used them in her books without attribution to the original source," Roberts wrote in an e-mail to the AP. "By my definition, copying another's work and passing it as your own equals plagiarism. As a writer, a reader and a victim of plagiarism, I feel very strongly on this issue. I'm not a lawyer, but I can't see it as fair use, or fair anything when one writer takes another's work."

The AP followed Nora's comment with: "Both Roberts and Edwards are published by Penguin Group (USA), which on Wednesday defended Edwards, saying: "She has done nothing wrong."

More Publishing Predictions for the New Year

On Wednesday here, I started a discussion of Mike Shatzkin's predictions (made in Monday's Publishers Weekly).

Four of the Shatzin's predictions directly relate to e-publishing. Here's #1:

The popularity of e-books will increase, with titles formatted for Amazon’s Kindle leading the way. Content for the Sony Reader will sell faster than ever, but by this time next year, Kindle-compatible books will be outselling them by more than 2 to 1. And Palm, which has historically been the bestselling format, will have had its best year-on-year increase as well. By year end, nearly every straight-text title published with commercial intent will be available for Kindle; the trick for the other formats will be to make sure they’re included, too. And Kindle pricing will drive the market. But despite the fast growth, e-books will still make up a tiny share of the market—no more than 2% of sales for most titles—and will contribute only a minimal amount to publishers’ bottom lines.

I agree with Shatzkin. Three things will encourage the growth of e-publishing: (1) Technology that makes the e-reading experience more comfortable for consumers. The Kindle represents a technological break-through. While critics decry the unattractive utilitarian look of the Kindle, the one-click purchases, wireless downloads and lengthy retail product list mark it as a major innovation in e-reading devices. (2) The continued movement toward a greener environment. We cannot continue to decimate forests to create books. (3) Corporate greed. E-publishing eliminates printing, shipping, warehousing and the onerous "return for credit" system. Publishing is a business, and electronic publishing saves dollars.

Shatzkin's next prediction on e-publishing was #2:

Sales of books in electronic form to public libraries will continue to grow: Ingram’s MyiLibrary, Follett, NetLibrary and Overdrive are already deep into this business. This opportunity will present a challenge as publishers discover that some older contracts don’t give them the right to make that kind of sale.

I talked about Overdrive's Digital Library Reserve (DLR) platform here on 11/28/05. Through the platform Overdrive offers libraries 24/7 access to the books the library has purchased. I quoted a librarian as saying that patrons are "able to borrow, read and return a book without having to leave their home, and the automatic return feature means no fine."

Prediction #7 said:

Apple, seeing the growth in use of Kindle and Sony Reader, will move to turn the iPhone and iPod into e-book readers. But they will recognize that the problems of loading in content and merchandising books are far more complicated and challenging than doing the same for music. They will solve the problem by teaming up with Ingram’s Lightning Source (for content) and (for merchandising and to reach the book-buying audience). This combination will enable Apple to challenge the Sony/Borders combination and the Kindle, though Amazon’s device still promises to take significant market share away from print and other e-book formats over time.

Apple has already proved that they can create a sexy, exciting product. Amazon met its technological goals, but the Kindle has not as yet captured the reading public's imagination the way the iPod did for music. If Apple does partner with Lightning Source and B&N, at the same time introducing a modern-looking product with multi-functions, it will be interesting to see what happens to Kindle's market share.

And, finally, prediction #10:

Although overall sales will remain paltry, increased activity by publishers selling direct to consumers from their Web sites, particularly digital downloads, will lead to “read and listen” bundles of e-books and digital audio and other pricing experiments (it is worth noting that the Sony Reader and the Kindle can deliver both text and sound). Other combinations, including book-and-audio and book-and-digital file (the latter tried by Amazon), and even combos of multiple titles, will be offered.

An interesting prediction. I would have thought the movement would be toward chopping the content up into its component parts and then to selling those components. I think fast and easy reads are going to be more popular than bundles of reads.

There are numerous e-publishers popping up online offering original content written specifically for e-reading devices. In addition to the immediacy these e-books offer, the shorter lengths make them attractive to a reader with only a spare hour or two in which to relax.

I think book lengths are shrinking and will continue to shrink. But I do think the sale of books in multiple formats is an attractive idea.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

News Writers Reach Agreement With CBS

The Writers Guild, following through on it threat to seek individual deals, reached agreement yesterday with CBS on a new contract for its news writers and associated staff such as researchers, editors, assistants and graphic writers.

The story was reported by the Los Angeles Times this morning and says:

The four-year contract, which still must be approved by the guild's membership, grants CBS employees two 3.5% raises in the next two years. (Most employees will also receive an additional one-time payment of $3,700.) The union had been seeking a 3% raise each year, as well as retroactive pay, which it did not receive.

But the guild succeeded in getting CBS to drop its efforts to create a two-tiered salary scale that would have meant lower wage increases for local radio employees than for television and network radio staffers. The network also withdrew its demand to merge guild and non-guild newsrooms, the union said.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Boy, That Was Fast!

Go here for a news release about Cassie Edwards by the Associated Press at 9:06 PM tonight.

A Dog Named Dancer

A little over nine years ago, my father died. He and my mother had been together from their teens. During their entire marriage, my mother had never spent a night alone--if Daddy was away on business, he left behind a household of kids.

From the time I arrived home for the funeral, my mother followed me around. At night she climbed into bed with me.

Two weeks later, things weren't any better. I'd started sleeping on the couch in order to get Mom used to being alone in the bed. I asked her if she'd like to get a dog or cat. She refused. She started talking about moving to Dallas to be with me--despite the fact that two of my brothers and her youngest granddaughter lived near her home.

One morning in the middle of the third week, I got up and told her we were going out. When we were in the car, she asked where we were headed. I said, "The SPCA to get you a dog."

We argued all the way to the shelter. When we arrived, I got out of the car, but Mom refused to budge. I left her there and walked into the shelter, hoping she'd follow.

I headed to the small dogs room, looking for a toy poodle, Chihuahua or Yorkie. I found a small white poodle that I thought might work. Picking it up, I headed toward the front of the shelter. As I walked past the larger dog room, I heard a familiar voice.

Most of the dogs were two and three to a run. My mother was standing in front of a run with a single dog in it. She was cooing to a trembling, slender, black dog. I walked to her and held out the poodle. She never even looked at me.

I asked, "What do you have there?"

She replied, "His name is Dancer."

I looked around for a name tag. There wasn't one. "How do you know his name?" I asked.

"I just named him," she answered. "He looks like a reindeer."

Although I saw no resemblance between the nervy whippet and a reindeer, I was too grateful to argue.

Since that day, Dancer and my mother have rarely been apart. He gave her the courage to face the world as a single woman. She's had nine good years. As she has aged and begun to forget things, Dancer has taken up the slack. He's the reason Mom gets out of bed in the morning, and he nudges her toward bed a little before nine every night. They adhere to his schedule.

During my most recent visit, I watched her make dinner for them in the microwave--two Lean Cuisines. They ate dinner, and she discarded the trays. About ten minutes later, the now seriously overweight whippet rested his head on her knee and began whining.

"Oh, sweetie," she cried. "Are you ready for dinner?" Before I could stop her, she went to the freezer and took out a new Lean Cuisine. I was hard put to convince her he'd already eaten. Dancer may only have a brain the size of an egg, but he'd obviously figured out how to scam my mother.

It's no longer safe for Mom to live alone at home. We've taken away her car and given her a choice: allow someone to come to the house each day, move into a supervised retirement home or move in with one of the four of us. It's indicative of her situation that my feisty little mother did not argue. She wants to live with me, but has agreed to move in with my youngest brother until winter ends.

My brother is a sports columnist. The Dallas Cowboys are playing the Giants this Sunday at 4:30. If the Cowboys win their game, my brother will be coming to Dallas to cover the Conference Championship on January 20.

My sister-in-law (a saint) is happy to take Mom, but is not thrilled at the idea of adding an elderly woman AND a geriatric whippet to a household including a manic four-year-old, a neurotic cocker spaniel and a fifteen-year-old daughter. My brother has announced, if he comes to Dallas that Sunday, he's bringing Dancer with him on the plane to leave with me.

They've agreed to keep Mom for the next three months. I can't refuse to take the dog, but I hate the idea of separating Mom and Dancer.

I can, however, secretly hope that Dallas doesn't make it to the Championship game.

Shhh. Don't say anything to anyone. I'd be run out of Dallas on a rail.

Weekend at Bernies, Hell's Kitchen Style

Okay, this story has nothing to do with publishing, but I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair and broke my other hand.

Check out this stupid crooks story in today's New York Times here.

Visiting the Smart Bitches

Yesterday, we talked about the lawsuit Mindy Chase Lapine brought against Jessica Seinfeld. The Smoking Gun now has the court documents available for review here.

Since I'm trying to upgrade this blog and am considering writing posts with a theme, check out the blog here for the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books. Scroll down to the Monday post titled "Cassie Edwards Investigatory Extravaganza: The First Post."

SB Candy and her friend Kate spent Saturday googling erudite phrases from romance novelist Cassie Edwards' books. Turns out they found a fair number of what they describe as "Startling and Eerie Similarities between these Cassie Edwards' novels and certain texts published prior to the Edwards books."

Draw your own conclusions.

Fictionwise Buys

The reported today that e-book retailer Fictionwise has purchased Motricity's

" is one of the crown jewels of the e-book world," said Steve Pendergrast, co-founder of Fictionwise. "With this acquisition, Fictionwise breaks into the very top ranks of the eBook retail market."

Fictionwise, an independent seller of e-books can be found here.

The story reports that offers more than 23,000 titles on its website here. The e-books can be read on a variety of handheld devices.

McGraw-Hill Cut 3% Of Its Workforce

Yesterday the McGraw-Hill Companies issued a press release here, announcing "it restructured a limited number of business operations in the fourth quarter of 2007 to fortify the Corporation's long-term growth prospects."

The press release goes on to say:

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the Corporation incurred a restructuring charge of $43.7 million, pre-tax, consisting mostly of employee severance costs related to a workforce reduction of approximately 600 positions across the Corporation. This reduction represents approximately three percent of the Corporation's global workforce.

Fifteen Publishing Trends

I spoke tonight at the Dallas Area Writers Group and made a lot of new friends. My talk ended about 8:30, but it was after 9:00 before I made it to my car.

I really do love these talks. It's always nice to meet new writers. When I was trying to learn the business, I can remember visiting every available discussion on writing anywhere in Dallas and Fort Worth. I schlepped hundreds of miles, seeking helpful info. It's good to be able to give something back now.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I've often quoted Mike Shatzkin.

Mike is the CEO and founder of Idea Logical, a consulting company. He is a frequently sought speaker, especially on the impact of digitization. A little over seven months ago, he spoke at Book Expo America. That speech can be found here.

Yesterday's Publishers Weekly had an article by Shatzkin here titled 15 Trends To Watch in 2008.

It's going to take some time for me to absorb all his predictions, but I'm going to start here tonight sharing my thoughts.

First, let's look at Shatzkin's comment BEFORE he began making the predictions:

You won’t catch me climbing out onto any billion-dollar limbs as I offer my forecast for book publishing in 2008, but some of the changes I envision do call for fundamental changes in how the business operates. There is an overarching theme to the changes already taking place. Consumer media in the 20th century tended to be horizontal and format-specific. The New York Times and Random House define “horizontal”: they publish across all interests and markets. The Internet will drive 21st-century publishing enterprises to be more like what professional publishing has always been: highly vertical and format-agnostic.

Shatzkin has talked about this subject before. Traditional 20th century media pursued the broadest audience. Network television, daily newspapers and movies all sought to appeal across age, racial and economic boundaries--what we call a horizontal approach.

I've talked about it before, too. The Internet changed our world. Suddenly niche groups--even those widely separated by geography--could connect via the Worldwide Web. See my blog for July 14 here for more on this subject.

When Shatzkin talks about moving toward a more vertical model, he's referring to the hundreds--or thousands--of niche markets. The markets are fragmenting. Consumers have never had so much choice--both in content and in mode of delivery (which he calls format).

Prediction #4 is directly related to this trend:

Publishers will start acquiring specialized Web sites to get content for their books and to target niche audiences. By year-end, every major publisher will need to have an understanding of how to put a value on Web sites, because the old measures—namely, sales and profits—won’t necessarily be relevant and because the acquisitions will be smaller than what the companies would normally consider. The process will be similar to acquiring books, requiring a bit of imagination to see how the deals will pay off.

With an understanding of horizontal and vertical markets, you can see his reasoning for Prediction #4. Publishers seeing the market fragment need to find ways of reaching those niche audiences.

And the fragmentation leads directly to Prediction #11:

Literary agents will begin to experience the same kind of consolidation that has hit other parts of the book business, as the shrinking of advances below the very top tier of authors and the growing need for agents to provide editing, marketing and increasingly detailed rights management make it hard for smaller agencies to bring in enough money to cover their overhead costs.

The top tier of authors with broad appeal will still command large advances. However, a fragmenting market means smaller groups of readers; thus smaller sales and smaller advances.

In the same way that publishers shifted the task of vetting manuscripts to agents, enabling the publishing houses to cut down on salary costs, Shatzkin is predicting publishers will begin to shift other tasks to agents. He suggests that smaller agencies will have financial troubles as the result.

Prediction #12 also naturally follows:

Publishers will rethink the traditional sales conference and begin to move toward a continuous publishing model. This will be a belated recognition of two key facts: national accounts are mostly covered by staff, and the rest of the accounts can be reached quickly and efficiently by e-mail.

The sales conferences that were once so necessary to keep in touch are made redundant (and costly) by the Internet. E-mail is cheaper, more intimate and just as effective.

We'll wait till another day to tackle more predictions.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Seinfelds Sued

On October 21, I did a post here about Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, which was released on October 5. Questions were being raised about the similarities to a cookbook released on April 4 by lesser known writer, Missy Chase Lapine.

Two of the most talked about similarities were the covers, which each included a mom hiding carrots behind her back and similar recipes, including one that suggested putting avocado in chocolate pudding.

After Lapine's publisher contacted Seinfeld's publisher, Seinfeld's cover was changed so that the carrots were moved to a cutting board.

Both Jessica and her husband, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, strenuously denied any plagiarism. In November, when asked about the controversy during an appearance on The View, Jessica said:

“I can understand why she would have been frustrated. It must have been hard to see how quickly my book took off. I never saw her book, I never saw her recipes, nor, as a person, would I ever do something like I was accused of doing.”

Jerry also leaped to his wife's defense. He appeared on David Letterman's show, calling Lapine a "whacko" who claimed Jessica "stole my mushed up carrots." He went on to say that "She has three names and, you know, if you read history many of the three-named people do become assassins. Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray."

Throughout the Seinfeld's public commentaries, Lapine remained silent, never issuing a public statement. That silence ended on Monday when Lapine sued both Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld in Manhattan federal court.

Reuters reports:

The suit, filed by cookbook author Missy Chase Lapine, claims Jessica Seinfeld copied her own book that explores how to sneak healthy foods into kids' diets. It also accuses the top comedian of embarking on a "slanderous attack" against Lapine on U.S. national television shows.

Take a look at Seinfeld's appearance on Letterman below and see what you think.

We all know by now that ideas aren't copyrighted. But did Jerry go too far?