What’s the author look like?

Guess the Author Based on the New York Times’ Breathless Physical Description

 This… THING… about what an author LOOKS LIKE… does it *matter* if an author has “impossibly high cheekbones”? Really? REALLY? (I don’t think I’ve ever been described in an interview. Maybe I’ve been interviewed by the wrong people. Or the right people, as it were, those who interview writers on what they write and not on their physical attributes.


Famous Writers on Literary Rejection:

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Wise words indeed. Except that sometimes it’s easy to see the wisdom in others but impossible to find it in yourself – it’s DIFFERENT when it is YOUR rejection…

We had joy, we had fun, there’s a Tardis in the sun

“On the Images made available through the Internet from NASA’s SOHO camera and EIT, we have spotted this strange object that appears to be exiting the Sun. As strange and crazy as this may seem you can clearly see an object, huge in size, exiting the sun and then moving into space.”

New Scheherezade’s Facade review mentions my story, ‘The Secret Name of the Prince’. It’s always nice when one’s own story gets name-checked in an anthology review.


Finding women who can write is apparently complicated at the London Review of Books

Publishers know best? Ha!

Publishers don’t always know best. One publisher sent this helpful little missive to Ursula K. Le Guin regarding her novel, The Left Hand of Darkness:

“The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith.”

The Left Hand of Darkness went on to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

30 famous authors whose works were rejected by publishers


My friend Jim Longo announced on Facebook: “Had three dreams in three nights, net result, one thousand word short story. A subconscious is a terrible thing to waste.”


I always thought that big banks were the enemy, but look at that – we’ve met the enemy and he is us.

“When I decided to walk away from a 14-year career in investment banking to write a novel, I figured I knew what to expect: a devastating pay cut and the possibility that I would fail to write a good book. What I didn’t realize is just how much banking had already prepared me for the writing life.”  — Aifric Campbell

How Investment Banking Prepares You To Be a Writer


Saw it, Loved it, Ate it

Maurice Sendak’s favorite compliment from a reader




Writing advice you should not heed


Writing advice is… well… cheap. You can find it everywhere. It’s mostly harmless, as far as it goes, but then – sometimes – I come across a list, ‘10 things all aspiring novelists should know’, which I begin itching to annotate.  e.g.

10. Always delete the first three chapters of the first draft of your first three novels. It will always be filled with backstory you don’t need.

My answer:

ANY piece of advice that begins with “Always” or “Never” is to be discarded immediately…

Read the rest of Alma Alexander’s advice on writing advice here.


Is it something in the water?

First there was Judith Tarr’s comment on writer’s block – the real thing, not just, oh, I don’t feel like doing this today – and I’ve been there, done that, eaten the t-shirt in frustration.

And then Libba Bray has a really really bad writing day.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, well, you may just get lucky and finish the damn book, and then you get the awesome experience of publicity and promotion and the Bookstore Signing Gig like Parnell Hall.

So, when you’re done with your latest Grisham or George R R Martin, you out there who are browsing new books to buy RIGHT NOW, might you consider grabbing one of Judith Tarr’s? Or Libba Bray’s? Or Alma Alexander’s?

Try a new flavor of literary ice cream today…


Does this edition make my bookshelf look funny?

bookcaseI think that anyone who has the book bug has been to this one single strange place at some time or another during their book collecting days: the aesthetics of it all.

There is something innate, a sense of beauty, a sense of symmetry, an aversion to helter-skelter chaos on one’s bookshelves, that demands that if you own a book which belongs in a defined series then you owe it to – I don’t know –yourself, your bookshelves, the look of your library, a higher force – to have your series books be good soldiers. You have to be able to glance at a shelf and see a matching set of spines and know that you are looking at “a series”.

Trust me, I know. I’ve done it myself. I have an early paperback edition set of the first three books in Mary Stewart’s Merlin saga, and they have been well read, thank you very much – their spines are raked by the fine cracks of having been held open by avid hands. These are the editions that I know and love. These have held a proud place on my bookshelf for many years.

But then the fourth book in that series came out, the Mordred one, and uh, alaaaaarm, it was a different edition, different cover, different everything. It looked… odd and mismatched next to my old loved trilogy. And not just because it was pristine and new when it was added to the shelf beside the well-worn books which had graced it for years. It was other stuff. It was the presence of color next to the black spines of the other books. It was a different font and typeface in which the title and the author appeared. It was… an accretion of all of these things.

And so I caved. I now have two sets of the Stewart Merlin books. My old trilogy, as beloved and well known as ever, and a whole newly reissued and now matching four-book set of the original three books plus the fourth novel. Which now looks perfectly at home next to these new books, because it matches them perfectly. But here’s the thing. The three books in the “new” trilogy, there on the shelf – they look wonderful and it all fits together again but will I ever read THEM? Those books, as opposed to the old editions that I own and know so well? Or are they just window dressing for the Book Collector within me…?

This popped out into the open because of a similar situation brewing with my own work. On my blog I had announced the reissue (with different covers) of the first three books of my Worldweavers trilogy to be followed in turn by a Brand! New! Story! set in that world – a finale, if you like.

A reader by the name of Kat left a comment giving voice to exactly this conundrum – that she is looking forward to reading the new novel when it comes out but that she’ll be leery of putting it on the shelf with the rest of what she calls “these wonderful books” (thank you, Kat!) because “it won’t match the original covers”.

Let me now circle back and do a devil’s advocate argument. I started out by saying that I collect matched-set series and have been known to purchase an entirely new set of books so that things will look right on the shelf. But I don’t ALWAYS do it, and I have books on my shelves that definitely do not match at all – and without which my shelves would be the poorer. There are books I wish to own NO MATTER WHAT – and if the price of owning them is that they look ridiculous next to the rest of their ‘book family’ on the shelf then so be it. Sometimes the price of having what you want is giving up a little of what you think you absolutely need – and when it comes to HAVING a book I want or NOT HAVING it because I can’t find it in a matching edition, well, there is no contest.

Let me use another example from my own shelves – books by a breathtakingly good historical novelist by the name of Sharon Kay Penman. I own three of her books that vaguely “match” – the rest of the novels with her name on their spines are a mismatched hodgepodge of editions (paperback, trade paperback, hardcover) depending on which book I could lay my hands on at any given time and how badly I wanted to read it.

There are, in other words, instances in which CONTENT really truly trumps APPEARANCE – and I think that those of us who truly love books eventually gravitate to that place and away from how things “look” on our shelves. It is not at all the same thing and this is not what I am saying but in one sense I am personally aware of this basic choice in the context of turning away from that concept of “books as decoration” and “books as an aesthetic value” to just “BOOKS, dammit, and I want THAT book and I don’t care what it looks like” – a turning away, if you like, from the ultimate awful hell to which the books-for-looks system can take you, and that is buying books “by the yard”, for the binding, in order to make a statement of décor in your home.

For the collectors, all I can say is that the reissued Worldweavers books, first in ebook form but later in paperback, are hopefully going to be graced by a “set” of covers which will now include the new material that will thus be taken under the mantle of the series and declared to be canon.

At that point the collector will have to make a decision, as I did with the Merlin books, whether to invest in a whole new set of books because they need to match one another properly… or to decide to discard the “it’s gotta match” view and (hopefully) purchase the new book anyway because the story inside… the story that picks up the tale of Thea Winthrop and concludes it in sparkling style, and it’s this story, the finale, the end of the story that Thea had to tell, that will matter more than the font on the book’s spine and the fact that it is different from the books that came before.

This I leave to the readers, and their decisions will likely be much like mine – arbitrary, and irrational, and perfectly fine for any one given individual no matter what they do. But I very much hope that Thea has achieved enough of a presence, as a character, as a protagonist, to deserve her fans stepping across the great divide if they see her standing on the other side holding out a hand.

All I can promise you is that Thea and I will do our best to make that choice one which no-one who has read and enjoyed the Worldweavers books will ever have a reason to be unhappy with.

Even if the font on the spine of the book is different to the rest of the series.

Flavorwire offers “10 Great Books Starring Cats”

A piece by by Emily Temple reports: “The Internet loves nothing more than cats, but it’s rare that we look beyond the cute photos and memes to more seriously consider their place in our world. Flavorwire’s Highbrow Cat Week is an attempt to remedy that, with a series of pieces devoted to analyzing their impact on the cultural realm.

“Looking for something that’s kind of like a cat video, but a little more literary? Writers have long been inspired by their pets, and particularly, it seems, by their cats. It’s not surprising then that our feline friends figure prominently in some great books, from Russian classics to YA masterpieces to that one book everyone has definitely read….”

Read the whole cat book article here 

Like a book? Tell the world

Have you read a good book lately?  Then share it.

Writing is a time-intensive and solitary thing. it takes a long time for a book to be conceived, written, polished, published. While all of these things are taking place the author receives no direct revenue from that book, it is all done on faith, faith that someday a reader will find it and connect with it and love it.  So if you loved it, let it show. if you cared, share.

Here’s what you can do:

Write a review. You don’t have to be a professional reviewer, some of the most treasured responses to a writer’s work come from readers who write about how a book touched them personally. Write a few words, two sentences, two paragraphs, two pages, whatever you feel moved to write. Then put it up where where other potential readers can find it.

Post it — on Goodreads, on LibraryThing, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Smashwords, or on your own page or blog. Books live because readers respond to them. Keep a book you love alive today by talking about it.

Search out the author. Is there a Facebook page for your favorite author? If there is, go there and click “like“. Post your reviews there, or links to them. Or just  drop the author a note and say ‘Hi, I just finished Book X and thought I’d come by and wave.’ Does your author have a website with a comments page or a fan corner? Leave a message and let your author know that you cared. Believe me, these small notes go a long way. No fan page? Is there a contact form? Email the author with your message.

Create your own page. Can’t find a page for a favorite author or book? Create a fan page and invite friends and strangers to drop by and talk about it.

Basically, just spread the word. Word of mouth is a thing precious beyond imagination, and the greatest gift you can give the creator of a world you have loved.

Consider buying a copy for a friend who has not yet read it, and then ask them, if they like it, to do the same – tell THEIR friends, pass it on, pay it forward. Keep talking about it. Give a book the light of love and let it grow. Make a buzz. Get it noticed. Did you love it? Let them know. Let everyone know.  The only way your favorite writer can keep writing is if they are read. If you like their work, shout about it from the rooftops. Give something back.

If you cared, share.