Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

someone went to the dentist

and had to have six cavities drilled and filled.

I wonder why? Do we believe in causality? Would you say I am being karmically punished for some kind of errant behavior? Because I can't imagine what I might have done to deserve this!

Semi-related. Today is free cupcake day at Kyotofu.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

so who else is doing NaNo?

Just curious.

I know it has its pros and cons, and it works for some people at this point in their writing, and just doesn't work at all for others.

You guys have thoughts on NaNo? Oo, how about a poll?
For those who are participating (or have participated) in NaNo, which best describes your goals?
To write a novel and get it published!
To write a draft of a novel, which maybe will go somewhere, maybe not
The daily word goals are just good for me to bully myself into writing; I don't plan to actually finish a whole novel or anything
I just like the cameraderie of writing with other writers; I don't even really care about the word count goals
ugg boots

If you have thoughts not represented in the poll options, please leave them in the comments! It's not a very good poll. Mainly, I wanted to use a poll function, because I haven't in a couple weeks. And I like pressing buttons and seeing pretty colors.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

email of the day

To: Moonrat
From: [My assistant]

Subject: CIP data

Dear Moonrat,

Please remember to send me finished manuscripts, in Word document form when possible, when they go into production so that I can apply for CIP data.

Thank you.

[My assistant]

P.S. Here's a baby animal depiction of me trying to get you to send me documents.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aunda

This is my great aunt, who turned 88 yesterday. (She's seated in one of the many antique dens in the RM's father's house at the Father's Day BBQ this year--she would be very affronted if she thought you thought that was HER chair, which is why I'm bothering to tell you.)

Long-timers will recognize the Aunda from some previous posts. She's my favorite. She's a big storyteller as well as a formidable cook (please take the adjective "formidable" as not necessarily uniquely applying to the cooking). My grandmother had a bad accident when I was 5 years old, and has never been the lynch pin of our family (in my memory, at least, but very possibly before, as well). That has always been the Aunda, her sister, who cooks for all the holidays and dutifully passes along everyone's gossip. I think (I think) that at this point in her life she has ceased to regret that, as she might put it, God didn't give her any children of her own, but the rest of us--"us" being my mom's five brothers, their many kids, and now *their* kids--lucked out to have her to ourselves, because we had her to stand in when her sister was unwilling/unable.

I know a lot of people are doing NaNoWriMo, and I've signed up too. My goal isn't to write a novel during November, but it is to put aside time everyday for a month to write down some of the stories she's told me. If I post a little less frequently in November, you'll know why.

I want to know who killed Asmodean, too!!

Here's Harriet talking to Brandon about how he got assigned to write the conclusion. Apparently, he came to her house and she asked him if he wanted some dinner. He was like, "No, I want to know how it ends. How it ends, and who killed Asmodean!" Attaboy.

The Gathering Storm! Today! I'm not sure I'm going to buy one right now, though. I think I'm going to wait until Brandon is signing in NY on November 9.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 6 (p 351-420)

That's right, we're way more than halfway done. It's all downhill from here, I'm sure!

Congrats! Here's a half-toast to half-way!

Thoughts/feelings/etc in the comments as usual! Thanks for making this a team effort.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm back!

Tons of catch-up, but looking forward to it.

My assistant must have missed me; she sent me this.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 5 (p 281-350)

Sniff, sniff... Smell that? That's halfway through I smell--we must be close.

Everyone staying strong?

thoughts/feelings/etc in the comments please!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

every writer absolutely must

read this beautiful essay about his time studying with Annie Dillard by Alexander Chee, the author of the stunning novel Edinburgh (via Angelle). Yes, the essay is pretty, but besides that, it packs a powerful punch of bullet pointable suggestions for being a better writer.

My favorite line:
Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible.

Leave me yours in the comments.

(For further excitement with Mr. Chee, check out this picture of him in 1989, the year the essay takes place.)

Happy writing :) Put in a good hour for me today--you'll feel better at the end of it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

for those who have been following the Sylvester Antonio saga

A special song for you, courtesy of my cousin. Nothing could make me think of my childhood more than this song--furthermore, it's nearly directly applicable to my current situation.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So I've had some pretty exciting developments in my non-blogging life (take that as you like) and the sum of all points leads me to believe I will have very little computer access over the next two weeks.

So, apologies in advance for what I foretell will be a lighter post load than maybe you've grown to expect. But also. Do you know what this is like for me? NO INTERNET ACCESS. That's like... not being able to eat any sugar for two weeks. Like, I understand that other people, by force or by choice, live every day of their lives like that, but I personally have become so... what's the word... I think it might be ADDICTED. Yes, so ADDICTED to the internet that I can't even really conceive of an existence without it; I begin to panic even thinking about it.

Ok, well, on that note... I'll go console myself with some Robert Jordan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Your Pub Date, Minus Two Weeks

This post was inspired (in fact, suggested and partially drafted) by Bruce Pollock, who thought maybe I could offer an insider's play-by-play to the panicked author two weeks shy of pub date. Thank you, Bruce! An awesome idea. May this post be everything you dreamed of and more.

YOUR PUB DATE, MINUS TWO WEEKS: The many panics of an author on the edge (and my responses)

Oh my dear sweet Lord, I have no reviews! Why don't I have any reviews?
All right, you gotta take a chill pill here--we don't WANT reviews before the pub date. We want reviews *after* the book is available in stores for people to go out and buy--otherwise they don't help your sales significantly (or at all).

There are only four reviews we can possibly get before the book pub date that would help, and these are all industry publications, not consumer ones. The four "pre-pubs" are Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. Yes, it's great to have one, some, or (very rarely) all of these, since they help your visibility among booksellers and librarians. But it's too late to worry about them now, since your book was already sold in--either you have them or you don't. Our new focus is post-pub trade reviews that will help get you *consumer* attention.

Ok? So don't worry. Let's talk again in a month.

What if no one comes to my book party/launch event?

Well, they probably won't, unless you invited them and they know you're serious. You can't count on your publishing company to be able to create bodies for any book event--after all, we're begging our same finite posse to come to every event. And the venue may or may not do any advertising at all for you. So three things to remember about book events:

1) Now is not the time to be shy. Start calling in those favors to everyone you know, and doing whatever you can to advertise wisely (handing out flyers is great! so is Facebooking everyone in the region!). Do literally everything you can to get people to come; it's hard on the bookseller and on your publisher as well as on you if the event doesn't go well.

2) Creative schtick will help you bring bodies. Door prizes, booze, and snacks are three pretty fail-proof ways of getting people to show up for things. Depending on what your book is about, you might be able to come up with some clever theming, too.

3) Always be prepared for the absolute worst--expect there to be no one there but yourself. Then be pleasantly and gratefully surprised for each and every body that shows.

Now go out and do the best you can to prevent your fears from coming true.

No one's returning my publicist's calls! There's no TV, no radio, no major reviews lined up! It's all over before it even began, isn't it? I can just tell!!!
Um, alas, this is increasingly the way of book publicity. The poor publicists run themselves ragged and... mostly nothing comes of it because they're all categorically ignored. Naturally my publicists pitch all my books to all the national TV venues that would be a good fit, and pitch them tirelessly. But all my authors who have even been on national TV have been *approached directly by the TV program* after the producers ignored all our sweetest missives. I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth here, but it's a *little* annoying that we don't have more control over the situation than we do.

You just have to have faith that your publicists are doing whatever they can, and do as much as you can on your end to improve your own visibility. Cf point about leaving no stone unturned.

Also, read this article on what an author can do to complement traditional publicity.

No one could get me a book signing for October! Why? What am I going to do?!

Book signings are tough to set up. In order to host your event, a bookstore is giving up the ability to host any other event that night--that means they have to be sure your event is going to sell books, or they might actually not break even for the day. The chains will usually pass on an author who isn't already famous, and indies may want to see invite lists from the author or publisher. So look--it wasn't that we didn't try hard; maybe the cards didn't play out right.

The good news is, it doesn't matter! For the most part, events are only incidental book sales, and not the most important part of a publicity plan. You can set up your own event if you know you have a big invite list that wants to come. Many bookstores are willing to send a bookseller to sell books at venues outside the store--cafes, libraries, even private house parties, as long as the attendance is worth their while. Then you get to have more control over who comes and what the event entails. Think outside the box a little if you're desperate to have an event in a given city/area.

Also, there's nothing preventing you from securing book events in the future, at less competitive times of year.

And a final note--your publisher may be too busy to set up smaller or more private events, or may actually not have as strong a connection with, say, a local indie bookstore or library that you, the author, do. So sometimes you can do the legwork yourself and make better headway. Make sure you talk it through with your publicist first, so you don't step on toes--for example, it's a really bad idea for an author to contact a national chain on his or her own, since it might actually undermine the *publisher's* relationship with that chain as well as the author's. But the author him/herself will probably have better luck on a more personal level setting up events with people s/he knows or with whom there are common ties.

Why aren't there any copies of my book in Rhode Island?
Well, the buyers at the chains must have for some reason decided that their outlets in Rhode Island (or wherever) probably won't sell your book very successfully. They may be wrong, or only have seen a fraction of the factors (they won't know, for example, that you have seventy-five first cousins who live in or around Providence). And that's frustrating, but hard to change.

See, the national chains rank each of their stores based on overall sales as well as on category sales. If your book is about tulips and they've noticed gardening book sales are lowest in Rhode Island, they may decide not to retail your book there based on past title successes or failures. There's also a difference in "top store" or "all store" promotions that a chain may have awarded your publisher for your book, which will determine where and for which demographics your book is being stocked and sold.

Tell your editor your concerns, but be aware it's hard to change weirdness like this. Their sales choices are based on computer data--fallible, but hard to argue. A solution for you? Indies! The buyers there buy on a store-by-store basis. Go make nice with your bookseller friends in Rhode Island.

Why the heck is Amazon already selling used copies?!
Sucks, right? Try not to worry too much about it; they don't have that many. The "used" copies available on Amazon before your pub date are doubtlessly review copies your publicists sent out, hoping to get reviews for you, and which those review copy recipients turned around and threw out, gave away, or let fall into the hands of a wily and impoverished assistant, who turned to the internet for sustenance. Publishers don't like these anymore than you do, I promise. The good news is that when a book first comes out, the "used" copies online are almost never significantly more affordable than new copies. They shouldn't make any real difference in anything.

How many book bloggers does it take to create a buzz?
All of them. Get as many as you can; never stop. They'll be your second wind, and the reason your books stays in print.

But the good news is book bloggers work on their own time, and will always be available to you. You can keep reaching out to them later at less busy times of your life.

Why isn't my editor taking my calls?!
Um, I don't mean to sound heartless, but you're your publicist's problem now. Your editor unfortunately has *other* books to edit now. She still loves you, I'm sure. Don't worry about her right now.

Is it ok for me to beg all my Facebook friends to mention me and buy copies?
Uh, yeah. Cf above--no stone unturned. Just make sure you're not annoying about it.

When will the sales numbers be in? Wait, they're in already, aren't they? You're just avoiding telling me what they are, aren't you?
Well, I know your first printing numbers, and probably your laydown numbers (the sell-in, how many copies went into each chain, etc). But let's give this two weeks before you ask me for sales figures, ok? Consumer sales are much more important than anything else at all in the world.

Did this help you, dear author? Let me know if *I* have left any stones unturned!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 4 (p 211-280)

Happy Columbus Day, Americans, let's all celebrate the millions who died for colonialism etc. Canadians, meanwhile, are all enjoying their turkeys--Happy Thanksgiving, northern friends!

Ok, I'm sure we're over 1/3 done now. Everyone staying strong?

Thoughts/feelings/tears/laughter/fears/joys welcome as usual!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday Geeky Greek History Moment

In the course of my morning rummagings I came across this story (from Herodotus), which I thought was nice. (Think of this as an early celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, which is on Monday.)

Polycrates was the king of Samos, and kind of a benevolent pirate type. Anyway he got filthy rich, and did all these public works with his money, and then people were grateful so he got even richer. This cycle went on for a while.

Soon Polycrates became nervous (as any reasonable religious Greek would have)that the gods were going to get jealous of him for his wealth and good fortune (the Greek pantheon gods were like that, very jealous). The pharaoh of Egypt, a buddy of Polycrates, advised him to make a sacrifice to appease their potential wraths. So Polycrates took his most prized possession--a big old ring with giant gemstones in it--and threw it into the sea as a gift.

A couple days later, a grateful citizen turned up at the palace with a gift for the king. The gift was a giant fish he had caught in his boat. When Polycrates had the fish cut open, inside was his favorite ring, returned to him.

Later, Polycrates got into other shenanigans and was assassinated for snubbing the Persian ambassador or something like that, but that's not really relevant to the story at hand.

For me, the moral of this story is--if you remember to thank the folks who've helped you out thus far, they'll give you even more in the future. A little gratitude goes a long way.

Today, I'm particularly grateful to the Rally Monkey, who cooked me delicious taco rice and cornbread, which I ate cold for breakfast, and who also did a bunch of my laundry because I have been too busy (and also because, as we all already know, I never do laundry). I am also grateful to one of my authors who was supposed to get me a re-write by Monday, but actually got it to me yesterday, so I was able to get it off my desk less overdue than I had feared it would be. I am also grateful to my two current front-list authors, who are pretty tirelessly stumping around on all kinds of publicity efforts 24/7 these last few weeks. I am also grateful to my secret boyfriend Michael Chabon, who touched my hand on Thursday night and looked me in the eye to thank me for coming to his event and buying his new book. I am also grateful to myself that I didn't drool on him.

Among a number of other things.

Happy Saturday! (If you're feeling bored, use the comments to tell me what you're grateful for this morning.)

Friday, October 09, 2009

yes, my entire family is now reading The Wheel of Time (it's like the Rat family book club)

My sister called me a Darkfriend!! All because I was a *teensy* bit misleading about who was gonna blow the Horn of Valere. I was *protecting* her from a spoiled plot! And besides, it wasn't like I actually lied about it! I live my life by the three oaths!

Which brings us to our Weekly Poll.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

some wisdom from the publicity meeting

RtP: I really think Oprah would be interested in this book.

Publicist: Actually, this is a realistic meeting, Robert.

To Dream the Impossible Dream of a Red Chamber (Movie Mash-Up Contest Winner!)

At last! After much deliberating, the Rally Monkey has decided on the winner of the Movie Mash-Up Contest!

Now here's the thing. There were some really, really funny entries... like, hundreds of them. We peed ourselves laughing. This meant we were unable to easily narrow down the list. Also, alas, I put the Rally Monkey in charge of judging, which means that I didn't get to pressure him into selecting some I thought were *really* funny.

Thank you everyone for the awesome submissions!

And without further ado, our finalists, alphabetical by title:

Bridge over the River Kwai, the Beloved Country (dylan)

Bridget Jones' Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Jessica)

The Forty-Year-Old Virgin Suicides (Cindy)

Fun with Dick and Jane Eyre (dylan)

The Grapes of Wrath of Khan (annerallen)

He's Just Not That Into You, Me, and Dupree (Dawn VanderMeer)

The King and I, Robot (The Imperfect)

Twelve Angry Men in Tights (holyspigot)

Wonder Boyz in the Hood (Cat)

You Got Served My Dinner with Andre (Penelope Wright)

In third place:

The Full Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Cindy)

In second place:

Gorillas in the Mystic Pizza (H.L. Dyer)

and finally, in first place, our grand prize winner of a pan of brownies:

Man of La Manchurian Candidate (B. Nagel)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Publishing-Related Backlist

All right, so some observation of my blog (in all its diverse interests, alas) has forced me to notice that some of my "focus" is being lost. Woopsies. This is, after all, supposed to be a blog about publishing.

I don't like reposting information because it's boring to people who've seen it before, but as we all know, bloggers come and go. So for those of my many friends who may have missed some of my early "articles" that are actually about, umm, publishing, I thought I'd post a little link-back cheat sheet.

Moonrat's Guide to Getting Published--this is pretty basic, and still the link I give to people who feel brand-new to it all.

Why You Should Never Submit Unagented to a Publishing Company--I know I'm basically preaching to the converted here. But please forward this to all your friends who think this is a good idea.

How Royalties Work--Just the basics, here. Lots of great comments clarifying things I missed, too.

Things You Should Be Able to Expect from Your Editor--Because there are some things it's ok to ask for! Here are some tricks for getting as much as you can out of the relationship.

Publishing by Omission
--the [mostly] unintentional racism that happens in book publication, and what you can do to fight it.

Marketing Your Book--More tricks for getting the most possible from your publishing company in terms of marketing.

Why 40% of books printed are pulped
--and all the background info you need to know about laydowns, sell-in, and cash-flow concerns that are the silly backbone of our industry.

Why it's super important to make your delivery date as an author

Book people are nice
--a story about why it's more important to be nice than cool in publishing

What Makes a Dream Author--Because editors are neurotic, crazy people, and you never know what will make them happy or drive them into their holes in the ground--a little cheat sheet.

Why it's important to know your agent is following up with editors
(from my editorial perspective)

My first print run is tiny! How do I save my book?
Some solace (most first print runs are tiny) and some tips.

To cloth or not to cloth? My thoughts on paperback originals versus hardcover.

My open letter to Overwriters everywhere.

Hedging your bets--how every stage of publication is a gamble, and where you should pause to ask yourself about risks.

What's safe to syndicate online
--my thoughts on this change and evolve, but here's where I'm at currently re: what to put up online if you're an author seeking publication, and what to protect and NOT put up.

Pre-editing--my thoughts on hiring a developmental editor before submitting to an agent or before your agent submits to houses.

Subrights--my thoughts on the advantages to either selling or retaining subrights (like foreign language translation, audio, book club, etc).

The Editing Cycle--a confession (from the editor's perspective).

What constitutes good sales for a literary novel?
With all the lying we publishing folks do about print runs and sales figures, it's hard to even know which way is up. Well, here's my opinion.

An editor's thoughts upon the death of a difficult author.

An agent told me I'm not a great writer! How do I survive?
My three tips on separating the publishing process from your creative process.

Less Is More--my manifesto on why publishing is failing as an industry, and some key ways I think we need to change.

For those of you interested in publishing, in whatever aspect, please remember I love and welcome questions.

For those of you who are shocked and dismayed to find out this is a publishing blog, fear not. I'll find an Asian pop video or a picture of a baby animal for you anon.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 3 (p 141-210)

Woohoo, whippin' right through here--approaching 1/3 finished!

Thoughts/feelings/impressions welcome!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Movie Mash-Up Contest!

Ok, I was jealous of everyone else's contests, and I wanted to make a mini-contest of my own. Actually, the Rally Monkey inspired me.

Today, the Rally Monkey was bored and sitting on the couch creating movie mash-up titles. What's a movie mash-up, you ask? It's when two or more movie titles combine to make another (ridiculous) movie title. The Rally Monkey got the idea back in 1996, when he saw a movie marquis that didn't have enough space left between titles. It said, Twelve Monkeys Waiting to Exhale. Which kind of leaves you with a funny picture in your head.

So, we're going to have a mini movie mash-up contest! By midnight of Monday, October 5, EST, leave in the comments of this post your awesome movie mash-up. The Rally Monkey will judge. The prize is the Rally Monkey and I will hand-bake and -mail you a batch of brownies (probably from a box, though, to be honest). Or if you don't want brownies of questionable provenance, you could also choose to receive a book randomly selected from my burgeoning library.

Here are some of the Rally Monkey's examples to inspire you (he literally spent all night coming up with these):

Dirty Dances with Wolves

Charlie's Angels in the Outfield

Million Dollar Baby Momma

Night of the Living Dead Poets' Society

No Country for Old Men in Tights

While You Were Sleeping with the Enemy of the State (three in one!)

and my personal favorite,

Dude, Where's My Gran Torino?

Since my contest only lasts two days, this will be perfect for warming you up for the better contests I mentioned yesterday!

Now watch out Hollywood!

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Hey, I've heard about two fun Halloween writing contests already! I was thinking of having one myself, but these guys have already pitched such good ideas I can't compete.

Stuart Neville is having a TwitFic ghost story contest! Fun for all Twitterers.

Ghosts of Belfast TwitFic Contest: Scare me in 124 characters or less for prizes!

As you may be aware, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST will be published in the USA by Soho Press this Thursday, the 1st of October. I'll be embarking on a US tour (details here) to celebrate the launch, so please come and say hello if you're near any of the venues.

The other thing that happens in October is, of course, Halloween, when our thoughts turn to the ghostly and ghoulish. We all have our own personal ghost stories, so how about you share yours as part of a special Twitter contest? Here's how it'll work:

Go to your Twitter account (you do have one, don't you?) and tweet your own experience of a ghost, along with the hash tag #GhostsOfBelfast so I can find it. That leaves you 124 characters to tell your story. The shorter the better, the scarier the better, the funnier the better.

The contest will close at midnight on 31st of October 2009, and I will choose ten finalists. Each of those tweets will be re-tweeted by me and the good folks at Soho Press (or linked to a special page on my website if they're too long). The finalists will then be put to the vote on via Twitter, and the top five will each win a signed copy of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, as well as be featured on the home pages of and What's more, whoever gets the most votes of all wins one of the last remaining copies of THE SIX, my limited edition signed and numbered short story collection - only fifty of these will ever be printed!

So, here are the three simple rules:

1) Tweet your scariest, funniest ghost story in 124 CHARACTERS OR LESS.

2) It's VITAL that you remember to include the hash tag #GhostsOfBelfast or your entry won't be seen.

3) Tweet it before MIDNIGHT 31st OCTOBER.

You can enter as many times as you like, but each tweet must be a different story. So, get tweeting, and good luck!

And from our dear friend Writtenwyrdd:

CHANNEL YOUR INNER LOVECRAFT! In honor of the upcoming pagan new year (Samhain, aka Halloween) I'm going to hold a contest.

WE'RE GOING TO BE WRITING HORROR. 500 to 1,000ish words of spec fic horror, poetry or prose, humorous or creepy. (You can go over 1,000 words, but please not by too much.) And no slasher horror pretty pretty please.

AND YOU GUYS GET TO VOTE ON THE WINNER. We'll have voting on the entries after it's all over. I might even submit something, but if I should luck out and win I'll give the prize to the runner up.

DEADLINE is October 31st, naturally.

SUBMISSIONS. Send your submission to me in the body of an email, single spaced. Addy: writtenwyrdd (at) Heading should read "Chthulu contest submission." Be sure and include the name you want me to use on the post. I won't be naming individuals during the voting round, but at the announcements round. MORE THAN ONE SUBMISSION IS ALLOWED, BUT SEND THEM SEPARATELY. (Please keep it to two, though. We don't want to stack the deck.)

PLEASE REPOST AND SPREAD THE WORD. I WANT AT LEAST TWENTY ENTRIES. Because the prize is cool. It's this cute fellow, cuddly Chthulu.

Eek, isn't the prize just the cutest thing you've ever seen?! Too bad I don't write spec fic.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

PICKING BONES FROM ASH is out in stores!

Picking Bones from Ash, the gorgeous debut by long-time blog friend Marie Mutsuki Mockett, is finally available in stores!

I was lucky enough to read this one in manuscript form, and loved it for reasons besides the fact that Marie's descriptions of Japan are so beautifully evocative. If you're looking for a lovely literary experience--particularly if you're interested in mother/daughter relationships--I can't recommend it highly enough. Here's what other reviewers are saying.