Battle of the books

Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. has linked to a most fantastic battle of the books. Lee Goldberg of A Writer’s Life (not to be confused with Ian Hocking of This Writing Life) received an email from Steve Clackson, of Sandstorm. The email contained a link to the first couple of chapters of Steve’s novel (also called Sandstorm). Lee was annoyed by the "teaser" style of Steve’s email — and when he got to Sandstorm he didn’t think much of Steve’s novel extract either. So he said so.

Cue a wonderful chain of blogging vehemence, of varying degrees of coherence as more and more people pile in with their lances and swords — all a great read whatever view you take of Steve’s writing and tactics, or Lee’s reaction to them.

At the same time, on Sandstorm, is another set of comments which starts out as a few constructive criticisms to Steve’s chapters from my friends Bonnie Calhoun and the Wicked Witch of Publishing, but soon enough the knights in armour arrive and the invective starts. There’s a good bit of it in the comments on the Books, Inq. posting also.

My advice, publish it all as an article in a national newspaper and Lee/Steve split the proceeds.

Incidentally, Sandstorm must be a classy blog as it lists Petrona on its blogroll. Thanks, Steve.

Books on the Internet

According to Associated Content, online book clubs and reading groups are proliferating unconfined — more than 1,000 returns to an internet search for "online reading groups", apparently.  These can range from highly structured, where you read a set book (sometimes with chapters emailed to you!) and have an online discussion, to more free-and-easy. A few such sites are provided in the link above, as well as advice to contact your local library (no link) which also runs groups (less likely to be online I would have thought). If the place where I live is anything to go by, you will stumble across a "real" reading group pretty easily.  Although vilified for other reasons (not by me), Kingston Borders runs a reading group and promotes an annual local reading festival. The first book in their group was "In Cold Blood" so that tipped the balance against trying it for me. (I’ve read it before and have no wish to do so again.) There are also parent/child reading groups at local schools.

I don’t know if a virtual reading group is intrinsically more or less satisfying than one where you meet up in person. I know two people who are longstanding members of "meet real people" reading groups and adore them, though it has to be said that in one case the group decided after about a year not to keep to the agenda of all reading the same book, but just to meet up each week anyway as they all got on so well — and kept arguing about not liking each others’ choices.

The Times runs a reading group whose report I read each week — it is quite interesting even if one has not read the book, but I have to say that the comments by the group’s organiser (a professional journalist) are more interesting, on average, than the selection of readers’ comments. (But then she has the advantage of reading all the comments before writing her summary, presumably.) I did once join the Barnes and Noble reading group (or university, as they crazily call it) in my pre-blogging days, but I lacked the energy to cope with all the remember password/logging in stuff so gave up on it.

The other Associated Content posting I wanted to draw attention to is "What is a book publicist? Do I need one?" Not  a good article — it answered the question by saying "it depends" and did not provide any links. However, there are some related text ads that might be quite useful!


Welcome to Petrona! This weblog has moved from its previous home on Blogger , to this beautiful new home on Typepad. The old Petrona will stay live (I hope!) so that existing links to postings will still work, but I will no longer be making new postings there. If anybody is reading this and has bookmarked the old Petrona, I would be grateful if you could replace that bookmark with the new url, which is:

Some notes about this new site.

  • I have copied the entire Petrona archive back to the first-ever posting in December 2005 into this new site.
  • All posts now have subject categories. There is a list of categories in the right-hand sidebar so that all posts in a particular category can be viewed at one click. However, it was very time-consuming applying categories retrospectively to all the old posts, so some of the older posts aren’t as precisely categorised as they might be. New posts (from today) will be categorised more accurately.
  • The process of copying this weblog from Blogger to Typepad was, incredibly, carried out by yours truly with the sole aid of the Typepad instructions and one helpdesk email (which was answered the next morning, wonderfully, but by then I’d worked out how to do it 😉 ). However, the process did not copy over any comments. I have therefore manually pasted in all comments to the body of the post, as a sort of "better than nothing" solution. I have disabled the link on the name of the commenter as the link was broken in the process. Apologies for that, but about 95 per cent of the commenters are in my ‘recommended site’ list in the left-hand sidebar. (Frank Wilson is Books, Inq.; Jenny D. is Light Reading; Amy is Books, Words, and Writing; Mapletree7 is Book of the Day; Bibliophile is Another 52 Books; Dr Ian Hocking is This Writing Life; Giles-GB (latterly James) is New Tammany College; most other commenters have the same name or nearly the same name as their weblogs.)
  • Old links. In all the postings previous to this one, any links that refer to other postings on Petrona are (as of today) to the old Petrona not this one. It is a slow process to manually go through every post and change the links, so if anyone is reading an old post and finds an incorrect link, or a link that goes to old Petrona, please can they write a comment so I can change it?  Many thanks!
  • I’ve created one or two lists of sites in the left-hand sidebar, and put a bit about me and this weblog in the "about" page to the left. On the right-hand side (scroll down) are some Typepad "widgets" which are a bit beyond me, but they seem to be to do with rss feeds and search, so I’ve put them in — I will learn!
  • If anyone is interested in my feedback about the process of changing from Blogger to Typepad, please leave a comment and I’ll contact you by email. In the end, it was relatively easy (I am not very technoliterate so it would be easier for many people than it was for me), but time-consuming. I have been very impressed by the Typepad support desk; I asked them two questions during the whole process, and they answered both perfectly. But there are very good auto-help pages that answered virtually all of my (many) questions before I had to use the email help function. Omens are good.

Finally, a couple of things. First, apologies for the lack of posting over the past few days/evenings, but I have wanted to get this weblog up and running. Normal service will be resumed from tonight I hope, although at the moment in the UK it is exam time of year — Cathy has school exams and Jenny SATs, so I am also in demand for revision guidance.

Second, apologies for asking you to change Petrona’s address. I know it is a pain to change addresses, but please do it if you can bear to, as I love it when people read Petrona, especially when they leave their comments. If you want to leave a general comment as to the kinds of postings you like the best, please do so here. Broadly speaking, I tend to post book (and occasionally film) reviews, or summaries of interesting websites/weblog postings (particularly if I find several on a theme) or media articles. The kinds of sites I follow are on the interface between books, the media, publishing, the web and "that sort of topic". My summaries are sometimes summaries and sometimes my rather idosyncratic take on the content!

Thank you very much for reading this post, and, once again, welcome to New Petrona!