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26. Will Finishing a Book Change Your Life?

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GalleyCat referenced an interesting post by Arthur McMahon in which he expresses a bit of amazement at the fact that “Completing a novel didn’t change my perception of life like I expected it to.”

Some commenters at GalleyCat claimed they didn’t expect completing a novel would have any change, they write for themselves, not riches or fans or feedback, and all that.

But I totally understand what McMahon is getting at.

In his full post, available here, he writes that it’s a long-haul proposition. The completion of the first book is but a step towards the next one. And so forth.

It’s worth checking out and then examining your own opinions… Do you think that completing a book will change your life?

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27. A Laugh at Lousy Book Covers

A reader passed along this Tumblr account, dedicated to Lousy Book Covers. Now, obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, so yeah, maybe this one shouldn’t be included or that one isn’t that bad or whatever. But it’s at least a pretty humorous gaze through the results of ten minutes with Photoshop.

Also, while enjoying this one, I stumbled across a blog dedicated to Bad Book Covers.

Like record covers, some of these are so bad as to be almost cool.

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28. Famed Faulkner Biographer Dies at 89

When I was in graduate school at the University of Mississippi, noted William Faulkner biographer Joseph Blotner visited campus. I met him in Square Books, the well-known independent bookstore where I worked at the time.

I was heavily into Faulkner, stacking up class upon class, filling my transcript with as many Faulkner courses as possible. And one of my teachers introduced me to Blotner.

He signed his book to me, “To Scott, a certified Faulkner scholar.” I realized he was only being nice, but still, that autograph and brief note meant the world to me.

So I was saddened to see the announcement of his death in The New York Times. Blotner passed away in Oakland, California in mid-November. The Times has a pretty lengthy bio of Blotner with details of his friendship with Faulkner.

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29. Reviews that Say Nothing

A while ago, there was an uproar of discussion regarding the nature of book reviews and whether the critic should be, in the most simplistic way of speaking, “nice” or not. Quite a bit of the conversation centered on William Giraldi’s self-congratulatory, excessively assholish, show offy, “Let’s see how many references and allusions I can cram in because I’m so smart” critique of Alix Ohlin’s work.

As a rule, I don’t think book reviews have an obligation to bend over backwards to be complimentary, nor do I think critics should be hard-hearted, impossible-to-please ogres either.

But lost in this discussion of nice-versus-mean was another problem that plagues many book reviews: Critics who don’t criticize positively or negatively.

Check out this entirely non-commital Janet Maslin review of Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

I’ve read this review three times now and I’m still not sure if Maslin likes the book or not. There are a handful of seemingly positive comments tossed in:

–A series of fantasy novels “are parodied here with great affection…”
–The author’s characters are “wittily-drawn…”
–The author “niftily embellishes his book…” with another character.

But that’s about it. There are no outright declarations of success or failure. Take for example the following passage: “Mr. Sloan is intent on connecting these Tokeinesque types to the bookstore’s real-world existence. That’s a big burden to place on such a mild-mannered, easygoing novel.” But instead of following up with letting us know about Sloan’s skill at shouldering that burden or his weakness under the weight, Maslin goes back to plot summary.

Ultimately, reviews like this are little more than book reports. And while I don’t believe readers need to be spoon-fed with explicit star systems or thumbs up/thumbs down methods of conveying quality at a glance, it is frustrating to read a review and not know whether the book is any good or not.

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30. Get Off My Damn Lawn! Says the Internet

As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month. To help folks blast through their 50,000 words in 30 days, GalleyCat has been providing writing prompts, tips, and words of encouragement. Most notable is this roundup where they collected two years worth of tips into a single post.

This week, they referred to some words of wisdom from Carolyn Kellogg. It’s a simple admonition, easy to implement, and cheap. And something that all of us writers need to remember from time to time, even if we’re not trying to churn out a novel this month.

Simply go offline.

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Here’s Kellogg’s entire post.

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31. Entertainment Mogul to Appear at Book Soup

Longtime entertainment and sports industry veteran David Fishof is appearing at Book Soup in Los Angeles today at 7:00pm.

Once a sports agent to athletes like baseball slugger Lou Pinella and quarterbacks Vince Ferragamo and Phil Simms, Fishof switched his focus to the entertainment world in the eighties. He reunited the Monkees and started the highly successful runs of Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band tours. These days, he most well known for running the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, an amazing experience where regular dudes get to jam with legendary rock stars.

I participated in a RRFC when I was writing my latest book Power Chord. I had a fantastic time hobknobbing with folks like Ace Frehley, Rudy Sarzo, iconic producer Eddie Kramer, and many more. It’s a great, great event and I was amazed at how well-run and organized the weekend was. I’ve put together a few conferences and stuff before, nowhere near the scale and complexity of the Rock Camp, and it’s a tough, tough job. So I was really impressed at Fishof’s team.

Now, Fishof shares the lessons he’s learned on tour and in the production rooms of major rock tours in Rock Your Business: What You and Your Company Can Learn from the Business of Rock and Roll. It’s a fun, informative read about how you can apply many of the characteristics of rockstars and their agents in your own daily life, whether you’re an attorney or run a hardware store. But Fishof’s lessons saves you the destroyed hotel rooms and embarrassing mug shots.

If you’re in the Hollywood area tomorrow, make sure to swing by the event at Book Soup. And if you’re a rock fan, take your autograph book. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of Fishof’s heavyweight pals make an appearance.

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32. Lita Ford Signs Deal with William Morrow

Add guitarist and singer Lita Ford to the burgeoning list of rockers with book deals. [Here's a round up of hard rock books.] Reports are that the former Runaways member and longtime solo artist has signed a publishing deal with William Morrow for a memoir called Living Like a Runaway. Joel Selvin is flying co-pilot on the book. The book is scheduled for publication in 2013.

Ford (pictured here in a shot I took when she performed with Queensryche in 2009) has been promoting her most recent solo record, with the same name as the book, in recent days. It’s a rocking disc, well worth checking out if you’re a fan of guitar-driven rock. It’s a pleasant return to form, and a very genuine and sincere emotional journey, from someone who went through a few tough years.

The news about the book promises to cover Ford’s trials as “she had to escape a terrifying marriage that cut her off from the rest of the world.” After previous romantic connections with head bangers like Nikki Sixx, Chris Holmes, and Tony Iommi, Ford married former Nitro vocalist Jim Gillette in 1994. The couple divorced in 2011.

I’ve got high hopes for this book, as Ford definitely has a unique perspective on late seventies and eighties hard rock that we haven’t heard before. her former bandmate Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel was a good book and Ford was largely absent from the film version of the stories about the Runaways. But at the same time, I’m cautious because there have been so many disappointing music memoirs lately. And Vince Neil’s atrocious book, which also used the same title as a solo record, sets a bad precedent for repeating monikers. But I’ll definitely check out Ford’s book when it’s released.

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33. AP Says Power Chord ‘Hits All the Right Notes’

I was thrilled to read the great review of Power Chord by the Associated Press. Linked here to the Washington Post publication of the review, the key takeaway is that PC is “entertaining travelogue of sorts that hits all the right notes.”

Be sure to the entire review here!

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34.

Many guys have problems meeting women. Here’s a cool company that has changed people’s lives all over the world..

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35. Sheen’s $10 Million Book?

Various outlets picked up a where Charlie Sheen is writing a memoir that he thinks might be worth $10 million. Presumably, he is writing the text himself and there hasn’t been any word of a ghostwriter being involved.

But for the sake of our discussion, let’s hypothetically assume that a co-author or ghostwriter were brought into the picture. At first glance, this gig would seem to be a dream come true. There are two main positives:

First, even if Sheen doesn’t receive the gargantuan advance mentioned in reports, he would surely get in the millions. If Sarah Silverman can get $2 million for her book, then you would have to assume that an actor with the most popular sitcom on television would get more cash. So a ghostwriter would stand to cash a pretty massive check.

Second, the publisher would want to cash in on all the news and publicity surrounding Sheen right now. So this would be a rushed project to hit bookstore shelves in just a few months. The ghostwriter would not only make a lot of money, he or she would do so quickly. Sometimes book projects can drag out over the course of years, minimizing your actual profits. But here, the book would be finished quickly.

However, there’s a huge risk in this situation…

Publishers frequently hold the ghostwriter or coauthor responsible for managing the celebrity. Some reality show starlet doesn’t give a shit about their reputation within the publishing community. Some massive arena rocker isn’t all that concerned about a quarter-million dollar advance. Some Hollywood starlet doesn’t care about a lawsuit because they’re in court every week. So editors sometimes expect the co-author to manage the star which can be tough. Imagine trying to get Sheen away from his three or four gorgeous nubile women so he can focus on gerunds and comma splices.

So any potential co-authors or ghostwriters out there lining up to get some Sheen book deal money, be careful what you wish for!

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36. Are Bad Reviews Better than No Reviews?

Here’s an interesting article that says Stanford researchers believe bad book reviews may help lesser known authors.

The key point here is that researchers “looked at the effects bad publicity had in well-known and obscure books over time. Some subjects looked at glowing and negative reviews for a well-known book by John Grisham and reviews for an obscure, made-up title… Subjects who read negative reviews of well-known books were less likely to buy the book. Negative reviews of unknown books, however, did not affect whether or not the subject was likely to purchase it.”

What’s particularly interesting to me is that I’ve never really seen the point of a bad book review for a little known book. If, as a critic, you feel the need to strike a blow against the Harry Potter or Twilight juggernaut, then sure, write a bad review. But if you’re examining some small title that is going to be lucky to sell 2,000 copies, then why waste the space? With precious few inches in magazines and newspapers devoted to literary coverage, I would rather give attention to a book I liked> and want people to know about, rather then waste breath on something bad.

But this article may cause me to re-examine that philosophy…

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37. Literary Sunday Nights

I often complain about how everyone in the world who achieves a level of fame in this country gets to write (or co-author) a book. Win the Super Bowl, get a book deal. Sleep with a politician, get a book deal. Star in a reality show, get a book deal.

The vast majority of time, that’s a one way street. They don’t let me quarterback the New York Giants just because I wrote a good book. They’re not going to let Stephen Graham Jones rock out with Aerosmith because he has a lengthy list of publications.

So I’m happy to spend Sunday evenings with literary shows on the Travel Channel.

Although he was a chef first, it was work as a writer that brought attention to Anthony Bourdain. His show “No Reservations” has been a mainstay on the Travel Channel for years.

Now, it is joined by Steven Rinella’s show “The Wild Within.” Rinella is the author of American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon and The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. You might remember him from a Slushpile.net interview we did. Rinella presents an interesting take of hunting, arguing that hunters were the original locavores and conservationists.

I’m just happy to see writers get some screentime…

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38. The Velvet Planning a Re-Design

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Some writers have fan forums dedicated to discussing their work. And some groups of aspiring authors have forums to chat about their emerging careers. But there aren’t many examples of forums that combine these two topics.

Which is why I’m such a fan of The Velvet, a community that grew up because of a shared admiration for the work of authors Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger, and Stephen Graham Jones. From that group of fans, a number of really talented and dedicated writers made themselves known. The Velvet is an interesting place where people are encouraged, constructive criticism shared, street teams formed, and just cool discussions are held.

Now, the determined members of the Velvet are looking to overhaul the site. As such, they are seeking donations from like-minded folks. The donation period closes February 14 if you’re interested. But even if a helping hand isn’t possible for you right now, definitely swing by the forum. It’s a great place for lovers of dark fiction and neo noir.

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39. Barry Hannah’s Long, Lost, Happy

It’s been a hectic late fall and early winter, so posts have been pretty light here at Slushpile.net, as you’ve probably noticed. We’ll be back to a more normal schedule this week and then moving like clockwork in 2011.

But in spite of the busy days and all-nighters, I was so glad to spend Thanksgiving weekend with Barry Hannah’s Long, Lost, Happy: New and Collected Stories from Grove Press. Re-reading those classic Hannah stories, along with the previously uncollected pieces, was like catching up with an old friend. And best of all, the book has been getting a fair amount of attention from bloggers and critics. Here’s a rundown of just a few of the many posts about Hannah’s last book:

Bryan Charles’s take on Uncle Barry.
The Miami Herald review.
The Austin Chronicle’s review.
The BarnesandNoble.com review.
a book trailer on HTMLGiant.
the Observer’s take on the book.
Nathaniel Rich’s recollections for BookForum.

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40. New Theme, Maybe, and Some Other Changes

Hi folks. As you have probably noticed, we’re experimenting with a new theme and some other goodies here at Slushpile.net.

So please pardon our dust for a few days while we shake everything out.

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41. McCarthy Wuz Robbed!

Well, in all honesty, I guess I can’t really say that Cormac McCarthy was robbed of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mario Vargas Llosa is a worthy winner even if I wasn’t pulling for him.

But what’s most worth discussing (possibly to the point of revealing some glaring literary inadequacy in myself) is that Cormac McCarthy’s possibility of receiving the Nobel is the only time I’ve really gotten fired up about the award, the only time I felt like cheering, somehow rooting on an author, as though I were watching a sporting event. I mean, I wanted to wear a Blood Meridian T-shirt yesterday and invite pals over for a beer to await the announcement.

Looking over the list of past Nobel winners, I certainly admire all the names there. I certainly respect them. But I can’t say that I am a huge fan of many people at all. I can’t say I felt a rooting interest in their candidacy. Which might reflect something on my reading tastes. But hopefully in the coming years, I’ll have more inclination to cheer for some of the Nobel candidates.

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42. Countdown to Nobel

The countdown is on to tomorrow’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I’m pulling for Cormac McCarthy so place your bets now!

Check back tomorrow for more thoughts on the Nobel announcement.

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43. New Article in Premier Guitar

For those of you who might enjoy hard rock history and strange bits of trivia, check out my article in the new issue of Premier Guitar.

Legendary axe slinger Slash is famous for his top hats and his arsenal of Gibson Les Pauls. But on the seminal Guns ‘N Roses debut record, Appetite for Destruction, Slash actually played replica instruments. The full story may never be known, but there is an interesting culture of myth and controversy surrounding those guitars. So be sure to check out the full article if you’re into such matters.

One of my favorite things about working with the cool folks at Premier Guitar is that I can actually write a piece and use quotes from mythologist Joseph Campbell and get away with it. They definitely take a more academic and interesting approach to articles, as opposed to the rote formulas used by some of the competition.

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44. A Deluge of Emails

A number of Slushpile readers have emailed questions about the activities regarding this first week of my first book’s release. One of the questions was, “What’s the most surprising thing about the release?” And my answer might surprise you.

Before that, I need to explain something about myself: I’m pretty good and juggling multiple responsibilities and obligations. At no point in my adult life have I held any less than two jobs, usually I’m working many more gigs. I’m also good with technology, responding to emails, and things like that. So I’m not some luddite who cannot function in the modern age.

Having said that, I will admit that the thing about this book release that has surprised me the most is the sheer volume of emails I’ve received from my editors and publicists. In the last week, I’ve gotten 383 emails solely related to the book and it’s launch. That’s not counting good luck missives from friends and family. That’s not counting other work emails. That’s not counting the inevitable spam that promises to increase my manhood. Nope, that’s just from the ten or so people working on this book.

Now, I’m not complaining, mind you. This much activity is a good thing and a welcome difference from so many people who release a book and never hear from their editor or publicist again. Luckily, all those emails are the result of new media opportunities flowing in. So having a deluge of these emails is definitely a good thing. But wow, it’s been a challenge keeping up with everything.

So when you’re in this situation, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

–Take some time off from your day job, if that’s possible. Save up some vacation days and then you can focus solely on your book release instead of slogging through spreadsheets all day and then dealing with the mass of emails at night.

–Use a smartphone or a laptop to check your emails frequently. This helps minimize the pile of messages and also keeps your publicists up to date so they can best respond to media opportunities.

–Know when to turn the stuff off. After putting in yeoman’s work dealing with all of this, it is important to allow yourself time to recharge. So turn off the cellphone, power down the computer, and ignore everything. Now, keep in mind, I’m not suggesting checking out for huge amounts of time. I powered down at 1:15am and started up again 5:30am so it’s a quick respite. But you should do your best to take at least a little time.

Once again, having a shitload of emails to deal with is a good thing. It shows your team is hustling and things are happening, so I’m not complaining at all. But it’s definitely something to prepare for in the future.

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45. Car Crash at the King Estate

According to published reports, a car crashed into the fence surrounding bestselling author Stephen King’s Bangor, Maine home.

Nobody was injured in the accident and King himself was not at home.

As the reports point out, King has had several unfortunate incidents over the years.

It can become quite tiresome to hear these Hollywood celebrities complain about their fame and lack of privacy. But when you see what bestselling authors like King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling experience, it’s quite an eye opener. As book lovers, we may wish that authors were given a higher place in our pop culture spectrum. But the reality is that even the most famous writer is way down the scale compared to musicians, actors and actresses, and sex tape peddling debutantes. It definitely puts a different perspective on the fame — and the price of it — discussion.

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46. Nathan Bransford on Weighing Contradictory Advice

Years ago, aspiring authors struggled in a sort of abyss, with no information about the publishing industry and process available. Maybe you had some colleagues who could provide a few tips. Maybe you relied on some out-dated books for strategies and techniques. But as a whole, information was pretty lacking.

Nowadays, with all the information available online, some writers get paralyzed by info-overload. And so much information is contradictory with Agent X suggesting this and Editor Y prescribing that. It can all be a bit overwhelming to aspiring authors out there.

Agent Nathan Bransford has a great post about weighing and evaluating advice from blogs. It’s well-worth checking out and might just save you some frustration and headaches.

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47. NPR Writing Contest, Judged by Michael Cunningham

I don’t enter many writing contests, although lots of people do so with surprising regularity. Some folks approach contests as a way of generating a name and building up a resume. I don’t follow that prescription, but I do like to sometimes use contests as an exercise, to try something a little different, and pursue stories I might normally ignore.

Today, NPR posted a brief mention of a writing contenstwhere you have to write a 600 word story, using a predefined haunting first line and final line. The contest will be judged by author Michael Cunningham.

Seems a like a neat and tidy little exercise? Anyone out there going to enter?

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48. Morrell Releases Kindle Exclusive

According to bestseller David Morrell is releasing several previously unpublished books exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.

“Publishing these 10 books in the Kindle Store is a great opportunity to explore how electronic publishing enables me to give my readers additional, unique content,” said Morrell in the press release. “Available at $9.99 or less, I hope that my fans will be able to rediscover their favorite titles, and that new readers will have the chance to enjoy my books on their Kindles.”

I was thinking about Morrell recently after catching a rerun of Sylvester Stallone’s 1982 film First Blood which is based on Morrell’s novel. I actually haven’t read the book and added it to my list to check out in the near future.

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49. Rejecting Agents Are Like Department Store Shoppers

Aspiring authors often get frustrated at the lack of feedback from agents who decline to represent our books. But literary agent Rachelle Gardner makes a great analogy to explain the thought process of rejecting agents:

“”When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. And if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style?…Is it just plain ugly? Or is it… (drum roll please)… just not what you’re looking for right now?”

This is a fantastic way of explaining how agents flip through their submissions. Check out more from the entire post.

[via GalleyCat]

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50. Catching Up, or Replinishing the To Be Read List

Life feels like it is finally getting back to normal here at the Slushpile.net libraries… After months of interviews, publicist meetings, travel obligations, and general craziness related to the release of my first book The Man Behind the Nose: Assassins, Astronauts, Cannibals, and Other Stupendous Tales, things seem to be settling down to a more manageable level.

One of the first things I do whenever I try to re-establish a normal life is fill up the queue with books to be read. And I’ve come across a few lately that seem intriguing. These aren’t necessarily brand new, but I’m looking forward to sitting down with these titles.

What are you looking forward to reading in the coming days and weeks?

–When I was in Oxford recently, my pals at Square Books turned me on to Michael Knight’s The Typist. I’ve always loved Knight’s short stories so I’m looking forward to this novel. And speaking of short stories, Alex Taylor’s The Name of the Nearest River is also tantalizing. Taylor received an MFA from Ole Miss and he’s from Kentucky originally, so that’s right up my alley.

The Elegant Variation has some very complimentary things to say about Benjamin Percy’s The Wilding. Based on those comments, I’ve definitely added this debut novel to my queue.

–And finally, Megan Buskey gives a rundown of several interesting nonfiction for the New York Times. In particular, The Body Shop by Paul Solotaroff and Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin both seem intriguing.

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