Author Q&A with Bookies: Monday, October 2nd

I’ll be leading a Q&A on Bookies’ Facebook page this Monday, October 2nd, from 5pm to 7pm (Pacific time). The event is part of Bookies’ #Authorberfest, their yearly October event giving independent authors a chance to meet readers and answer their questions.

This year I will be discussing Bridge Daughter and its upcoming sequel, Hagar’s Mother. I’m also working on a giveaway as part of the Q&A, so come and check it out!

More information about the event is on my Facebook page. Learn more about #Authorberfest at Bookies. If you like and share their announcement, you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

Hagar’s Mother entering the home stretch

It’s the final week for Hagar’s Mother on Kindle Scout!

If you’ve not nominated it yet, your last chance is Sunday, October 1st. Visit the campaign page and vote before it’s too late! At the campaign page you’ll have a chance to learn more about the book, download an excerpt, and read about its background.

And if Amazon selects the book for publication, you’ll receive a free digital copy.

New cover

If you nominated Hagar’s Mother earlier this month, you probably noticed the cover changed. The decision was mine and is purely cosmetic. Two weeks ago I decided to shake things up and offer readers a better idea of the book’s focus and subject matter.

Will I stick with the new cover in the final book? I’m not sure yet. I like the old one. It has a distant, almost whimsical feel to it, but am concerned that’s not the right message to convey.

At this moment, I’m simply eager to cross the finish line and hear back from Amazon their decision. Either way, I’m looking forward to getting the book into reader’s hands.

Hagar’s Mother now on Kindle Scout!

I’m pleased to announce that Hagar’s Mother, the sequel to Bridge Daughter, is now seeking nominations on Kindle Scout!

Amazon’s Kindle Scout program allows for readers like you to preview and evaluate unpublished books. Your nomination acts as a vote for Kindle Press editors to select the books you like.

If Hagar’s Mother receives enough nominations over the next 30 days, Amazon will publish and promote it across their site.

What’s more, if you vote for Hagar’s Mother and it’s published, you’ll receive a free digital copy! It costs nothing to vote and takes no more than a minute of your time.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Visit Hagar’s Mother at Amazon’s Kindle Scout site
  • Learn more about the book and read an excerpt
  • If you like what you see, click the blue Nominate Me button

That’s it!

The nomination period will be over before you know it, so please vote now.

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Margalit Fox & Bruce Weber, NY Times obituarists, on NPR’s Fresh Air

In the comments for a previous post on Ann Wroe, obituary writer for The Economist, Peter Marinov helpfully pointed me to a recent NPR interview with two New York Times obituarists, Margalit Fox and Bruce Weber.

Margalit Fox wrote an eye-opening Times essay in 2014 on the art and craft of writing obituaries, so I’m familiar with her name and work. The recent NPR interview coincided with the release of a documentary on Fox and Weber, Obit: Life on Deadline, which I certainly look forward to seeing.

Obit: Life on Deadline, a film by Vanessa Gould

My own interest in all of this comes from a short story I published years back in the North American Review called “The Obituarist”. Researching and writing that story led to my own interest in this underappreciated field of journalism.

Like Ann Wroe’s thoughts on the profession, Fox and Weber share fascinating insights on this odd but rewarding career path. There’s a goldmine of wisdom in the interview, but it’s this observation that stood out for me:

And I think the other great attraction is we are the most purely narrative genre in any daily paper. If you think about how an obit is structured, we are taxed with taking our subjects from cradle to grave, and that gives obits a built-in narrative arc, the arc of how someone lived his or her life. And who doesn’t want to start the day reading a really good story?

Remember when everyone thought ebooks would replace physical books? Me neither

A tweet today reminded me of a topic I’ve wanted to get off my chest for some time now:

To answer Kessler’s question, no, I do not remember any moment in time when authors and publishers (or even readers) thought ebooks would replace paper books.

I’ve seen and heard this claim so often I can only conclude some massive rewiring of collective memory has beset our culture. There never was any serious wave of self-congratulatory back-patting in the publishing world, never a moment when all involved parties joined their voices and spoke in unity about the demise of physical books. It never happened.

A Google search of “ebooks will replace physical books” discovers exactly one (1) entry on the front page advocating for such a change—and that page is a summary of a debate from a Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance conference in 2015. An august association, I suppose, but not a representative body for all “#authors and #publishers.”

The remainder of the Google search is an object lesson in Betteridge’s Law: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” The Google search results include:

As Betteridge predicted, all of these missives declare paper-based books will never die, even though their authors drop in the usual journalistic escape-hatch clauses admitting, yeah, okay, ebooks are here to stay. From the way these writers discuss the issue, you would think there’s zero latitude for personal reading preferences. The mere existence of ebooks is treated as a mortal threat to the traditional form.

Since I publish ebooks, some people seem to presume I’m a kind of cultish advocate for end-of-lifeing paper-based books. I’ve even lost friends over the topic. Only about 50% of my reading diet is digital, the remainder being physical books which I cherish. You can purchase my latest book in paper-form, and I’d be more than delighted if you did.

Look again at Kessler’s tweet; there’s a subtle discrimination packed inside it. Ebooks aren’t “real” books, a frustrating non-distinction for many struggling writers. It’s 2017, the 21st century. Indie music acts sell their songs only online; Netflix and Hulu produce award-winning shows only available via streaming; and yet authors who distribute digitally aren’t writing authentic books. A hundred years ago paperbacks were sneered down on as not “real.” Today the distinction seems quaint.

A nickel’s worth of unsolicited advice to those who prefer physical books: Keep reading and keep buying, but by all means, quit ginning up outrage over a nefarious trend that never happened.

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Ann Wroe on the art of writing an obituary

Death, Matt Batchelor (CC BY 2.0)

From The Economist comes an interview with Ann Wroe, one of their in-house obituarists. I’ve documented my interest in the profession here (multiple times) and elsewhere, and even wrote a short story about the career choice.

Wroe on the craft:

I look through the obituaries of the New York Times and the Telegraph. I’ll spot someone who looks really interesting and I’ll hear a bell going off in my head. I do it for the story, and not whether the person is famous. I love it when someone’s had a quirky career that we wouldn’t be dealing with in any other part of the paper, such as a woodcarver or a whale hunter or a firefighter.

On the career itself:

It’s odd because people think it’s a rather gloomy job, but it’s very seldom a sad job. Usually, the people you’re dealing with have lived for ages and have done really interesting things. … An obit is really a celebration of a life. It’s really a joyful thing most of the time. That’s why I love the job.

I believe a great exercise for any student of writing would be to select someone currently alive, famous or not, and write their life story in under 1,000 words. Do that five, ten, twenty times, each time a different person. The exercise will change how you approaching writing stories, from microfiction to saga-length novels.

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Eye-popping origami at Setting the Crease

Brill’s Double Cube, from Setting the Crease

Readers of Bridge Daughter might be interested in Setting the Crease, an origami blog I recently stumbled upon.

Just as I was amazed at the prizewinning origami displayed at Paper Tree in San Francisco’s Japantown (inspiration for a chapter in Bridge Daughter), Setting the Crease likewise is a demonstration of crafting stunning sculptures from flat paper. “No cuts, no tears, no glue.”

Calling itself a blog dedicated to “paper-based procrastination,” the origami is part of Setting the Crease‘s “365-2017” project: a new origami model for each day of the year.

Impressive stuff!