Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WWII, Pearl Harbor, and Sacrifice

It’s tough not to reflect on December 7th, 1941, and what it meant to the United States. 

Currently, my work in progress is about a thirteen-year-old boy and his life during the London Blitz.  I won’t go into detail, but writing the book has required a heftier-than-usual research load, which I absolutely love.  This time in history completely captivates me.

The late Thirties and early Forties must have been a strange time to live in.  This morning, I’ve been thumbing through my AMERICAN HERITAGE PICTURE HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II.  If there is a common theme across the borders and oceans, I think it would be sacrifice. 

As an American, December 7th, 1941 meant a call for greater sacrifice.  The nation, possibly for the last time, set aside political, class, racial, and religious differences to band together and meet the call of duty.  Certainly, that is a romantic view of what happened, but for the most part, it is also an accurate view.

Still, it would take a few more years for the USA to get involved in Europe.  By 1941, England was on its own.  They had already weathered the Blitz but danger still surrounded them.  Europe was Hitler’s to do with what he pleased and he had begun to look east.  To Russia.

I think of my grandfathers during days like December 7th.  One, Edward Floyd Lemox, landed on Normandy, only to be shelled by a mortar and spend the majority of his war in a London hospital.  The other, however, had a distinctly different experience. 

Lt. Lyman Cleveland Duncan was a B-17 pilot in the 463rd Bomb Group, 775 Bomb Squadron.  He flew over fifty missions out of Foggia, Italy and received among his many medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.  That's him in the picture, top row, furthest to the right.

His war, like may others, was a long, harrowing experience, filled with nightmare stories such as the time his navigator lost his head from a direct hit to the nose of their airplane by flak from a German 88 anti-aircraft gun. 

Sacrifice.  That is what they all shared in those days. 

So today, if you’ve got a spare moment, perhaps you can reflect on what those brave men, women, and children sacrificed so that the better parts of our humanity were not outcome by the worst.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: A Retrospective

A day or so before the start of November, I happened to trip across a post about the upcoming NaNoWriMo or, for those who don’t know what it is, National Novel Writing Month.  Writers participate, writing every day in hopes of reaching fifty thousand words in thirty days.  Now, that ain’t a novel (a middle grade children’s book, maybe) but it is a damn good start on one. 

Typically, this sort of thing I don’t get into.  Good or bad, I’m sort of set in my ways as a writer.  I try to write every day, but I don’t always.  And sometimes, I’ll sit and crank out 10k at a time in creative bursts. 

NaNo was one of those things as a writer that the NASCAR race at Talladega was for me living in Alabama: something I always heard about after the fact but didn’t have any desire to participate in.  (I neither care for NASCAR, nor being told how and when to write.)

This year, though, I caught sight of the competition, (or whatever it is) early on a blog.  I figured, what the hell.  With THE REVELATION SAGA awaiting its fate and a YA Civil War revenge story simmering, I decided participation might be a good opportunity to jump into something new. 

So, off I went.

I had a nice start, wrapping up about 10k in half as many days a that amount should take.  I spent some time on research, some time on outlining.  And then I realized I was telling the story from the wrong perspective. 

One of the rules to NaNo is never erase a word.  Here is where I start to diverge from this whole thing.  These rules.   There is something to be said about keeping continuity, quality, and art in mind while you write.  Sometimes those horrible bits need to be removed, lest they spread like cancer to the good parts.  Bad writing is infectious. 

I’m not saying you should edit every bit, but I find that writing a novel requires a reread of some passages, especially if tones and themes are being bookended or mirrored elsewhere.  The better written those passages are, the better the new stuff tends to be. 

Keep in mind that I like my first draft to be as strong as possible.  That doesn’t mean it’s not shit.  It likely is, but at a minimum the story should be structurally sound .  Not perfect, but sound.  It should survive plot and character scrutiny.  A first draft is like the bones of an athlete.  The muscle tone, training, and talent are built and cultivated in the later drafts.

Of course, there is no judging panel ready to crack your knuckles with a ruler.  So, pissing on the rules, I decided to continue in the spirit of NaNoWriMo. 

My final word count is 36,387.  Not too bad, considering I was only able to write for a little over half of the 30 days.   With a pregnant wife, both families in town for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and football season winding down, that’s all I was willing to spare.

The important thing is, what I’ve written has me excited. There is momentum.  And it’s likely something that I would still be procrastinating about if NaNo hadn’t prodded me into the draft. Mind you, it’s still a mess, but a workable one.   

Monday, November 14, 2011


It can be woeful journey, this business of getting published.  No wonder that while doing so, many of us hopefuls band together, hand-in-digital hand, to give support, encouragement, and when needed, a shoulder to cry on.  I've made several friends, some of which I've even shared bacon-infused whiskies with, such as Alexa Martin (Girl Wonder, Hyperion 2011), Rachel Hawkins (the Hex Hall series, Hyperion 2011) and Lindsay Leavitt (Princess for Hire series, Hyperion 2010). 

One particular place that I've called home over the years is a website called AgentQuery Connect.  There, a few of us 'veterans' have forged wonderful friendships together as we queried onward, went from agent to agent, or dipped our toes into the shadowy process of submission. 

Well, this year is shaping up very nicely for our group.  First, Sophie Perinot had wonderful success with the sale of her upcoming book The Sister Queens.   Today, it is my pleasure to offer congratulations to Mindy McGinnis!  The press release, per Publishers Marketplace: "Mindy McGinnis's NOT A DROP TO Sarah Shumway at Katherine Tegan Books, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services (World)."

It's a great success story and couldn't happen to a nicer person.  To give you a little persective on what a dream-come-true this is, Mindy went from a YA librarian to this:

Nice deal is $1 to $49,000
Very nice deal is $50K to $99K
Good deal is $100K to $250
Significant deal is $250K to $499K
Major deal is $500K and up

Who says the publishing industry is dead?

Thursday, November 10, 2011


If you’ve been following this blog, you might have seen me mention Shakespeare & Co., the Parisian bookstore that has made my bucket list of places to experience.  It’s a famous little store in the Latin Quarter that has hosted greats like Hemmingway and Fitzgerald.  And if you’re a writer, and happen to be in Paris without any money, you might find yourself lucky enough to be put up for a few nights, right in the store itself, provided you can pay for it with a shift or two in the bookstore. 

So I came upon this little short film by Spike Jonze that gives you an idea of what magic might unfold on the shelves while you sleep between them.  This is a truly amazing, beautiful film, an absolute must see.

I give you, Spike Jonze’s MOURIR APRÈS DE TOI (To Die by Your Side). 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

YA in Music Video? M83's MIDNIGHT CITY

Many of you might not recall what a music video is.  Little hint: it's what used to be on MTV before they dropped the "Music" from the "M."  Anyway, I found this awesome M83 video called Midnight City.  I swear, it's straight out of the brilliance of some YA author.  (Hope it wasn't stolen.)

Give it a listen.  Great song, great video.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's Next?

Now that summer is in the rear view window, with respect to slicked-back hair, Wayfarers, and Don Henley, the publishing industry is moving once again at full speed ahead.

So, what's the next thing?  More vampires?  Werewolves?  Steampunk?  Angels?

Really, nobody knows.  It's like trying to predict the weather.  But it's fun to guess.  One good way to do that is to look at what's popular now and what's coming in the near future.  My agent, John Rudolph has just posted a nice blog entry at the Dystel & Goderich website about the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) 2011 Teens' Top Ten. It seems paranormal and fantasy are still going strong.

Which, ahem, is very good news.

But what is on the shelves right now doesn't necessarily translate to what's going to be on the shelf tomorrow.  You have to look at what is being pitched to do that.  Luckily, John and his cohorts have just posted the DGLM Childrens Newsletter for Upcoming Submissions.  There are some awesome titles coming up by some talented authors.  And be on the lookout for a special appearance by yours truly.  How I convinced them to let me into that party, I'll never know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lauren Myracle's SHINE: Wronged

Today news broke that one of the finalists for the National Book Awards was announced in error. 

Think about that for a minute: you as an author being told you are nominated for the most prestigious book award - the Oscar of literature - only to be told, "Oops.  Our bad."

Publishers Weekly reported that Lauren Myracle’s finalist spot in the Young People Literature category for her book SHINE had been intended for Franny Billingsley’s CHIME, a mistake made when a member of the National Book Foundation staff misheard a judge’s announcement over the phone . 

The mix-up was not caught until last Wednesday’s radio announcement.

Myracle decided to withdraw her book as a finalist after being asked by the NBF.  She was told that by doing so she would “preserve the integrity of the award and of the judges work.”  

What a shocking embarrassment for the National Book Foundation.  And what a horrible thing for Myracle to have gone through.  Frankly, I’ve never been much of a fan of quantifying the value of one’s artistic work over another’s, but I’ve always been somewhat eased by the fact that, whether it’s the Oscars, Grammy’s, or the NBA, there was a professional, competent group of people running the show.

I have to say, my confidence in the National Book Foundation has been shaken.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bookstore on Fire - Kindle's Next Gen

I love a good unveiling.  With the October 4 debut of iPhone 5 (or is it iPhone 4.5?) and Canon lifting the wrapper off of something mysterious on November 4, the next month is going to be neat-o.  Yeah.  I'm bringing back 'neat-o.'

But FIRST!  Today marked the World Premiere of the Kindle Fire.  I imagine the commercial will go something like this:

If not, I think they are missing out on some potential marketing genius.

This is quite an interesting piece of technology and may hint at what the future of the book may be.  It's a capable little machine and I wonder if there will be a market for some sort of mixed media once these little devices find their way into our homes.  Can you imagine a book with music clips as you read a page?  Or a video supplement?  Or some kind of Pop Up Video, but you know, for books?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

You might have noticed that things went on hiatus here at INK ROCK.  It was summer.  It was hot.  And for a minute there, I think I melted in the brains a little.  Did I mention it was hot?  The situation called for a vacay getaway.  More of the beach, more time to dig back into that sequel.

Vacation didn't extend only to me.  The publishing industry takes a little time off for the summer.  And now, with Labor Day behind us, the industry is back in the swing of things. 

In other news: football started!  Both of them!  My Auburn Tigers are back and, strangely, considering their death-walk schedule, winning.  That's college football, for those who might have missed last year when...ahem...we won the national title.  In other football news, soccer has started again though, with the heat, it's still a bit like playing on the surface of the sun .  We won our first game 3-1.  I had a goal pulled back for offsides.  Which I totally wasn't.  Okay, maybe I was.  And I missed side netting on a half volley.  Boo that, too.  In the English Premiere League, my Newcastle United ain't doin' half bad either!

So, in short, we're back and looking for great stories inspired by interesting places.  Football distractions aside, look for regular posts coming weekly!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Returning in September for regular posts.  Behind the scenes here at INKROCK, we're in early talks about a filmed pilot...but more on that in the future. ;)

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful piece of film by STA Travel Australia!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Craft of Building Worlds

Just west of Panama City, in what is sometimes called the Redneck Riviera of Florida, there is a town that is anything but.  Rosemary Beach, with its adjoining Barrett Square, looks stolen from a European costal village. 

And that was just the point when the idea for the town was put to dirt, or in this case, sand, in 1995.

The town was built in a way that brings to mind exclusive jet setter destinations.  The south of France.  Greek Isles.  The West Indies.  All of their influence can be seen in the architechture and shops.  Real estate here is expensive; the clientele affluent.  When imagined, what threatened to turn into a mere knock-off had to be as authentic as possible because anything less would easily be sniffed out as a fraud by the well-traveled.

So in this way, Rosemary Beach began as something very contrived, even fake.  Normally, this sort of destination I see for what it is: a theme park.  Artificially flavored.  Something so shallow, one need only scratch the surface to reveal the forgery.

The thing is, I’ve scratched the surface at Rosemary Beach.  Sure, it doesn’t have that organic genesis found in the exotic destinations that inspired it, but the town, for better or worse, works.  It has become real. It has become the idea.

What the designers of Rosemary Beach did is what many authors seek to do every day they pick up a pen and put it to paper – make a world come alive.  When done poorly, the world is exposed for what it is – a cheap imitation.  But when done right, it can pull the you in; make you believe in the magic. 

When I look at Rosemary Beach I am reminded of why it works.  For me, it’s both the details and the lack of details, along with notes of familiarity.  Good world building defines enough and gives enough of a recognizable foundation that the one put into the world is capable of framing the narrative around the new aspects of the author's creation. 

The expereince should be somehow relateable.  It all must work together, too.  Things have to make sense, layer after layer.  People will believe the impossible, but they, however, won't believe the ridiculous. 

Lastly, the world builder leaves room for the imagination to work, grow, and evolve with the story.  After all, it’s nice to be included.  Good architects, like smart authors, know when to let go of the defining, the details, and allow you to make their creation your own, whether it be in your mind for a book or a streetside art and book shop in Barrett Square (see next post: Bookstore Spotlight: The Hidden Lantern). 

So authors, what’s your secret to solid world building?  And readers, what works for you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Survivors A2792, A2793


The word inspires images from a time when the darkest corners of human nature were exposed, raw and sinister and real.  What today is merely a chapter of history that most would rather turn away from is for others a part of their memory, their life story, as real today as it was seventy years ago.

On Sunday, I had the honor of meeting two such women who are both “blessed and cursed” to be burdened with such memories, having survived Auschwitz II in Berkinau, Poland.  Ruth Scheuer Siegler and her sister Ilse Scheuer Nathan, both born in Germany during the twenties, seemed bright and full of life at Ms. Siegler’s book signing for her memoir My Father’s Blessings: A Story of Survival and Triumph.

There was an amazing turnout in support of the book.  While Ms. Siegler signed copies, my wife engaged Ms. Nathan in a conversation about the Holocaust.  What I came away from listening to her recall this horrible time was her appreciation of the now. 

Hung around the room were pictures of the two sisters along with other survivors in an exhibit called Darkness into Life.  I remember one picture of a man in an apron.  In it he is holding a glass of red wine, with a fine meal spread out in a very nice kitchen.  Beside the picture is his story of life in a Nazi Concentration Camp and how he would get through a day eating only the peel from a potato.  Today he appreciates every morsel on his plate, unable to forget what life had once been like.

And this, too, was what Ilse kept insisting: Be thankful for what you have.  Because you never know. 

I am thankful for having met both women.  Their stories are inspiring and as triumphant as they are heartbreaking. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Succeed at Query Rejection

(The obligatory query post.  Don’t act surprised.  It’s a writing blog.  You knew this was coming.)

There is a place in every writer’s career, a time both mixed with elation from having just finished (and hopefully edited) a manuscript and confusion, where a single question pops into the mind:  What now?

If you’re the type who walks into a bookstore and picks out where on the shelf your book might fit in, the next step is Querying an Agent.  Let’s do ourselves a favor here and side step the whole self publication / ebook / indie road to publication discussion, or for that matter, the argument over the need for an agent.  Firstly, I know jack about self publication and in my experience, an agent is a must.

My blog.  My rules.

I’ve had two agents.  My current one, John Rudolph, is with Dystel & Goderich.  Both relationships began with a simple, one page letter known as a query.  This might get a little elementary, but that’s okay.  If I'm going too fast, please raise your hand.  Remember, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. 

Right.  Where was I?  Yes, the query letter.  There are many places to learn how to write one, but the website that helped me the most is  Instead of regurgitating (apologies) everything I learned there, I suggest you click the link and get to studying.

Of course, the hook, synopsis, bio format isn’t the only way to write a query, but it worked well enough for me.  Feel free to experiment with what is most effective for you, but remember – the query should be about the book.  It should not be about your inflated dreams of celebrity or all the useless market research you’ve done, offered as evidence for why your book sales will make J.K. Rowling’s figures look like a Girl Scout’s cookie rush invoice.  Do yourself a favor and skip that crap.

The only universally accepted rule to querying is this: your query will be rejected.  The other only universally accepted rule is: follow the submission guidelines of the agent.  Okay, pardon the math there.

Rejection at the query stage is okay.  It should be expected, in fact.  If your manuscript is in great shape (read: polished after several drafts) and your query is an honest reflection of your voice and book, a rejection simply means that there is a conflict of taste. 

And there’s no accounting for taste.

To imagine an agent’s perspective, I like to think of my own regards to foie gras, often found on fine dining menus.  I mean, that’s freaking duck liver.  A dish made from an organ that filters all the impurities and toxins from the blood of an animal that walks around all day in its own feces?  Not my thing.  But that doesn’t mean that the quality and presentation isn’t spectacular.  It just means that for the next several months I don’t want to spend my days helping you perfect the recipe before we sell it in a restaurant.  I’m just not the guy for that.

So don’t be afraid of rejection.  Embrace it as part of the process. 

Since I brought it up, I’ll include my query letter here.  If you have any questions about the querying process, feel free to ask in the comments!

Dear Mr. Agent,

I am querying you today as a former client of William Morris Endeavor, following a heartfelt decision by my agent to cull his fiction catalogue in favor of celebrity memoir and nonfiction.  This manuscript has not been submitted.
When an assassin burns his cathedral home and leaves one innocent murdered in a style not witnessed in centuries, seventeen-year-old Gabriel Adam’s father reveals that Gabriel is one of four Archangels, born human and sent to stop Armageddon.  Now, he must leave behind dreams of attending NYU to fulfill a prophecy kept secret by a phantom religious sect charged with the pre-biblical traditions of the End of Days.  Thus begins THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM, a 73,000 word young adult novel.
Sixteen hundred years ago, the Roman Empire declared a prophetic book, The Apocalypse of Solomon, heretical and banned it from Biblical canon.  With every copy soon destroyed, all the information it contained to secure mankind’s right to the Earth realm disappeared forever.  However, its secrets survived in the knowledge of a professor, whom today resides in England.  With the assassin still in pursuit, Gabriel and his father travel to the English university town of Durham, hoping that the book will guide them.  Joined there by Micah - the Archangel Michael born as a girl - Gabriel must learn to have faith in himself and accept the role he must play in the coming war without being distracted by his new life as a college student or his religious skepticism.  But with two of the four Archangels hunted down and presumed dead, the only chance at stopping the assassin’s plan to ignite the apocalypse remains hidden inside the Ark of the Covenant, somewhere in Ethiopia.

I'm a practicing attorney and have studied international legal systems in England. My time abroad encouraged an academic interest in religious histories throughout the British and Roman Empires. THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM represents the culmination of my research from an agnostic perspective. 

Thank you for your consideration.  Should you like to see more of THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM, please feel free to call or write. 


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Zen of Being Disappointed

So my advice is, have reasonable expectations, and you will not evade happiness.

Oh.  That’s right.  You didn’t ask for my advice.

But still.  It’s free.  So take it.  Go ahead. 

After all, you want to be published, yes?

I am not an expert in publishing.  I am not an expert in writing.  But I have built a considerable wealth of knowledge on the subject of disappointment by participating in both of the former. 

Of course you know one of the songs.  Rejection.  You’ve heard it before, a thousand times sorting yourself through the treatises and opinions caught in the internet on How to Get Published.

You’re savvy like that.  Prepared.  Learned, one might even call you.

Disappointment, however, is like a different tune.  Another animal entirely, to mix metaphores.  Sometimes it happens when you aren’t being Rejected.  You might find Disappointment hidden in the tiny recesses of Accepted.  Save for the select fortunate, whom we both despise with all our jealous hearts, Disappointment can be a lifelong passenger on the road to Author Career. 

Why, just look at all the wonderful places Disappointment can be found!

Your query performance.
Your writing, and other people’s opinions of.
Your editing, and other people’s opinions of.
Your book deal.
Your sales.
Your relationship with editors, agents, readers.
How long it takes getting published.
Book covers.
And many more!

My goodness.  Who would ever want to be published?  It seems you lose even when you win.  On the other hand (Hand usage count so far:  One), for those with reasonable expectations, the effects of Disappointment can be somewhat alleviated.  How, you ask?  Start by adjusting those dreams of yours. 

You may get an agent.  You may get a book deal.  You may build a fan base.  But you probably won’t be snatching Stephen King’s throne from under him.  Twihards and Potterheads likely won’t be deeming you the next Thing.  MTV will doubtfully be approaching you for an episode of Cribs at anytime in the near future. The cover of your book will not leave the masses weeping uncontrollably. 

As some great philosopher once mused, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Though, since you’re curious, what I would have said had I said it myself was, “Jesus, man. Chill the f*** out.” 

And I would also need a mirror.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Life and Times of Brick and Mortar

What if bookstores went away?

What would that world be like? 

Brick and mortar booksellers are up against an ever-rising tide of technological advancements that are making their very existence unnecessary.  In all the excitement about the admittedly wonderful new ways of buying and e-reading books, I’ve lost sight of what it might cost.

I wonder if such a world was ever imaginable to my grandfather, who opened Lemox Bookstore in Pensacola, Florida years and years ago and ran it quite successfully up until his death in the early nineties.  I imagine he would have been saddened, if not simultaneously in awe.  The man, after all, could appreciate thinking outside the box. If selling ebooks is anything, it is selling outside the box.  Quite literally, in fact.  Recently, though, his son closed the doors to Lemox Bookstore, unable to compete with the internet giants and e-readers.

Are libraries next?

What about physical books?

Is the culture of books - the face to face time you share with another book lover when you physically buy a book - in jeopardy? 

Will coffee still taste the same without the smell of ink and paper?

I know.  This is all sort of useless.  These questions are asked every thirty minutes in the business of publishing and bookselling; most answered with more questions.  Which is fine, I guess.  The future is funny about not being very specific.

I ran across this video about a man’s extraordinary efforts to keep alive his dream of brick, mortar, and second-hand books.  He is forced to run his store illegally and in secret in NYC, restricted by costs and a new business paradigm that favors giants. 

This isn’t the future of publishing.  It’s the now of publishing. 

I’m not advocating a rebellion or anything with regard to e-books, e-readers, or internet and big-box booksellers.  Enjoy your convenience.  Enjoy your savings.  I know I do.  Just remember to occasionally throw a bone to the local main street booksellers, especially the mom and pop joints.  Those places have a soul.  And take it from me, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Day Hemingway

The shower after dawn lasts until just after six until the clouds give way to the rising sun.  Left behind from the rain is a coolness to the morning air, welcome before the heat of the day sets in.

Most mornings, even in the early hours, foot traffic is heavy by the water.  People setting up umbrellas and chairs, picking the finest spots.  Today, though, because of the rain, the beach is nearly empty. 

Glassed water stretches into the blue-gray horizon.  No waves lap the shore.  The water merely breathes, inhaling and exhaling against the wet sand. 

I’ve been reading A MOVEABLE FEAST by Earnest Hemingway.  It’s a great insight into the artistic culture of Paris in the mid-twenties.  Everyone interested in the connection between prose and place should read this book, if not only for Hemingway’s anecdote about a trip to the statues of the Louvre to ensure F. Scott Fitzgerald that his member was of sufficient size. 

Who knew the museum was good for sexual psychology?

            Somehow, reading Hemingway draws me into his world.  I think of THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and wonder about his life in Key West.  Memories of my visit to his house strain for clarity.

            In effect, I become this sort of Hemingway fanboy.

            What can I say?  I love the classics.

            This unhealthy infatuation of the famous author’s real adventures inspires one of my own.  Granted, I’m no Santiago.  And I don’t have a boat, so really a poor man’s adventure at most.  I do, however, have one of those twenty dollar rafts that sort of look like a boat and come with paddles.  It will do.

With an old beat-up rod and several diced raw shrimp for bait, I set out into the tranquil gulf.  After about thirty minutes of paddling, I’m a good fifty or so yards past the second sandbar.  Far enough that people look like ants on the shore.  Far enough to be in trouble if my dingy of a raft springs a leak.

Within minutes I’ve got a hook over the side.  Bait fish are thick, feeding off animals hiding in the sargassum.  The water, a crystal clear emerald, is perfectly visible twenty feet down.  My first visitors are two tarpon, each as long as my makeshift fishing vessel.  I cast my line at them, not contemplating the disaster of actually hooking one.  Luckily, they are more interested in the skip jack swarming.  The tarpon take after the smaller fish, jumping and leaping from the water in their hunt.

Half an hour later, I’m approached by a green turtle.  It’s cautious at first, perhaps even worried, moving slow and deliberately.  Curious eyes study me and quickly decide I’m no threat.  I toss a few bits of shrimp in the water and as soon as I turn my head, there is a splash and the bait has disappeared.  I’m not sure if the turtle ate it or if it was one of the remora that was tagging along on its shell. 

Soon my line spins out of the spool and the rod bends toward the water.  The reel is old and half-broken, and takes me longer than it should to pull in my catch – a small jack flapping wildly at the top of the water.  I unhook the poor animal and set him free. As soon as I do, I see my third visitor. 

The dark, almost slithering body is worrisome enough, but what gives me alarm is the square shape of the block snout and the long tail.  It’s deep, but large.  Probably a ten foot shark.  The earlier presence and behavior of the turtle now suggests that it might be a tiger.

As it swims into the darker water, I decide my little raft, with its collection of bait shrimp juice spilling into the water, could also be described as a chum bucket.  I paddle my way back to shore.

After a stern scolding on the intelligence of ocean exploration in a child’s raft, my wife and I spend the evening walking the streets of Ruskin Place Art Colony at Seaside.  It is a small square that looks stolen from Paris, France. 

Little boutiques art galleries and clothing stores line up, one after another, like Red Bird Gallery or the aptly named An Apartment in Paris art gallery. 

I think of Hemingway’s time in Paris where he rubbed elbows with artists and talked about writing with authors at street side cafes, and wonder what that experience did for his writing.

            He would have liked it here, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Update to YA Gender Divide

Just a quick update on last week’s YA Gender Divide post before I return from Vacation Hiatus.

Over at Absolute Write, I polled the members with a question on what can be done to increase teenage boys’ participation in YA reading.

The premise for the question was that 1) teenage boys aren’t drawn to YA as much as teenage girls, and 2) is there anything that can be done (marketing or otherwise) that would make YA seem more appealing to teenage boys?

Well, as often happens on internet discussions, the conversation quickly devolved into a passionate argument about the sexes – not something I wanted, but perhaps should have anticipated.

What struck me as strange were the couple of YA authors that chimed in with the basic notion, to hell with the boys.  It was a sort of defensive posture that someone might take over property that was about to be removed from their possession.  I mean, these were authors basically taking the position that if boys were too stupid or emotionally shallow to appreciate their work, then that’s their problem!

So is YA destined to become owned by the fairer sex, leaving boys with sci-fi and fantasy?  Maybe YA means something different these days than simply young adult.  I don’t know.  All I want is for boys to read and be interested in literature as much as girls.

And I am open for suggestions on how to make that happen.

New posts next week!  In the meantime, check out those awesome blogs to the left of the post.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bookstore Spotlight: SUNDOG BOOKS

I'm on Vacation Hiatus, so while I'm away, enjoy this Holiday Themed REPOST!  (Lazy, I know.)  Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Although you’ve probably never seen it in person, Seaside might still look familiar to you.   The crown jewel of historic Highway 30-A, its white cottages and crescent marketplace were cast as the make-believe perfect town in Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show. 

And with good reason.  A spinach and feta croissant from Modica Market in the morning, a cocktail and an amberjack sandwich for dinner at Bud & Alley’s, with a day on the whitest beach you’ve ever seen for in between.  The setting embodies perfection.

Behind the amphitheater, just beyond the scents of freshly-grilled seafood from the street vendors, and tucked neatly in the crescent of the market, is a white, two-story cottage.  Above, there is a record store on the second floor – the old fashioned kind that gives the middle finger to all things digital - and below, perfect for finding that beach read, is Sundog Books.   

Like many independent bookstores, this one has its own personality. Something you might expect from a place with a name like Sundog.  Rustic wooden floors, antique hutches and beat up tables topheavy with books fill the room. Do-it-your-way indie spirit is everywhere.  The expected fare of the latest commercial offerings are scattered about, though just as proudly displayed are published novels, fishing guides, and cookbooks from local authors.  Somehow, with the music upstairs, the always-open front door, and the sea breeze that flows through the building, the ambiance is almost like that a surf shop, but with books instead of boards.

Outside is a porch, not unlike one you might find on any nearby cottage, except that this one is reserved for author signings – the world’s first Author Signing Porch!  (Don't quote me on that little stat.)  The chalkboard beside the front door lists all the upcoming events in pastel colors. 

Easily, Sundog Books is one of the unique and distinctive things about Seaside, and the quaint little store really adds to the experience of visiting the area.  Especially for readers.  So, know any awesome bookstores you like to hit when you’re on vacation? 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Great (YA Gender) Divide

Once, boys and girls both read, and read often.

So, I’m a guy. A dude. I play sports, grill meat, and sometimes, under the influence of beer-flavored beer, I’ve even been known to chest bump.

But I also write fiction.  And not just fiction – young adult fiction. 

On the way to becoming a YA author, I noticed something strange about my masculine circumstance.  When I first started out – learning to query, learning to write and edit – I stumbled into these e-relationships online with others who were endeavoring to take the same path.  We found common ground, usually in genre, and supported each other in the journey toward publication.

Ninety percent of my YA author e-relationships are with women.

I know, that really isn’t evidence of anything, but it got me thinking.  What about the male-oriented stories?  A quick browsing of the YA section of any bookstore will show you just how feminine the genre has become.

This isn’t a bad thing, but for me it is slightly alarming on a business level.  Publishers publish to make money, but if the balance of YA books being published is overwhelmingly for teenage girls, does that mean teenage boys aren’t reading?

I didn’t read much as a teenager.

Sure, I took in the occasional Crichton book and tried to understand Clancy military thrillers, but I was more drawn to Spielberg movies and comic books.  Today, there are even more distractions with video games and the internet.

As I've aged, my reading habits have changed, grown.  Right now, I’m reading Alexa Martin’s GIRL WONDER.  Alexa is a good friend and has written an amazing account of what it must be like to be the new girl at a new high school.

I like girl-oriented YA.

Though Alexa would definitely welcome me, and even though a guy like me can enjoy and see the literary merit of GIRL WONDER, I am probably not among Alexa’s target audience, though it begs the question - do I need to relate to the subject matter of a book to enjoy it, and if not, why not target me as a potential reader?

Looking at the many amazing books in the YA section makes me wonder if teenage boys would read more if they were targeted more.

Certainly, these thoughts are void of the complications and economics of marketing, but still...

Teenage boys like to read.

Some authors know this.  And some of them are men.  Look at the works of John Green or Andrew Smith.  Heck, even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was aimed at boys.  So then, what about YA is so standoffish to teenage boys?  Is it marketing?  Is it this new feminine cultural definition of YA?  Is it the more boyish distractions of video games and sports?  

I’m not certain, honestly.  But I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is a bigger market out there that would support more teenage boy readers.  We just need new ideas on how to approach them.

(Paragraph headings are totally "borrowed" from Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF.  I'll give them back.  I promise.  Premise was inspired by Andrew Smith's recent observations of gender in YA.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Backup Plan

So, today there were some minor ripples in the world of publishing.  My agency, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, has made an announcement that they will be offering a new service to their clients: a sort of e-publishing advocacy. 

Strictly speaking, this is a service for their clients who wish to see a second life for their out-of-print work and hold reverted rights.  This service is also useful for that doomsday scenario where an author’s manuscript falls into submission hell and no house is buying.  Here, e-publishing might be the only option left for such a manuscript, unless the author should prefer to trunk it for several years in hopes that one day new editors are working at the houses.

So why should you care?  Well, the times, they are a-changin’.  E-publishing has gained an extraordinary momentum due to technological advances.  You probably have an e-reader in your pocket.  Most smartphones these days are capable of becoming digital books with the touch of an app.  That is a huge potential market of book buyers.

However, this doesn’t mean publishing houses are going away.  And it doesn’t mean agencies are going to become publishers.  DGLM will remain a literary agency and only advocate and advise for e-publishing, keeping in tact the 15% agency fee and quashing any possibility of a conflict of interest.

But with all change, there is resistance.  Some are uncomfortable with the blurring of duties and borders.  Though, for me, such feelings are behind the times.  Agents are now taking roles that used to be traditionally for editors – you need only look at the track changes John made on my last draft to see just how much editing they do. 

Personally, I like having this option – and that’s all it is.  An author can elect to do this, or not – it’s a choice. 

Any thoughts on this new trend?  Share away!

EDIT: Here's an excellent in depth breakdown of where DGLM fits into the agency becoming publisher trend: David Gaughran's site.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ALOHAMORA: Pottermore Revealed!

I have to admit, I came to Harry Potter a bit late.  Book Five or Six.  The reason, I think, was that all along I thought the series was a sort of kid-exclusive fairytale.  Seeing Chris Columbus’ take on the first movie only reinforced that opinion.  And the covers looked liked cartoons.  They were beautiful, but not something that I was very comfortable with reading in public.

Had I lived in Britain, however, the covers at least wouldn’t have been a problem.  Check these adult versions out:

A stark and very cool contrast to the American versions.

This, though, isn’t a post about my experience in, or my love for, the world of Harry Potter.  This is about J. K. Rowling’s BREAKING NEWS revealed today!

The door has been unlocked (presumably by an alohamora spell), letting us sneak a peek into what’s coming.  Here is in Rowling’s own words:

I’m not sure how deep or ambitious this community will be, but if anything, this is a brilliant way to announce the release of the ebooks.  Though, this may leave Apple users out, because as of now the only way to purchase ebooks for the iPhone and iPad is through the Apple Store, and Pottermore is the exclusive destination to purchase eHarry Potter.  It debuts in October.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Go the F*** Away

This is getting old. 

First, the rapper Common gets skewered by Fox News for a poetry read at the White House and labeled a proponent of killing cops because of lines taken out of context from a poem he wrote – the same poem which ironically takes a stand against such violence.  The truth, unfortunately for those making the preposterous accusation, was only a stanza or two deeper into the piece.

Then there was The Wall Street Journal’s now infamous attack on young adult fiction which suggests that reading dark material may inspire one to dark action.  You’ll forgive me if I abstain from rehashing that fiasco. 

Now, in an opinion piece at Fox News dot com, there is another tear shed for the supposed erosion of our wholesome culture, all because of the new bestseller “Go the F*** to Sleep.”  You should also know that the opinion is written by an author who claims (several times) that F*** is an obvious parody of his own work and sites some fairly universal themes as reasons why.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but because the piece is such an obvious grab at some of F***’s success, evidenced by the numerous links back to his personal author web page, I’m opting not to link the story here. 

Because really, f*** that guy.

What is so ludicrous is the suggestion that Go the F*** to Sleep is even a children’s book.  Sure, it may have that sugary style, hand-drawn art, and bright colors found in the genre, but F*** is a children’s book like an Apple Martini is a kid’s drink.

And of course there is the (now seemingly mandatory to these opinion pieces) desperate cry for society to examine its culture.  As if America has one culture.  Still, seeking homogenization of our culture into the author’s vanilla version doesn’t really offend me.  I disagree, but whatever.  Such an idea is simply selective blindness to the layers of American culture which are obviously different from his own, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just ignorance.  So be it and to each their own.  At least I can turn a deaf ear to that sort of talk.

But like the claims that young urban kids listening to Common might be inspired to kill a cop and that somehow young adults reading dark YA might be inspired to cut themselves, this ending point, made as the opinion writer’s last ditch effort to sell his argument, f***ing pisses me off:

“Also, can't we admit that ‘Shut the F*** Up!’  could slightly encourage spousal abuse? Don't we think ‘Go the F*** to Sleep’ might conceivably encourage child abuse?”

Enough with the fear tactic, already.  It’s desperate and lazy.  But, sadly, it is also effective and dangerous, and very irresponsible.  These opinion pieces are known to gain momentum in certain circles and only build intolerance.  Is it too much to ask for one side to simply disagree with the other without suggesting the pillars of our communities may crumble? 

So, if you please, Mr. Opinion Writer…for the sake of the many cultures of America, which are doing just fine, thank you very much…go the f*** away.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Buy a Book, Save the World!

It's a Double Post Friday here at INK ROCK!  Don't miss the first: Last Day of Premiere Week for The Story Behind the Story!

Back in 2008, at the height of the economic crunch, and during one of the lowest points in recent years for the publishing business, I launched a Facebook Group called Buy a Book, Save the World! in order to prompt people to get out to a bookstore and buy a book.

Well, you all responded.  The group grew to over three thousand strong and around that group, a small community developed where members discussed books, authors, and their favorite bookstores.

Facebook is now planning to archive that group (removing all our 3000+ members), so I've decided that now is the perfect time to reinvent the site and refocus on the author and the bookstore.  Buy a Book, Save the World! will be relaunching in the coming months and hopefully become an atlas for author hotspots and unique bookstores that are worth a visit.  I hope to see you there soon!

Stay tuned!