Happy Friday! Hope you’ve all had a terrific week and will have a bit of time to relax this weekend. As for me, I’ve pretty much been reading client work all week, and I’m staring down a weekend of submissions. The in-box is calling my name!
For those of you looking for inspiration or amusement or just something to help you kill a few hours before quitting time, I offer up an assortment of links. Enjoy!
We’re hosting a very special evening in the TKA chat room tonight. Come out and chat with four terrific paranormal romance authors: Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh, Jill Monroe, and Jessica Andersen. These four talented writers have joined forces to produce a series of four books for the Harlequin Nocturne line, interwoven stories with a fairy-tale feel that are being published in consecutive months. Gena’s and Jill’s books are already on shelves, with Jessica’s and Nalini’s contributions coming soon.
So join us in the chat room tonight and hear all about the Royal House of Shadows series, and how these four writers worked together to create the world and characters that make up their four stories.
WHAT: Chat with Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh, Jessica Andersen, and Jill Monroe
I’m all for good escapist reading, and when things are going badly in the world–bad economy, high unemployment, global warming, etc.–it always seems like the books that lead the trends are those that make you forget what’s going on in your own backyard. In recent years, that’s meant a lot of paranormal/fantasy/dystopian fiction. Most of these books aren’t particularly cheerful, but they hold the distinction of being very different from our own reality. There’s something cathartic about reading about someone else’s problems, especially if they’re a vampire. Plus with books, there’s a good guarantee of a happy ending (if that’s what you’re looking for), even if you need to plow through a massive trilogy of doorstops to find it.
But sometimes I just feel like wallowing, you know? I want to read books that allow me to feel what I’m actually feeling, whether that’s sad or depressed or frustrated, so I can work the emotions out of my system. It’s like how you listen to sappy love songs after a breakup, or take yourself off to a three-hankie movie. Every once in a while, it feels good to just face reality. On days like these, I reach for books that address the real world, books that have actual events as a backdrop, or that delve inside a person’s suffering or hardship. Reading about individuals who have come through hellish circumstances and survived can be encouraging.
TVNZ aired their in-depth interview with Nalini Singh this weekend, and you can now view the broadcast online here. It’s a great inside look at her career, following her on her book tour and taking viewers inside her home office and library, as well as talking a bit about her background.
For those of you interested in chatting with Nalini, she’s going to be part of the Royal House of Shadows chat over at The Knight Agency’s chat room this coming Thursday, September 29, at 9 pm ET. Nalini will be on hand with Gena Showalter, Jill Monroe, and Jessica Andersen, and together they will discuss the four-book continuity they have written for Harlequin Nocturne. More details available on the TKA blog.
Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. Mine was pretty low key. A little work, a little working out, a little shopping, and a little cooking. And then it was over.
Which means that it’s a new week and there is much to be done, including finally posting the growing collection of fun links I’ve amassed. Too many tabs and Firefox starts getting confused. So here you go. Enjoy!
20 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays — Meghan Ward’s made a nice starter list, though most of these are pretty top-notch publications and are therefore not the easiest places to break out. Still, for those of you interested in this type of writing, it’s a great resource.
What’s Your Type? — P&W links to this fun video about fonts. Yes, I like fonts. Are you really surprised?
Past as Prologue? — A fun peek at how we used to think the future was going to look. (Courtesy: Meljean Brook)
Michael Dirda has written a new book on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and in anticipation of its release in November, The Paris Review Blog has posted this wonderful excerpt, A Doyle Man. I’m a fan of Holmes and Watson, to be sure, but what I loved most about the excerpt was Dirda’s memories of obtaining his first “grown up book,” The Hound of the Baskervilles, purchased when he was in fifth grade from the monthly order form that was handed out in his classroom. This brought back fond memories of elementary school and the Scholastic Book Club, a newsprint catalog of a few pages that our teacher handed out periodically through the school year. The colorful pages were filled with little pictures of book covers accompanied by brief blurbs and prices–generally less than a couple of dollars–with an order form in the back. I would pore over that catalog and choose as many books as I thought I could get away with and, lucky child that I was, my mother rarely told me no. The books themselves were mostly early readers–I think I was in second or third grade at the time–but I know I still have a few of them to this day, stashed in a box with other childhood treasures at my parents’ house. There’s a biography of Helen Keller, complete with the braille alphabet raised on the back cover, and a book called King of the Dollhouse, about a little girl who discovers a miniature king has moved into her dollhouse with his tiny offspring.
The truth is, my mother could have as easily purchased those books for me from the bookstore, or I could have borrowed them from the library. But there was something about the act of picking and choosing from a limited selection in that catalog, then waiting for everyone’s books to be delivered to the classroom weeks later that really felt special, akin to getting a real letter addressed to you in the mail. There was an element of surprise, even if you remembered what you’d ordered, and that sense of anticipation, never knowing exactly what day the order would come through.
As an adult, I see ripples of this effect still. Things like the Book of the Month Club, or Harlequin’s category subscriptions, give readers that same little thrill of someone choosing the month’s books for you. There’s no obligation to purchase them, of course, but being a member, having the opportunity to get something new to read in your mailbox–it’s a throwback to childhood for many of us.
I have a standing order with Powell’s Books for the Indiespensable subscription. Every six weeks I get a box in the mail with the current new book–always announced ahead of time, and always a new release in a lovely binding that’s been autographed–and a surprise. Understanding the fun inherent in getting a present, Powell’s has organized their subscription to include some special something in addition to the book you knowingly purchase. Sometimes it’s a treat, like chocolate or coffee; sometimes a great mug or a Powell’s tote bag; often it’s another book, an ARC of something yet to be released. It almost doesn’t matter. Half the joy is in the anticipation, like opening a box of Cracker Jack and searching for the toy surprise.
Other web sites have similar book clubs. The Rumpus has a fiction club and a poetry club, where subscribers get new books before they are released and have the chance to discuss them with the author and other club members in a moderated discussion online. These virtual book clubs take the more conventional book club concept–typically a gathering of friends in someone’s home or some other meeting place to chat about a previously chosen title–and raise it to another level, not only choosing the book, but providing readers with an easy means of acquisition.
How many of you belong to a book club where someone else chooses the books you read? Or a subscription of this sort, where you choose from a small assortment of titles recommended for the month? How many of you remember ordering books in school as a kid? And for those readers outside the U.S., is this an American phenomenon, or do other countries have these sorts of book subscriptions as well?
In addition to my love of all things books and writing, I’m a foodie. Yes, one of those. And this year, in an effort to find more balance in my life (and on my scale), I’ve been cooking a lot more than usual, and trying to eat out less. I have the requisite leaning tower of cookbooks–because they combine food and books, so how could that be wrong?–and subscriptions to a few too many food magazines, but I’ll admit to having a particular weakness for food blogs. Not all of them, mind you. I like the chatty food bloggers. The ones who give you background and bits of their lives, right along with their favorite casserole or their mother’s secret salad dressing recipe. In this, as with everything, I want story.
So today I shall share some of my favorite food blogs with you, in hopes that you will go cook up something delicious the next time you feel the need to take a break from your writing (or reading). Yes, I’m enabling your procrastination. Bad agent. But as I told a client recently, everyone deserves a study break from time to time, and since everyone also needs to eat, this couldn’t be more perfect. Happy writing, and happy snacking!
Tea and Cookies – A wonderful blog by Tara Austen Weaver, a writer living in Seattle. In addition to sharing wonderful food, she posts gorgeous photos and chats about all aspects of her life, from writing to her garden to her adorable nieces.
Smitten Kitchen – Delicious recipes cooked up in a tiny Manhattan kitchen by Deb Perelman, who peppers her entries with funny stories about her cookbook-in-progress, her toddler, and her opinions on food in general.
101 Cookbooks – Blogger/photographer/cookbook author Heidi Swanson started this blog as an excuse to start cooking from her utterly enormous collection of cookbooks, but she also shares gorgeous travel photos, favorite things and more. The recipes are pretty uniformly vegetarian and very healthy.
The Wednesday Chef – Luisa Weiss originally blogged from New York, and has since moved to Berlin, making this a wonderful combination of food blog and travel tales.
Some Kitchen Stories – The ultimate in food stories. Photographer Nicole and writer Judi met while working together in Chicago. Although they went their separate ways professionally, they put together this website in their free time. Judi writes actual short stories–little tidbits–around the recipes, and Nicole provides the food photos.
If you want to break it down into particulars, there are many things that go into becoming a writer, but at the most basic level, you only need to do two things: Read and write. So on this cool and sunny Sunday morning (at least where I am), I offer you two stories that address the question of reading, and how important it is to a writer’s development. Three guesses which of these I find more disturbing.
In my Wednesday post, Links for Everyone, I mentioned the discussion at the PW blog on gay characters in young adult literature and the experiences of two writers who were attempting to get their novel–with a diverse cast of characters–published. As is typical of internet discussions of this magnitude, there has been reply and rebuttal, and so I offer you a new link: Riposte and Counter-riposte. There has been a response from the literary agency (previously unnamed) that was involved in this discussion, as well as more commentary from the authors and plenty more chat from the every corner.
I’m not going to comment on who is in the right in this situation as far as declaring one party more or less honest than the other. I respect the agency in question, but I also respect the two authors (and have a casual acquaintance with one of them), so I don’t feel that it is my place to make pronouncements based on the internet jabbering. I agree that the focus should remain on the broader issue–which is that all literature, including that for teenagers, should represent readers of all sizes, shapes, colors, interests, beliefs, desires, and so on. Readers who are interested in a particular demographic of work should seek it out and support it; writers should endeavor to portray humanity honestly; and those of us who work in publishing must remain sensitive to the need for this diversity and help it to thrive.
As an agent, I will say that it is not actually uncommon for a writing team to select a new agent to represent them as a pair, even if each has their own representation elsewhere. It’s like two single people moving in together choosing to find a new apartment rather than transferring to either one of their existing homes. Neutral territory. No previous claims on space. And if something goes wrong with the relationship, neither partner feels as if they’re the only one left out in the cold. Agents feel the same way. If you represent a team and also one of those team members individually, it can be difficult to be impartial if you’re called to mediate on something between the pair. Better to send them off to a new agent entirely for their joint efforts.
Busy week, so I’m dropping in with links so I can finally close out some of the million-and-one tabs open on my desktop. They range from serious business to craft to a bit of entertainment.
Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA – This discussion has been going on all over the internet for the last few days and I think it’s important for everyone to be aware. I’m kind of horrified that an agent would make such a request. It’s one thing to ask a writer to work on or change a character because something about them isn’t working within the scope of a story, but another thing entirely to demand they change the character’s sexual preference. I think it’s especially important for teenagers to be able to find diversity in what they read so that everyone has characters with whom they can identify at a time of life when they’re struggling to discover who they are.