The Momentum Blog
Posted May 8, 2013 by Alex
‘If “books are the windows to the world” as they say, then their pages are the magic carpets that lead us there.’ - EDEWEDE ORIWOH
‘If “pages are the magic carpets” as they say, then e-readers are the fabric of the magic.’ - ANONYMOUS KINDLE USER
‘Ereaders are great. Ebooks are great. Buy Momentum ebooks.’ - ANONYMOUS MOMENTUM PUBLISHER
Does an author have exclusive rights to the world they have created in their book, or series of books? Would you say intellectual property trumps the captured imagination of the fans? Can an author really ‘Lucas’ their franchise with sequels, reboots adaptations or revised editions to fulfil their fantasy, just because they had the idea in the first place? Or does the world, once set loose into the public domain, belong to the readers as much as the writer?
You can apply this train of thought not just to books, but across all mainstream entertainment media. This is from the Star Wars Special Editions to The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, to all the movie sequels that should never, ever have been made, and can never be undone. Many a time have millions cried out in terror, their voices suddenly tweeting a lot of complaints.
I tip my hat to authors. Family homes, cities, countries, worlds, even galaxies beckon for you to inhabit them and go on incredible journeys of wonder, gore, sex, technology, action, suspense, intrigue, and ‘OMG no way!’ They can be epic or intimate in scope, with events that can span a day, year, decade or even a century. They are the ones who take us on these sojourns of emotion.
A typical author sheds blood, sweat and tears in the creation of their work: tears from the struggle of getting a publisher; sweat from being told they have to work out how to use Twitter to help promote their book; and blood from smashing the keyboard after reading their first bad review. However, does an author’s role as ‘creator’ automatically mean they trump the rights of the reader?
Try to count the hours an author may spend imagining their world, dwelling on the characters and talking about their plot bunnies incessantly to their partners. What about all the writing, rewriting, re-rewriting, the endless struggle to get a publisher, having a mental breakdown that involves copious chocolate and/or alcohol, then somehow finally landing a deal? After all that there is that little thing called the publishing process to go through and all the marketing (read: tweeting) that goes into promoting the book once the text is finalised. The hours stack up. How long did it take you to read the latest instalment in your favourite series, and how do you think that compares to the length of time invested by the author? Unless you’re an epically slow reader, you’ll end up losing.
An author can take a year or more writing a book – six or seven if your last name is ‘Martin’. I may read that new book I’ve been waiting for in a day, over a weekend or up to a fortnight, depending on its length and how much time I have. One-on-one the author wins, right? Of course. The author has spent far longer on their work, no matter how dedicated I am to the series.
Like I said, one-on-one.
Whether you are thinking of a franchise spread over multiple mediums with a large and fervent fan base, or your more typical author who still has thousands of readers per book, the hours quickly sway from favouring the writer to the readers.
So, does the author of a book have exclusive rights? Does intellectual property trump the captured imagination of the fans?
Let’s look at a book-orientated example. You can barely open the internet without seeing a reference to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Whether it’s hating Joffrey or loving Daenerys, this nerdy series of books about medieval-like lords and ladies fighting for an iron chair with direwolves, dragons and ice-zombies thrown in the mix has captured pop culture imagination after being realised in television form. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is the latest fantasy franchise to cash in on the ‘once-geek now-mainstream’ trend. While some fans of the first season may have mistaken the show for porn’s answer to endless complaints of lousy acting, low production values and flat storylines, the HBO show has unsurprisingly sky-rocketed sales of the books. New trade paperbacks and mass market formats, including those with covers to match the show, are everywhere, not to mention the Enhanced Ebook editions.
So what does Game of Thrones have to do with reader rights versus author rights? Well, quite a lot. George R.R. Martin not only gave HBO his blessing, but is a co-executive producer and writes at least one episode per season. It’s fair to say Martin enjoys a reasonable amount of influence steering the direction of the show. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also fill in the role of ‘writers’ in this context. This begs the question (from me, at least), what about the readers?
Skip the next paragraph if you are not up to date with Season 3 Episode 2 of Thrones, otherwise keep reading.
On a case by case basis, you may get convincing answers from HBO as to why Kahleesi’s visions in the House of the Undying were replaced by the ones featured in the TV show, or why Peter Dinklage didn’t lose more of his face in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and so on. I’m happy to let Peter keep his nose, so I’ll let that one slide, but the visions? I would like to have seen them. Everyone will have different nitpicks they are willing to concede, or for which they are deeply upset. I’m largely lenient towards changes in the show as I appreciate a lot of stuff on the page would not work on screen as well as what HBO decided to do. The showrunners have also given nods to the fans: Cersei says she heard Tyrion had lost his nose, acknowledging the difference between the book and the show; and Gendry criticises Arya for not spending one of Jaqen H’ghar’s kills on King Joffrey or Tywin Lannister. The latter is a conversation never seen in the books, but a common fan reaction. To me, this indicates that Benioff, Weiss and Martin are listening and engaging with the readers to create the best adaptation they can.
Do the readers get a say in the Thrones adaptation? Of course not, there are far too many differences of opinion for HBO to conform to, and why should they? So far HBO have shown they not only understand make good television, they understand the books as well. If anything, Benioff and Weiss represent the readers, and are our voice in ensuring the characters we have come to love – or pray that they die – are treated with respect. They were fans of the series before the show came into being, after all. It may not be absolutely perfect in the eyes each individual, but for most, it will be pretty damn close.
If you find Martin’s books too gargantuan to tackle, or just think boobs are far better on the screen than on paper, there are plenty more examples. The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings have all shared some criticism on how they have been adapted to film. They have also enjoyed a lot of fan adoration, from both readers and filmgoers-only. I chose Game of Thrones as my main example, though, as George R.R. Martin has a constant, active presence in the writing room, exercising his ‘author rights’. J.K. Rowling exercised some for Harry Potter, but loosened the reigns after the first couple of films, or at least that’s how it seemed.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Have you read the books too? What do you think of the show as an adaptation? Have your say in the comments below.
Have I picked a fair example with Game of Thrones, or is the fact the TV show has received such high critical acclaim make the changes in the adaptation ‘acceptable’? Is a critically unsuccessful but ‘true’ adaptation a failure? Can you think of any examples?
In terms of ‘reader rights’ being respected in adaptations like Game of Thrones, I think we will have to hold our breath and pray to the Old Gods and the New. Can we make a practical difference? Not likely. Does that render readers’ combined hours of love, dedication and eyestrain as obsolete? Not to me. Then does no power come with no responsibility? I suppose so, but it doesn’t take away my sense of entitlement.
What do you think about the rights of authors vs the rights of readers? Are we sentenced to just watch whatever may happen to our favourite books with no say?
Alex Lloyd is an editorial assistant at Pan Macmillan Australia. He interned briefly at Momentum before Pan snapped him up for full time employment. You can follow Alex on twitter at @AlexDNLloydauthors, Books, characters, fandoms, Game of Thrones, George Lucas, george r r martin, HBO, publishing, readers, reading, sean bean, spiderman, star wars, television, writing
Posted April 18, 2013 by Anne
On this week’s Podmentum we talk to Steph Campisi from review site Read in a Single Sitting about reviews and book blogging, and we get to hear the audio debut of Koraly Dimitriadis‘ new poem, Fuck Off.book blogs, book reviews, podcast, podmentum, poetry, reading, verse novel
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Posted April 11, 2013 by Tez Miller
A Momentum Guest Blog by Tez Miller of Tez Says. Tez is a reader, writer, reviewer and speculative fiction enthusiast who regularly rants about issues within the spec fic writing and reading worlds.
I’m not sure when exactly tentacles first creeped me out. Perhaps in my teen years, when in one of Laurell K. Hamilton’s novels Anita Blake or Merry Gentry roots a tentacle. Possibly in a hospital, unless that’s a different sex scene. Needless to say, I no longer read either series.
My fear of tentacles was cemented with Futurama‘s “The Beast with a Billion Backs” mini-series. Turns out the tentacles in that are actually gentacles. The ickiest scene features Fry as the Tentacle Pope, with one of Yivo’s tentacles going in through the back of Fry’s neck and out through his mouth. And speaking.
And let’s face it: during pretty much every Saturday evening on Twitter, someone mentions tentacle porn. It’s the one joke that never dies.
So I was checking out cover reveals early this month, and spotted TWO COVERS that feature tentacles. I later saw a third on NetGalley. THREE TENTACLE COVERS IN ONE DAY IS TOO MUCH. You know I’m serious because I type in all-caps.
I don’t mean to scare you (or do I?), but there’s a Goodreads list by the name of Tentaclesex, yay!. And the covers that sparked this blog post? They aren’t even on that list. Which means tentacles are invading new – and perhaps non-porny – territory, slipping into your everyday library.
Be afraid, readers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check if Momentum has any tentacles on their covers, and judge them for it if they do.
Ed – We don’t have any tentacle books, unfortunately. Or perhaps fortunately. Please, tell us if you think we need to enter the world of tentacle spec fiction. I can’t promise that we’ll necessarily dive into the world of tentacle porn but hell, we’ll try anything once. We do publish highly-successful erotic romance featuring zombies, after all.book covers, erotica, futurama, guest blog, reading, romance, speculative fiction, tentacle porn, writing
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Posted April 5, 2013 by Anne
Momentum is the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Established in February 2012, we publish high quality ebooks globally. Our website and blog is the hub of our operation, and we’d like to include as many diverse voices as possible. Our blog currently hosts opinions from Momentum employees, authors and other contributors, and now we’d like you to have the chance to have your say about the world of books, writing and reading on the Momentum blog.
We are looking for someone who is interested in books, specifically with an interest in genre fiction (predominantly romance and science fiction/fantasy).
What we want from you:
– 4-8 blog posts a month, with a minimum word count of 300 words each
– The posts can cover any topic that you think is relevant to reading, writing, book and storytelling culture and can be in the form of reviews, interviews, author profiles, recaps, catch-ups, re-reads and reader polls – creativity and audience engagement is the main aim
– Preference will be given to a blogger with a relevant social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
– Genre bloggers step to the front of the line. If you love romance, science fiction, fantasy and thrillers show us your passion for your genre(s)
What we are offering in return:
– An audience of readers and writers
– $20 per post (minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 posts per month)
– free Momentum ebooks
To apply, send a sample blog post, covering letter and brief resume to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 25th 2013 with the subject line ‘Momentum Blogger’ and be sure to include your name, city, country of residence and occupation. We welcome applicants from all over the world, but the posts must be in English.
Your sample blog post should be the type of thing you’d be posting on a regular basis (not a hokey introductory post). And of course, if we select you as our resident blogger then you will be compensated accordingly if you decide to use your sample blog post as your first post.
If you have any questions, feel free to email or ask in the comments below.
Terms & Conditions
- The winning applicant will be subject to a trial period of one month.
- Posts will be vetted by staff before going live.
- Posts will remain the copyright of the author, however, Momentum will retain an exclusive right to first posting for a period of no less than six months.
- The successful blogger will invoice Momentum monthly for posts within the previous four week period.
- The successful blogger’s contract can be terminated with two week’s notice.
- These conditions are subject to change.
You might find this book useful for 100 examples of what not to do (well).
Posted April 4, 2013 by Annika Cleeve
For those who haven’t read Mattress Actress, I write about my life getting into the sex industry, living in the sex industry and getting out of the sex industry. The book is about my experiences with clients, madams, rampant sexual abuse in the 80’s and the misogyny of the times. It’s about why women work in the industry, the sexual requests and peccadillos they face, murders, corruption, the various tiers of the sex industry from street girls to high class international jet setter, and the ever changing face of ‘normal’ sex over a twenty year period. It’s about my personal life and ultimately leaving the industry for good.
The book covers 35 years of my life, but I have reserved my most recent years (the happiest so far) for myself. This is not my decision, but that of my family. While my husband and daughter are proud of my writing, they have asked to remain anonymous – a request I fully understand and am happy to comply with. I have made no secret that I write under a pseudonym, there are few images of me available and I refuse to answer questions that could expose my true identity and inadvertently that of my family. And why should I? The book is topical enough without exposing me directly as who I became.
Back in the day when I lived in Perth, it was never a buzzing metropolis of activity. There were few Anglo-Aussie working girls with one child who attended university by day. So I am likely to be exposed even without revealing my exact age, field of study, my daughter’s current age or how long I’ve been married.
Today I am a wife and mother. I work, I cook, I even fish. I fail to go to the gym but hold a membership just the same, I call the monthly deduction a fat tax. I am dedicated to any and all mental health causes out of respect for my dear Ben. I am an avid reader and diarist. But that, dear readers, is all you need to know about modern day Annika. If that is insufficient I’m sorry.
Now, let’s talk about the book.
Speaking of which, here’s an excerpt in April’s Maxim. Click on the pictures for an enlarged image.
You can read a sample chapter of Annika’s memoir here, and also find links to buy the book.Tagged: author, excerpt, magazine feature, memoir, nom de plume, pseudonym, reading, sex work, writing
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Posted March 22, 2013 by Anne
Looking for something to read on the weekend? We have some suggestions for you, for less than the cost of a coffee. Cannot even deal with how good this is.
My Recovery: Inspiring Stories, Recovery Tips and Messages of Hope from Eating Disorder Survivors by Julie Parker is currently only $1.99
Baby Hands: Learn to Communicate With Your Baby With Sign Language by Jackie Durnin is currently only $1.99
Christine’s Ark by John Little is currently only $1.99
The White by Adrian Caesar is currently only $1.99
The Beginning of Everything and the End of Everything Else by Christine Townend is currently only $1.99
Willie’s Bar and Grill by Rob Hirst is currently only $1.99
The Raw Scent of Vanilla by Emilia Bresciani is currently only $1.99
Casting Couch Confidential by Bessie Bardot is currently only $1.99
The Fourth Passenger by Mini Nair is currently only $1.99
Ms Cellophane by Gillian Polack is currently only $1.99
Bombay to Beijing by Bicycle by Russell McGilton is currently only $1.99
Time to Declare by Mark Taylor is currently only $1.99
Dictionary of Architecture and Interior Design by Mary Gilliatt is currently only $1.99
The Bollywood Beauty by Shalini Akhil is currently only $1.99
Room With a View: Hot Down Under by Kylie Scott is currently only $0
Not Always to Plan by Colin Bisset is currently only $2.99
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Posted March 21, 2013 by Anne
Kylie Scott has started writing a new series, and we need your help.
How can you help? We need a name for the band in the book. Give us your suggestions on Twitter (with the hashtag #stagedive), Facebook (in the comments of the competition post) or in the comments below.
To give you an idea of what kind of name we’re looking for, this is how Kylie describes the band she has created for the new book:
The band is four guys who started a garage band back in their high school days and made it big in their early twenties after years of being the warm-up act. In my mind they’re an Eskimo Joe, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes mash up.
Kylie’s favourite band name will win, and your prize? The inclusion of not just your band name in the new book, but also your very own name on one of the innocent bystanders in the book (we’d say you’ll be ‘red-shirted’ but you likely won’t be fictionally killed), and a copy of both Flesh and Skin ebooks.
You can enter as many times as you like, up until 5pm next Thursday, the 28th of April. The winner will be announced the following week.author, book, competition, reading, redshirt, rock band, rockstar, romance, series, social media, stagedive, win, writing, young adult
Posted March 18, 2013 by Anne
On this week’s Podmentum Joel and Mark talk about world building with authors Nathan M Farrugia and Nina d’Aleo, and then Joel, Mark and I talk about how we got started in publishing, with some tips for those looking for a job in the book industry.
In the first segment Nathan and Nina discuss how they approach creating fictional worlds in their writing, and Mark and Joel join in to discuss their favourite world-building writers. A really interesting conversation for sci-fi and fantasy fans, with lots of culture recommendations (including the ubiquitous China Miéville, of course).
Then we talk about how we all came to book publishing, and Mark reveals something terrible that will make everyone hate him.
In the interests of diversity we all recommended something futuristic and science-fiction-y. You’re welcome. (Next time I’ll demand we all have something romance-based to recommend.)
Mark – Redshirts by John Scalzi
Joel – Strata by Terry Pratchett
Anne – Omens by Russ Andersen (article in Aeon magazine)
This week’s Podmentum was brought to you by Nathan M Farrugia‘s The Seraphim Sequence and Allison Rushby‘s Keep Calm and Carry Vegemite. You can buy them now from all good online retailers, just click on the covers to choose your favourite.book industry, bookshops, internships, job opportunities, Pan Macmillan, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, world building, writing
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Posted February 28, 2013 by Anne
On this episode of Podmentum we have two topics and an unprecedented number of guests.
Then since the Oscars were announced recently I’ve given in to Mark’s pleading and we’ll be talking about the awards. Special guest Samantha Sainsbury joins us to talk movies and Oscars fashion. Sam is a editor at Pan Macmillan and works with the likes of Di Morrissey, but she’s here in her capacity as chief fashion critic of Macmillan.
Writing credible tech in fiction
Dan recommended Charlie Stross as an author who gets tech writing right. (As well as our own Nathan M Farrugia, and I promise Nathan was not holding a gun to Dan’s head when he said that. The guns only came out later.)
Mark, Joel and Sam knowledgeably discuss the Oscars ceremony, choice of host and give opinions and background on movies and the industry, while Anne has to have everything explained to her slowly. So if you know nothing about movies, this may be useful to you. Then Sam gives us some Oscars fashion background.
Sam’s fashion picks
Jennifer Lawrence (well-played, Dior)
Samantha – Furious Love by Sam Kashnercharlie stross, csi, internet, movies, nathan farrugia, nerds, oscars, podcast, podmentum, programming language, reading, tech, writing
Posted February 7, 2013 by Anne
It’s now a week out from Valentine’s Day, and we’ve been trying to think of the best present to get our readers. So here it is, our Valentine to you: some Skin, and some free Flesh. We are all about the romance here at Momentum.
We don’t want your money honey we want your braaaaaaaaains.Tagged: brains, ebook giveaway, ebooks, erotica, flesh, love, post-apocalyptic, reading, romance, skin, Valentine's Day, zombies
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Posted January 22, 2013 by Anne
I’ve been thinking about the names of book series recently, as we have sequels to two of our most popular books coming out in the next couple of months.
The sequel to Kylie Scott’s Flesh will be released on the 1st of February, and she has a third volume in the series planned for release later on. The books are erotic romance novels set in a post-apocalyptic world populated by “infected” humans (basically zombies), and the protagonists of the books are survivors of the zombie plague.
The second and third books in Kylie’s series will be called Skin, and Bone. We’ve been calling the series the Flesh series, but in the process of collating the metadata for the new release I wondered whether it needed an umbrella title along the lines of a series like His Dark Materials, or if going with the name of the first book a la Twilight was acceptable.
I think calling Kylie’s series the Flesh series might work, but other suggestions have included the Infected series (although I don’t know if it then starts sounding like an STI) or the Body trilogy, but we do want to leave the door open in case Kylie wants to write more stories set in the Flesh world.
Conversely, I do think we need an umbrella name for Nathan M Farrugia’s series, the first of which was The Chimera Vector. Below is an excerpt from an email from Nathan where he considers the question, and I think he is on the money for the most part.
Ooh, I haven’t thought about that. I did notice The Seraphim Sequence: 2 on Amazon and iTunes. What is the 2 for? I mean, I know what it’s for but it doesn’t make sense. It reads like the sequel to The Seraphim Sequence.
Anyway, I did some quick brainstorm synergy manthink and here is what I’ve come up with:
- Sophia series
- Chimera vector series
- Chimera series
Could use Project GATE series, but it’s not a recognisable name (it’s integral to the series but it’s hardly mentioned in Book 1 or 2) and I don’t see the point in obscure series titles. What do you think? I like the simplicity of Sophia or Chimera. And Chimera sounds a bit fantasy-ish so I’m leaning towards Sophia at this point.
Also bear in mind I am interested in following Book 3 with a mini-series of Damien and Jay novellas, so they would need a different series title like “Damien and Jay” or “Manlove”.
Calling Nathan’s books the Chimera series could be misleading for straight fantasy readers, but I really want him to okay calling it The Fifth Column series, after the evil world government corporation in the books. The argument has been made that we shouldn’t call a series after the bad guys, but I’d point to William Gibson’s Blue Ant series as an argument for that type of naming.
Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments – particularly if you have any brilliant ideas for the names of the Kylie’s and Nathan’s book series, but I’m also interested in which series you think has the best name.Tagged: fantasy, flesh, His Dark Materials, manlove, metadata, naming, new releases, Philip Pullman, post-apocalyptic, reading, series, Stephanie Meyer, The Chimera Vector, Twilight, William Gibson, writing
Posted December 22, 2012 by Hannah Story
Gift-giving is hard. Too hard. I mean, how many gifts do you people want? Aren’t birthdays and anniversaries enough?
Apparently they’re not enough. Everyone wants presents on December 25 too. But luckily for you, I’m saving you all the thinking and the tear-jerking sense of failure that comes with being unable to pick out something perfect for your mother, father, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, and that guy who you’ve noticed watching you as you walk down the street. I’m just so helpful. You can thank me with a gift later.
I’ve chosen books, because if I had my hipster way I would give everyone Radiohead’s entire discography (on vinyl) and be done with it, but apparently giving people the stuff you like isn’t very “thoughtful” or in the “Christmas spirit.” Plus books make good Christmas presents because Anne said so.
And you know what the best parts about giving an ebook for Christmas are? There are so many options, and there are no lines on the internet.
So for dad, you could buy Defender by Chris Allen- because we all know dads love books with explosions in them.
And for mum, you can try Pamela by Samuel Richardson because classic romances make middle-aged ladies swoon.
And for your brother who thinks he’s the next George R.R. Martin, you could buy How to Write Badly Well by Joel Stickley. That way he’ll know if everything that he’s doing is wrong and he should start again.
Your sister who spends summer star-gazing in the mountains might like The Big Book of Astrology by Kelli Fox- she’ll then be able to tell you about your doomed Sagittarius-Taurus romance.
And your girlfriend? Buy her Flesh by Kylie Scott and wait with bated breath for your sex life to be magically spiced up. Also this way there’s no awkward unwrapping-apocalyptic-erotica-in-front-of-grandma moments.
Your boyfriend can read The Book of Bloke by Ben Pobjie to justify his disgusting bedside habits (and you’ll let it slide because it’s the festive season and he just poured you another glass of red).
And as for that stalker from down the street? I don’t know why you were considering buying him a gift. Don’t do that. That’s daft. He definitely wont stop sending you creepy emails if you acknowledge him at Christmas time. This is why your mother says you always make bad decisions. What were you thinking?Books, Christmas, ebooks, ereading, gift ideas, gift-giving, intern, list, reading
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Posted December 20, 2012 by Anne
On the last Podmentum of 2012 we discuss blockbuster movie franchises and their relationship to gourmet burgers, and then do a round up of the year in book publishing: the year of mummy porn.
Topic 1: Gourmet burgers
Topic 2: Yearly round up
PW’s annual accolade, for “shaping and, sometimes, transforming, the publishing industry”, has never gone to an author before: winners in the past include Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, and, last year, Penguin US’s chief executive David Shanks. But citing the huge sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy – they have sold more than 35m copies in the US alone and brought in over $200m (£125m) in revenue to publisher Random House – Publishers Weekly said that James had exerted a comparable influence. “Because the success of the series continues to reverberate throughout the industry in a number of ways – among other things, the money it’s brought in helped boost print sales in bookstores and turned erotic fiction into a hot category – we have selected James as the most notable player on the publishing stage this year.”
Mark: Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole
Joel: Wild Cards series by George R R Martin
Hannah: Daniel Handler’s Adverbsblockbuster movie franchises, book publishing, bookrageous, burgers, Charlie Brooker, daniel handler, george r r martin, goodreads, intern, movies, mummy porn, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, stephen king, superman
Posted December 6, 2012 by Anne
WARNING: There is a spoiler for Game of Thrones book 5 at 12-13m, so if you don’t want to know what happens at the end of this book just fast forward that bit.
First Podmentum of December! Who knew we’d make it this far. This episode includes discussion of endings in pop culture, spoilers and then we have a special guest who came in to give us all a dose of Bond culture, from Ian Fleming to Skyfall.
Topic 1 – Books and endings
There has been a bit of discussion recently about the endings of books, ignited by a column in The Guardian in which the writer expresses annoyance at ambiguous endings.
Happy endings – modern readers apparently aren’t big fans of sad endings, according to Salon. I disagree but having recently learned about the phenomenon of romance readers and their unbending penchant for a happy ending perhaps there is something in it.
Topic 2 – Spoilers
In the office we talk a lot about the pop culture we’re currently consuming, and the one thing Mark and I always clash on is spoilers. I’m quite happy to know what happens in a book, movie or tv episode before I see it, whereas Mark is vehemently against hearing about the outcome before he gets to experience it himself.
Turns out my way is better, according to NPR and Time magazine.
Spoilers might actually make reading stories more enjoyable, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego. They gave their subjects short stories they hadn’t read before, spoiling one group of readers but not others. So for example, when the assignment was Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” some readers were informed about its joltingly morbid ending. Others weren’t.
It turns out that most of the people for whom the story was “spoiled” reported enjoying it more than those who read it unprepared.
“It’s much more terrifying to know that something horrible is about to happen than not to know it’s about to happen,” – James Poniewozik, Time
Dan Kois: Spoilers: the official Vulture statute of limitations (2008)
Here’s why I’d first politely ask that you consider holding your tongue in terms of spoiling… well, anything within reason (and a reasonable amount of time, as set by John Q. Scalzi, Esquire): because it suggests that you’re the most important person on social media. I get it. You want to talk about what you just saw. But we all want lots of things. I want a pony. I want to punch people sometimes. I want to eat a gallon of ice cream and guzzle liquor every night. But I don’t. I don’t do a lot of things because it’d either be bad for me or bad for someone else. We don’t just follow our every id-driven impulse because: uhh, hello, selfish.
I’m just asking that you cool it on the spoilers.
Topic 3 – Chris Allen and James Bond
Chris Allen – Homeland
Mark – Infinitas Bookshop
Joel – Old Man’s War
Anne – Ablutions
Books, endings, Ian Fleming, James Bond, podcast, podmentum, reading, spoilers, writing
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Posted November 21, 2012 by Joel
It’s often said that writers write for themselves. This might be true, but as a publisher it’s my task to be the reader’s advocate. The first question I try to ask when considering a new project is to consider the audience: “who wants to read this stuff?”
In the digital realm, particularly at the experimental, pointy end of digital, this question of audience is, I think, rarely considered as a first step. The excitement of shiny gadgets and new software overwhelms our puny publishing minds. So instead, the first question is often – “what can it do?” and the second question is “what else can it do?”
The answer to that question is – “pretty much anything”. There are bog standard ebooks, of course, but it goes much further than that. There are transmedia stories, geo-located stories, multimedia enhanced stories and fully interactive pseudo-gaming experiences. We can serialise books, we can release short stories and we can make apps and games.
In other words “What can it do?” is an exciting question and it’s full of potential rather than limitations. But it’s my contention that when it comes to the business of storytelling – whether you’re trying to entertain, educate or inform people – it’s not a very good question. To put it indelicately, there’s a very short distance between asking the question “what can it do?” and disappearing up your own arse.
My argument is basically this: the colourful and exciting part of digital publishing innovation is – for the most part – not something that readers actually want. Pushing the boundaries of what a book is – whether it’s by blurring the lines between different kinds of media or questioning the linear nature of traditional narrative – is not something that people are looking to book publishers to provide. Too much of what we call innovation is basically turning our content into a showroom for device manufacturers – and we do it to the detriment of more important and more useful innovation at the back end of the publishing business.
This is not to say that every example of a book app or interactive book-like experience is bad. Consider The Waste Land or The Sonnets that have been released by Faber & Faber. Both of these apps successfully meld critical annotations, video, audio and multiple text versions into a unified whole without distracting from the fundamental purpose of the text. It’s interesting that poetry, perhaps because it’s so dense, seems to lend itself quite naturally to this kind of enhancement. There’s a lot to unpack in poetry. Poetry itself isn’t necessarily linear and it’s often intended to be performed rather than read so it seems the marriage of technology and literature is a happy one in this instance.
However you might not want the pace of your Lee Child novel interrupted by a quick video of the author reading a couple of paragraphs or Tom Cruise running about in the trailer for the new movie. That would probably somewhat lift you out of the story. And yet publishers return – again and again – to cheap gimmicks and unnecessary tricks to try to enhance what doesn’t need to be enhanced.
The real experiments that will actually help publishers make books that people actually want to read – for a price they want to read them for – are distinctly lacking in sex appeal. They aren’t books – they’re improvements to things like workflow, content management systems, metadata optimization, distribution efficiency and rights management.
For example, a digital-only, format independent workflow drastically improves the speed and quality of ebooks and other digital content production.
Metadata – the information about a book like price, category, the book blurb and author information – is essential to making a book discoverable in an online retail environment. There is now solid evidence that improving the accuracy of metadata increases sales for books.
Distributing our content in a global market is a new challenge that needs some creative thinking and a lot of resources to get right. We need to get better at working with our overseas colleagues to make sure our content is available simultaneously or as quickly as possible.
I won’t go on about rights management too much as it’s a bit of a bug bear for me, to the point that Momentum has now removed these controls from our books. Suffice it to say that digital rights management is bad for readers in the same way that awkward user interface design in book apps are bad for readers. It interferes with the purchasing and reading experience in a non-intuitive way.
These are the kinds of invisible improvements to a modern publishing business that have helped Amazon to become the biggest single bookstore in the world – and allowed them to single-handedly take on publishers at their own game.
More than a few publishers are steadfastly refusing to make some of these changes. Among those that are making deep systematic changes – and there are plenty – many are moving so slowly that they are risking losing the race.
Meanwhile, many modern publishers are distracting themselves with experiments that do nothing but provide a nice press release and show-off the latest capability that Amazon, Apple or Google have built in to their newest device. And it’s not just publishers. I’ve been on a number of panels with industry pundits who love to talk about the death of the book and how technology is going to radically alter our sense of what narrative is and how we are going to consume stories in a completely different, non-linear and interactive way.
What an utterly exhausting proposition.
Nothing I’ve seen in the past year of running an experimental digital imprint has led me to believe there is a voracious horde of early adopters out there who want this type of content and that publishers are failing to deliver it. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, but it hasn’t happened yet and I see no indications of it coming other than the fact that it’s technological feasible.
The next decade is inevitably going to provide some creative re-imagining of the boundaries of what a book is. And that is a good thing. Technology can and already does help us deliver content around the world for a fraction of the cost that it did only a few years ago. The self-publishing revolution means that there are now very few roadblocks for authors to get their content read by audiences. There is now an audience for serialised content and short stories that seems to have sprung out of nowhere. This is the actual revolution at the foundation of the publishing business. The boundaries of what publishers can and should do have already shifted while we weren’t paying attention – there’s no need for us reinvent the wheel when it comes to storytelling and narrative. We must remember what it is we’re good at – looking at that manuscript, whether it’s delivered by horse and cart or email – and asking the question “who wants to read this stuff?”
This post was adapted from a speech delivered at The Future of Writing symposium at Macquarie University on 14 November.Tagged: digital publishing, DRM, narrative, reading, storytelling, technology
Posted November 9, 2012 by Anne
Second podcast! We’re totally on a roll. In this episode we discuss the epic Genre versus Literature battle to the death in the wake of the inaugural GenreCon Australia, then we make fun of Joel for being such a gadget nerd. Also Mark outnerds himself in the recommendations. Enjoy.
Topic 1 - What we read: Genre v Lit
Arthur Krystal’s Easy Writers: Guilty pleasures without guilt in May in The New Yorker laid down the theory that the divide between genre and literary fiction is becoming less clear, and some genre fiction is now being afforded “literary” status.
Lev Grossman in Time April 2012 responded with an article entitles Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre fiction is disruptive technology, challenging the idea that literary fiction should be regarded as “superior” to genre fiction. He basically lays down the theory that literary fiction is itself a genre with certain tried and true tropes that every book identified as such follows.
Krystal then responded to Lev Grossman with It’s genre, not that there’s anything wrong with that! in October, which had Joel absolutely apoplectic with rage, and convinced us that it was worth discussing.
Interesting look at horror in The Guardian recently with Horror: a genre literally doomed to hell?
*note – The Ian McEwan novel that was released the year before he won the Booker for Amsterdam was Enduring Love, not On Chesil Beach (which was actually released a decade later). To my enduring shame, I completely forgot about Enduring Love, which is actually one of my favourite McEwan books. Golf clap.
Topic 2 - Devices: how we read
Joel got his new Paperwhite last week and now that he’s had enough time to fall completely and utterly in love with it, it is probably time to talk about reading technology.
Mark’s Recommendation Star Wars Expanded UniverseAmazon, Arthur Krystal, author, Books, devices, digital publishing, DRM, ebooks, ereading, fiction, genre, iPad Mini, john birmingham, Kindle, Lev Grossman, literary fiction, memoir, non-fiction, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, review, romance, star wars, The Silent History, writing
Posted November 6, 2012 by Anne
Our very first podcast ever covers Amazon and DRM, books that have been made in to movies, and the renewed popularity of the short story format.
You can subscribe via iTunes here, or listen below.
Below you’ll find some links to things we discussed in the inaugural Podmentum: the one where Jeff Bezos is a super villain.
DRM, Amazon and the missing digital library
“As a long-term writer about technology, DRM, privacy and user rights, this Amazon example shows the very worst of DRM. If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought. And if you disagree, you’re totally outlawed. Not only is your account closed, all your books that you paid for are gone. With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.”
Recent and upcoming book to movie adaptations, Flavorwire’s “unfilmable books”
(If any outraged Harry Potter fans would like to email their thoughts to Mark please direct said emails to email@example.com and they’ll be forwarded directly to him.)
Short stories – is the form really under threat? Really?
The Paris Review has just released a short story collection (Object Lessons) and it prompting a rash of new articles questioning the form.
“The medium isn’t as popular as it used to be, but a new anthology from The Paris Review makes the case for the power and promise of short stories. Below, an interview with editor Sadie Stein.”Amazon, Books, Cloud Atlas, Jeff Bezos, Mightnight's Children, movie adaptations, movies, Paris Review, podcast, podmentum, reading, short stories
Posted November 1, 2012 by John Birmingham
So, today is the day that Stalin’s Hammer: Rome drops into the e-book shops. Or at least it does everywhere but America. I found out about two weeks ago that my US publisher wants to hold on to the title until January or February next year. Originally they were even looking at holding it back until midyear, but my sad face changed their mind.
It’s still not ideal. When we sat down to plan how we’d approach the e-book market, the guys at Momentum and I agreed that there were a couple of minimum conditions we needed to meet. A price so low there was no barrier to purchase. At $2.99 I think we’ve done that. No DRM so that readers could store and carry their copy of the book however they damn well pleased. Tick. And simultaneous global release, so that somebody sitting on their couch in, say, Kansas City, Missouri, would have no reason to be pissed because they can see the book is available, but not for them. This is one of the main drivers of piracy.
“Well, I wanted to give those assholes my money, but they refused, so…”
To buy Stalin’s Hammer: Rome, click through for your choice of retailers via the book page.authors, digital publishing, digital rights management, DRM, ebooks, ereading, fiction, genre, john birmingham, pricing, reading, self-publishing, Stalin's Hammer, territorial restrictions, writing
Posted October 23, 2012 by Anne
APRIL 13, 1955: CENTRAL SIBERIA
Joseph Stalin knew he was being watched. He closed his eyes and adjusted the soft, red blanket that covered his legs, like a child hiding under his bed covers, thinking that if he could not see the monster, the monster could not see him. The sun was warm on his face, and bright, through his paper-thin eyelids. Sitting there in his wheelchair, his face turned up, eyes closed, it was possible to imagine the whole world was a pink, warm womb.
He let his chin slowly fall to his chest before opening his eyes and turning his glare on Beria. “We are delayed, Lavrenty Pavlovich. To what end?”
Stalin patted his pockets, looking for his old pipe, forgetting that he had not smoked in years. The doctors had said it would kill him. Frustrated at the delay, frustrated at the doctors, angry that he could not enjoy a simple pipe, his scowl grew darker. Once upon a time the hardest men in Russia had quailed at the sight of him playing with that pipe. To turn it this way and that, to stroke the bowl with his thumb while never moving to pack even one shred of tobacco in there – that was enough to signal his displeasure. Enough to make strong men quiver with fear. Now when he patted his pockets, he just looked like an old cripple, forgetful and failing.
Still, what little colour Beria had in his face leached away at the thunderous look on Stalin’s. That was something.
“No delay. There is no delay, comrade. Everything is running to schedule.”
The chief of the Functional Projects Bureau stammered over his last words and nervously checked the iPad he carried. A rare and valuable working model, an Apple original, one of the last before the ‘flex’ models debuted, and salvaged from the emergence of the British stealth destroyer way back in 1942, it was still sleeker and more powerful than anything Functional Projects had managed to produce. Then again, it was also vastly more elegant and powerful than any of the cheaper Samsung or Google flexipads they had also salvaged.
Stalin waved him off with a backhanded gesture. “Gah. Enough excuses, Lavrenty Pavlovich. Begin the demonstration. I have many days of travel to return to Moscow. Push your buttons. Bring down the sky. Be done with it.”
“The satellite is almost in position now,” Beria assured him. “We must retire inside.”
His bodyguard leaned forward. “Vozhd?” he asked, seeking permission to move him.
“Yes, yes,” said Stalin, who did not really want to give up his place in the sun. The winters grew longer as he grew older. He was certain of it. He enjoyed the mild spring weather, but soon enough, too soon, the leaves on the small stand of trees outside his apartment back in the Kremlin would turn red again, then gold, then brown as winter stalked back into the land. What did those books say? The ones his daughter loved, from the broken future. Winter was coming? His last perhaps. He adjusted the blanket again – an old habit, it had not moved – and tried to not let his disappointment show as his guard wheeled him off the terrace out of the sun and back inside the bunker.
He felt the chill as soon as they passed into the shadows of the deep concrete passageway. Solid iron blast doors rumbled behind him as the small party of high officials, bureaucrats and technicians filed in, trudging in procession to the bunker from which they would monitor the test. Moisture leaked from the thick concrete walls, giving Stalin pause to worry about his arthritis. He regretted having insisted on traveling all the way out here to witness the test firing for himself. Then he smiled. Beria undoubtedly regretted it more, and that was cause for some mild amusement. Stalin knew his deputy premier would be fretting now, squirming inside like a greasy little weasel, anxious that nothing should go wrong.
The tension in the control room was tangible. He could feel it on his skin, taste it even at the back of his mouth. It was a familiar taste, of a fine vintage. He had been supping on men’s fear for so long now he believed he could take some nourishment from it. The scientists and military officers – no, they were NKVD Spetsnaz; Beria’s thralls, not Red Army, he reminded himself – all did their best to avoid catching his gaze. Beria scuttled about, snapping and hissing at the technical staff, his spidery white fingers stabbing so hard at the screen of the iPad that Stalin thought he might punch it to the floor. That would be amusing.
His bodyguard – it was Yagi today – wheeled him past banks of computer terminals, monitoring screens, and control boards dense with flashing lights and illuminated buttons. The supreme leader of the Soviet Union understood none of it. The technology was all plundered from the far and impossible future, the world that could not be.
He would never see that particular future. He knew that, of course. Accepted it. Life ebbed away from him now – in spite of all the new “miracle” medical treatments and organ therapies, life itself retreated from Joseph Stalin on a quickening tide of years and minutes. But nobody else would see the future from whence Kolhammer and his international fleet had Emerged either, because he would not let it come to pass. He would not let it be, this false future where Putinist thugs and bandits ruled the Rodina, where the revolution was mocked and mourned. And dead.
It would not be.
At a word from him, as long as Beria had done his job, the sky would fall in on the world outside this bunker, and the real future would draw that much closer. Yagi brought him to a stop a few feet from the viewing port created especially for him. The armored glass was 7 inches thick, they had told him, and the reinforced concrete wall of the bunker at least 3 feet deep. Peering through this personal viewport was a little like looking down a short tunnel. The glass distorted the view somewhat, and gave it a dark green tinge. Steel shutters stood ready to slam down if needed, but he could not see them. Nobody could. Only a wheelchair-bound Stalin and one of the technicians, who was a dwarf, were of a height to have an unimpeded view through the port. Everybody else had to make do with the viewing screens. There were dozens of them about, but the two largest ones hung from the wall directly in front of him, above the viewing slit.
The room was chilly, because of all the infernal computers, which always seemed to be in danger of overheating. The cold, stale, recycled air irritated his eyes and seeped into his bones, but it awoke his senses, and he did want to see this. It was why he had traveled so far east, beyond the natural barrier of the mountains.
Involuntarily he glanced upwards, imagining American satellites prowling overhead, peering down on him. But there was only the low ceiling of unrendered cement. And above that – tons of rock.
“You are sure Kolhammer is not watching this on some television in the White House?” he growled at Beria. “They are always watching us.”
Startled out of some reverie, the NKVD boss jumped a little, and even squeaked. He was more nervous than usual. “We have done our best, our utmost, to draw their attention away from the proving grounds,” he said, stammering as before. “Ten Red Army divisions and fraternal bloc forces are exercising as close to the Oder as we dare. There have been incidents. I made sure of that personally. What satellite cover they do not have watching us there will be trained on Admiral Koniev’s newly unmasked fleet base. Our strategic forces are ready to test fire a fusion warhead to mask the geologic signal. This is all settled, Vozhd. By your very self.”
Stalin waved him away again, a stock gesture when dealing with Beria. He knew everything the man had just said, but he wanted him to repeat it. If Beria’s plan to mask the Hammer Fall test failed, Comrade Beria would pay the price. Not Stalin.
Klaxons and sirens began to sound all around them, and somewhere in the distance he heard the deep, bass rumble of more blast doors sliding into place. The countdown clock between the two large viewing screens clicked over to ten minutes.
In spite of his weariness and his age – he should have been dead two years now – in spite of all that he had done and seen, Joseph Stalin could not help but feel a flicker of excitement in his chest. Well, hopefully it was just excitement … After his last heart attack, the doctors had told him (or rather suggested, very mildly) that he might need to think about cutting back to one serving each day of his favorite lamb stew. He wiggled his fingers now, marveling at how old his hands looked, how skeletal and heavily veined.
1953, he thought.
These hands through which his blood still flowed, with which he could still touch the world, they should have clawed at the last moments of life in 1953. On March 5 – as a massive stroke shredded his brain and twisted his body into a crippled, piss-stained mess.
He smiled at the thought. He was still here. For now. Inside, he still felt like a twenty-year-old revolutionary, but his body was failing him. Even with his blood washed clean by a fresh, transplanted liver, even with improbably tiny machines regulating his heartbeat and sweeping toxins from his body, it was failing him. He should have been used to it, he supposed. So many had failed him over the decades. Their bodies, at least, he could pile up like cordwood. His own, he was stuck with, mostly, despite the efforts of his transplant surgeons and pharmacists.
The Vozhd had simply given too much to the struggle over the years. That was why he was so excited and intrigued by the possibilities of today’s test. Since the reactionary Kolhammer forces had Emerged from the Gordian knot of history at the Battle of Midway, Joseph Stalin had lived every day with the knowledge that he had limited time to set history right, to secure the revolution, and his place in it.
Emerged from history, and destroyed it, he thought. Destroyed the settled history of the twentieth century, and the twenty-first century after that. It was still a wonder to him how nobody in the West could see the obvious truth of it. How the very impossibility of Admiral Kolhammer’s arrival from the year 2021 through this ‘wormhole’ spoke to the impossibility of the future from which he had come.
He grunted in frustration, setting off a momentary panic amongst his hangers-on, but he ignored them.
The forces of history operate like a machine, he thought, as technicians and dogsbodies fussed about him. History: driving human progress from barbarity to civilization, from the feudal to the capitalist, and then inevitably on to the final socialist stages. A history in which the USSR fell was simply not possible. Reality was not engineered in such a fashion. Thus history had righted itself with the destructive miracle of the Emergence.
Or rather, it had started to right itself. The revolutionary work of men was in the hands of men, of course. Stalin hoped that today they would come one crucial step closer to completing that work.
“Two minutes, Vozhd,” said Beria, surprising him.
Where had the time gone? Stalin shook his head, disgusted. He had been daydreaming again. He leaned forward to peer out through the armored glass. A nameless valley fell away from them hundreds of feet below, disappearing into the haze. Ten miles away, hundreds of obsolete tanks and trucks, many of them salvaged from the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War, waited on the valley floor. He was aware of increased tension behind him as the technicians hurried through their last-minute procedures. Literally – the last-minute procedures. The countdown clock had reached sixty seconds. Beria really had nothing to do, setting himself to annoy everyone with his pestering and interference as he did it.
“Leave them alone, Lavrenty Pavlovich!” Stalin ordered. “Let them do their duty.”
Chastened, the chief engineer – Pah, that was a laugh! – of the Functional Projects Bureau quit bustling around and hovering at the shoulders of his senior men. He opened and closed the cover of his flexipad a number of times, before setting it down on a steel workbench and shuffling over to stand beside Stalin.
“There is nothing left to do but wait,” he said.
“Then we shall wait,” replied the Vozhd.
The final countdown was strangely disappointing. A disembodied voice on the public address system took them through the last few seconds: “Three … two … one … launch …” But of course there were no rockets to roar or shake the earth beneath their feet.
“How long?” asked Stalin.
Beria seemed unnaturally pleased to have a question he could answer promptly. “Less than two minutes,” he said with confidence. “These are the small, tactical rods we are testing today. They will launch from low orbit and accelerate to 9000 meters per second.”
Stalin scowled at him, stealing some of that confidence away. “And we are safe here in this bunker?”
“Oh yes,” said Beria, with apparent relief. “We would not dare test the largest of the rods like this. They are designed to reduce mountains, such as this, to smoking craters.”
Beria hesitated, as though it were a trick question. Which in a way it was. The scientists and engineers – real scientists and real engineers, unlike Beria – had briefed him well at the start of this project. They had to. It was a massive investment of the state’s resources, and one that drew money and men away from one of Stalin’s pet projects: the electronic storage of human memory and consciousness. His gaze faltered for a moment, slipping away from Beria to stare at the back of his old, liver-spotted hands again.
“Pah! Do not bother,” Stalin told him, worried that his mind had wandered again. “I know about Tunguska. I know how it was different. The rock from space – a giant snowball, they told me – it exploded in the air. These rods will not.”
“No,” said Beria. “Look …” He bent his knees and leaned forward, pointing toward the viewing aperture, even though the giant screens hanging above it afforded a grand, God-like view of the entire valley.
The dictator peered out through the armored-glass slit but found himself watching the screens too. They had split into windows to display the video feeds from a dozen cameras scattered up and down the valley. None of the hundreds of tanks, trucks and APCs out there were moving; they sat warmed by the afternoon sun. Stalin opened his mouth to say something when he thought he spotted a flight of birds sweeping across the scene, but before he could form the words, bright white streaks of light speared down from the sky. He saw the flash of impact through the glass just a moment before the very planet heaved and rumbled in shock. His mouth dropped open in surprise as the roaring noise of impact and detonation reached deep inside the bunker.
There was little and less to see on the screens, which didn’t so much blank out as “white out”. He squinted involuntarily before turning his attention back to the viewing port. Beria too had bent over again to look through it, as other men and women, some in uniform and some in coveralls and lab coats, did the same. A few flinched away, as an enormous fireball raced up the valley toward them. Stalin thought he could make out the pressure wave that preceded it, flattening the sea of grass and a few small saplings that stood between the foot of the mountain bunker and the point of impact.
Then heavy steel shutters slammed down, blocking off even that view. A few people jumped. But not the supreme leader of the Soviet people. He closed his eyes and imagined the sun, warm on his face, and bright even through his eyelids.
authors, Books, chapter sample, excerpt, fiction, john birmingham, prologue, reading
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Posted October 11, 2012 by Anne
“When we served in the Paratroopers together, Chris Allen was always the most suave and entertaining officer in the Regiment: A natural storyteller, equal parts Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum, but with far better hair and teeth than both. Similarly, his Alex Morgan novels are a thrill a minute, and the aftertaste of blood and gunmetal makes it clear these books are written by a real soldier. DEFENDER is must read for literary action/adventure addicts, and I cannot wait for the release of HUNTER on November 1st.”
BTG kindly sent us a copy of his hilarious new book Curses and Blessings for All Occasions recently, and we can confirm that it is both blessed and occasional.action adventure, Alex Morgan, Books, Bradley Trevor Grieve, BTG, Defender, Hunter, Ian Fleming, Intrepid, paratroopers, reading, soldier, writing
Posted September 18, 2012 by Anne
Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the book world about reviews and criticism. There have been warnings about an epidemic of niceness on social media, articles on unfavourable reviews, the outing of sock puppet reviews on Amazon, and revelations of authors buying reviews in bulk.
Discoverability (drink) has been overtaken by sockpuppeting (drink) as the buzzword of the moment in publishing circles (so says FutureBook maven Sam Missingham), but it’s still the central concern of most ebook publishers. Readers can’t just go into a bookstore and pick up one of their books – they need to stumble across it in the wilds of the online jungle, so reviews and web chatter are increasingly important. Little wonder some authors are driven to fake their own book reviews.
If you’re concerned about how technology and web culture is affecting books, reading and writing, there are several things you can do. There are so many authors and books out there that for the truly excellent to come to the fore they need a bit of help from devoted readers.
I’ve put together a handy list of things you can do to support your favourite authors, and help fellow book lovers.
1. Buy books. I know right, easy
2. Read books. Bizarre, yes, but proven effective
3. Review books. Review widely, review often. You don’t have to be a professional reviewer anymore for your opinion to count (thanks Internet!). All you need is an account with your friendly (internet) neighbourhood retailer. Amazon is likely to be the most effective, but there is also Apple’s iBookstore and Goodreads. Or you could even set up a blog and become one of those people that publishing publicity departments adore, a book blogger. But let’s not get too crazy
4. Social media mention it up. Post your thoughts about the latest book you’re reading on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr – hell, even Google+. Do it as you’re thinking about reading the book. Do it when you buy the book – post a photo of the cover. Do it mid-read, if you are inspired by a particularly interesting plot twist, or a beautiful sentence. Triumphantly announce your completion upon finishing the book, or mourn the end of a particularly brilliant book. The more you talk about reading, the more you will motivate others to read
5. Give ebooks as gifts. Okay sure, ebook gifts aren’t quite as impressive as a gift-wrapped print tome, but they are usually far less expensive and far more portable. Just enter in the email address of the lucky recipient, and bam, you’ve made someone’s day. Unless you give them a diet book or something. Don’t do that. Ebooks aren’t just for Christmas guys. They’re an everyday gift. Give one today.
May I suggest one of these?Tagged: Amazon, authors, Books, discoverability, ebooks, ereading, FutureBook, gift ideas, iBookstore, list, reading, review, social media, sock puppet, writing
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Posted August 22, 2012 by Anne
“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” – John Waters
That’s all very well and good, but these days you don’t need to take someone home for them to be able to see your bookshelf. You just need to show them your device. No not that device.
So before you go all the way home with your date, ask them to hand over their e-reading device. Take a quick look at their library, and use this handy guide to what your date’s taste in books says about them as a lover.
Chuck Palahniuk/Bret Easton Ellis/Philip Roth
If you bruise easily you may want to exercise caution.
Jonathan Franzen/Haruki Murakami/David Foster Wallace
You might need to pull the “shut up and kiss me” routine with this windbag, but once you’ve got things underway you can likely expect this lover to last the distance.
Thomas L. Friedman/Tim Flannery/Michael Pollan
I hope you like body hair. [Um, I wrote that before I saw the above photo and now I'm kind of all turned around on the subject. He's holding Hot, Flat and Crowded, by the way.]
Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens/Sam Harris
If you’re one of those people who has a tendency toward “oh god” exclamations during sexual activity you may want to tone that down.
Diana Gabaldon/Nora Roberts/Jodi Picoult
There will definitely be cuddling after sex, quite possibly prior to and during the act also. Suffocation warning, and not the good type either.
George R. R. Martin/Robert Jordan/Raymond E Feist
This date has no problem with commitment or patience. Likely to be a dedicated lover, but may require a detailed map. When it comes to the cut and thrust part of the night, expect great things.
Anthony Bourdain/Marco Pierre White/Gabrielle Hamilton
Likely to have an excellent appetite, and a willingness to eat out, if you know what I mean.
Charlaine Harris/Anne Rice/Stephen King
Watch out for teeth. If you like that type of thing, by all means, take this one home. But look, you may want to lay down towels. Could get messy.
Stephanie Meyer/J.K. Rowling/Suzanne Collins
Ask to see their ID and double check their birth date.
Definitely, definitely fuck them.Tagged: Books, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, dating, e-reader, ebooks, ereading, fiction, Jonathan Franzen, library, list, non-fiction, Philip Roth, reading, romance, sex
Posted August 17, 2012 by Mark
I might be alone on some of these.
Listening to music while reading
Catching the train home each day, I see people reading books with their earphones in. I tried once and couldn’t concentrate on my book (probably because I was listening to something that was too AWESOME).
Licking your finger before turning a page
It’s just gross. Plus I don’t want to see your tongue. Well, most people’s tongues.
Being all precious about the spine of a paperback
It looks much better if it’s been read. Otherwise it looks like you bought it just to put on your shelf. And that would push you into book hipster territory.
When someone’s lips are moving
It’s not a conversation.
When someone is reading a book I hate
Because it’s really hard for me to not judge you.
People on the train who read the free newspaper instead of something proper
There is a world of stories out there. Characters you are yet to meet. Adventures you’re yet to go on, ideas you haven’t been exposed to yet. And you’re reading about Masterchef contestants.
Folding the corner of the page instead of using a bookmark
The bookmark industry is having a hard time these days (probably because of companies like ours).
So what are the reading habits that annoy you?Tagged: list, reading
Posted August 9, 2012 by Emilia Bresciani
I wrote The Raw Scent of Vanilla as a memoir through the lens of magic realism. In Latin America, where the genre of magic realism originated, daily life is imbued with what many would call ‘raw magic’. It’s all a product of sacrifice and sorrows, Catholic ceremonies, Andean mysticism, Amazonian animism and, an spicy imagination that come to affect daily reality. In the end, the view of life becomes almost multidimensional. Spirits are alive, the dead become companions, curses cause diseases and shamans work their magic. In other words, magic realism is not only a genre of literature, but a way of viewing life. As a writer born in Peru, it is natural for me to also look at life under such colourful lens.
But what is magic realism, the literary genre? It has a number of definitions. For me who learned from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, magic realism is simply realism with a twist. In the genre of fantasy, the world is created with different rules; in realism the world is shaped by conventional wisdom. In magic realism however, one or two elements in the story break the rules and disrupt the fabric of realism. The rupture is the result of imbuing reality with added meaning or symbolism. It also occurs by creating a twist in the reality. How we present the twist is up to the writer as I did with this memoir
It may be that some people believe that a memoir cannot be written with the plume of magic realism because it deals with facts. True, a memoir is a collection ‘real’ moments in life experienced by an individual who has a story to tell. But this factualism can be done through a narrative that reflects feelings, dreams, conflicts and aspirations. Our dreams can add colour to our narrative. Our feelings give meaning to our life allowing us to interpret it. For example, I chose to give meaning to my pain by looking at how my ancestors’ culture dealt with tragedy, and how this view affected my reaction to it. In the process I learned how tragedy was transforming my life. Time of course helped. It was the effect of time that allowed for the transformation to occur. Time provided the distance, and distance revealed the meaning.
Maybe not all of us need to find meaning in life. And that is fine. For me, writing the way I did was beneficial because I could make meaning of my ancestors’ story. Interpreting their story the way I did allowed me to deal with the painful events that took place in my life. At the same time, writing under the lens of magic realism allowed me to unleash my creativity and reach planes I never thought I could. The process filled me with excitement and delight. This, I believe, is the magic of life.
Emilia Bresciani was a television journalist before her husband was tragically killed, and she became the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Her memoir is an account of her life around the tragedy. Read more here.Tagged: digital publishing, ebooks, fantasy, fiction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, genre, magic realism, memoir, reading, writing
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Posted August 7, 2012 by Anne
Gillian Polack wanted to celebrate the launch of her book Ms Cellophane in the most Gillian way possible – so she asked for readers to take crazy photos of themselves reading the book. Obviously the one who won is naked. Mostly because that’s what we asked for. Enjoy!
The book itself contains no gratuitous nudity, but it is a stellar read. Click here to find out more.Tagged: launch, NSFW, nudity, reading