High-speed tour

As usual, I am on a very short time window, having been out for most of the day. I’ll post very briefly to some postings on the blogs that I’ve found interesting (if you want more, go to Books, Inq. where there are loads, every day!).

Philobiblon ticks off the Med’s ancient sites. Natalie has italicised the ones she has seen, which is an impressive number, but as she says, it is an idiosyncratic list.

Splinters says Spike Magazine is 10 years old. Whether or not you’ve ever read or even heard of Spike magazine, it is a readable and intimate post reflecting on setting up this (strictly amateur) publication and the intervening 10 years.

Crimefic reader at It’s a crime has found a newspaper article on the top twenty nouns used in the English language. Read her succinct analysis. I’m too time-strapped to write about it here 😉

In a post called Storm Warnings, the inventive Paperback Writer identifies ten signs that your personal problems are taking over your novel. "1. Anyone in the novel who lies to, cheats on, divorces, or is prettier/skinnier/more popular than your protagonist dies a horrific and pointless death." Read on at PBW’s blog.

On the Rap Sheet, Linda Richards’ post Real life is messy dissects the very true (in my experience) observation that people who like crime fiction don’t read "true crime" and vice versa. (She also links to some apparently good "true crime" sites, but I’m not looking.)

Publishers Weekly daily news reports on some new, updated e-book standards. PW has also just "updated" its own "privacy policy", so in case you can’t go to the link, the drift is that there are no industry standards, so you can’t read a Palm e-book on a Microsoft reader, and so on. So not one, but two working groups have been set up to establish specifications. This is where the big money is going to be in book publishing, many predict, so let’s hope for their sakes that they don’t take too long over it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a killer year says Sarah Weinman on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. An "official" (?) website for "mystery, suspense and thriller authors whose work debuts in 2007 – has launched, complete with a member list, faq and of course, a blog." See more at Sarah’s post, including a link to the site.

If you have the sort of blog where you can play around with the html and hence customise the heading of your blog, Weblog wannabe links to a site of free web page headers. Mind you, the comments are what I’d call weird.

Annie Mole shows a bizarre picture of a Batty tube map — a London underground map where all the stations have the word "bat" in them– as designed by a team of international architects. The world is getting weirder by the paragraph.

Old Words: the Lady in the Van. At The Penny, London you can read a retrospective of this famous piece (later collected into a book) by Alan Bennett. Gloucester Crescent has certainly come up in the world since those days.

That’s enough links, ed. As I mentioned at the start of this post, Books Inq. is always worth a visit for all things literary, including a wide range of poems.

To the hippies out there

Magicbus A new book by travel writer Rory Maclean, "Magic Bus" follows "the hippie trail from Istanbul to India". From Rory’s website:

"In the Sixties and Seventies hundreds of thousands of young Westerners took off for India, blazing the ‘hippie trail’ from Istanbul to Kathmandu. These intrepid pioneers left behind their parents’ world of postponed pleasure, the guilt of Empire and the spectre of war. Aboard the weirdest procession of unroadworthy vehicles ever to rattle across the face of the earth, they reached for a new kind of life, and became the first movement of people who travelled to be colonised rather than to colonise. In Magic Bus I retrace on foot and by bus their wide-eyed adventures along the route reopened for the first time in a generation."

Here is a review in the Guardian Unlimited of Magic Bus.

The reason I am mentioning this book is not because I have read it, but because I have just visited Rory’s lovely sister, Marlie, and she’s been telling me about it.  It will be serialised on BBC Radio 4 during July, apparently. I missed the hippy era, but only just — now, it seems as distant as Kemel Attaturk (not that even I am quite that old..) Here’s an extract from the Guardian review:

"MacLean balances these arguments in a tone which falls somewhere between celebration and regret, eulogising the hippy trailblazers who established the path to enlightenment, yet in doing so ensured that there were no trails left to blaze. He salutes the enterprise of people prepared to travel thousands of miles without adequate suspension ("the secret for a successful trip was to get the passengers smoking chillum dope pipes before breakfast"); yet he observes how four decades of tourism have turned Tibet into a Himalayan theme park."

(PS no idea why some of the type in the middle of this post has gone smaller — can’t seem to do anything about it.)

Polygon 24 June

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of three or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.
You can make two words using all the letters.
How you rate: 12 words, average; 16, good; 20, very good; 25, excellent.
Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon

Source: The Times.

Answers in the comments.

Now were was I?

I’m back. On The Reading Experience blog I read a post about a review of the Army of Davids (or Davinas as we have been saying on Debi Alper) — yes, blogging is always so darn nested. The reviewer is called Christine Rosen, who in the excerpt given by Daniel Green (The Reading Experience) makes the point that in being enthusiastic about the "new media" of the Internet and social networking, etc, the "older" media — the press, academies and publishing in general — "provide editors and peer review, valuing opinion formulated by sustained research over opinion produced by a Google search. They are the superego checking the authorial id." I agree. The Reading Experience blog/Daniel Green does not, however, and segues into a rant :

"Of course, another of way of putting it might go something like this: The mainstream media and "academic experts" are gatekeepers making sure the uncredentialed riffraff don’t "broadcast" their unapproved views to the world. They provide peer review that values opinion formulated by appeal to conventional wisdom or by dressing up that wisdom in certain pre-authorized forms of dissent and "contrarian" discourse." Finally:  "I am myself not much of a fan of Glenn Reynolds and his blog, but if this is the best defense of the status quo the ink-stained wretches at The New Republic can find, they need to go back to bloviating school."

Well, I am not much of a fan of Glen Reynolds’ blog Instapundit (I unsubscribed becuase the stream of unfocused link-posts was too much for me; how could any human absorb that lot?), and not being American I don’t fully "get" his politics, but I do fully subscribe to the views he crystallised in the Army of Davinas/ds, that the Internet provides power to the invidividual to choose the information received, to allow him or her to control the communication (the who and the when), to form groups of like-minded people in business, social and other contexts, and so on. The balance shifts from the "old" medium (TV, publication), deciding what it puts out, to the consumer as the power, selecting what to receive and who to interact with.

But the corollory to my mind is, one type of media cannot exist without the other — at the moment. It is no good bloggers ranting on about mainstream media and citing all the great scoops, such as Rathergate, that have (correctly) come out of the inability of some publisher to censor bloggers. Although this is all true, Bloggers need the context of the mainstream media to exist. Similarly it is no good for newspaper editorials, John Updike and co to attack bloggers in some half-understood way, blundering about (or maybe it is all cynical, to sell more copies or to increase brand awareness). The freedom of the bloggers is here to stay, learn to live with it, guys and rabbits. But we bloggers are using the technology created by capitalism,  and we have to be aware of that dependency, too.

Blogging is great psychotherapy for the world. It enables voices to be heard and news to be broadcast that otherwise might not be, as evidenced most clearly in oppressive regimes and war zones. It enables individual people and groups to make connections which is beneficial in so many ways — to mental health, to social support, to feedback for business enterprises (see The Publishing Contrarian and Skint Writer, for example), for creative feedback on writing , art and other activities. It empowers individuals in ways never conceived by the creators of Google, Yahoo et al., although these and other corporations are busy jumping on the business bandwaggons (opportunities) presented. But at the same time, we need to have the editorial process involved in producing a newspaper, a journal, a book, a published product of quality. One enhances the other. As things stand, we can see, dimly, "wisdom of the crowds" ways to make our output sustainable in business terms — self-publishing, DIgg models, small-scale distribution networks for products, Google Scholar page rankings, etc. But it is all nascent. There is no business model to sustain blogger-journalists or blogger-publishers in isolation of the rest of the world.

The goal is not to bring each other down but to coexist to add "value" to the whole. Traditonally published books can coexist with self-published books. Traditional journals can coexist with new forms of Internet "free to read" journal. As things stand, there is an equilibrium, in which the "old" media makes enough money to continue, and the "new" media can react quickly to gaps and cover-ups. The Internet, the blogosphere, and the world are big enough for all of us.

OK, I’ve had  a couple of glasses of wine and a lot of distractions while trying to write the above, so goodness knows what if any sense it will make in the morning. For now, I am switching off for the day. Goodnight to all.

Reading and all that

I’ve been reading all kinds of interesting articles in the evenings this week and am not sure if I will find time to write about them all, but will have a go.

There has been a lot of criticism of the International Thriller Writer award shortlist for being all male (see for example Sarah Weinman, who also cites the lovely and talented author Elaine Viets on the topic). David Montgomory posts an explanation from the organisers (it is a press release) on Crime Fiction Dossier. Reading it reminds me of those accusations we get at Nature about the (confidential) peer review process having been unfair to an aspiring author in some way. Very commonly, an author will say "reviewer 3 was so biased and unfair. Anyone can tell they aren’t an expert. You editors just don’t know how to choose the best reviewers, you should have chosen Dr X." Of course, Dr X almost invariably is the reviewer in question. That is why the press release on Crime Fiction Dossier rings true to me. Also, it is good enough for David Montgomery so I that counts for something.

Marie the Deep Thinker (who I hope is still speaking to me after I admitted on her blog that I don’t like vampires) has a lovely post about writing places, complete with a picture of hers. I don’t really have one place as I lug my laptop around to wherever seems quietest, but if I get my act together camera-wise, I might snap a few choice areas (pretty similar to Marie’s, actually — though luckily I don’t have the neighbours from hell, just a bit noisy). In the meantime, I look forward to seeing some photos of a few dens on some blogs in the near future.

I haven’t had chance to read the report "Transforming Publishing" by the Association of American University Presses, but Booksquare discusses it in a post "The Secret Life of Digital Books". Here’s the rub: "university presses are facing unique challenges: large collections, low volume sales, and lack of infrastructure" — Booksquare advises them to partner with Google and/or Microsoft (presumably as some libraries are doing with Google already). The rest of the post is about the HarperCollins digital scanning project, but if you want to read about the university presses the links are provided in the Booksquare post.

I need another book recommendation like a hole in the head, but hey, what are all these booky blogs that I love to read for if not to draw the readers’ attention to worthwhile reads? I thought myself pretty knowledgeable in the crime fiction area but Dick Adler of Paperback Mysteries reviews a second book by Peter Spiegelman, called Death’s Little Mysteries. According to Mr Adler, the first book by PS, Black Maps, was brilliant, and his second even better. From the review these books sound very much my cup of tea  (with or without spout) — ex-cop-turned private detective struggling with personal tragedy; character study and psychological insight provided. Irresistible. Sigh.

The heroic future prime minister of Britain, Tim Coates (go and swat flies, Gordon), has been on a roll with a series of superb satirical posts about the parlous library system. Today he identifies one of the many handicaps faced by libraries — the lack of the publisher discount which market forces dictates (or dictated) went to booksellers. Tim tells it far better than I could, so please read his post, then read some other ones, then add your comments! Thank you. (If you live in the UK and want your grandchildren to be able to go to a library and read books, vote for Tim.)

As some bloggers have already noted, Paperback Writer has some hilarious advice for celebrities wishing to "write" their autobiographies or convey to us other pearls of their wisdom. Ten very useful tips for celebrity authors: 1. Find out what a book is. 2. Learn to read. etc

Returning to Sarah Weinman, she has a great post on What Mark Billingham Spends His Money On. (Mark B being last year’s winner of the CWA award and apparently a well known comedian, though I only know of him via the crime fiction aspect.) What interests Sarah is not so much that, but Mark B’s observations on the small world of crime fiction authors, who all read each others’ books: "[I]nevitably I’m reading books by mates, because crime fiction’s quite a small world. Then you’ve got that weird thing of reading books by people you know, which is kind of odd. It changes the way you read. It gives you a different perspective on the people that wrote them because some of the stuff is very dark and twisted and you’re thinking "Hang on, I was in the pub with that bloke last night". "

OK, that’s as far as I’m going to get, duty calls.

Polygon 23 June

Polygon puzzle

Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.
Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon

How you rate: 14 words, average; 18, good; 23, very good; 28, excellent.

Answers in the comments

Source: the Times

Books of weeks and days

I’ve discovered a new (to me) blog via the comments on Another 52 Books. The blog is called A Book a Week, written by Becky, and began the month before Petrona. Becky says: "I read mostly literary fiction, occasional non-fiction, some mysteries, and a few fantasy novels". One example, discussing Unlocking the Air, by Ursula le Guin, is here. Here is a good post comparing some bookish blogs: about books, blogs and websites

No disrespect to the amazingly voracious reader Beth/Mapletree7 ("I live to read"), of whom I am in awe owing to the title of her blog Book of the Day, I am more of the pace of Becky these days (since starting blogging!), of reading a book a week (on average). Becky also has the same problem as Jo of Another 52 books, James of New Tammany College, me and doubtless many of the rest of us, of a TBR pile longer than life itself (in my case, certainly). Solutions include The Death of my Library Card and book diets (they don’t work). I look forward to reading more of Becky’s blog.

Polygon 22 June

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 9 words, average; 12, good; 15, very good; 19, excellent.

Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon.

Source, the Times

Answers in the comments

Back to the future

One of those apparently brilliant but on reflection ghastly ideas was posted on Contemporary Nomad the other week, a post about Future Me. It is a website where you can write an email to yourself and specify when it is delivered, weeks, months, years into the future.

You can choose to make your emails public or private, and Olen Steinhauer has selected a couple of examples. Funny or painful? You tell me.

June 2010

"Dear Me

So have you retired then? Have you written that novel you were always going to write when you had the time? Did anyone read it? Did anyone publish it?

And little Johnny, he did marry Princess Eugenie, didn’t he? And Sally became the first woman president of the USA like you always said?"

Ok, I’ll stop there, but you get the picture.

Future Me website is here. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Polygon 21 June

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.
How you rate: 10 words, average; 14, good; 17, very good; 21, excellent.
Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon
Source: The Times.
Answers in the comments.