Monday, October 19, 2009

Price Wars

So, the Book Wars that began late last week are continuing . . . with Wal-mart and Amazon slashing prices on their best-sellers to crazy levels, what will happen to independent bookstores and new-to-the-scene authors? For those of you who aren’t as into book-business geekery as I am, there’s a great article at ( ) about the whole situation. In a nutshell, though, Wal-mart and are each trying to out-low-price the other, selling their most popular titles *at a loss!* 

At this point, it’s not just independent bookstores that will suffer. Even the larger bookstore chains – like Barnes & Noble – that don’t have a plethora of other products with which to turn a profit are being placed in a difficult situation by the Wal-mart/Amazon duopoly. And once something like this is hurting *Barnes and Noble,* you can believe that your corner bookseller, who has no choice but to sell books for the actual price that is actually printed on the actual cover, is already neck-deep in the fast-rising waters of business failure.

Beyond the people who are selling the books, this sort of crazy pricing is hard on authors who don’t have the selling power or name recognition of, say, a Stephenie Meyer or a Dan Brown. In these tough economic times, all writers appreciate consumers opening their ever-thinner wallets to buy the stories we’ve worked so hard on – the books that, for us, represent rent paid, food bought, and the boon of continued electrical service. But when faced with the choice of Dan Brown’s novel for $8.99 (in hardcover! Good God!) or taking a chance on a new author whose book costs several dollars more, my fear is that too many of these customers will reach for the cut-rate book. Maybe that sounds like paranoia, but I’ve heard enough rumbling and grumbling from my cohorts in the publishing industry to know that I’m far from the only one who feels that way.

Are there any upsides to the new low, low, LOW prices? Sure. Someone who is on a tight budget may buy a nine-dollar novel. If the only books on offer are fifteen dollars – or more – that may pass the threshold of affordability for a segment of the population, resulting in a missed sale for everyone. And while I have no love for Wal-mart, I’ll admit to liking (and using) Amazon. I can shop there in the middle of the night, when the brick-and-mortars are closed. I can find any book I might need. The prices are attractive, even to me.

Still, I think everyone who loves to read should be concerned about what these latest pricing maneuvers are doing to the publishing industry as a whole. If prices fall dramatically, it will result in lower earnings for the publishers. Which could quickly translate into less pay for the authors who provide those publishers with material. And that only makes it harder for us to do our jobs, what with the whole worrying-about-paying-for-heat thing. Writing in a drafty garret may seem romantic, but I don’t think numb fingers are anyone’s idea of success. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Thank you, Mischa Rosenberg, "Design Assistant Extraordinaire" at HarperCollins! Wow. Speechless here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

RANT: Don't touch my child ...

Okay. It was time. I have to rant, rave, stump, scream, and unload here. I haven't "raised" a child in the States, but I can pretty much guarantee that people are more respectful about a child's space there than here. (But I'd love everybody's thoughts, similar rants, raves etc.)

I'll paint the scenario: Imagine walking up to an adult you don't know, one with pretty curly hair and big blue eyes. Now grab that adult's cheeks and stroke her hair saying, "Ooooh ... Ooooh. Everybody look at the pretty lady." [Horrible person and her seventeen family members circle lady and loom over her.] "Can we hold you?"

Wouldn't happen.
Unless, of course, you're robbing said lady or want somebody to call security on you for being a total creep.

So why ... WHY ... do people feel entitled to touch children they don't know as if they were store merchandise?
This. Pisses. Me. Off.
It's a violation of a little person's space (Yes, children ARE little people) and a total violation of their human rights because they are small and defenseless.
That, though, is what parents are for -- to fight those battles.

I said to the lady, "Don't touch my daughter."
She was shocked. Appalled. Everybody in the area looked at me as if I were a possessed demon (my face probably had that blotchy purple thing going on that happens when I am infuriated.)
"We're just looking," evil lady said.
"She is not merchandise in a store. Don't touch her."
Crowd disperses and people look at me like the nasty, mean foreigner I probably am.

I'm pretty laid back about cultural differences. But this to me isn't a cultural difference. This goes much deeper than being an overprotective mother.
It's disrespectful. It's dangerous. It teaches kids that their own space doesn't belong to them and from early on ANY adult has a right to enter that space. It's not a big jump to make, especially considering I live in a country in which child abuse "is probably the biggest public health issue" on the table with child-sex tourism in Cartagena (according to a UN study), an ongoing war in which children are recruited to fight, kill, rape and be raped and more.
Moreover, the World Health Organization estimates that 40 million children are abused around the world (one million alone in the USA) before they turn 14 (the majority by a trusted adult).

So my question is this. If a child isn't taught from early on that her space belongs to her and her alone and perfect strangers are allowed to enter that space, how will she know when her space is being violated by somebody she "should" trust?

Yep. I'm raging. And the more I think about this, the more I seethe.
Just. Don't. Touch. My. Child.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Introducing Lindsay Eland

Okay, so I'm a little biased. Linds, as I call her, and I have followed each other across the internet for about five years now. Back in the day when we were both newbie writers, we joined our first critique group which later broke up. But I dragged Lindsay with me on my online quest for editorial feedback. For the past three years, Linds and I have been members of a killer critique group (killer for our editorial savagery) that I moderate. We fondly call it The Cudas (for barracudas). Linds is undeniably the "nice Cuda." But don't let that perky smile fool you. Behind that smile is a mind that churns out original and comic works of middle grade fiction faster than you can say cutie-pie.

Lindsay's middle-grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, comes out this December from Egmont. I can tell you, having witnessed it's nearly fully-formed birth—it is a hoot! So I'm going to turn the mike over to Linds and let her speak for herself.

Tell us about yourself.

Let’s see. I’m a thirty-year-old mother of four. I love to laugh, drink iced mochas, and sing really loud in my car. I don’t like brownies with nuts and I’m extremely sentimental and will probably keep this interview just because it’s been given to me by a dear writing friend!

You have a book coming out this December, the middle-grade novel 
Scones and Sensibility. Can you tell us about it?

Sure! Scones and Sensibility is about an overdramatic and overromantic twelve-year-old girl who, using her heroines Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Shirley as her guides, sets to match-making in her small beach town with disastrous and hilarious results.

You have a great sense of humor and a brand of wit all your own. 
What is your inspiration ?

Life! I grew up with laughter all around me. Listening at my Grandparents table to the roaring laughter and the pee-in-your-pants stories my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles told. And really, life is full of funny mishaps, hilarious witticisms, and knee-slapping adventures.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?

Write and read. And then read and write. A writer is first and foremost a reader…so read! And don’t ever, ever, ever give up! No writer would have gotten to where he or she was if they had given up after the first or even the twentieth rejection.

What books inspired you growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

These were the books that first gave me the deep yearning to want to create stories that were filled with magic.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Let’s see…I hate the sound of someone eating a banana or stirring a bowl of macaroni and cheese…it’s extremely gross to me. I’m also probably one of the only women on earth that wishes her hair wouldn’t grow….yes, I like it short and I wish it would just stay like that.

Visit Lindsay at

Happy Dreaded Chore Day!

 Monday! Hurray! I am so in love with Mondays. No, seriously! On Monday mornings, my dear husband goes to work, my sweet son goes off to preschool, and I’m left with a couple of hours to myself to work. It’s heaven – the best way to start the week. By the time I have to go retrieve the toddler, I usually feel like I have at least a vague idea of how much needs to be accomplished during the rest of the week. 

Monday morning is also my time to do The Dreaded Chore. I’m not much of a procrastinator, but every week, there’s something. It varies, but The Dreaded Chore is usually something that got put off from, say, the previous Thursday. A phone call I didn’t want to make. An email that I was “too busy” to return. A bit of tedious research that I’d been successfully avoiding. Monday morning, I just hold my nose and tackle whatever it is I most don’t want to do. And man, is that a great way to start the week – with the whew-that’s-done relief of having The Dreaded Chore behind me.

 This week, it’s double-checking the timelines from my copy edits. I’ve heard friends of mine – already published authors – complaining about doing their copy edits. I never really understood. I mean, copy editing is just to correct that last, nit-picky stuff, right? Except that’s the problem. For most writers I know – and I can now include myself in this group – copy editing makes us want to throw up our hands and declare it too hard. Missing weeks, inaccurate sunrise times . . . this stuff can make a person crazy! Which is not to say that I am in any way frustrated with my copy editor. On the contrary – I’m deeply grateful that there’s someone out there dedicated and detailed enough to catch those sorts of mistakes before some eagle-eyed reader goes; “Hey! It couldn’t have happened that way! What sort of hack is this woman?” 

 The problem is fixing all of those mistakes. It’s a Dreaded Chore. And since it’s Monday morning, it’s time for me to quit procrastinating and finish correcting my slip-ups. Happy Dreaded Chore day, everyone!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Some cool news!

Okay. It takes me a while to assimilate these things but seeing it in print helps me a lot.
This was on Publisher's Weekly a bit ago and I just wanted to share:

2009 IRA Young Adult fiction award winner for FREEZE FRAME, Heidi Ayarbe's THE DOUBTING, the story of a teen whose attempts to play off his Obsessive Compulsive behavior as the quirks of a superstitious athlete come crashing down over the course of one momentous weekend, to Donna Bray and Ruta Rimas at Balzer & Bray, in a two-book deal, by Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media.

(Yep! That's me! Work for two more years!)

Thank you, Libba Bray

I think it's high time I created a blog, something I have studiously avoided for quite some time. Everyone says aspiring authors should have one. I am part of Sharing the Brain, the blog my critique group, the Wordslingers share, but I have been pretty lame of late.

I've been toying with the idea of what I'd like to speak about in my blog. I can't imagine dispensing daily, or even weekly words of wisdom that anyone would want to read. I totally admire the noble efforts of my friends Mary Lindsey and Elana Johnson who spout consistently great bits of blog advice that I gobble up religiously. And then there is the amazing Heidi Ayarbe (Freeze Frame, 2008) who bubbles with humorous tidbits and has me laughing constantly.

And another thing I don't want to do is whine. Lords knows I could whine from sun-up till sundown. It's my birthright. But no. I don't want to do that(well, maybe just a little). So, I was left thinking I have nothing I want to say to the world until I can say...hey, I have an agent and my book is coming out...not. Not yet, anyway.

Another thing I refuse to do is post negative reviews of books I have read. I respect the work ALL authors put into their writing and who am I to dash their hopes when I am struggling myself?

So, this morning, while tearing through the pages of Going Bovine (while I should really be putting the final touches on a massive project for work with an ominously looming deadline) I had a revelation. I want to tell everyone how this book has me absolutely floored. How lately I've bought one YA book after another (no names, please) only to slam them shut after 50 pages, with the notable exception of all things Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire). Of course, Libba's previous series, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, are my absolute favorites. How I've been on a quest for something to read that will remind me why I WRITE.

So THANK YOU, LIBBA BRAY, you funny, brilliant, poignant and wonderful woman for sharing your genius with me. For giving me something to blog about. For reviving my excitement for writing. I'm not nearly half way through and my only fear is that I will read it too fast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Waxing Philosophical: What I didn't know about Coca Cola ...

Today I'm feeling a little bit grateful for the fizzy brown fluid (that was originally green ... really), so I'm going to go off on a tangent (something writers have a tendency to do) and write a list of things I didn't know, some things I did, and other random, crazy, and some disturbing facts about the bubbly beverage. (And maybe you didn't know them either.)

Now, so you know, none of these ideas have been endorsed by the Coca Cola Company. And some of these things seem pretty cock-eyed to me and I wouldn't try them. That said, if anybody, namely the big big multi-billion dollar Coca Cola company, feels like suing me, they're not gonna get a whole lot out of it. (Is that a good enough disclaimer?)

  • Coca Cola was invited by John Pemberton in 1886 and was marketed as the "cure all" for a whole slew of ailments including: morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headaches, and impotence (this, remember is PRE Viagra)
  • Santa Claus used to have a blue outfit until Coca Cola, more specifically Haddon Sundblom (a Michigan artist), dressed him in red in 1931. Three decades of Coca Cola ads with a fat Santa have molded how we "perceive" Santa to be.
  • When things are a bit too "runny", Coke seems to take care of it. (This I tried. And it could be timing, synchronicity, whatever. But as soon as I started drinking it, ahhhhh.)
  • Pour Coca Cola on a jellyfish sting. (Less gross than peeing on it.)
  • The Navy uses Coca Cola to preserve submarines. (Yes. Remember you're ingesting this liquid)
  • Coca Cola is great for cleaning tile grout. (Yes, I've done this. It works.) Oooh, my intestines are all-aflame!
  • It's sold in over 200 countries.
  • A can of Coca-Cola (330 millilitres (12 imp fl oz; 11 US fl oz)) contains 35 grams (1.2 oz), or 7-8 teaspoons, of sugar.
  • Soft drinks lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the bloodstream which, in turn, strip bones of calcium ... you do the math. You drink lots. Your bones will suffer. Ick.
  • It can remove oil, carpet, and any number of other kinds of stains that industrial-strength detergents cannot.
And these masterminds of marketing have a pretty great stack of slogans under their sleeves: (How's that for unnecessary alliteration?)

  • (1891) The Ideal Brain Tonic./The Delightful Summer-Winter beverage.
  • (1927) Around the corner from anywhere.
  • (1945) Passport to refreshment.
  • (1948) When there's Coke, there's hospitality. (You think Kim Jong-Il knows this? Somebody send him a case of Coke, for God's sake!)
  • (1971) I'd like to buy the world a Coke. (Remember this one? With everybody singing and holding candles??)
  • (2007) Live on the Coke Side of Life.

Okay. Enough said. It's random. It's pretty useless however interesting. And my stomach is ever-so-grateful for it today. That said, I probably won't be buying a bunch tomorrow.