While perusing my blogroll this afternoon, I realized that until now I’d misspelled Dystel & Goderich as Dystel & Giderich.  My humblest apologies for this mistake.  Not to mention that I’m now on a first-name basis (and in a writer’s group) with someone who is represented by their company.  Embarrassing?  Yup.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to draw your attention to the newest addition in the roll — “Snapshots at St. Arbucks,” written by a very clever man with an endearing literary voice.  (It wasn’t just his recent comment on my “Rejected 2.0″ post that convinced me I should add him to my list; really, I’ve read his work and I like it a lot.  And you should read it too, dammit.  Period.)

Speaking of which, I’d like to invite the opinions of fellow writers on the topic of rejection.  After receiving numerous rejections for a manuscript, there is always the compulsion (for me) to fret over “what is wrong with it” and seek to re-re-polish/edit/rewrite the hell out of it.  But lately I’ve found that I’m more likely to continue with current projects, ignoring the old, turning my back on those that are still floating out there aimlessly from agent to agent or publisher to publisher.  I’d like to know what approach other writers take to this process.  Do you dance the dance?, or do you simply shrug and say, “To hell with them — I know it’s good, I spent three years relearning how good it is.  I’m just going to keep on writing new stuff till I luck out.”  What I guess I’m asking is, Is it wrong to believe that you’ve done the best that you can if no one ever turns to you and says, “I’d like to publish you”?

I certainly don’t think so, but how about you?

Well, it’s that time again folks! A few months after submitting my most recent project to Hotel St. George Press, I received a rejection letter via email. Here it is, in its perfect simplicity:

Dear Christopher,

Thank you for your submission, Sanatorium [my tentative title]. Unfortunately, we can’t
find a place for it at Hotel St. George Press at this time. We wish
you luck placing your work elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Alex Rose

Now that’s a proper rejection letter. Short, to the point, but with the slightest hint of possible non-form-letterness. Then again, the title of my book was, in fact, in all caps in the original email. Hmmmm. Ah, well. Still have one pending out there in the literary ether.

Force fields, time travel, hovercars, and mind reading are no longer a thing of the past…nor the future. Certainly not the present, either. But wouldn’t it be cool if someone were to finally come out and say just how possible such things would be, given the right technology and time?

Enter Michio Kaku, physicist, and author of Parallel Worlds and (most recently) Hyperspace. I was lucky enough to unpack an ARC of his newest book — due out from Doubleday in March of next year — entitled Physics of the Impossible. Science fiction moonlighters rejoice!

Kaku takes all of our favorite sci-fi tricks like teleportation, phasers, starships, and invisibility, and subjects them to a grading system. Is it a Class One Impossibility?, or Class Five? How could these things actually work?, and what improvements must be made to our technology in order to enable them to work? As he does so well, Kaku’s writing is as accessible to the layman as it is entertaining (I must imagine) to the more erudite aspiring Stephen Hawkings. He laces in great illustrations and examples from every known corner of the literary world. From Tolkien to Star Trek, Plato to Back to the Future. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, on the topic of invisibility:

Clearly, invisibility is a property that arises at the atomic level, via Maxwell’s equations, and hence would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate using ordinary means. To make Harry Potter invisible, one would have to liquefy him, boil him to create steam, crystallize him, heat him again, and then cool him, all of which would be quite difficult, even for a wizard.

Playful and wry, but unflinchingly honest about the lengths to which our present technology may or may not be able to take us, Physics of the Impossible somehow manages to be informative but also a light read. Well, maybe not “light” in the truest sense, but certainly a good weekend, lounge-on-the-couch read, with the occasional guffaw and frequent, “huh, that’s interesting.” For anyone who loves science fiction, but disapproves of its far-fetched themes, this book will make you want to curl up in front of a Battlestar Galactica marathon and say, “Hey,…maybe that’s only ten years from now…who knows?”

Just sat down for a smoke and a quick email-check — both of which I do too often.  I was hugely excited to find that support@wordpress had sent me a comments moderation email.  (Of which I’ve disappointingly gotten only one before now.)  I simply had to approve it, for it’s one of those comments that should not go unseen.  Here it is, in full, a comment posted for my most recent entry, “The Blue Nametag”:

Hello! I just want to know, why I have found this page using russian keyword, that translates from Russian like “roof”? :)

Excellent question.  Apparently I’m big in Russia.  Take that, America!

So at long last I was invited to attend an event where I was fortunate enough to meet with published authors. It was inevitable, I suppose, but wholly unexpected at the same time. Unexpected also was the treatment an unpublished writer received when in the midst of a few award-winning/nominated authors. This is my story:

The Utah Humanities Council rang in their tenth year of Book Festivals on the last weekend of October. To celebrate, there was a reception on the Friday preceding. This literary soiree was held at the Salt Lake Main Branch Library — a stunning building with those glass-walled elevators that I would’ve loved to have ridden in as a kid. (Ignoring the fact that I was giddy while riding said elevators, even as a twenty-seven year old.) Guests included ambassadors from any bookstore within a fifty-mile radius, as well as notable authors who were to be featured the following day.

Among them, there was Sara Zarr, front-runner for the National Book Award; Terry Trueman, author of the award-winning Stuck In Neutral; Gordon Campbell, mentioned in a previous post for Missing Witness; and fellow King’s Englisher, Ann Cannon.

Sara Zarr, who is currently in NYC for the NBA awards ceremony, was the first author I met that night. A very approachable young woman, Sara is not at all what one might expect from a person whose debut (more…)

Many of you may have already heard of The Slush Pile Reader. Brainchild of Swedish-born Johanna and Pascal Denize, The Slush Pile Reader is designed to deliver completed manuscripts directly into the hands of a reading public…before the manuscripts are even published. The idea is to “let the public decide” what should or shouldn’t make it to the shelf. By casting their votes, readers get to have a role in what Slush Pile will consider for publication. Interesting, no?

I see two immediate flaws, however. One of which is the most obvious: What the hell will my book look like when it’s published by a company owned by people who’ve never been in the publishing industry before? (The Denizes have had experience in business development, and their partner, one Henrick Kemkes, has worked in Web development.) But the question remains: Will the book actually come out looking like it was printed and bound at Kinko’s?

The second, probably more futile question, is: Who are these “readers?” Because, let’s face it, if the average reader is actually an average reader, then (s)he will probably prefer to read published manuscripts, just as the average reader almost always has. Lord knows there are a few of us out there who risk our friends’ pride by offering to read their work (always an interesting transaction), but how many people out there are willing to extend such a favor to a complete stranger? How many of us really want to dash the hopes of a struggling writer by voting NO against them? (I imagine heaps of John K Tooles scattered in all directions, as far as the horizon.) Furthermore, there’s this nettling question of just who these “average readers” will really be.

Will these readers be work-from-home readers who have a lot of time on their hands, and figure that they may as well use their time to offer their valuable opinions to aspiring writers? Or will they be hoaxters who want nothing more than to pin the writer against a wall and rail them with negative votes, just for the sheer hell of it? No, what’s most likely is this — The Slush Pile Reader’s integral “audience” will most likely be us. The writers. It seems painfully obvious. It’ll be nothing more than an anonymous writer’s workshop where some people will actually be nice, constructive, et cetera; others will be competitive, shouting out big NO’s, simply because someone else did the same to them; still others will be wrought with despair at criticisms or taking advice from others a little too often. And so on. Most of us know what goes on in some workshops, and it seems to me that Slush Pile will be no exception.

Then again, I could be powerfully wrong. Perhaps we should all register and just see what happens. Someday we could have a book on the shelf that looks as good as something printed on an HP2575 Inkjet. And we shall hope that they don’t plan to name their “publishing house” after the website.

After finishing Wodicka’s All Shall Be Well…, which I addressed at length in my last post, I moved directly on to the dark Edwardian mystery, The Somnambulist.  Jonathan Barnes, an Oxford grad and contributer to the Times Literary Supplement, has made his debut with a wonderfully weird book.  At first I thought I was in for a Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell sort of tale, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Somnambulist manages instead to be hilarious at moments, absurd at times, and intriguing overall.

Edward Moon, illusionist and part-time crime-solver, is bored with his life.  He hasn’t had a good mystery to solve in quite a while.  He and his “Watson” — in this case an eight-foot tall mute who writes on a chalkboard (and can’t spell a damn thing correctly) — are quickly dragged from their torpor when a circus freak called the Human Fly commits a murder.  Sound bizarre?  You don’t know the half of it.  Among the many despicable characters in this book are a man who claims to know the future because he’s “lived it,” a brothel full of mutant prostitutes (among whom Moon himself has a few favorites), and an incredibly hate-able albino.

It’s Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books, though set in the world of Doyle, as told by a pleasantly bombastic and wholly unreliable narrator (whose identity remains a secret till the end of the story).  To dust off an old adage, “There’s something in it for everyone.”  And that’s not something I say often — in fact, I loathe cliches as much as the next writer.

The Somnambulist is due out from William Morrow, a Harper Collins imprint, in February of 2008.  Though naturally you could track a copy down in the UK, where it’s been out all year.  Once more, damn you Brits for getting all the good stuff first!   

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