Sunday, March 30, 2008

Amazon's Thuggery

It seems Amazon is blatantly trying to take over and control the POD (Print-on-Demand) industry. They are demanding that publishers use their BookSurge subsidiary, instead of other companies, like Lightning Source. If the publishers don't use BookSurge, Amazon will disable their books' buy buttons.

This is also an attempt to get authors considering the self-publishing route to use Amazon's CreateSpace service, instead of other publishers like iUniverse and Read more about it in this Publisher's Weekly article, which also includes a link to Angela Hoy's (co-owner of inside info on the matter.

There is also a petition against Amazon's actions, here.

I guess iUniverse hasn't been cut off yet, because my novel is still available. Though I do wonder what will happen when the "1 left in stock" is sold. Will Amazon reorder after they deplete their stock of these type of books?
Into the Sunset

Amazon responds

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Return of Jezebel James

So, I was sucked into watching an episode of this new sit-com starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose. Posey plays Sarah, an editor for HarperCollins' children's division. She has everything in life—a million dollar loft in Brooklyn, a successful career, good looks, and a good relationship with her boyfriend—everything except a baby. Since she can't have children of her own, she persuades her flaky younger sister Coco (Ambrose) to carry a child for her. Laughs are now supposed to ensue.

I wanted to like this show for three reasons:
• I, too, work in children's publishing, though not for HarperCollins. There is a lot of humor that can be mined in book publishing.
• I like Lauren Ambrose, who was great as the sister on Six Feet Under.
• Parker Posey

Now, granted, I missed the pilot episode. But I did catch the second episode. I'm still waiting to laugh. Seems they had everything in place for this situation-comedy. Everything but the comedy part. There was one long scene where the free-spirited Coco is alone in Sarah's mansion (which by the way is a joke. Doesn't Jezebel's writers know the sorry state book publishing is in these days?) and can't figure out how to use the TV and stereo remote controls. The hispanic maid who doesn't speak English had to show her. It went on too long, wasn't believable (what 25 year-old doesn't know how to use a remote?), wasn't funny, and is an old joke anyway. Ha ha! She can't use a remote! Someone get me the oxygen!

Ron McLarty plays their father, but in this episode he was only in it for a minute. According to the show's official website, his character is "a man who takes other people's crap, fixes it, and then dumps it at his daughter's house." Last night's show had him dropping off an ancient humidifier that he told Sarah not to stand too close to, and not to put near a window. I guess that was supposed to be funny. The interesting thing about McLarty is he actually does know something about publishing. He wrote a great novel called The Memory of Running. He should run away from this show as fast as possible.

Now, I know there is a chance the show may improve. Look at Brad Garrett's Til Death (which Jezebel follows). It was horrible when it started, unwatchable even. But they revamped it and now it is actually pretty decent. Not in a I-have-to-Tivo-it-if-I'm-not-home sort of way. But in a if-I'm-home-and-my-TV-is-on-anyway-I'll watch it sort of way. But Garrett's talent and long history on Everybody Loves Raymond saved that show. Jezebel doesn't have that going for it.

So, in conclusion, maybe the writing on Jezebel will improve over time, so the two good lead actresses have something to work with. And maybe new writers with some edge will come on board who could actually skewer the publishing industry. Unfortunately, shows aren't given time to develop like that anymore. And it all comes down to good writing. And this show doesn't have it right now.

Update: Just saw this online:
Fox has pulled the low-rated Parkey Posey sitcom "The Return of Jezebel James" from its schedule after just three airings.

The show pulled in just 3.2 million viewers when it debuted March 14 with back-to-back episodes, the network's worst performance in the 8 p.m. hour since fall's "The Next Great American Band."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol recap

Hey, I guest blogged on Susan DiPlacido's blog. I pinch hit for her weekly American Idol recap. Check it out: Neon Fiction

Monday, March 17, 2008

Radical Gratitude

Radical Gratitude
And Other Life Lessons Learned in Siberia
by Andrew Bienkowski and Mary Akers
published by Allen & Unwin, ISBN 9781741754223

Part inspirational self-help book and part memoir, Radical Gratitude is an involving, quick read. Mr. Bienkowski, a therapist for more than 40 years, recounts the time his family spent exiled in Siberia during WWII, and how the life lessons he learned as a small child still influence him to this day. The goal of this book is to pass those lessons along to the readers. Lessons of gratitude, hope, perseverance, faith and love.

The inspirational part of Radical Gratitude is written in first person, and allows Mr. Bienkowski to break down each "lesson" (as he calls the chapters), and draw from his past to show his inspiration for different treatment philosophies. This is all good stuff, and he gives practical, useful advice in not only helping others, but also in helping ourselves. Helping ourselves live a better, stress-less life, keep a positive outlook, and have hope for a better future, as well as how to appreciate the present, and be grateful for things most people take for granted on a daily basis. Things like simple kindnesses, food, and shelter. And you know, as the reader, that he speaks from experience, that when he was a child in Siberia he didn't know where the next meal would come from.

His concept of "radical gratitude" is the "idea that we can learn to feel grateful, even for the terrible things that happen to us in our lives." In fact, they will make you a stronger person. His horrifying experiences as a child have given him a better understanding of life, for which he is grateful.

I found the memoir part of the book, which alternated between third and first person narration, truly fascinating. Bienkowski's family, which consisted of his grandmother and grandfather, mother, younger brother, and himself were forced from their home and relocated to Siberia by Stalin after communist Russia invaded Poland (his father was in the Polish army fighting on another front). Stripped of their belongings and money, they were forced to live in a hut with virtually nothing. To make it through the first long, hard winter, Bienkowski's grandfather starved himself to death so the rest of the family could survive on the meager supply of food that was left. I detect co-author Mary Aker's skillful hand here, in bringing to life the story of this close-knit, loving family surviving against all odds in an unforgiving environment (both physical and political). I found myself right there with the family, feeling what they felt, seeing what they saw, and hearing what they heard:

The long winters had taught Andrew that the presence of wolves was a cause for fear. And yet something had been shifting in his mind when he thought of wolves. Summer, the villagers taught him, was not a time to fear wolves. In the summertime, wolves are well fed and happy. They are raising families far from the village and humans do not interest wolves.

So instead, Andy listened to the wolves as if they were singing a song. Each wolf had his part and each took up before the other left off, so that a continuous chorus of wolf voices surrounded him out there on the plain. As far as he knew, everyone else in camp was asleep, and the wolves sang for him alone.

The grandmother and mother were courageous and tenacious women, choosing not only to live and protect the two young children, but to not compromise their principles along the way. The grandfather, of course, made the ultimate sacrifice for his family. The thing I loved most about this part of Radical Gratitude was that I didn't know the outcome. Obviously Andrew survived to tell the tale, but who else lived and whether or not the family made it out of Siberia to reunite with Andrew's father was a mystery. This was very cinematic to me, and the clear, straightforward storytelling kept me turning the pages.

The Bienkowski family's story is truly inspiring. For this I am grateful that Mr. Bienkowski and Mary Akers decided to share it with the world.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Me, interviewed

Donna George Storey, author of the erotic novel Amorous Woman, has interviewed me for her blog. Read the interview here.

Read her review of my novel here:
Into the Sunset

Into the Sunset is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Declare Independence!

Seems Bjork has pissed off a few people in China. During a recent concert in Shanghai, she ended her concert-closing song "Declare Independence" by shouting "Tibet! Tibet!" China has ruled Tibet since 1951, and it's a touchy subject there, with talk of independence taboo.

Come back to America, Bjork! We need some independence here, too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Rise of the New "House that Ruth Built"

In 2009, the New York Yankees will move into their new home, right across the street from their current Stadium. I'm really excited about it, and have seen the construction from the Major Deegan Parkway as I've zoomed past. The new Stadium will have more of a retro look, very similar to the original Stadium with the coliseum-like look of the outside, and the famous white facade once again circling the entire inside of the park, and not just the back of the outfield like the current Stadium has, which was remodeled in the mid-70s.

I've been following the progress on a great Yankees blog called Sliding Into Home, who have a whole separate page dedicated to the construction, complete with frequent updated photos. They have some great shots, from all different angles. I'm not sure how they're getting all these amazing images, but check them out for yourself:
Sliding Into Home