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Wednesday
May072014

Calling out the gobshites 

There was a beautifully written, if barely readable diatribe on the DEATH OF THE NOVEL in The Guardian last week, penned by (insert frustrated novelist name here).* This particular yarn eulogizing “the serious literary novel” was an edited, 4,490-word version of a lecture given at Oxford where I’m guessing many of those in attendance are just now waking up from their tedium-induced comas.

So to spare you the hazard to your health, here’s a brief summary: “The novel is dead because no one is reading my books.”

The problem isn’t this writer’s work (which I’m sure is deserving of its literary acclaim), or the state of the book-buying masses. The problem is this gentleman’s complete, Justin Bieber-like lack of self-awareness. Because this poor fellow, like most serious literary writers, are what I call performance writers—they’re actually writing to impress other writers, or critics, who are often authors themselves (or stillborn writers). They get so caught up in linguistic navel-gazing, this literary jujitsu, and the fawning self-satisfaction that comes from writing Bob’s rapacity knew no satiety (when writing Bob was hungry would suffice), that they forget most readers also want a compelling story.

But they don’t see it. And when no one reads their novels they hurl stones at book buyers, declaring them to be mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, troglodytes.

Now please, please, pu-leeeze don’t get me wrong. I love—no, I adore, lush, complex prose. But I’m weary of these kinds of rants from dense literary stylists whose books go down like aspirin without water and they can’t understand why consumers don’t gobble them up like Skittles. Or worse, they think the world is upside-down for not appreciating the struggle of trying to ingest their bitter pills.

This is as absurd as Nicholas Sparks writing an emotional editorial in US Magazine declaring THE NOVEL IS DEAD because he’s never been nominated for a Pulitzer.

If you’re a writer of commercial fiction you’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize. And if you’re a hard-core, literary writer—face it—odds are, you’re going to be paid in posterity points instead of pounds. Deal accordingly.

Self-awareness, kids. It’s free and goes a long way.

*I’m not going to name him because literary novelists crying this particular kind of wolf have become so common that honestly, they all look and sound alike to me.**

**Post-racial (ha) observation. Why is it always a white guy saying the novel is dead?

Friday
May022014

A big THANK YOU to BookCon

There's been quite a viral uproar about BookCon. What's is BookCon? It's the big, grand, open-to-the-public day of Book Expo America, which is the largest book event in the country. And what did BookCon organizers do? Well, they created a line-up of literary luminaries consisting of 29 white people and a cat. (I'm not making this up).

So, naturally, everyone but Donald Sterling is quite upset.

(Heck, James Patterson is on a panel talking about children's books that he didn't even write. That's like the white CEO of P.F. Chang's being invited to compete on Iron Chef, but, hey, that's just piling on at this point).

But, in a weird way, I think we owe the folks at BookCon a big THANK YOU for pointing out that we are not in any way living in a post-racial world. And for giving the other 50% of Americans a rallying cry.

And if they ever want to include an Asian American author who wrote a book which spent two years on the NYT bestseller list, I might happen to know one.

***UPDATE 5/3/14***

BookCon has added Rachel Renee Russell--an African American author. At first they said she could be a moderator, but after realizing she'd sold more books than two of their panelists they agreed to let her actively participate. Kudos to Renee for her persistence (and insistence) and shame on BookCon for their tokenism. 

Monday
Apr282014

There's no crying in baseball, just the occasional begging...

For funds and donations. In this case it's for girls' high school softball.

My daughter, Rissa, is on the first softball team ever at Great Falls Central, which is awesome, though it's challenging because they don't have existing gear and equipment. So they're doing the normal school fundraiser things like going door-to-door selling stuff and drumming up sponsors (I'm one of them) and they're also trying their hands at a kickstarter-like social media route--which I'm trying to give a lil' boost.

So, with that in mind I'm giving away personalized books. Here's the deal:

Donate $15 - Get a personalized paperback of Songs of Willow Frost.
Donate $25 - Get Willow and Hotel, both personalized.
Donate $50 - Get both hardbacks, personalized.


It's 100% tax deductible, filled with karma, and I'll cover the shipping. If you donate, just put a mailing address in the message screen and voila!

And in case you're wondering, Karissa's the one in the middle. Pink shorts. Big smile!

Saturday
Apr262014

That awkward moment when your dog becomes more famous than you

Random House produced a lovely walking-tour video of all the locations featured in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and after five years on YouTube it's up to 28,000+ views. Not bad.

But then about a week ago I strapped a GoPro camera onto my dog, Dexter, and posted the results, and a week later he's tipping the viral scales at 39,374 views! And when I found my inbox on YouTube (yes, there's actually an inbox tucked away and very hard to find), there were "URGENT TIME-SENSITIVE" emails from producers with Good Morning America and ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer.

Sad sidebar moment: When producers for ABC's Diane Sawyer are calling about a video of my dog you know the 24-hour news cycle has watered down the meaning of "news."

We even did a quick interview with the NY Daily News.

The next thing I knew, viral media companies were calling to sign my dog--basically a licensing agreement allowing them to pitch the video to other media outlets in the hopes of going "super viral." Who knew this strange world existed? Not I. But...Dexter did sign with Jukin Media. And I've updated my YouTube page to an actual channel.

So for all of the views, Dexter says, "thank you". He also says, "woof."