Star Lines
Saturday, June 07, 2003
  Bomb Book Blows Up (in author's face):  Credits apparently slipped the mind of author Brian VanDeMark while he was writing "Pandora‚Äôs Keepers: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb" which may contain as many as 50 uncredited lifts from other authors' works.  Robert Norris, one of VanDeMark's alleged victims, discovered the plagiarism while preparing a review of the book for The New York Times, when he found several passages similar to those in his own book, "Racing for the Bomb."  Publisher Little Brown has yanked the book, but it's not clear from the Library Journal article whether they've killed it completely yet or not. 
Friday, June 06, 2003
  An Interesting Day:  Besides doing the weekly ledger/correspondence chores, I got to go through the bulk of my e-mail backlog and discovered one reader who thought I was dead, is overjoyed to learn that I'm not, and now thinks I've just had a baby.  I'm a little puzzled as to why (and where she's getting her info), but, well, okay.  I'm still alive, no baby, but me and my much older kids are doing just great.

The nice thing about having other people read my e-mail first is, I no longer have to read the snotty hate e-mail sent to me.  Very big plus in my book.  My helpful assistant tells me there have been a bunch of them, but nothing to call the police about, and she returned forty-odd letters from convicts unopened.  Also, since March, I was sent a total of twenty-nine unsolicited reviews from pro reviewers of one sort or another, and some still come with these little notes inviting me to comment.  It's soooooo tempting, but the auto-respond now is set on a polite "No, but thanks" form letter (though I did take out the link to the mental health site because that was, um, unkind.)

Many nice, spirit-boosting notes on the web site stories, my books, and assorted thank-yous for various good deeds.  I always get a little embarassed when people thank me for something I did; I don't know why.  It's not like I even do things for the gratitude or the praise, I just do it because . . .you should, you know?  Whenever you can.  Life is not so great for too many people on this planet; whatever you can do to make it a little better, even for just one person, is like healing a wound you can't see.  Always a good thing.

Other than the above, I read articles on Richard Chamberlain coming out and Martha Stewart being indicted.  Despite her popularity, her perfect gardens and marvelous homemaking, Martha Stewart always kind of gave me the Joan Crawford creeps, so I can't summon too much sympathy there.  In contrast, Richard is a great actor, a gorgeous man and him being gay doesn't change that.  Why would it?  
  No Deal:  After much waffling and consideration, AOL Time Warner has pulled out of negotiations to sell its book group, to the relief of many.  In the PW article, AOLTW's spokesperson, Tricia Primrose, stated that the book group was doing well financially, and:

"[We] did not receive an offer that we felt reflects the true value of the company . . . we are proud if its accomplishments, will happily hold on to it and will support it going forward."

Which means no one offered enough cash, I take it.  Anyway, this is good news for AOLTW's house authors, who may now put away their TUMs and go back to the business of writing. 
Thursday, June 05, 2003
  The Ultimate Reader Compliment:  I'm deciding on what to do for the holidays this year (yep, I do plan this early) and I proposed a couple of things to my readers over at my author web site.  Namely, a contest for free copies of my published books, a contest for a free quilt I either make or restore or, like I did last year, a free e-book version of an unpublished StarDoc novella.  I was leaning toward the e-book, because that way everyone wins, but I thought people might like a change.  To my surprise, the response so far has been 100% unanimous for the e-book.

I'll make the official announcement next month but okay, they talked me into it. :)  
  Book Rec:  I picked up a copy of Karl Shaw's "Royal Babylon -- The Alarming History of European Royalty" [ISBN#0-7679-0755-8, published by Broadway Books] mainly to get the lowdown on the long term effects of inbreeding, the tragedy of which has been produced and perpetuated by the European artistocratic class for the last several centuries.

Shaw's acid prose shows no mercy toward the wealthy and influential victims of keeping the blood blue, but as many of them were dangerous raving lunatics who messed up large chunks of history, it's kind of hard to feel sorry for them.  Shaw does a thorough job exposing the monarchy's dirty linens, and while he tends to speculate more than he should (and oddly, have nearly every princess in the book faint or almost faint upon meeting a genetically-damaged spouse), it's an interesting read.  
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
  Adobe Rolls On:  While Franken and O'Reilly were exchanging verbal fisticuffs, e-books got a nice boost from Adobe's upgraded free reader software, plans for which were discussed at Book-Expo America.

I don't do much reading for pleasure anymore and when I do, I tend to buy the printed variety, but I just purchased an e-book last week; Silky by Lazette Gifford.  I read e-books while I'm doing things like backing up the hard drive or downloading/uploading on the computer; haven't graduated putting them on one of those pocket reader things yet.  I doubt I'll ever become heavily invested in e-books, but I'll probably end up converting all my unsold work into electronic format eventually just to save space; I generate a hell of a lot of paper.

I don't see e-books as a natural progression from print, or competition for print.  I see them as a alternative selection for people who are more accustomed to reading from a screen than paper, or who like the efficiency and storagibility (is that a word?) aspects.  I think they're a marvelous marketing tool for published authors; I've had tremendous success with the free e-books I've published.  E-books also enable anyone to bypass the traditional routes of publication and get their work into (a form of) print, and I think that's extremely important for up-and-coming writers to develop their self-esteem, as long as they keep their expectations realistic.

The big question is, are e-books a viable alternative to a traditional print publication career?  I don't know, because I haven't attempted to make a profit from mine, but I know ground-breaking authors like Lazette Gifford are writing the book on professional e-book careers for writers.  Where they will take us is anyone's guess, but it's going to be interesting to go along for the ride.  
Monday, June 02, 2003
  Branching Out:  After much disposing of bodies and stomping on my protagonist's homicidal tendencies, I finished and sent out my short story "Red Branch" to Willa today for posting on the web site (which she did right away, bless her efficient and patient heart.)  I've written a handful of fantasy-ish short stories but this is the only one I think qualifies as the real thing, so we'll call it officially my first.  I think I need more practice and, when I write about Akela again, a really good, tight character leash.  Or a whole lot of people to kill; she's/I've definitely got some hostility to work out. 
  More Authors Behaving Badly:  Being part of the Hollywood glam machine doesn't automatically endow you with good manners, as was demonstrated by conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly and humorist/TV personality Al Franken during a panel at Book-Expo America.  Too bad Jerry Springer wasn't on hand to mediate; might have made an interesting edition for his talk show. 
Adventures at the KeyBoard

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