Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kindle Unmasked

Kindle has a dirty little secret. So do other ereaders. It's something I had to find out for myself, something no one ever talks about. Because it's just too disturbing.

Even committed brick-and-mortar readers admit one thing—a cute little Kindle would sure be nice to travel with. But what if they knew that just as they’re settling in for takeoff,  counting on Nevada Barr’s latest to distract them from the raging storm out there, the flight attendant’s going to say: “If it’s got a switch, turn it off”? 

And it’s gonna happen on landing too, just at the denouement.  Eeeeeeeee! Your book just got snatched from your very hands.

Why didn’t anyone tell me? And what to do about it?  Ironically, so far, the only solution I’ve found is to make sure I always have a bricks-and-mortar back-up. Something non-fiction; “Blogging for Dummies”, say. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? You still have to carry a heavy book on your trip.

So these are my questions: How is an innocent ereader going to interfere with takeoff or landing? Is this for real or a blanket admonition to get compliance from cell phone outlaws? And if not…Mwahahahahaha!---can you just defy the law and see if you get a ticket? Without risking a crash, that is.

Sure would like to hear from anyone who’s got any ideas—or explanations.

And on a related note—who knew TSA had a blog? They have actual good news about traveling with your ebaby.  http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/04/traveling-with-e-readers-netbooks-and.html   Here’s the gist—when going through security, “Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases. It’s that simple.”  That’s an actual quote. Don’t they sound friendly?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


 So I’m writing one. As avid readers of  E-Guerrilla will know (and I’m sure there must be one), I’m on a true confessions kick about what I’m writing. I’ve already thoroughly harangued everyone about my forthcoming YA novel and mentioned my writing book-to-be (BTW, got a lot done over the weekend), and now I need to tell you about the most fun thing I’m doing. Because I just can’t keep quiet any more. It’s way too much fun.

It’s a love story. Actually, I think you might even call it pretty much a classic romance, except that it’s really, really different from anything you ever read. Yow! How could it possibly live up to that? Well, for one thing it isn’t just up to me. One thing that makes it different is I’m team-writing it with two other authors, and boy, are they turning out amazing stuff. For another, neither of the two lovers is really the protagonist.

Did I just lose you? No, no, stick around. This is a protagonist anyone would love. Even if you don’t love her writing, there’ll be  irresistible embedded videos. (This is an ebook, did I mention that?)  Okay, that’s another way it’s different—it’s going to have embedded videos. I’m so excited about this I can barely type.

 But enough about me.

I still need a romance.  But do I want it just to read, or do I want to publish it? Both maybe. I’d settle for reading one, but I’m up for submissions (ulp!), I think. Anyhow, you could query me at info@booksbnimble.com if you’ve got something wildly different. I want to read a romance like Jennifer Crusie writes—really funny and un-putdownable. (Tall order, huh? Her blog’s hilarious too.  http://www.jennycrusie.com/) I'm not looking for just straight-up love-and-kisses, maybe a bit of  suspense. With a really outrageous heroine. Much stronger on laughs than sex. Got one for me? Please, please leave titles in the comments section if you have candidates. Because I really need a romance!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Cure for First-Chapter Blues?

Narcissism alert: Today’s entry is all about me.  Just because I haven’t written a mystery in five years, people ask me if I’m still writing, can you imagine? So I thought I’d answer them. Yes! Yes, I am,  I can’t imagine NOT writing. Not only am I still writing, I’m writing things I’m excited about. The Big One (big because it’s the WIP) I’ll leave till another day, but I thought I’d report that I’m  proud to join the ranks of young adult writers, with CURSEBUSTERS!, out in May. It’s about an unrepentant teen-age female burglar and a sort of …hmmm—paranormal ninja cat who bullies her into stealing something really really dangerous to steal. This is because it’s temporarily stashed in 1519, where they have to time-travel to get it. (Grammar Girl, where are you? Is 1519 a “where”? Should I have said “when”? “Whence?”)

CURSEBUSTERS! is what’s increasingly being called a “P” book (as in print), and my esteemed publisher, Bold Strokes Books, wouldn’t give up the electronic rights, isn’t that a nerve? But I love them anyhow, and I really, really love the cover they did, which I  can’t resist showing you. It’s my favorite ever.

The other thing I’m doing that I want to mention is something I see a greater and greater need for every day—a book on writing. Why, you may ask, do we need another book on writing? Well, YOU may not, but I need one for the people who come to me for help, one that I know reliably covers all the bases and gives  new writers a vocabulary for the techniques they need to master.  I don’t know—what caused  a nice girl like Mignon Fogarty, the aforementioned Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ ) to start doing podcasts? Did the world really need more grammar tips? Maybe she just thought if you want a job done,  you do it yourself.

There are plenty of great books on writing already, many of which I intend to quote in mine (which I’m adapting from a course I teach), but the point of my book is that you can’t really listen to writing teachers, even me, in your quest to find your own best writing method. So I’m calling it WRITING YOUR WAY. The other reason I’m writing it is that I don’t think anyone else has properly tackled first chapters. At least not to my satisfaction. Especially me. I kind of overlooked it when I first started teaching writing.

But when I started seeing students’ work, I knew I needed to get on that right away. After all, what’s more important than your first chapter? NOTHING. Anybody knows that. Why are they so neglected?  I’m wrestling with it. Coming soon. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Mysterious Walker Percy Successor

Patty Friedmann’s such a popular and respected writer in New Orleans that I temporarily forgot the Internet is international when I mentioned her in the context of Walker Percy’s comment about a Jewish mother  leading the next Southern literary revival.  So for those who wondered who I was talking about, let me first say, rush right out and read her! And then I’ll mention that she’s the author of  eight novels (including a new one, TOO JEWISH, which, it must be disclosed, booksBnimble publishes),  and she’s a funny and wise writer. To further clear up any confusion, I asked to explain herself in her own words:

  1. I've heard you say you've lived in New Orleans all your life except for education and natural disasters. Prove your New Orleans "cred."
When the Booklovers Guide to the city came out I had to make a list of any five things I wanted. I chose my favorite smells from childhood: the molasses factory, the Sunbeam bakery from the expressway, the inside of the streetcar, the Lusher school cafeteria on Monday, and the Edgewater Hotel drugstore. You can't beat Proustian senses for ownership of a place.

      2. Proust? I thought you were the new Walker Percy.
I'm not Walker Percy! For Chrissakes, I'm not Catholic. Though I grew up knowing that everybody on the streetcar made the sign of the cross when we passed the statue of Jesus in front of Loyola. That's the kind of Jew I am. Walker probed where he fit in the universe; most Jews I knew probed where they fit in uptown.

      3. Your book's titled Too Jewish. Sounds as if you're not Jewish enough.
As a matter of fact, I once visited my brother in Georgia where he was--get this!--a rabbi. We did a program at his synagogue that we titled "Jew/Counter-Jew." Our dialogue pitted his liturgical approach against my secular one. Afterward his congregants hugged all over me, and quite a few came up and whispered, as if consoling me, "I don't think Rabbi really believes in God."

      4. As a writer, are you at a big juncture with Too Jewish?
It's an e-book! For someone who wrote her first novel on a Selectric II, I have to say I'm glad I kept writing long enough for this possibility. I have eight other books in print, the operant word being "print." My main publisher was a known genius, which meant "deep" (read that in your inner baritone), ambiguous cover images. Crummy shelf appeal. I was proud but I wasn't a zillionaire. This book can go viral, as the cognoscenti say.

       5. Otherwise, is it a typical Patty book?
Uh-uh. I've been a comically dark writer, a contemporary New Orleans writer, the class clown at clown college. After Katrina, I've gone to the past. Sadly, my own life is now part of history--I'm getting up there--so I plumbed my own story. My father's tragedy has been sitting in the part of me that I'm too afraid ever to explore in therapy, and now it's in this novel, fictionalized. Not funny, but I have a feeling you can hear my voice.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to Buy an Ebook

 Two weeks ago off I went to the sophisticated Digital Book World conference, in which I learned the glittering state of the ebook market. A wonderful future for all of us! Fantastic success stories! A good time had by all!

And then I came back to what I laughingly call my market. The one in which customers are still struggling to figure out which version of an ebook to buy, and how to open it.  That is, those who are buying directly from publishers like us instead of Amazon or another etailer.  Those buyers (the ones at the big boxes) have already selected ereaders and are buying books specifically for them. But there are lots of  other people who want to read ebooks on their computers or phones and don’t know how. Also, there are lovely people who do have ereaders, yet are kind enough to want to buy directly from  the publisher.

So I thought it might help if I outlined a few basics. We (meaning booksBnimble) sell three kinds of files, which I expect is what most publishers offer—one for Kindle, one for iPad, and one for everything else. This is because iPad is the only platform that supports video and Kindle does not support the format everyone else uses. To further complicate things, a) that format  (the all-purpose one) is called ePub, which sounds so generic I get the impression plenty of people think it just means “ebook” and b) there are several names for  Kindle-friendly files. These are  mobi, prc, and azw .

Sufficiently confused?  Really there’s nothing to it—Kindle, iPad, or Everything Else, aka ePub. But there’s another wrinkle. If you buy a book from a publisher, you’ll have to “sideload” it to your ereader, since it’s not synced to it like books from the etailers. Probably the best deal there is to get in touch with the publisher you bought it from (for us, info@booksBnimble.com ) , or  just Google it. You’d be amazed how much info’s online about this. A quick example of sideloading: You can get a mobi file on your Kindle the same way you do a Word document or pdf --by emailing it to your Kindle address.

If you have no ereader,  no problem! There’s an app for that. (A free one.) You download the Kindle app first, then save your file anywhere on your computer, click on it twice, and magic occurs. Or if the file’s ePub, Firefox has an add-on called ePubreader that works the same say. Really and truly, this can be done and done easily—by the most tech-tarded person in America, with no more than a click or three. (But happy to hold your hand  if you run into problems.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The New Jewish Walker Percy?

To me, there are two kinds of New Orleans writers,  those who remind us of Walker Percy and those who evoke John Kennedy Toole. The Percy breed is cool, literary, philosophical,  professorial; the Toole types are like an Italian family at dinner—noisy, street smart,  practically smelling of  red gravy and sweat. I’m exaggerating, of course, and now I’m about to get reductive: Percy=cool, Toole= warm.

Like this maybe:

Team Percy--Valerie Martin, say; or John Biguenet. Team Toole--Andrei Codrescu, perhaps;  James Nolan, Amanda Boyden. I don’t know, I’m probably blowing it. What I mean is, a certain reserve, a sly subtlety, as opposed to an unbridled exuberance, a great ear for street speech. Weirdly, I could think of more Percy descendents than Tooles, though in my heart I feel sure we  have more Tooles. But we’re always looking for the  successor to Walker Percy. It’s kind of a primal yearning around here. (Could  have been Martin, I think,  but she doesn’t write much about New Orleans these days. And Biguenet’s off doing plays.)  I was astounded to see the late great one himself was on the lookout for us before he croaked. Someone just sent me this quote from the man himself:

"I make no claim to prophetic powers, yet I make bold to predict that the next Southern literary revival will be led by a Jewish mother, which is to say, a shrewd self-possessed woman with a sharp eye and a cunning retentive mind who sees the small triumphs and tragedies around her and has her own secret method of rendering it, with an art all her own and yet not unrelated to Welty, O'Connor, and Porter."
 Signposts in a Strange Land--Walker Percy

Wow, I thought. Patty Friedmann! But—full disclosure here—booksBnimble just published her ebook, TOO JEWISH. So of course I’d think of her. But I would have anyway (really I would) because she’s the real deal. Sharp eye? Check. Cunning? Watch out! Secret method? Damn her-- I’m always trying to figure out how she does it. And boy does she have an ear. Wonder if Mr. Percy was onto something. But let’s discuss. Got any more candidates?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Short Story Contest: A Vampire for Valentine's

Is that love in the air, or just more precipitation?  I’m going with love. We can always use that. In honor of Valentine’s Day, booksBnimble’s February/March contest theme will be “Romeo or Juliet as a vampire.” Just this once, in honor of the sweetness of the season,  you have a choice.  Either lover can be undead. Or you can make them both vampires–that could be raucous. But sexy’s good too. The deadline’s March 15, and the winner will be announced at the beginning in April. This is part of  our 2011 series of vampire contests, the winners of which we’ll publish as an anthology at the end of the year. Don’t forget  the best part:  Along with publication, there’s a $50 prize.  Rules at 
While we’re at it, congratulations to Karla Henderson of Palmdale, Ca., winner of  our December/January contest. Her hilarious story, “Overbite,” which chronicles the life of Elvis as a vampire, can be enjoyed along with a short interview with  the writer herself at:

For the really intrepid among you, we have a second contest, but so far nobody’s ever had the nerve to enter it.  It requires an imagination, at least one pet, a video camera, and a ton of patience. If you think you qualify, click here http://www.booksbnimble.com/contests/vidlet-instructions/

Thursday, February 3, 2011


DBW would be a delicious place to live—all glittery like the gorgeous snowfall that happened simultaneously.  If I lived there, I’d know all about as-yet-undreamt-of geekery, my authors’ books would be runaway bestsellers, and we’d have enough money to make fancier, slicker videos for our VeeBooks.

Of course all isn’t perfect there—one app maker admitted the download time for apps can be horrific and they often crash. So in some ways it’s like my world, in which, quite simply, a whole lot of people want to join the party, but haven’t yet caught up with the technology.  And that’s not only ordinary people. The industry’s abuzz this week with talk of  a major glitch at a rhino of a retailer that just can’t seem to get it together right now.  Not gossip that there is a glitch—complaints about how it’s affecting its customers.

Other vendors seem to be running way behind schedule, one gathers because they can’t expand fast enough to keep up with the demand. And we’re no different—about that schedule thing, I mean. It isn’t demand that has us whipped, it’s problems with technology. Last month, we ditched our entire website because it couldn’t handle video, The hosts said it could, but the software couldn’t have been more poorly equipped for it. Did they lie? Maybe not. Maybe they just never figured anyone would want to post as much video as we do.

Still, the industry forges ahead and often, as we learned at DBW, in fascinating, creative ways that might make things easier eventually. One app maker is now not only making apps, but marketing---well, an app maker! And Vook, the mother of  all VeeBook  sites, is introducing the formidably named Mother Vook, a content management system that presumably makes it easier to produce VeeBooks. (On a large scale, one assumes.) Content management really isn’t our problem—it’s more of  a moment-to-moment crisis kind of thing. Like when the fake blood for the video turns out to be pink. I ask you—would a thing like that happen at DBW?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


“Anecdata” was a  very large word at DPW. Not sure if it was meant to be derisive, but I loved it. I’m going to define it here, not as trying to prove something with anecdotes, but as learning from stories. Boy, did I pick up  some great anecdata.

My favorite story’s probably the one told by agent Steven Axelrod about his client, Amanda Hocking,  a 26-year-old from Minnesota who recently self-published her first ebook, promptly sold 45 copies in two weeks, then sent out some ARCS and sold 42,800 the next month. In six months she’s sold 250,000 ebooks.

You’ve gotta love Amanda. Smart cookie!

Then there’s Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, who started her five-minute podcasts about run-on sentences and dangling modifiers as a hobby, and went from there to bestsellerdom. She even has her own app.

This one was kind of between-the-lines, but I remember looking at Jane Friedman’s plucky start-up website when the publishing giant formed her company, Open Road Integrated Media. I looked again yesterday and wow! Tons of books; TV and film deals; hot professional team. Very impressive.

So that’s the exciting world of digital books! Here’s my world:

Author:  I'm upset.  My book didn’t get any local coverage.
Me: Well, it’s far from over. It’s not like we’re competing for shelf space
here. Besides, the main book reviewer in town doesn’t read ebooks. Pretty hard sell there. But here’s the main thing—local coverage isn’t that important for you. Most of our marketing will be online.
Author:  Online?
Me: Well, it IS an ebook.
Author:  Really? ONLINE?

And it’s not like it’s only other people who haven't yet connected the dots. I’m wondering what, exactly, Amanda sent.  eARCS?  Sounds right, but that word “ARCs” just seems so…bricks-and- mortar. Maybe she had some printed up? Naaah. Couldn’t be. It WAS an ebook.