Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Memoriam: Robert Asprin

I just found out that science fiction/fantasy writer Robert Asprin died a few days ago at his home in the French Quarter here in New Orleans. He was 61. Asprin, creator of the MythAdventures fantasy series, had been scheduled to be a guest of honor at MARCON, a major SFF convention taking place this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. His death occurred shortly before a friend arrived at his home to drive him to the airport. The Times-Picayune website has a good article on him. (Photo from Jody Lynn Nye, Asprin's collaborator on several books.)

Asprin also was an early participant in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), where he was known under his persona Yang the Nauseating, and was instrumental in creation of The Great Dark Horde, a subgroup within SCA (known as a "household").

I haven't read any of Asprin's work, but I recall seeing his books in bookstores, and online as well. A quick perusal of his website and the Great Dark Horde website shows an antic wit and a great sense of humor. I post this memorial out of respect for someone who obviously had great creative gifts, and used them well.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nero-esque Perspective

"Bush Fiddles While New Orleans Burns"

I came across this collage accidentally while net-surfing. The poster was created by Lojo in St. Louis and her partner a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and was posted on Flickr on September 9, 2005.

In case the photo doesn't enlarge when you click on it, you can see the large version here. Or, if you don't have time to go there, the text on Bush's forehead says, "As thousands of hurricane victims suffered and died, the leader of the richest nation on earth went to a concert."

The artist encourages anyone to download it and post it wherever they like, so here it is.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Awful Truth

Kassia Krozser of Booksquare and Dan Green of The Reading Experience are engaged in a provocative dispute about the need for authors to market their own books. See Kassia's "Not a Formula for Success," Dan's "Living on Earth," and Kassia's riposte, "Life on Venus: Authors Do Market."

I know dozens of writers, both published and unpublished. What surprises them most when their first books are published is learning they'll be responsible for most--or all--of the promotion and marketing.

As aspiring ("pre-published") writers, we all imagined we'd merely need to complete the manuscript. Once we signed that book contract, maybe we'd have to make a few changes here and there based on the editorial letter. After that, however, we would move on to our next manuscript. The publisher would take care of actually selling the book to retail outlets and readers.

T''ain't so. The Awful Truth is that publishers' promotional and marketing resources are allocated to the authors who bring in the most money...i.e., those who are already big sellers. You know, your Stephen Kings, your James Pattersons, your Mary Higgins Clarks.

The average writer is a peon--very low on the list for services from the publisher.

Thus it is that the typical novelist--probably an introvert, almost certainly someone who hates the idea of "selling" anything to anybody--has to get out and beat the streets (and Internet pathways) to promote and market his/her book.

Sigh. Yet another note of harsh reality intruding into our fantasy worlds.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Little Housekeeping

I just performed some long-overdue housekeeping on my blogsite. I cleaned up the Links section, removing some links that were defunct or no longer of particular interest to me, and adding several for blogs I now follow regularly--specifically, Curtiss Ann Matlock, Cute Overload, Full Throttle and F**k It, NOLA Notes, Pontchartrain Pete, Rae Ann Parker, The Dreaming Tree, and Zen Habits. Hope you'll check out any that you haven't tried before.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Six Unspectacular Quirks Meme

My friend Shauna Roberts has tagged me for a meme. Here are the rules:
  • Link the person who tagged you.
  • Mention the rules in your blog.
  • Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
  • Tag six bloggers by linking them.
  • Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged.
1. I love animals, especially cats and dogs, and can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have pets. Currently, I have three dogs, three live-in cats, and two neighborhood cats who visit daily. One of my favorite websites is Cute Overload, which I visit every day just so I can be cheered up by viewing photos of cute animals. (The pic at left is from Cute Overload, in fact.)

2. I dislike talking on the phone. I put off making phone calls, especially business- or repair-related, for as long as possible, sometimes causing myself great problems because of my procrastination.

3. Speaking of which, I'm an inveterate procrastinator. This sometimes causes me serious difficulties (but we won't talk about that now). The procrastination also helps me produce my best work. It's amazing how being up against a deadline makes my brain kick into gear and start clicking away like a well-oiled machine. Even when I start projects well ahead of time, they stretch out to fill the time available--until, once again, I'm up against the deadline and have to complete everything in the next 24 hours.

4. I love to clip articles from magazines and newspapers. Sometimes it's self-help stuff or practical information, but a lot of times it's quirky oddball factoid stuff (like the article on the Velcro 5oth anniversary celebration I mentioned in my last blog entry). I have stacks of clippings stashed away in various places around my house (not, unfortunately, properly sorted or filed away).

5. I like alphabetizing things -- lists, books, canned goods, etc. I find it soothing. I've been known to start alphabetizing other people's books in their homes or offices--by author if fiction, by subject/title if nonfiction. Usually they're amused, but occasionally someone is irritated and I have to apologize and reshelve the books the way they were. Yes, I realize it must be OCD....

6. I despise brand-name snobbism. To be specific, I'm appalled that people want to wear clothing or other items with the designer's name marked on the outside, especially when it's splashed all over. I disdain those who feel they have to prove their affluence by buying/wearing/using clothing or other items for their brand names. Their whole purpose is to show off, which I find contemptible. ... It's okay to buy high-quality products--it's sensible to buy the best quality one can afford. But why show the world you lack a sense of self-worth by covering your body/home/etc. with these signs of insecurity? Why be a walking billboard for designers or manufacturers?

After reviewing what I've written, I realize I sound curmudgeonly--rescued only by my love of animals. Ah well, by this point in life I've earned the right to be a curmudgeon!

Oops, almost forgot I'm supposed to tag other people for this meme. Don't know that I can come up with six, since others already tagged some I would have chosen, but here goes:
  1. C.S. Harris at Candy's Blog
  2. Charles Gramlich at Razored Zen--oops, no good, I see Lisa already tagged him.
  3. Steve Malley at Full Throttle and F**k It--oops, I see from the comments following his latest post that someone else already tagged him, too.
  4. Timothy Hallinan
  5. NOLA Notes
  6. Pontchartrain Pete
(I won't be offended if the taggees decide not to participate--memes can be time-wasters as well as fun. But it's interesting to find out these things about one's acquaintances.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Sound of Success

The great thing about newspapers is that the factoids are more fun than the real news. For example, this Associated Press article from earlier this week grabbed my attention.

It reports that Velcro USA marked the 50th anniversary of its patent of the hook-and-loop fastener by lining one-and-a-half miles of Manchester, N.H. streets with employees who performed a "wave" by tearing apart swatches of Velcro in succession.

You can even see video of the big event here.

I love it. Saturday Night Live couldn't have thought this one up. And let us all give tribute to the inimitable hook-and-loop fastener, without which our world would be far less convenient, and much less fun.

Viva La Velcro!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More Book Awards & Nominees

More book award listings, via the Poisoned Pen eNews for May 1, 2008. I am fond of these lists, both to give me an idea of what's popular in various genres and also because the lists offer fodder for my reading appetite.


Louise Penny, Fatal Grace (St Martin's)

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Prime Time (Harlequin)

Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (The Penguin Press)

Donna Andrews, "A Rat's Tale," in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Sept/Oct 2007)

Sarah Masters Buckley, A Light in the Cellar (American Girl)


John Hart, Down River (St Martin's)

Tana French, In the Woods (Viking)

Megan Abbott, Queenpin (Simon & Schuster)

Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (W.W. Norton and Company)

Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (The Penguin Press)

Susan Straight, "The Golden Gopher" – Los Angeles Noir (Akashic), ed. by Denise Hamilton.

From the Crime Writers of Canada

Linwood Barclay, No Time for Goodbye (Bantam)
Terry Carroll, Snow Candy (Mercury Press)
Maureen Jennings, Journeyman to Grief (McClelland & Stewart)
Louise Penny, Cruellest Month (St Martin's)
Jon Redfern, Trumpets Sound No More (RendezVous Crime/Napoleon & Company)

Claire Cameron, The Line Painter (HarperCollins)
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood (Harper)
Liam Durcan, Garcia's Heart (McClelland & Stewart)
Susan Parisi, Blood of Dreams (Penguin Australia)
Sharon Rowse, The Silk Train Murder (Carroll & Graf)
Marc Strange, Sucker Punch (Castle Street Mysteries/Dundurn)

The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel published in the British Isles in 2007.

Declan Burke, The Big O (Harcourt)
Ruth Dudley Edwards, Murdering Americans (Poisoned Pen Press)

Chris Ewan, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam (St. Martin's)
Allan Guthrie, Hard Man (Harcourt)
Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave (Mira)
Mike Ripley, Angel's Share (Allison & Busby Ltd.)
LC. Tyler, The Herring Seller's Apprentice (MacMillan)
Donald Westlake, What's So Funny? (Grand Central)