Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ode To Summer...

It hit 80 for the first time today and come Monday, it's going to be June. Yikes!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Books as Disgusting as Movies? Apparently.

Just stumbled across this great article from back in August (not sure how I missed it then) from Wired Magazine... Books as Disgusting as Movies, Say Scientists Sort of puts a chit in the argument that television/movies stimulate the brain in the same way as reading a book... at least the gross parts. -- Posted using ShareThis

Friday, May 29, 2009


It's tough out there for a book blogger.

The publishing industry has been distressingly tame the the last week or so (of course, I've been sick, so it was nice of them to wait for me) All the same, it's time to uncork a big Bottle of Literary Chaos, don't you think?

Well. That didn't take long...

Kevin sent me an email to alert me that famed Swedish wordsmith (and watercolorist) Lars Gustafsson has riled some and energized others with an op/ed he published in the Swedish mag Expressen in favor of voting for the Pirate Party. The Pirate Party - you might recall - was named for and inspired by the Pirate Bay filetrading trial and exists to push an agenda of extensive copyright reform. (The Expressen link above will take you to a page written in Swedish, you can find his words in translation at Copyriot here.) In his article, he comes out strongly in favor of a more social ideal of setting aside copyright protections as an undue hinderance on the free exchange of ideas provided by the internet. He compares the Pirate Bay verdict and efforts by governments and the RIAA to squelch file-sharing to the efforts of the French government in the leadup to the revolution to squelch the printing of revolutionary tracts.

Copyright Protectionists as French Aristocrats putting down revolting peasantry and soon to meet Dr. Guillotine? Man the barricades and storm the Bastille? Does that mean we have Robespierre to look forward too on the far end, followed by Napoleon as well?

In some ways I agree with him, though I respectfully submit that the learned gentleman overstates his case. While I am apalled by the draconian efforts to encode DRM into my library to the point where the free sharing of beloved movies, music, writers and books with my peers will be actually illegal, I don't think this is necessarily an either/or proposition. Nor do I believe that history bears out the idea that copyright protection -- in and of itself -- stifles freedom of speech so much as it protects (on the whole) creators from penury whilst others party at their expense.

The argument has become the epitome of the reductio ad absurdum argument on every side.

The RIAA has been draconian and almost comically dictatorial, but they're not throwing people in the Bastille, they're suing them in civil court and losing rather a lot. On the other side are people who are benefiting financially from the efforts of others and some who have entire libararies without ever a thought for the creators. There must be a way to counter that without dragging twelve year olds into superior court and assessing $150,000 per track for the crime of being caught up in the dragnet.

On all sides, the arguments boil down to who owns the book on your shelf? Who owns the DVD or the CD in your player? Why does the format of a digitally downloaded song somehow change the manner in which we may use it? Why does the digitization of a book change whether or not I can lend it to a friend or resell it to provide revenue to buy more books? How does the exchange of paper for pixels alter the contract between the page and the reader?

They don't and there's no reason why they should.

I've said it before: the protectivist impulse to profit from every eyeball that looks at a page or every ear that hears a song forgets or ignores the communal aspect of the artform. It forgets that it was the word-of-mouth sharing of great and inspiring music and literature that created the industries so hellbent on stifling that very thing today.

To broaden this, there's the additional problem of the manner in which copyright and the abuse of copyright disallows works inspired by the protected works.

Not long ago, you may remember, I asked YA author John Green during a Q&A what his thoughts were on the Google Books settlement. During his answer, he mentioned that his Edgar Award-winning book Paper Towns would not have been possible if the heirs of Walt Whitman were are vigorous as the heirs of Walt Disney in assaulting the sunset provisions of copyright laws. His book hinges a great deal on the poem Song of Myself and would have been all but impossible to publish if it had been similarly dependent upon the song Message to Myself by Melissa Etheridge.

Not because it would have hindered Ms. Etheridge's ability to make money from the song -- his mostly-young readership would likely have flocked to iTunes to buy the song -- but because it would be considered infringement of extant copyright law. And by ignoring the infringement, Ms. Etheridge would have damaged any future effort to enforce her copyright when actual damage did occur.

As a copyright holder, I understand the frustration felt by other copyright holders. And I understand the kneejerk lashing-out that can ensue. Likewise do I like to think that there's room for reasoned response and discourse. Be that as it may, the book I purchase is mine and the cross-pollination of my collection and the collections of the people in my circle of friends makes more money than a similarly-sized digital libary that only I can use.

There has to be a middle ground where the artforms can prosper and spread by word-of-mouth without throwing open the gates and making it so that artists simply cannot support themselves by their efforts. Just my opinion, mind you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Poking the Mermaid...

An Open Letter to Starbucks (Because they asked...)
Dear Starbucks,

When you purchased Clover, you acquired sole access to a truly spectacular and groundbreaking coffee brewing process that blends the best parts of French Press and Vacuum brewing in a new technology. A better cup, by brewing every cup. But if all you are going to do is grind the same beans you have today, all it’s going to do is give America a better cup of mediocrity.

Stop telling America that burnt coffee is good coffee.

Stop burning all the character out of your beans.

Your "Pike's Place Blend" is a hesitant shuffle in the wrong direction. And instant coffee won't save you. Starbucks needs to differentiate its coffee from that brewed now by your two greatest competitors: MacDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

What does it say to you that the company that brought the idea of gourmet coffee to America is challenged by those two. Dunkin’ Donuts? McDonald's? Can’t you see that homogenizing your beans by roasting out the regional characteristics has made your coffee indistinguishable from the sludge that the donut shoppes pour?

You have become the Burger King of coffee, congratulations.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Starbucks has the market share and the unique position to teach America what gourmet coffee really is. By cornering the market on the Clover and restricting its sale to the Starbucks stores, you are even more in a position to give a better cup of better beans. By roasting single-origin coffees to a lighter roast you can teach America what gourmet coffee really is. You can differentiate from the fast-food franchises that challenge you. You can brew better good coffee rather than giving us a better cup of bad coffee.

Starbucks taught America that there was such a thing as gourmet coffee. Thank you. But you did so by creating an inoffensive product without differentiation from one cup to the next; scorching the regional characteristics out of it; serving it pre-ground and stale so that ultimately, we’re no better off than we were before you told us what was possible and then failed to deliver it. Failed to the point where we now cannot tell the difference between a five-dollar cup and a two-dollar cup at Mickey-D’s.

You can move the needle again, start innovating rather than maintaining the status-quo. Take those Clovers you’re hoarding and actually use them to their fullest advantage. Brew coffee roasted to highlight the regional varietals, teach us to differentiate between Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans, educate our palates to taste the subtleties of terroir. And let us enjoy an amazing cuppa while you turn your cafés back into cafés rather than the high-priced soft-drink stands they’ve become.

It pains me to say this because I know and adore a number of wonderful people that proudly wear the green apron, but Starbucks is the coffee of last resort. If there's nowhere else to buy a cup, I'll enter your establishment, but otherwise... no.  Your beans are charred beyond recognition.

I’m not alone in this feeling. You've turned coffee from something transcendent into a lowest-common-denominator softdrink. A better brewing process can't change that. Bad beans beget bad coffee no matter how you brew them. I maintain contact with beanheads across the country and we all say the same thing: until your coffee delivers on it’s promise… well, you could brew it in a golden chalice with water from the the fountain of youth and I wouldn’t accept it.

If you can't do this simple thing, then give the damn Clovers back. You don't deserve them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No update today....

Scott has the Towel Flu and a touch of associated artistic ennui. Hopefully he'll be back up and writing again tomorrow.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day -- Historical Perspective

Memorial Day: a day of parades and picnics, bratwurst and beer, yard sales and Indy racing... or some combination thereof. For a lot of Americans, it means sales fliers and commerce, the mid-year attempt to drag you into their stores or car lots for Big Big Savings!

How it became all those things,is beyond me. Today, we pay tribute to those we have lost and what we have gained by their sacrifice. Whether you salute your forbears with a flag or a hand or a hotdog or with you credit card is up to you. There's nothing inherently wrong with all of the things I listed, but I feel that - like so many American holidays - the real core of our holidays get lost in the noise.

For a little historical perspective, I dug up General Orders Number 11 of the Grand Army of the Republic -- the original Memorial Day proclamation. Made in 1868 to commemorate those who were killed in the course of the American Civil War so that we would never forget the darkest moments in our history and the sacrifices that preserved the union.

Please take a moment to read and take stock of what you are enjoying and why it is possible.
General Orders No. 11, Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters. 
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. 

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of



Adjutant General



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quote of the moment...

"Quill, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence."
-Ambrose Bierce 'The Devil's Dictionary'
That quote popped up in a random Google Search this evening. Wonderful. First Google brings us ads that (allegedly) predict our desires from page content; now they've branched out into prophecy? You know, it occurs to me that if they thought the ALA, publishers and the Author's Guild were touch customers, they've got some nerve muscling-in on the streetcorner guys with the "End is Nigh" signs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Writing Life Part IV - Find a Place & Fill the Page

I prefer a laptop with a view...

A Clear Morning's Cold Dawning... ('Mummer's Masque' snippet)

Chapter One
Seattle, WA

The second week of October brought an unexpected arctic front down from Canada and with it the first frost of the season. Leaves and pine needles scattered before it, bowing and swirling like courtiers in the wake of a courtesan. The residents of Washington State hunkered in front of their fireplaces and woodstoves and waited it out, knowing that the cold couldn’t last. Even with the onset of global climate shifts, their state still had only two seasons: rainy and not; the cold snap was an aberration.

The breeze shredded the column of steam rising from AJ MacLeod’s coffee mug as he stepped out of the Mercedes. The bitter wind cut to the bone, reminding him of winters he had endured during college on the East Coast. He stemmed the memories by focusing on the cup in his hand. The warmth radiating into his palm balanced out the cold seeping into his knuckles from the outside. The sensation centered him, allowed him to shake off the dark memories that clamored at the gates…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book News?

In response to a couple of emails... Yes, I'm still keeping track of news and developments in the publishing industry and the world of literature. However, I noticed that those posts were little more than links to the stories wherever I found them originally, and there are other tools for that... like Twitter. For the latest on the strange possible-but-not-really-but-maybe-a-sequel to Catcher in the Rye, Frank McCourt's heartbreaking cancer diagnosis and other oddments of literature and publishing news (or what passes for news) in bite-sized chunks with links for further elucidation when possible, I invite you to either "Follow" me on Twitter or you can watch the feed in the right margin. "Larger" stories on which I have developed an opinion or a running commentary (such as the ongoing Google Books saga) will continue to appear in the old context for your reading enjoyment. - Scott

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sonnet Self-Reflection

Today marks the anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets in 1604. It is said that they were obtained by the publisher and put to press without the author's permission... Napster c.1604 (everything old surely is new again).

At risk of reviving the Great Debate, I daresay that they were and remain 154 of the most vexing pieces of poesy every visited upon the world. The sonnets raise ever more questions about the biography of the man than the plays ever have, though the questions have more to do with his preference of gender than the possibility that he was a literary McGuffin for someone else.

Are they autobiography and therefore a confession of his homosexuality? Were the sonnets addressed to the young man urging him to continue his genetically line (presumably despite his inclinations toward men) written for hire for the youth's father (as has been posited by those who don't accept the "Shakespeare was gay" thesis)?

Or are they just snippets of the things on his mind as he did other things and wanted these snippets of verse out of his head and put down somewhere he could keep track of them, a sort of poetic chapbook?

Honestly, we have no idea. As is the case with so much of the Bard's works, the sonnets rest comfortably atop a cushion of mystery, viewing the mortal scribblers who try to pin them down with sphinx-like disdain.

There are interesting arguments made by all sides of the "Shakespeare as Gay" debate and I don't really feel that his gender-preference changes the impact or cultural value of the poetry. Not for me, anyway.

All that aside, after this morning's round of NPR stories on the Sonnets and sundry issues arising from them, I've been trying to decide which of the sonnets is my favorite. (Shakespeare, of course was not the only sonneteer, simply the most famous and by far the most accomplished of his time.) The NPR piece ended with a call for favorite love verse and like any recursive thought, that returns me to pondering a favorite from the Bard himself...

Being no different than the next bloke to come along with an English Lit class or two under my belt, Sonnet 18 is a favorite (My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...) and one of the few I can recite from memory.

As with any poetry, though, I tend to think that the real meaning has less to do with the poet than the reader. Biography and time can be transcended by the correct turn of phrase, the timeless advance of age and season and the wax and wane of love... each finds its niche in the reader regardless of the writer's original intent. It goes back to the writer's role of holding up a mirror in which we may see ourselves in others. The laments of Tennyson or the Idylls of Byron are each reflected and transmitted through our experiences and viewed in our terms, and so it is with Shakespeare.

For me, relevance is the handhold by which I manage to bridge the century's divide.

Which is the long way of going about saying that as a chronic insomniac, I have a particular affection for the 27th and 28th Sonnets, which I refer to privately as the "Sleep Cycle".

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed, The dear respose for limbs with travel tired, But then begins a journey in my head To work my mind, when body's work's expired. For then my thoughts (from far where I abide) Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee, And keep my drooping eyelids open wide, Looking on darkness which the blind do see. Save that my soul's imaginary sight Presents thy shadow to my sightless view, Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night) Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new. Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind, For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.

Separation anxiety is nothing new, I suppose.

Whilst I comprehend and cannot deny that the angst of separated lovers stands at the nexus of these two sonnets, I tend to focus (from my own life) on the sleeplessness aspect. It is difficult not to quote these words "How can I then return in happy plight that am debarred the benefit of rest?" so eloquently put as it is. Insomnia too is nothing new and is the go-to for dramatizing the unquiet heart and mind in 16th Century poesy and present as it is in Shakespeare's other insomniac lament in the Scottish Play: "Sleep no more, Macbeth hath murdered sleep!"

Sonnet 28

How can I then return in happy plight That am debarred the benefit of rest? When day's oppression is not eased by night, But day by night and night by day oppressed.

And each (though enemies to either's reign) Do in consent shake hands to torture me, The one by toil, the other to complain How far I toil, still farther off from thee.

I tell the day to please him thou art bright, And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven: So flatter I the swart-complexioned night, When sparkling stars twire not thou gild'st the even.

But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer, And night doth nightly make grief's length seem stronger

My favorites? Not necessarily, but they are the two which ring most familiar with me and that goes a long way toward achieving that dubious honor. Their place in my heart was admittedly achieved one dark and restless night in college as I was knocking around and trying not to awaken my roommates and The Arden Shakespeare came easily to hand as what I thought of at the time as insomnia's cure. At dawn I was still awake and reading the words of a man four centuries in the grave. There's something to be said for relevence and self-recognition helping us grapple with our literary culture. (Thanks goes out to 'Open Source Shakespeare' for keeping me from the necessity of re-typing the sonnets in this post.) What is your favorite sonnet (and why)?

Wordless Wednesday - Framing the Sky

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer Reading and Recommendations

My reading list is shaping up and the summer is looking good if I can ever get through the first half of this re-write so I can reward myself with some fiction. Mystery/Thriller One should always be well-read within your genre and cognizant of the greats. These are the people that crowd the field I'm trying to elbow my way into... well, into the crowd that's gathered to touch the hems of their robes anyway. The new Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child is out. The reviews are consistently good: Pure thriller, shootemup adventure. Jack Reacher is who all those other anti-hero characters are trying (and failing more often than not) to emulate. The LA Times link I just gave you also bears mentioning because it brings up the crucial evolutionary step preceding Reacher, Parker by the late, lamented, Donald Westlake. Unabashedly macho, admittedly criminal, these characters are nonetheless compelling and if you do nothing else, read them to learn how to create empathy in your readers for characters that aren't entirely likable! After that, there's a new Michael Connelly mystery The Scarecrow which pulls its plot from the headlines, featuring a reporter (recurring character Jack McEvoy from The Poet) about to be fired in the latest round of budget cuts at his newspaper. He preps a story sure to send him out with a bang and soon all hell breaks loose. I haven't read it yet, obviously, but Connelly consistently proves that writing about cops, criminals and crime doesn't mean you're not creating literature. And with October's release of the new Harry Bosch novel Nine Dragons, I'm confident I won't be disappointed. Incidentally, I don't often recommend authors unreservedly, but if you've never heard of him (or even if you have), go out and find yourself some David Hewson novels. His new one "Dante's Numbers" carries a title that gives the mistaken impression that he's another Dan Brown clone, but he's been out there for years with his ensemble cast of characters, turning in consistent crime fiction from the mean streets of Rome. (Yes, Rome. As in Italy.) Start with "Season For the Dead" or "Villa of Mysteries" and you won't regret it. I've read a lot of literature by female authors, but it became clear to me recently that there's a paucity of women on my mystery/thriller shelves. (This revelation was prompted in part by the tempest stirred by Ian Rankin's remark about female crime writers being more violent than male writers of the same genres.) My reading table now includes some women who are entirely new to me including Val McDermid, Manda Scott and recent Edgar Award Winner Tana French's "In The Woods". All chosen based on recommendations of friends and by the old standard of reading the ad copy, back cover and first chaper while standing in the bookstore. More recommendations of overlooked feminine voices in crime fiction? Leave them in the comments!! The Classics Every summer I do my best to mow through some of the classics that I either missed or glossed over in the past. This generally includes one very old masterpiece. Last year was Canterbury Tales and Don Quixote before that, generally balanced by sundry modern works. This summer, I will be making my way through The Divine Comedy once more. I last read it as a teenager and didn't get it so much as have it spoonfed to me and that's no way to create a real appreciation for or understanding of a significant work of western literature. I'll be filling in around the edges with the collected short stories of O. Henry, Hemingway, Kipling and Chekov. There isn't a reader alive whose erudition couldn't be improved by the addition of more great short fiction. RECOMMENDATIONS SOUGHT! Being between novels, my non-fiction mental hummingbird has nowhere to alight and is madly flitting about between gardening books and home-improvement guides. I need something solid to sink my teeth into, a great biography I might have missed or a scathing expose of Cleopatra's court or something... I'm game for just about anything, so send me your recommendations. Nothing really scandalous or titillating, just a great non-fiction read in an area I might otherwise overlook. What's on your list?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome to Pages to Type

We have newcomers! Welcome and well-met. These are the current Standard Operating Procedures for Pages to Type. Please review the SOP's before reading further...
  • This is a "novel blog" which is not really novel, but it is about a novel (sometimes) and the novelist who is writing it (mostly).
  • Safety goggles or Cokebottle nerd glasses should be worn at all times. The thicker the frames & lenses, the better.
  • If you should get any novelty in your eye, flush with water and seek medical help immediately.
  • Nothing found herein should be construed as the entire view of the author or anyone else living, dead or existing in an indeterminate state caused by fluctuations in space and time.
  • This is where I warehouse the overflow of ideas that occur to me as I write other things. If I put it here, I know where it is and can keep an eye on it.
  • Please feel free to feed the ideas. One can never feed an idea too much, they're happier when they're plump.
  • WARNING: Improper application may cause excessive coffee drinking, insomnia, Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror and the urge to type into the wee hours of the morning.
Read at your own risk. If we haven't met IRL, I'm Scott. I am a Pacific Northwest Writer, which means I live on an island in Puget Sound with my wife and two spoiled cats. I have one novel in circulation seeking publication and/or representation and another on the thumbdrive waiting for me to get back to it. This blog updates almost every day (unless I'm participating in a blog challenge such as BEDA.) and focuses on writing and the changes our literary culture is enduring as it transitions from ink to electrons. My passions are writing, reading, coffee, art and gardening, but what fascinates me most is the ever-changing intersections of writing and technology. The "Blog as Novel" phenomenon, the evolution of self-publishing as the 'Summer Stock' of the big publishing houses and the revival of short-form fiction on the internet are all topics I cover here at Pages to Type. I write historical fiction and mysteries, so there's always going to be an element of historical perspective in everything I post here as well. Blog Update I've added the Twitter gadget. I resisted Twitter for quite awhile, but so many of my friends are micro-blogging now I had to get an account to keep up with them. It's an exercise in brevity, a muscle writers could always stand to exercise...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A short garden tangent

It's important (to me, at least) to have someplace to enjoy the gardens and still get some writing done. This weekend I built this little courtyard in the front garden to have someplace to sit and sip coffee and enjoy a morning's writing. The brick is recycled from an old barbecue I tore down for a lady in return for the bricks. The pavers are just concrete pavers from the local home improvement store laid in a harlequin pattern. The whole thing is designed to be water-permeable to avoid runoff. (The angle looks odd because I'm standing up on a deck shooting down.) Naturally, the bare dirt will be flowers and herbs eventually. At the risk of going floral on you, the foliage to the left is a huge stand of beach roses (rosa rugusa) that are the centerpoint of the gardens. A hardy, lovely flower that requires minimal watering to survive and as an added bonus, the deer hate 'em! Can't wait to sit under that umbrella and begin work on the revisions to Mummer's Dance!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dharma Baseball

There was a great article in the New York Times today about an addition to the New York Public Library archive... Jack Kerouac -- the original counter-culture poster boy -- created and obsessively updated a personal fantasy baseball league. Read it here: Kerouac as Sportsfan It's amazing how much mystique we attach to some writers' names, and so difficult to imagine them as having a life beyond our conceptualization. Jack Kerouac collecting baseball minutiae to enter in the stats sheets of his imaginary baseball teams? How wonderfully normal for a man who is etched into our collective imagination as the quintessential outcast rebel.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Randomness...

It's (almost) finished! The first draft of my second novel in the AJ MacLeod/Jordan Elias series is almost complete. It is tentatively titled The Mummer's Masque. Click the link to read a short synopsis/teaser for the new book from my website. I've been plugging away at it for about a year now, and it's in a stage of completion where I will be sending copies to my reading group soon. This is quite the milestone for me. Meanwhile, if you're an editor or agent who has yet to see it, look forward to seeing my letter of enquiry arrive in your inbox soon! --- This August, I will be attending the Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference which is hosted by my good friends at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. The keynote address will be given by Terry Brooks, which is every geeky sci fi kid's dream come true. As you may or may not know, the first Fantasy book ever to appear on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller list was The Sword of Shannara. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Networking at Harper Collins

Provided by Todd over at Iced Tea & Sarcasm (thanks!) Harper Collins Wants To Be Your Friend The New York Observer Traditional publishers are awakening to the non-traditional ways that books are getting noticed and the viral nature of internet 'word-of-mouth' traffic that can make or break a book (or an author). Great interview, through provoking on the new face of the 'traditional' publishing houses.

Wordless Wednesday - The Gardens Awaken

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Proving that fate has a strange sense of humor... reports that an unpublished autobiography written by William H. McMasters has been found relating the events leading up to the day that he dropped the dime on Alfred Ponzi. You may recall Ponzi's bio from the endless B-roll related to the recent Bernie Madoff (aka "Ponzi Redux"). McMasters was Ponzi's publicist and (apparently) was ignorant of Ponzi's scam until he decided that the dividends his boss was promising investors were too good to be true and went to the authorities. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The article in the New York Times fills in the details and draws all the parallels for you. Speaking of scams, I'm reading Frank Partnoy's The Match King and it is on my list of must-reads for anyone curious about the origins of the financial products at the root of our current crisis. I admit that I lack the financial expertise to fully and completely appraise this book on any level other than the storytelling and that can be summed-up as "Wow, that's a helluva story". This even-handed review by the folks with the chops to really evaluate Partnoy's book over at The Economist magazine will get you started, though.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Podcast to Publication

Here's an interesting track to follow on the road to publication. Seth Harwood read his thriller novel aloud on a regular podcast like an old radio serial and the listeners became readers. Here's the full story at the Boston Globe.

So now what? We install elevators?

Oxford's storied Bodleian library has suffered an outbreak of a most pestilential villain... of course I speak of health & safety experts. They have banned stepladders from the premises, and good riddance to the pesky things. Who wants to reach the books on the top shelf anyway? The students, that's who. And the university has taken a stand against moving the books within reach, forcing students to travel to the British Library in London in some cases to look at a book that resides in their own local library... just out of reach. The full story in The Daily Mail (Tip care of @david_hewson's Twitter feed.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Google Books Un-Settlement

If you're not following this story, you should be... it has become so much more than an argument about digitization and copyright law. It's becoming a national debate (soon to become worldwide debate) about the future of information retrieval and access to research materials on the internet. Last week, the American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries got together to issue a stern "Shhhhhh!" to those noisy folks over at the Google table. (Just kidding, librarians, you know I love you.) Actually, they filed an amicus brief (opens in .PDF) in US District Court. If you're not a librarian or if you don't know any, let me give you some background. The publishing industry has been consolidating quite a bit in the past decade. This you are no doubt aware of since you are reading a blog about books and publishing. What you may not know is that the publishers of academic and professional journals have consolidated even more than the publishers you are familiar with. To the point where the publication of these important research materials is so concentrated in a few hands that the prices libraries pay to obtain them has gotten quite exorbitant. Additionally, many of the print editions have gone by the wayside to be replaced by electronic editions at not very much cost savings for the end-users. Libraries foot this bill in a time of ever-shrinking budgets. Academic libraries must additionally weigh the demands of various deans and professors for content immediately relevent to their classes with little or now additional help in their budget to offset the increases. This is simply a fact of life in terms of library budget management. Tack on the fact that the Google settlement does not in any way indicate what they will be charging libraries and institutions for this new electronic database to which their patrons and students will be demanding access. This is another straw on the camel. Additionally, the ALA and the ARL do more to safeguard our free access to information and the privacy of their clients than we'll ever know. If the access point to all (or even almost all) digital content is concentrated in the hands of a company that has shown themselves to be inconsistent in their protection of their users from interference by the state (censorship in China, but going to bat for user privacy in the US). Whilst librarians have, can, do, will go to jail to protect the Constitutional rights of library patrons. Will the people at Google be willing to do the same?
"The associations asserted that although the settlement has the potential to provide public access to millions of books, many of the features of the settlement, including the absence of competition for the new services, could compromise fundamental library values including equity of access to information, patron privacy and intellectual freedom. The court can mitigate these possible negative effects by regulating the conduct of Google and the Book Rights Registry the settlement establishes." - From the American Library Association press release
I wish them the best and I see their point. I'm just not sure their faith in the ability and willingness of the government to exercise oversight on something as complex and nuanced as global information access is well-placed. Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that state Attorneys General are taking a look at the Google Books settlement with an eye toward doing something about it. What, exactly, remains to be seen. After the state-by-state battles waged by Microsoft in their antitrust suits (not to mention country-by-country since the Internet's global) this thing isn't going to be resolved anytime soon.

Your Mama!

Happy mothers day mom! Thank you! For telling me it was ok to be a writer as long as I got my homework done first (not that I ever did) and for everything else you ever did to get me where I am today alive and intact, I thank you. And to all the moms out there, thank you for all you do! We salute you for the labor you endured, the diapers you changed, the noses you wiped and even the spit on the kleenex that shined our cheeks free of smudges. Our lives, our world would not be the same without you and would be so much better if only we listened a bit more now and again. I love you mom.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


This is one of my favorite poems. Shel Silverstein and AA Milne are on the shelf beside the Milton and Burns, which I've been told means that I never really grew up. Problems with my poetic pituitary gland, I guess. For no reason whatsoever.
"Oh, the butterflies are flying, Now the winter days are dying. And the primroses are trying To be seen. And the turtle-doves are cooing, And the woods are up and doing, For the violets are blue-ing In the green. Oh, the honey-bees are gumming On their little wings, and humming That the summer, which is coming Will be fun. And the cows are almost cooing, And the turtle doves are mooing, Which is why a Pooh is poohing In the sun. For the spring is really springing; You can see a skylark singing, And the blue-bells, which are ringing, Can be heard. And the cuckoo isn't cooing, But he's cucking and he's ooing, And a Pooh is simply poohing Like a bird." From "House at Pooh Corner" by AA Milne

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Posthumous Perspective

A couple days ago, Literary Agent and blogger Nathan Bransford posted a link to this article in The Guardian about the publication of books after the death of the author, against the author's wishes. This has happened to the likes of Louis L'Amour and and Roland Barthes and work in an unfinished state has as well been published by Jack Kerouac, David Foster Wallace and even Douglas Adams. The author of the Guardian piece and Mr Bransford posit the question: Is it right? Is it right or even good that these works are being dug out of a desk drawer (or hard drive) where the author hid them and sent out into the world? Is it any less right if the author saw them as private or even unpublishable? Is it good that we act against the wishes of those who have passed and run the risk that our wish to know more, to read further will ultimately dilute their oeuvre? Or do these hitherto unpublished works bear some value that surpasses the intentions of their author? For a long time, I was dismissive of these publications. The "lost" works that crop up periodically from dusty shelves of the Louis L'Amour estate or the constant publication and re-publication of every rough drafts and errant doodle of JRR Tolkien. And yet, so much of what we know about our history is epistolary. How much do we benefit from these posthumous publications as a literary culture? The letters of most major authors are bequeathed to academic libraries after all, for grad students to pore over for centuries to come. It will all be published or referenced eventually. Is the harm somehow greater if it happens soon after an author's death while his or her loved-ones can benefit rather than waiting a decade or a century for some scholar to do the same? Some of it is bald exploitation, turning a parent or grandparent's literary output into a family cottage industry. Some of it approaches real scholarship, the careful cataloging of a noted forebear's letters, stories and correspondence. And to some extent, the expiration of copyright 80 years after the death of an author protects our culture from being completely handcuffed by the efforts of literary heirs to control their ancestor's works indefinitely. At some point, control will slip from the family and these works will be explored and cataloged and written about or published anyway, by strangers yet to be born. I'm reminded of the minor controversy surrounding the publication of Douglas Adams's incomplete and half-conceived novel The Salmon of Doubt. The publication was met with a certain amount of ridicule and outright horror by close friends and even many of his fans. And indeed, Douglas probably would have been mortified in life had he ever published such an incomplete work, almost an outline really. And his friends were right to say so. Nevertheless, it's also true that these half-formed thoughts never would have seen the light of day had he lived to complete them. No publisher (it is hoped) would publish the rough draft of a novel by a living author. Just as the fact that they have died makes ratchets up the impulse to protect and defend their vision, it is only in their deaths that these things find meaning, and only posthumously that this glimpse inside a mind that will no longer gift us with its imaginings becomes compelling and necessary for us to grasp the vast potential of our loss and explore the limits of that mind. We think no worse of the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald just because we've read his posthumously-published works, or the love letters he wrote to Zelda. The passing of the author impercetably changes the gravity and context of the writing. It changes our perspective on the content and the value. Authorial intentions fall by the wayside as the writings shift from the invasion of a living person's privacy to a niche as part of the historical record. Just as I can now read the V-mail my grandparents exchanged while grandpa was fighting in the WWII in a completely different light than ever I could while they were alive. If nothing else, reflect for a moment upon the controversy we visited recently of the identity of one Master William Shakespeare. He wrote some amazing plays and poems. Coined much of the common vernacular we use everyday. Yet we don't know much about him, and argue endlessly about who he was (or wasn't). So much of our argument and the speculation that swirls around him results in the lack of his letters, personal papers and posthumous publications. So many arguments about his identity must be made from silence, for silence is all we have. As with anything, it's really all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ALA Must-Reads List (Genre Fiction)

People ask me all the time for a recommended reading list of current fiction. I've been writing a novel, so my reading of late has been primarily non-fiction research materials and I am only now starting to catch up on the pile next to my chair. Nevertheless, when all else fails one can rarely go wrong going to the American Library Association for a recommendation... The ALA Best Genre Fiction list is an excellent place to start. Or you could ask your friendly neighborhood librarian. They're your friends and they live to talk about books... kinda like me, but with a professional credential in "Recommending Books" beyond just being a book blogger.

Pardon Our Dust

My apologies for the shifts in format and headings and whatnot. I'm still tweaking the blog, looking for the optimum layout and graphics options. I've been looking for something that will enhance the central themes without detracting from them or pigeonholing me overmuch. I think I've got things settled for a bit.

Kindle: The Truth Will Out

The folks at xkcd are nerdtastic... and probably right.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Birthday!!!!

A very Happy Birthday to my nephew (and alleged doppleganger) Jared! Seriously, he just needs a beard, a personal library and a collection of manky old typewriters. I should just cobble together an "Uncle Scott Starter Kit". Seriously, though, have a happy one, kiddo!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Codes, Ciphers & Truth Stranger Than Fiction

I sometimes hear people react to thrillers and puzzle novels as unrealistic or "the sort of thing that just doesn't happen." I can't help but thing that people who say that sort of thing just aren't paying attention. Like the sculpture at the CIA compound in Langley that is in a cipher so complex even the CIA isn't entirely sure what it says. From WIRED Magazine... Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA Can't Crack Posted using ShareThis


As you might know (if you pay any attention to the badges in the right sidebar anyway), last month, I signed on for a project requiring daily blogposts for April. Why not? I post fairly often anyway and why pass up the opportunity to put your work in front of new eyes? It sounds easier than it is. Blog Every Day in April (BEDA) was the brainchild of YA author Maureen Johnson as a means to get herself to blog more often and provide greater accessibility to her fans. Gone are the days of JD Salinger and his peers hiding from their readers, the modern author steps out there and participates in an active discussion of their work. And MJ's status in the young adult community has prompted an amazing amount of young people to take to their keyboards (I almost said "Take up the pen". I am so 20th Century sometimes...) and write about themselves, their lives, their loves and their personal travails. April 2009 has passed into history and as of this moment, there are 6,682 posts on the rolls and more spread across the internet on personal blogs and even in video posts. Anyone who thinks the written word is dead or that kids don't know how to express themselves anymore is wrong. Those of us who learned to type on actual typewriters can often place too great an emphasis on the old forms to the exclusion of the volumes and value of what is happening in the digital realm. Working at the writing center, I could've told you that young people write all the time above and beyond their schoolwork. Often, they are writing under, around and in spite of the way in which they were taught to do so. Theater and film are thriving on YouTube. Poetry is alive and admirably suited to Twitter. And young adult fiction has never been a stronger medium. Just because Harold Bloom doesn't like Harry Potter, there is no reason to believe that the young people are any less literate than those who preceded them. Quite the contrary in my opinion. The formats change, the topics expand and evolve, but the printed word is far from dead. The breadth of subjects and depth of thought that have been made manifest in this project is breathtaking: book reviews, modern cultural shifts (such as Amazonfail), college choices, lifestyle choices of all stripes and a lively community of very literate young people. Like too many others before me, I once said I could never write for the Young Adult market because I didn't want to have to 'dumb down' my stories for 'kids'. How wrong I was. And how wrong those who came before me were to believe that. To the point that I think I might be daunting writing up to the level expected by a new and demanding audience of literate readers. It has been at times surprising and hilarious to watch BEDA unfold. At times it has been predictable, filled with the banality of daily life: school, dates, crushes and cetera. But frequently it jumped into another sphere and became something completely other... like unmaking an exquisite piece of origami to find it was folded from a collage of Roald Dahl short stories, Shakespeare, JD Salinger and a social studies textbook. It was an honor to participate and be invited to read your thoughts these past thirty days. See you next April! --- Cross Posted at Maureen Johnson on the Ning.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Fight over the Google of All Libraries: A FAQ

The Fight over the Google of All Libraries: A FAQ I've mentioned this several times now. While I don't always agree with Wired's editorial commentary on this topic, they have posted a top-notch guide to understanding why I care so much about this topic. This FAQ goes a long distance toward encompassing the full scope and impact of the battle over Google's quest for eBooks. Posted using ShareThis

Friday, May 1, 2009

News of the Wordsmiths

Speak the speech! April 23 was "Talk Like Shakespeare Day". Did you participate? You may have participated without even knowing. Did you realize how much of modern speech came from the Bard's prolific quill? Here's a list of all the common every day words that the venerable Oxford English Dictionary attributes to Master Shakespeare. If you're speaking English, then odds are, you talk like Shakespeare every day and don't even realize it. If you participate (consciously) in the event? Did your coworkers, friends and family? Send me your stories of bardic interactions at and I'll feature the best ones here on the blog! Britain's Poetess Laureate Great Britain has named their first female poet laureate: Carol Anne Duffy. Amid all the doom & gloom and with the WHO continually elevating our status on their "Omigod We're All Gonna Die" scale, I love getting a good bit of news. The best part is that her gender is noteworthy, but not the best part of the story, this is a seriously talented poet worthy of her post. Congratulations from the far side of the pond! That Which Frightens Us Shall Make Us Rich... Well, it'll make someone rich. You knew it was coming, didn't you? At least this one came out awhile ago, not just to capitalize on the current madness (maybe past madness). Proving that there's no such thing as bad publicity, the AP reports that The Great Influenza, has skyrocketed up the charts at Amazon and elsewhere. A backlist book about the 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic has sudden resonance with modern Americans. And why not with CNN and other news networks (not to mention blogs like this one) giving it loads of free publicity? Upcoming books about viral outbreaks are netting big returns too. If there was an Ebola outbreak (God forbid) I suppose copies of Hotzone would be flying off the shelf too. I don't write much about medical history, but it is tempting... maybe not.