Revision

Some people say revision is like cleaning up after the party. I say revision is the party.

Billy Collins

Make a Living at Writing?

From J.P. McKenna:

There’s money to be made in writing fiction. But not necessarily by those doing the actual writing. As the number of books being churned out in this age of self-publishing has increased astronomically, the odds of making a living wage as a writer have contracted, along with the likelihood of being published in the traditional manner–unless you’re a celebrity; or already a best-selling author.

I’m neither. I’m also retired and on fixed income, allowing for a modicum of spare time but little disposable income. In years leading up to retirement I began seriously writing–at times, compulsively. As a lover of American history and fiction, it was a natural to combine the two. Though no fan of digital technology, I couldn’t deny that the advent of the word processor and cheap laptop computer have been a boon to writing. But then there are the unintended consequence. Not the least of which is, too many people are writing and not enough are reading.

Blissfully unaware that I was merely adding a to a growing surplus of what was now becoming a commodity called “content,” I held onto the hope of some discerning eye in the publishing industry running across my work, seeing something of promise in it, and offering to publish it as a finished book. Isn’t this the dream of everyone who picks up pad and pen, then typewriter or laptop, thinking they have a story–or stories–to tell?

Until the rise of the 21st Century, standard procedure was you submit your work to an agent, who then markets it to a publishing house, which then–it they like it–will agree to edit the work and print it and market it. The beauty of this system is the agent and the publisher, rather than charge the writer upfront for these services, will take a vested interest in the success of the work. The book sells, the publisher profits. While not perfect, this system mostly worked for the benefit of those involved, including the general public as readers. As for the writers, they didn’t need to spend hundreds, or likely thousands, of dollars they didn’t have on support services, in order to see their book in print.

Those of us who put off serious writing until the new millennium failed to take into account that the publishing industry had been evolving into a conglomerate of fewer and fewer companies, now down to four. While publishing had always existed to make a profit, the increasing “corporatization” prioritizes profits for stockholders over all other values, including the enlightened practice of taking a chance on unknown writers, who just might turn out a best-seller or two in the future. In keeping with the corporate ethos rising since the 1980s, publishing books that might just be moderately profitable as opposed to “mega-sellers” has been another casualty of this shift in priorities.

So is the transformation of “big publishing” really a loss? There are many who see the rise of self-publishing, aided by such developments as print-on-demand, along with marketing opportunities on social media, as a path of true progress, away from the “legacy” publishing establishment that’s grown hidebound, resistant to new technology; while retaining the lion’s share of royalties. All of which are largely true. Advocates point to the rise of services that have emerged with the growth in self-publishing. And there are self-published authors getting noticed. And even making money.

What doesn’t seem to get as much mention is the number of self-published writers who don’t get noticed, who don’t sell enough books to even begin to cover the costs of getting them into print. Often overlooked is that the vast majority of successful self-published writers can trace their initial recognition to having been traditionally published.

As the carrot of reward enticingly dangles on the end of the stick ahead of the self-published writer, for many, likely most, the stick can grow longer. Since the transformation of publishing, the average monetary return to authors has been shrinking. Those making money are more likely the providers of services, such as content editing, proof reading, layout, cover design and last–but not least–marketing. These services don’t come cheap. Nor should they. Certainly the providers of quality services, from layout and editing to marketing, deserve fair compensation. But when added up, they can put the carrot out of reach for those who struggle to afford it. And these are the very services once provided by publishing companies, giving the publisher a financial stake in the success of the book. This essential partnership is lost when–as has become the norm–the writer at his or her own cost must hire out the services, whereupon the provider gets paid whether or not the book succeeds or flops.

Link to the rest at Blue Collar Author Blog

Some time ago, PG posted an item inviting visitors to TPV who had a blog post they thought might be of interest to others visiting TPV to send him a link.

PG mentioned that weekends tend to be times when he has more difficulty finding items of interest to TPV visitors than during the workweek.

J.P., the author of the OP, took PG up on his suggestion and sent him a link to a blog post.

While PG is certain that J.P. was already famous before he sent PG a link, perhaps J.P. is a smidge more famous now.

If anyone else would like a teeny bit more fame, feel free to send PG links to items you think might be of interest to the world of TPV via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog. You won’t be deemed pretentious if you send links so something you have written yourself. (PG would prefer not to receive links to something you have plagiarized yourself, however.)

You can, of course, send suggestions at any time, but after mid-day on Friday plus all day on Saturday and Sunday are the times when traditional publishing is especially somnolent (perhaps everyone is working on his/her/their stupid statements for the coming work week) and PG’s other sources of interesting material also slow down, so feel especially free to send him something then.

Find the Ending Before You Return to the Beginning

From Jane Friedman:

The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written. —Joyce Carol Oates

When I taught my first graduate fiction workshop in 1994 at the University of New Mexico, I did as my teachers had done: I distributed a calendar, students signed up, and we agreed on a plan for distributing short stories or chapters from novels-in-progress. 

A Scandinavian woman in her early seventies got us started with the opening chapter of her novel-in-progress. It introduced an immigrant family embarking on an ocean voyage to America. I made my comments then invited others to offer their perspectives.

After students began speaking, I realized some of them were already acquainted—with each other as well as the chapter under discussion. Later, the author told me that she presented Chapter One each time she started a new workshop, both to familiarize class members with the story and because she had yet to work out the kinks in her opening pages. Her goal, she told me after class, was to publish at least this one novel in her lifetime.

I don’t know whether my student ever finished her book and saw it to print because she was a community member, not someone working toward a degree. But, all these years later, I recognize that my class was more likely a hindrance than a help to her. I say this because I know now that chapters are a different animal than stories. Whereas short stories stand alone, chapters depend for their meaning on what comes before and after.

Like stones in a wall, chapters are parts of something larger, so assessing them in isolation is at best a waste of time and at worst injurious to the work as a whole.

Remember that great Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall”? In it, Frost describes the yearly task of repairing the wall, which amounts to restacking stones that have been dislodged. Some are “loaves” and some are “balls” and getting them to fit together and stay in place is difficult.

We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

It’s a balancing act, with boulders and with chapters, and we can only judge them after we put them in place and stand back to see whether the fit is a good one.

The Going-Back-to-the Beginning Syndrome

Because we are anxious and insecure, we tell ourselves that a better beginning will give us the momentum we need to reach the end. But it won’t. It doesn’t. In her book The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, Martha Alderson lays out the four challenges writers face when they sit down to write. The first one she lists is procrastination. The fourth is “The Going-Back-to-the-Beginning Syndrome.”

Alderson cites various reasons (read rationalizations) that writers use for going back to the beginning instead of proceeding into the messy middle (also known as the rising action) or sneaking up on the end. It’s comforting to return to the beginning, the status quo, when things weren’t falling apart. It’s harder to enter your house when you know the people inside are unhappy—liable to lose their tempers and throw things. Some of us are conflict averse, and what we have to learn is that we aren’t just conflict averse in our real lives. We are also conflict averse in our fiction.

Fight or Flight

During the revision process of my first novel, my editor Carla Riccio made an interesting observation: Every time your characters get into an argument, one of them leaves the room. We were on the phone, and I burst out laughing because I recognized the problem immediately. Leaving is my first impulse in a situation I find uncomfortable: Hightail it. Make like a tree and leave. My husband the psychologist has nailed me on it countless times. Over the years, I have managed to better monitor and modify my behavior. That said, I had no idea the problem had followed me onto the page.

You probably recognize the term “fight or flight.” It refers to the physiological response we humans have to perceived threats, whether those be mastodons, marital muddles, or the messy middle of a manuscript. Regardless of the risk, some of us are more apt to fight than flee. Others, like me, want to run away, back to the safety of the beginning. Fleeing doesn’t solve anything. Don’t go back to the comfort of the beginning; stay in the messy middle and fight. (And let your characters duke it out, too.)

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Inkitt raises $16M led by Kleiner Perkins to publish crowdsourced novels in ‘mini-episodes’

From TechCrunch:

The traditional world of publishing has been challenged hard by the digital revolution. Reading as a pastime has been in significant decline, in part because of the proliferation of screens and options for what to watch and do on them. On the other hand, Amazon has led the charge in changing the economics of publishing: the returns on book sales, and profits to publishers and writers, have all seen margins squeezed in the e-reader universe.

A Berlin-based startup called Inkitt has built a crowdsourced publishing platform to buck those trends. It believes that there is still a place for reading in our modern world, if it’s presented in the right way (more on that below), and today it is announcing a $16 million round of funding that underscores its success to date — the Inkitt community today has 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers with some 350,000 uploaded stories, with a run-rate of $6 million from a new “bite-sized”, immersive reading app it launched earlier this year called Galatea — and its ambitions going forward.

How big are those ambitions? Ali Albazaz, Inkitt’s founder and CEO, said the mission is to build the “Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

. . . .

In addition to continuing to search for authors that might make good Galatea fodder, it’s going to add 10 new languages in addition to English, along with more data science to improve readership and connecting audiences with the stories that are most engaging to them. The company has sourced some of its most successful works from places like India and Israel, so the thinking is that it’s time to make sure non-English readers in those countries are also getting a look in.

“It’s a long plan, and we’re working on it step by step,” Albazaz said in an interview this week. “We are looking for the best talents and the best stories, wherever they are being told. We want to find them, unearth them and turn them into globally successful franchises.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch (August, 2019)

From The Bookseller:

Former HarperCollins global c.e.o. Jane Friedman has joined Inkitt as an advisor and shareholder.

Inkitt, which claims to have the world’s first bestseller-predicting algorithm, aims to discover hidden talents from all around the world and turn them into globally successful authors.

More than 100,000 authors upload their manuscripts to the platform and 3.5 million readers can read them for free. The best stories are selected based on reader engagement and published on sister reading app Galatea.

. . . .

“Jane’s guidance will ultimately help to build a powerful hybrid publishing model, where cutting-edge technology builds on insights and experience from the world of traditional publishing.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller (March, 2021)

From Inkitt:

We’re crazy about shining a spotlight on talented authors. That’s why we’ve developed a fair way of discovering writers by giving them a platform to showcase their books to the world, and get published through the power of reader feedback

Once you create your Inkitt account and upload your book, you have started the process of getting selected for an Inkitt publishing deal! The process is simple; we analyze reader patterns and engagement on your book to determine if it has bestseller potential. 

When we find a bestseller, our publishing team reaches out to you about getting signed. No barriers to entry. No biases. It’s publishing made fair.

Where does Inkitt publish my work?

We do things differently, and that doesn’t stop at publishing. When we discover your work, we will contact you with an offer to sign a publishing contract. This means that your work will first be adapted to be published on our sister app, GALATEA, and could later then be published in other formats (e.g, print, ebook, etc). 

. . . .

GALATEA is shaping the future of reading to better suit the digital age. Working with a production team consisting of writers and sound designers, GALATEA adapts original Inkitt stories into immersive experiences by enhancing them with chat fiction, sound effects, visual effects and haptic feedback.

When your work is published on GALATEA, your readers will be fully immersed in it – feeling every aspect of the plot – from the beat of your protagonist’s heart, to the music and sound effects that perfectly enhance the scene at their fingertips. Keeping avid readers hungry for more, storytelling has never been more exciting than on GALATEA.

. . . .

How does the GALATEA publishing process work?

Once you sign with us, our publishing team offers you a guiding hand throughout the entire process. Here is what your journey to become a published GALATEA author will look like:

. . . .

Our Publishing Contract at a Glance

  • We decided to simplify our contract and make it accessible to the public 25% royalties on e-books, and if applicable, 5% royalties on episodical adaptations from Royalty Pool of all authors
  •  You can cancel the contract if we don’t generate at least $1,000 in sales within a year
  • Professional cover design, and if applicable, audio and visual effects for episodical adaptations 
  • Professional editing

Link to the rest at Inkitt

Inkitt helpfully embedded its publishing agreement into its website (to facilitate authors signing it online).

When PG skimmed over the publishing agreement, he was immediately transported to the offices of a typical Manhattan publishing attorney.

All the expected nasty bits were there – Life of the copyright contract term, giant rights grab, etc., etc., etc.

Suffice to say, the “Publishing Contract at a Glance” section of Inkitt’s website didn’t include any discussion of what, in PG’s episodically humble opinion, would be the contract provisions that most serious authors would be interested in knowing about.

The vision of Inkitt CEO Ali Abazz to build the

“Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

evidently persuaded the wise folks at Kleiner Perkins & followers to drop $16 mill. into Inkitt a couple of years ago and a former HarperCollins global CEO to jump onboard the Inkitt parade, but PG is unpersuaded and more than a bit skeptical of the whole arrangement as providing any benefit to authors who want to earn a living from their writing.

He would be happy to hear from any actual Inkitt authors concerning their experiences, however.

Re-Word the World: On “Sonnet’s Shakespeare”

From Public Books:

hen Gretchen Bakke invited me to write about “Systems and Futures,” she offered a keyword: overhaul. I immediately thought of Sonnet L’Abbé’s Sonnet’s Shakespeare, an overhaul of major proportions that loosens that cornerstone of English poetic systems: Shakespeare’s sonnets. L’Abbé sets Shakespeare’s iconic status wobbling; in doing so, she troubles inherited ideas of subjectivity and authorship. I find that reading L’Abbé’s poems calls me to do no less than overhaul my fundamental ideas about poetry, poem-making, the role of the poet in society, and even what it means to read.

In the book, L’Abbé writes with and around each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets to compose 154 new prose poems: “Letter by letter,” reads the back cover of Sonnet’s Shakespeare, “she sits her own language down into the white spaces of Shakespeare’s poems, until she overwhelms the original text and effectively erases Shakespeare’s voice by subsuming his words into hers.” The first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 127 are: “In the old age black was not counted fair / Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name.” In Sonnet’s Shakespeare, the opening of L’Abbé’s corresponding poem reads:

I’m staring at Shakespeare’s poem. Blocked. Carnage because Black was not counted fairly. Torinto faithless weathebecause literature assured Black bodies bore no righto beauty’s name. (emphasis mine)2

While Shakespeare’s poem is contained inside the new text, the letters are repurposed into prose poems. Moreover, L’Abbé’s new prose poems cover a range of topics, from colonialism to climate change, to love and intimacy, to the 2016 US election, to police violence, to cyberculture, to gender and sexuality, to racism, to capitalism.

The subtitle for Sonnet’s Shakespeare gives three names to L’Abbé’s poetics: “154 textile winds, or aggrecultures, or ecolo izations, or.” These three names keep the form in flux. Each name is a mash-up: “textile winds” might invoke text + textile (cloth or fabric) + winds (weather); “aggreculture,” suggests agriculture + aggregated culture; and “ecolo ization” echoes ecology + colonization. “Ecolo ization” also preserves a gap in the middle of the word, encoding ideas of rupture, and reclaiming space for the many histories colonialism tries to erase. Significantly, each of these hybrid terms invokes geographic space: they resituate the page as a field or a world in which nature and culture meet (not unviolently) and poem-making becomes a kind of organic weathering, planting, or grafting.

This book asks large questions, such as: What happens when we dismantle the monumental status of a figure like Shakespeare? What other voices rise to describe the world? By defamiliarizing the sonnets and disrupting Shakespeare’s status, L’Abbé makes both the shape of his influence and the shape of white supremacy more visible. “I now understand this work,” explains L’Abbé, “as a grappling with how to speak in English about being a Black, South Asian and Franco-Ontarian/Québecois person who has been educated by a Canadian system, while searching for the community I speak to and am accountable to, and asking how to responsibly take up space on the land I’m on.” If, as Rossetti wrote, a sonnet is a “moment’s monument,” L’Abbé shows that to dismantle a monument is both to make legible the land and the histories that the monument obscured and to memorialize the necessary act of protest and critique.

Link to the rest at Public Books

The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published anymore because they portray people in ‘hurtful and wrong’ ways

From CNN:

Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the business that preserves the author’s legacy said.The titles are:

  • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”
  • “If I Ran the Zoo”
  • “McElligot’s Pool”
  • “On Beyond Zebra!”
  • “Scrambled Eggs Super!”
  • “The Cat’s Quizzer”

. . . .

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.The announcement was made Tuesday, the birthday of the famed children’s book author.

. . . .

Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel, is one of the best-known authors in the world, the man behind beloved classics like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among others. Over 650 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide, the Washington Post reported in 2015.

But Dr. Seuss had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s when he was a student at Dartmouth College. There, Dr. Seuss once drew Black boxers as gorillas and perpetuated Jewish stereotypes by portraying Jewish characters as financially stingy, according to a study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.”

That study, published in 2019, examined 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism,” or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asia. The two “African” characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics.

. . . .

Two specific examples, according to the study, are found in the books “The Cat’s Quizzer: Are YOU Smarter Than the Cat in the Hat?” and “If I Ran the Zoo.”

“In (“The Cat’s Quizzer”), the Japanese character is referred to as ‘a Japanese,’ has a bright yellow face, and is standing on what appears to be Mt. Fuji,” the authors wrote.

Regarding “If I Ran the Zoo,” the study points out another example of Orientalism and White supremacy.

“The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in ‘If I Ran the Zoo.’ The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance. The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell,'” the study authors wrote.

Link to the rest at CNN

PG doesn’t question the commercial decision that lead to this action and other similar cessations of publication, but he is annoyed by the accompanying school-marmish lecture that is appears to be designed to educate the unwashed masses concerning the right way of looking at and thinking about nearly everything.

PG would have preferred something like, “Although these books were not deemed offensive by most Americans when they were published, times and community standards have changed and they are regarded as offensive by some people today. So, we’ve made the decision to cease publication of these books. We think that Dr. Seuss would agree with this decision if he were alive today.”

PG will note that the OP describes now-offensive behavior of Seuss/Geisel when he was a student at Dartmouth one hundred years ago.

For those visitors to TPV from outside the United States, Dartmouth is a prestigious academic institution and a member of the Ivy League, which includes some of the most respected and highly-ranked colleges and universities in the country.

Presumably, we know of the Dartmouth creations of Seuss/Geisel because they were published at the time. PG is not an expert concerning Seuss/Geisel or Dartmouth, but he is not aware that Seuss/Geisel was expelled from Dartmouth or was condemned by the faculty or his fellow students for his behavior and creative output at that time.

One of the now-condemned Dr. Seuss books, If I Ran the Zoo, was published by Random House, a major New York publisher, and an undoubted “curator of the literary culture” in the United States.

Random House was co-founded by Bennett Cerf (Columbia, 1919, 1920), who became a well-known and respected public figure and television celebrity in this country.

Cerf was instrumental in obtaining publishing contracts with a large number of highly-successful and respected authors, including William Faulkner (Nobel Prize, 1949), John O’Hara, Eugene O’Neill, James Michener and Truman Capote.

In 1933, Cerf won United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, a landmark court case against government censorship, and thereafter Cerf and Random House were the first in the United States to publish James Joyce’s unabridged Ulysses, which had been previously declared as pornographic and banned from publication. Pornography was a previous generation’s version of what is sometimes described as political incorrectness today.

Here is the Random House’ s description of If I Ran the Zoo from the Amazon listing for the book:

Animals abound in Dr. Seuss’s Caldecott Honor–winning picture book If I Ran the Zoo. Gerald McGrew imagines the myriad of animals he’d have in his very own zoo, and the adventures he’ll have to go on in order to gather them all. Featuring everything from a lion with ten feet to a Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, this is a classic Seussian crowd-pleaser. In fact, one of Gerald’s creatures has even become a part of the language: the Nerd!

Here is the Amazon.com Review of If I Ran the Zoo:

“It’s a pretty good zoo,” said young Gerald McGrew, “and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too.” But if Gerald ran the zoo, the New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, he’d see to making a change or two: “So I’d open each cage. I’d unlock every pen, let the animals go, and start over again.” And that’s just what Gerald imagines, as he travels the world in this playfully illustrated Dr. Seuss classic (first published back in 1950), collecting all sorts of beasts “that you don’t see every day.” From the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant to the blistering sands of the Desert of Zind, Gerald hunts down every animal imaginable (“I’ll catch ’em in countries no one can spell, like the country of Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell”). Whether it’s a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny or a wild-haired Iota (from “the far western part of south-east North Dakota”), Gerald amazes the world with his new and improved zoo: “This Zoo Keeper, New Keeper’s simply astounding! He travels so far that you think he would drop! When do you suppose this young fellow will stop?”

But Gerald’s weird and wonderful globe-trotting safari doesn’t end a moment too soon: “young McGrew’s made his mark. He’s built a zoo better than Noah’s whole Ark!” Some of the text and illustrations–imaginative as they are–are obviously dated, such as the following passage: “I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant/ With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant,/ And capture a fine fluffy bird called the Bustard/ Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard.” And your children may be the first to recognize that attitudes have changed since the xenophobic ’50s. But that doesn’t mean this tale need be discarded; instead, it should be discussed. Ironically, Seuss was trying here–in his wild, explosive, and sometimes careless manner–to celebrate the joys of unconventionality and the bliss of liberation! (Ages 4 to 8)

PG has gone on for too long, but he predicts that, in the long-standing tradition of human nature, one hundred years in the future, someone, somewhere will be loudly condemning the unforgiveable insensitivity and primitive stupidity of the clods and Neanderthals of 2021.

11 Techniques for Transforming Clichéd Phrasings

From Writers Helping Writers:

One of the things that pumps me up the most when I’m reading a book is when the author phrases things in a way I’ve never seen before. It could be a familiar concept or image—red hair, an urban street, fear—but when it’s written differently, I’m able to visualize that thing in a new way, as if I’m seeing it from a new angle.

. . . .

This idea of turning tired phrases into new and interesting ones has intrigued me for a while—so much so that I have a notebook full of samples I’ve found in various books. When I get stuck trying to describe something in my own writing, I study those passages to see how the author was able to put a new twist on a well-used phrase. As a result, I’ve figured out a couple of tricks for how we can amp up our descriptions for both fiction and nonfiction works.

The beauty of these techniques is that they work for settings, physical features, character emotion—all kinds of descriptions.

1) Ask Questions to Drill Down and Find the Perfect Phrase

Writing is hard work. Sometimes, when we get hung up on a certain passage, it’s easiest to fall back on the phrasings that are most comfortable: butterflies in the stomach, snow that sparkles like diamonds, a peaches-and-cream complexion, etc. To move beyond these clichés, focus on one aspect of the description and experiment with new ways to describe it. Take this sentence, for instance:

Her eyes are like the lit end of a cigarette, burning into me.
~Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko

What a great way to express an angry gaze. You can almost imagine the author’s brainstorming process: How do the eyes burn? What do they look like as they’re burning? What description could I use that expresses both the anger in her eyes and the way they make the viewpoint character feel? This is a great example of how a potentially clichéd phrase can be freshened up with a little extra thought and effort.

2) Mix Up The Senses

Oftentimes, our passages fall flat because they’re described with the most obvious senses: objects have visual descriptors, and sounds are given auditory comparisons. But mixing the senses can often create a fuller, more layered description.

Their voices were loud and rough and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans. ~Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu

Here, two of the senses are employed to show us how the voices sound: auditory (loud and rough) and textural (the sharp edges of beer cans). Mixing the senses not only makes for unexpected descriptions, it’s also a great way to add dimension and draw readers a bit more into the story.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

You are always new

You are always new. The last of your kisses was ever the sweetest; the last smile the brightest; the last movement the gracefullest. When you pass’d my window home yesterday, I was fill’d with as much admiration as if I had then seen you for the first time…Even if you did not love me I could not help an entire devotion to you.

John Keats, letter to Fanny Brawne

Decrypted Renaissance Dead Letters

From Inverse:

Simon and Marie de Brienne were the 17th century’s most active postmaster and postmistress, delivering personal and political letters alike across Europe. But the Briennes also had a secret.

In addition to delivering letters, they stored away for thousands of “dead letters” — the typically discarded letters belonging to recipients who couldn’t pay postage. Rediscovered in 1926, the Brienne’s trunk is the final resting place of over 5,000 letters. Nearly half have never been opened for fear of destruction.

Now, using X-ray microtomography instead of a letter opener, a team of scientists has opened one of these letters for the very first time and demonstrated their pioneering new system on four letterpackets from Renaissance Europe.

This system gives scientists a powerful new tool for accessing the daily-lives of Renaissance people and for better understanding what the personal, professional, and political pressures of the day might have been like.

It also offers scientists an opportunity to explore one of history’s ancient security measures, a “letterlock.” This is an early, physical predecessor to today’s modern cryptography.

“[W]e developed virtual unfolding to prove our letterlocking theories, and elucidate a historically vital — but long underappreciated — form of physical cryptography,” write the authors.”

. . . .

Long before the invention of email, or even bitter-tasting lickable envelopes, Renaissance correspondents had to think more creatively about the safety of their epistolatory works. One way that these letters were kept safe, write the authors, was through intricate, origami-like letterlocks.

“Before the proliferation of mass-produced envelopes in the 1830s, most letters were sent via letterlocking, the process of folding and securing writing [materials] to become their own envelopes,” the authors explain.

“Letterlocking was an everyday activity for centuries, across cultures, borders, and social classes, and plays an integral role in the history of secrecy systems.”

The authors write that in their study of 250,000 letterlocked messages (beyond the Brienne haul) from the “Renaissance world,” they discovered a spectrum of security systems, ranging from simply sealed to booby-trapped letters with tamper-evident locking mechanisms to deter “man-in-the-middle” attacks.

In other words, a mechanism that would secretly signal to the recipient if others had snuck a peek at their secret writing.

A striking discovery made during their research was the successful virtual unfolding of a never-before-opened letter from July 1697 from Frenchman Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers requesting a certified copy of a death notice for one Daniel Le Pers.

“Before computational analysis, we only knew the name of the intended recipient, written on the outside of the letter packet,” write the authors.

As these “dead letters” were often never delivered due to either insufficient postage or the death of the recipient, one can wonder if Pierre Le Pers joined Daniel before receiving this final postage.

While the contents of this letter weren’t necessarily world-changing secrets, the authors write that the success of their approach could be used in the future to unlock even more long-forgotten secrets from this era.

The letters, quite simply, are also difficult to read — despite being technically legible. The study authors note that the “idiosyncrasies of a hand” can make it difficult to determine the actual context of letters; paleographers have to use contextual clues and linguistic knowledge to fill in when text is messy or missing. Other times, wormholes have made it impossible to determine a word.

Link to the rest at Inverse

(PG apologizes for the “snuck” in the OP)

A New Trend I’ve Observed in Covers

From Mad Genius Club:

I want to talk about a new trend I’ve observed in covers, and how it applies to much of the greater world out there. I.e. how the new trend in covers is just a new way that traditional publishing has come up with to screw itself and the entire field of writing over.

They will have these brilliant ideas, and indies need to be aware of them. More importantly, they need to be aware these things are going on in other fields too, and having much the same effect.

So–

If you have been alive a long time, or even if you “just” read books for a long time, you’re probably aware that there are trends in covers, as there are in everything else. In covers, though, particularly in the era of mega-chain bookstores, that “look” not only tended/tends to be more uniform, but it changes completely.

. . . .

In Portugal, for a while, the trend for mystery books was picture of random body part. No, not dismembered, just, you know, so blown up as to be meaningless. Like it might be a picture of some chick’s foot arch blown up till you looked at it wand went “Leg? finger?” against a bold color background and surrounded in a silver frame.

Ages have trends. I’ve disapproved without being particularly affected or interested when Baen decided to try out the new trend on some of their books, the trend at the time being something picked up from literary, which was “part of the image blown up to take up the whole cover of the book. Usually a portion or a woman’s face or eyes.” Tres …. literary and refined looking.

I actually liked the old style Baen book covers, some of which were magnificent (I rather like the original cover for DST) and some of which were appalling, but all of which harked back to the pulp years and carried an implication of “fun”.

. . . .

The newest trend is more …. interesting. I first noticed it with an indie writer, Henry Vogel. His covers look like aged paper covers, down to the creases. And the fact one of his series is called Sword and Planet Adventures, clearly evoking planet stories, it can’t be a coincidence. Note that it didn’t offend me, because I thought “Well, his books are pretty close to those covers in feel and style, so…”

I mean, I know when I went through cover-design-course I was told to make sure that my covers looked like they belong to now and not “they came from Guttenberg!” BUT for a certain type of book, perhaps marketing it as belonging to another era works best?

. . . .

I kept running into more of these covers from other houses. Covers that explicitly try to look like they’re at the latest in the 50s.

Look, as a marketing strategy it’s brilliant. And stupid as heck.

Why?

Well, because now people are getting used to looking at Amazon for books that they remember reading/used to read/etc. they will be drawn to covers that are what they remember when they fell in love with a genre.

The problem is this: for most of the mainstream publishing, the contents won’t match the cover.

And yes, I can see them totally preening and going “if we get the rubes to look at our much superior product, they’ll love it.”

Because, you know, in the industry, it’s never about publishing what people want to read. It’s about “educating” the public. Which has taken them from 100K plus printruns for midlist to 10k printruns for high list.

The problem is it’s not a business plan. It’s a virtue signaling plan. By people so provincial they all graduated from the same cluster of colleges and all live in the same cluster of cities. And don’t know anyone different, even though the majority of the public IS different.

It will pay off. Brilliantly. For a very brief time. People will buy the books thinking it’s just like the stuff they loved. And be revolted. And throw it against the wall.

Link to the rest at Mad Genius Club

Following are a few of the Henry Vogel covers mentioned in the OP:

Does Your Novel Have a Problem? (It Should)

From Writers in the Storm:

I’ve always been drawn to writing science fiction and fantasy, which means that I’ve written a lot of first drafts based on “cool ideas” but no real conflict. Sure, I had a sense of what the problems were, and maybe even a few key scenes unfolding in my mind, but the books were about the idea, not characters with specific problems. 

No surprise, those drafts never got beyond the first draft.

Many a novel has been started with a vague idea and a lot of pages that explain why that idea is so cool. They’re even well-written novels, but in the end, they fail because there’s no point to them and no problem driving the plot.

. . . .

Take a look at your current manuscript. What’s the problem of the novel? Is it a specific, concrete problem to solve (such as catch a killer, find the money to save the farm, defeat the evil wizard before she enslaves the realm) or is it a vague issue (such as find love, learn to rely on yourself, show how X came to pass)?

If the point of the novel is a vague issue, odds are you’re going to have trouble writing the first draft, because there’s nothing for the protagonist to do. Without a problem to solve, there’s no plot. 

. . . .

Here is a template to help you evaluate. Test your novel and fill in the [bracketed information] of this statement:

My novel is about [the protagonist] who [has a problem], because [the reason the problem exists]. To fix it, [the protagonist] must [risk something of value] and [specific action that has to be done to resolve the problem] or [what happens if they fail].

For example:

My novel is about [Lisa] who [is part of a government experiment], because [she was born with a special gene that allows her to sense emotions]. To fix it, [Lisa] must [risk her life and defy her government] and [make people aware of what’s being done to people like her] or [they’ll kill her].

Can you tell what this book is about?

There’s a general sense, but the specific plot isn’t there, because “defy her government” is a vague idea, not a problem to resolve. Her “problem” is also that she was born with a special gene. There’s nothing here that says how that’s affecting her life or what problem she has because of that gene.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

UK Author Unions Launch Investigation Into ‘Partner Publishing’

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Society of Authors and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain–the United Kingdom’s two authors’ unions–have announced today (March 3) an investigation into “the financial and contractual impact on authors of publishers that charge for publication.”

With the support of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the effort is intended, according to the groups’ media messaging, “to research the allegedly exploitative practices of some publishers that charge authors to publish their work.”

The establishment of an investigation, the unions write, “follows a sharp rise in complaints from authors about these companies received by both unions.”

This is something to be watched not only by authors but also by trade publishers, whose industry can be colored by perceptions of bad actors and author mistreatment: the public has never been adept at discerning the distinctions in how a writer’s work might get to market. Writers not represented by literary agents nor on contract to trade houses can be particularly vulnerable to scams, operating as amateur entrants in a crowded field of vendors’ pitches.

At issue here are offers called by many names and operating in markets beyond the UK. ‘Partner publishing,’ ‘hybrid publishing,’ ‘contribution publishing,’ and ‘subsidy publishing’ are all cases in which an author is published only by paying into the process. As the unions are pointing out, these companies “have much in common with what used to be called ‘vanity’ publishers.”

Standing somewhere between full self-publishing and full trade publishing, these publishers normally assume some of the cost in exchange for some of the rights and/or revenues from a book’s life on the market.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” a saying attributed to P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, con man Joseph (“Paper Collar Joe”) Bessimer and a variety of others, certainly applies to vanity publishing, whatever it may call itself at this or any other time.

The OP describes in general what vanity publishing is. If you need more information, see ALLI, Writer Beware, Writers & Artists, the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, and many other authors organizations.

PG expects most regular visitors to TPV don’t need this sort of advice, but urges them to pass their knowledge on to whomever they think may need it.

Regardless of whatever other shortcomings they may have, legitimate traditional publisher do not ask an author to pay them any money to publish the author’s book.

Vanity publishers often have fancy-sounding names – “Author House”, “Dorrance Publishing”, etc., etc.

One quick way to help identify a vanity publisher is to go to Amazon’s books section and search for the publisher’s name. PG just searched for “Dorrance Publishing” and the first book that appeared in his search results had a Best Sellers Rank of #4,213,968 in the Kindle Store.

This sales rank means that the author’s mother bought a copy and maybe one or two of the author’s drinking buddies bought copies before they sobered up.

Another way to help identify a vanity publisher is to visit a local bookstore (wear your mask) and ask the owner or manager about the publisher.

If the response is, “Who?” then it’s a vanity publisher. After receiving this response, ask the manager to recommend a good book and buy it to show your gratitude for her/his assistance in helping you avoid a stupid and expensive mistake.

The Challenge of Writing Humor in Dark Times

From Publishers Weekly:

The two of us blinked at each other. We had just swapped edits for chapter one of our latest coauthored book, You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape, and there was a problem. This chapter focused on the Satanic panics of the 1980s and ’90s, which we argued marked the beginning of the network crisis: a period of intensifying polarization and information disorder now central to our politics. For the second time, we’d rejected each other’s suggestions. Whitney was being too somber for Ryan, and Ryan was being too slapstick for Whitney. Clearly, we needed to have a conversation.

So we opened negotiations. Front and center was the question, on a scale of one to 10, how funny should You Are Here be? Ryan said seven. Whitney said two. We’d developed the one-to-10 scale while working on our previous book, The Ambivalent Internet; it was a way of posing questions, soliciting answers, and brokering compromises with minimal ego bruising. This was how we made decisions about everything from language choice to argument structure. But this was the first time we disagreed about jokes.

Previously, humor had characterized our work. A running editorial goal as we researched, drafted, and edited The Ambivalent Internet was to make each other laugh. We even opened its second chapter with a story about our own raucous laughter as we prepared to give an aggressively absurdist, meme-heavy academic presentation about the book.

But that was in 2015, the very tail end—for us, anyway—of the “lol nothing matters” myopia that had characterized our early work on internet culture. How we felt about humor at the outset of the project and how we felt on the day of our final submission—not incidentally, the day after the 2016 election—shifted considerably. Laughter still came easily in 2015. By the time the book was published in 2017, we’d stopped laughing—because all the dangers of all that laughter and that “lol nothing matters” mentality had grown painfully clear.

Whitney tackled these dangers in a follow-up project to The Ambivalent Internet exploring journalistic amplification of far-right memes. But in 2018, when we started writing You Are Here, we hadn’t fully dealt with our own laughter.

What began as a discussion about the appropriate number of Satan jokes in chapter one quickly broadened out to everything we’d overlooked—as scholars, as authors, as people—because so many of us had been so busy laughing for so long. The real question became one of how we were going to position ourselves within the crisis we were describing. Were we going to separate ourselves from it, and in that emotional distance crack jokes? Or would we place ourselves within it and take responsibility for our part?

These questions hit especially close to home as we reflected on internet culture. As we drafted The Ambivalent Internet, white supremacists had already adopted the trollish winking, ironic racism, and weaponized laughter that was so common online. But too many people didn’t notice, because all the jokes and all the memes looked the same as they ever did. Stealthily, smirkingly, white supremacists used these “jokes” to push the Overton window—the range of discourse politically acceptable to the mainstream—further and further to the far right. We couldn’t gloss over this history in You Are Here; we couldn’t fall back on easy laughter. We needed to address the political and ethical consequences of internet humor directly. So we devoted a chapter of the book to how fetishistic online laughter, our own very much included, had accelerated the network crisis.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

We might not like the idea that we lie to ourselves every day. But our penchant for self-deception may have hidden benefits.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Last December, PolitiFact called coronavirus denial the “lie of the year.” Arguably, it’s a lie many people told themselves—out of fear, convenience, ideology, economic interest or group loyalty. Such self-deception has cost many lives. And it sets a contrastive backdrop for “Useful Delusions,” a lively and digestible book from Shankar Vedantam, host of NPR’s “The Hidden Brain,” and science writer Bill Mesler on the benefits of lying to yourself.

Conventional wisdom has accepted the ubiquity of self-deception at least since Freud popularized the notion of repression. Cognitive psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely have probed the phenomenon in bestselling books. Some scholars believe our biases and delusions are mere side effects of helpful heuristics, nuisance fines for mental expediency. But what if they have value in themselves?

In a single sentence tucked away in the foreword to Richard Dawkins’s 1976 book “The Selfish Gene,” the evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers offered a powerful idea: We’ve evolved to fool ourselves the better to keep “the subtle signs of self knowledge” from undermining our tall tales with tells. Messrs. Vedantam and Mesler mention the idea but don’t dwell on evolutionary mechanisms (while insisting that they’re there), focusing instead on effects.

Self-deception presents itself benignly in our casual interactions. We lie several times per day, or hour, depending on who’s counting. Little lies, about how interested we are in what you just said about your knitting. Do recipients question them? No, they let that oil drip into the fearsome gears of conversation. We gladly take politeness at face value, for our own good. One study found that receiving rude remarks decreased participants’ creativity and generosity. The book cites Barack Obama’s “Anger Translator,” played by the comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who frankly articulated Mr. Obama’s subtext. It’s not that we can’t handle the truth. We’d just rather not.

Overconfidence, an evasion of reality distributed unequally among us, can lead to hubristic mistakes, but it can also do good. In one study, AIDS patients with unmoored optimism about their prognoses survived longer. Spells that supposedly imbue bulletproof protection have helped scrappy battalions stand up to larger armies.

Our willingness to participate in fictions makes storytelling a particularly powerful force. Messrs. Vedantam and Mesler suggest novels require a bit of belief to keep us enthralled, and advertising turns on our buying into brand narratives. Golfers performed better when told they had Nike clubs. More important, group cohesion flows from investment in origin stories, a belief that something unseen ties us together. Ceremonies and other rituals can make these tales visceral, and groups from college fraternities to nations—motley populations otherwise defined by little more than lines on a map—rely on fake-it-till-you-make-it solidarity to do things like land on the moon. Religions trade in the power of stories too: Evidence suggests fear of angry gods bootstrapped altruism toward strangers until we could put the modern state in place. Such suspensions of skepticism, the authors write, “are responsible for creating some of the crowning glories of human civilization.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG was reminded of some unreliable narrators.

From Reedsy Blog:

In literature, an unreliable narrator is a character who tells a story with a lack of credibility. There are different types of unreliable narrators (more on that later), and the presence of one can be revealed to readers in varying ways — sometimes immediately, sometimes gradually, and sometimes later in the story when a plot twist leaves us wondering if we’ve maybe been a little too trusting.

While the term “unreliable narrator” was first coined by literary critic Wayne C. Booth in his 1961 book, The Rhetoric of Fiction, it’s a literary device that writers have been putting to good use for much longer than the past 80 years. For example, “The Tell-Tale Heart” published by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843 utilizes this storytelling tool, as does Wuthering Heights, published in 1847.

But wait, is any narrator really reliable?

This discussion can lead us down a proverbial rabbit hole. In a sense, no, there aren’t any 100% completely reliable narrators. The “Rashomon Effect” tells us that our subjective perceptions prohibit us from ever having a totally clear memory of past events. If each person subjectively remembers something that happened, how do we know who is right? “Indeed, many writers have used the Rashomon Effect to tell stories from multiple first-person perspectives — leaving readers to determine whose record is most believable.” (Check out As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner for an example).

. . . .

Literary function of an unreliable narrator

Fiction that makes us question our own perceptions can be powerful. An unreliable narrator can create a lot of grey areas and blur the lines of reality, allowing us to come to our own conclusions.

Fallible storytellers can also create tension by keeping readers on their toes — wondering if there’s more under the surface, and reading between the lines to decipher what that is. Unreliable narrators can make for intriguing, complex characters: depending on the narrator’s motivation for clouding the truth, readers may also feel more compelled to keep reading to figure out why the narrator is hiding things.

Finally, all unreliable narrators are first-person: they live in the world of the story and will have an inherent bias or perhaps even an agenda. While you may find an unreliable narrator who’s written in the second-person or third-person point of view, this is generally rare.

. . . .

Types of unreliable narrators

Just like trying to classify every type of character would be an endless pursuit, so is trying to list every type of unreliable narrator. That said, we’ve divided these questionable raconteurs into three general types to better understand how they work as a literary device.

1) Deliberately Unreliable: Narrators who are aware of their deception

This type of narrator is intentionally lying to the reader because, well, they can. They have your attention, the point of view is theirs, and they’ll choose what to do with it, regardless of any “responsibility” they might have to the reader.

A quick note about this kind of narrator: people want to read about characters they can connect with or relate to. This is one of the tricky parts of writing this kind of narrator: the character has to be compelling enough that we’ll keep connecting with them even if we suspect we’re being misled. We don’t have to necessarily like them, but we need to understand them. For instance, even Alex from A Clockwork Orange has an underlying humanity: his desire for individual freedom above all. His flagrant lies are therefore an exercise of his freedom.

2) Evasively Unreliable: Narrators who unconsciously alter the truth

The motivations for this kind of narrator are often quite muddy — sometimes it’s simple self-preservation, other times it’s slightly more manipulative. Sometimes the narrator isn’t even aware they are twisting the truth until later in the book. Their unreliability often stems from the need to tell the story in a way that justifies something, and their stories are often embellished or watered down.

These kinds of contradictory characters whose mindsets aren’t clear can keep readers anxiously waiting for the narrator’s moment of clarity — drawing their own conclusions all the while.

3) Naively Unreliable: Narrators who are honest but lack all the information

Unlike the previous two types, this type of narrator is not unreliable on purpose — they simply lack a traditional, “greater understanding.” This kind of unreliability can allow the reader to view your story with fresh eyes. The narrator’s “unorthodox” interpretations might only provide us with partial explanations of what’s going on, forcing us to dig a little deeper and connect the dots. These naive narrators can also encourage readers to take more significant notice of things we might’ve taken for granted.

Craft tip: Don’t cheat the reader. Great novels inspire readers to come back and find new meaning and elements they hadn’t yet discovered the first time. This can be especially true of stories told by unreliable narrators. If you employ this literary device gradually throughout the novel, ensure you leave clues for your readers along the way. Drop hints that make us question the validity of our source and have us eagerly reading to find the next clue that will act as another part of the story-puzzle. If you suddenly reveal out of nowhere that the narrator hasn’t been giving us all the facts in an abrupt twist, readers will feel they have been cheated.

Link to the rest at Reedsy Blog

The Nature of Conspiracy Theories

From The Wall Street Journal:

In the age of QAnon, it is of little comfort to learn in Michael Butter’s “The Nature of Conspiracy Theories” that such malevolent fables have been around for some time. Cicero devised one. Winston Churchill, at least once, passed along another. What’s different now, claims Mr. Butter, is who believes them, who spreads them and how they are disseminated. Once common among the elites, conspiracy theories were stigmatized, in the West anyway, during the postwar years. “We used to be afraid of conspiracies,” the author relates. “We are now more afraid of conspiracy theories,” a fear that helps account for the attention they attract.

But only partly: Ideas that might once have been confined to a pamphlet are now easily available on the internet, a space where anyone can be an expert and where conspiracy theories can provide a splendid living for those who peddle them. The internet has “largely nullified” the media’s “traditional watchdog role,” a change that Mr. Butter, who writes from a leftish-establishment point of view, mourns more than is entirely healthy.

Perhaps inevitably in these times, Mr. Butter examines the connection between populism and conspiracy theories. The connection is real enough, although support for the former does not have to meansuccumbing to the latter. Nevertheless it’s no coincidence that susceptibility to conspiracism is associated with feeling powerless or (something obviously relevant to the rise of populism) “the fear of becoming so.”

But the underlying appetite for conspiracy theories stems from something far deeper than social and/or political disaffection. It arises, Mr. Butter suggests, from the way “evolution has trained the human brain to make connections and recognize patterns.” We are delighted to “find” these connections, even when there are none—so great, I suspect, is our reluctance to accept a random and indifferent universe. There is a decent argument to be made that conspiracy theories helped fill the psychological gap left by religion’s retreat, even if, as Mr. Butter records, they long predated the Enlightenment’s revolt against God.

But the underlying appetite for conspiracy theories stems from something far deeper than social and/or political disaffection. It arises, Mr. Butter suggests, from the way “evolution has trained the human brain to make connections and recognize patterns.” We are delighted to “find” these connections, even when there are none—so great, I suspect, is our reluctance to accept a random and indifferent universe. There is a decent argument to be made that conspiracy theories helped fill the psychological gap left by religion’s retreat, even if, as Mr. Butter records, they long predated the Enlightenment’s revolt against God.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

The Best 8 Free and Open Source Library Management Software Solutions

From GoodFirms:

For many of us, nothing seems more important than reading a book. “When in doubt go to a library,” said J. K Rowling, the writer who is well known for giving us the fantasy series Harry Potter. Libraries have been a trusted source of information. Going to a library and picking a book was fun those days. Technology has brought significant changes to libraries. These days Libraries function differently due to the digitalization. Access to information is in real-time and universal. Traditional libraries are forced to re-work on their workflow. Library management has evolved and improved to a stage never imaged in the pre-cyber era. To meet the growing demands of the digital generation, it is essential for every library to invest in efficient Library management software solutions.

Why should Libraries invest In a Library Management Software System?

From pure closed stacks of books to open stacks; from digital resources to e-collections – the concept of a library has evolved so much that today we have virtual users from anywhere using the service at anytime they wish. This sudden transformation has brought a pressing need on every library to exchange data and information across the digital library system automatically.  Also, connecting with networks of libraries along with following machine-readable standards and other cataloguing standards are becoming crucial for libraries. Apart from allowing access to resources, typically, a library must be able to handle other actions like; acquisition, inventory, finance, circulation, generating statistical reports, and other references.

From Analog to Digital, Libraries have come a long way. Books are no more restricted to specific shelves now. Access is universal.

. . . .

Traditional Library functions included;

  • Manually Labelling
  • Manually Accessing
  • Manually Sorting
  • Manually Shelving
  • Manually Searching
  • Loads of Manual workflow activities

Since most of the management activities were carried out manually, there were high chances for errors and miss-handling with inventory collections and records management. 

Libraries Today

Today, technology has been helping to manage libraries efficiently. It has got easier for both users and librarians. Library management or library automation software solutions are widely used today.

Benefits of using Library Management Software

Be it standalone or small libraries managed by schools, universities, etc, a good library management system proves to be a worthy investment. The software, on the whole, helps in simplifying the entire library management process.

  • To automate the workflow
  • To reduce handling cost
  • To reduce errors
  • To support the continued visibility of your services
  • To add value
  • To retain intuitive usability
  • To make access convenient
  • To reach relevant content
  • To maintain the database
  • To leverage functionality
  • To enable information sharing
  • To manage your portal efficiently
  • To support growth and innovation
  • To take control and eliminate discrepancies
  • To retain existing readers
  • To generate new readers

Some of the best Library Automation software enables in managing the whole library workflow through an easy-to-use, simple and interactive interface. By using this software, a librarian can handle basic to complicated functions of a library right from collection till controlling bibliography. Users can instantly get information on any book available in the library. Privacy can be maintained, and users’ records are stored safely.

Keeping track of all the books is much easier with a Library Management Software. Added to this, overseeing fee collection, fine, late return, etc becomes much easier with the software.

Library automation software solutions are today used right from small school library to a large public library. In short, enterprise planning and resource management are much easier with library management software.

The ever-growing demand to automate library functions has been driving the library automation software market globally.

Different Types of Library Management Software

A plethora of library management system pervades the industry today. The options are vast though. Over the years, these software solutions have also matured in their functionality and usability and have efficiently adapted to the changing requirements. Pick up the one that fits your goals. Explore your options by purely starting from the most immediate goals. 

Premium:

Commercial Library management software solutions are designed with outstanding features, but the cost factor is pretty high. It gets difficult for many institutions and libraries to afford commercial products. An ideal alternative in such a situation open source software.

Shareware:

Users can try the software for free for a limited period and have to pay to use the service forever.

Cloud-based (Cloud Hosted / Subscription based)

A cloud-based library management system allows libraries to use the software without having to license or install. Hosted by a third party, the software demands some operational control cost.

Freemium:

This version of library automation software allows users to test the software for some time for zero cost. The free trial period can last anytime from a few weeks to a few months.

Open Source:

Open source library management software systems are those whose source code is available for the public to use, copy, modify and distribute. The purpose is to see a rapid evolution of the code and the program. Moreover, it also helps in correcting errors. The key advantage of open source library management software is that users can acquire and download this software freely. No developers can claim any royalties on the distribution. This approach is gaining momentum. Open Source library management solutions can be free for unlimited time or can come with some limitations. The adoption of open-source library management software is in recent days creating lucrative opportunities for market growth.

Free and Open Source

Small and medium-sized libraries very often have a stringent budget and investing in a commercial library management system is very difficult. A free and open source library management software solution enables them to automate their system in a cost-effective way.

. . . .

. . . .

Comparison Chart of the Best 8 Free & Open Source Library Management Software Solutions

Link to the rest at GoodFirms

My Publishing Values

From Hugh Howey:

Value listing is one of the more important thought exercises I’ve discovered over the years. I was introduced to this by a friend, and my first attempt was to list my top 10 overall values in the world. This sounds easy enough, but you have to do it in order. So what goes higher on that list, family or friends? Where do you rank truth and honesty, without which most of the other things we value can’t exist or be trusted?

Does science make the list of things we value, considering the lives it has saved and made more pleasant? Where do you rank education and democracy? One way to answer these questions is to look around the world at places that enjoy the benefits of one more than the other. Would you rather live among one of the remaining hunter/gatherer tribes with no science? Or in a country like China with no democracy?

The list you end up with is not nearly as important as the act of creation itself. It’s the wrestling with the thing that matters. As you imagine going without what’s dear to you, your appreciation of them can grow. And as you order the things you value, you can ask yourself if you are putting your energies into the things highest on the list. Quite often we find ourselves living by someone else’s values and not our own. Because we too rarely sit down and suss these questions out for ourselves.

All this came to mind recently when someone emailed me an old blog post of mine about what we should value in the publishing industry. When I used to travel to book conferences and give talks, a frequent theme of mine was that readers and writers should be the focus of this industry, not bookstores and publishers. That might sound quaint or obvious, but it’s not how the industry is covered. It’s mostly seen as a transaction between publishers (the producers of books) and bookstores (the retailers). How those entities are doing, what they need, where they can improve and grow, was pretty much every article in the trade press for many decades. People obsessed over what B&N was doing and then later Amazon. The rest was agony and gossip among and about the big 6 publishers (now the big 5).

That began to change when Amazon came along and decided to sell books online. And this change was not because of self-publishing or e-books. The Kindle was many years away. It was because of Amazon’s 1995 innovation, the customer review. Suddenly, readers mattered. We take this innovation for granted, but at the time people thought Amazon was making a mistake. Customers would rant and complain! They’d bash the very product the retailer was trying to sell! This happened, of course, but mostly people shared the pros and cons and helped other shoppers make better decisions. A lot of Amazon’s success comes from this early trust in its users.

When Amazon launched the Kindle and allowed anyone to upload a book to its website, an even louder contingent of pundits would decry the decision. This would end bookselling as we know it, they said. It would destroy the book discovery process, they lamented. Even authors got in the act by predicting a tsunami of crap that would make it impossible to find decent reads. First, Amazon was giving the reader way too much power and now they were doing the same for writers. For an industry that valued publishers and bookstores the most, Amazon’s every decision was anathema.

But was that really everyone’s value list? If you ask most people to rank their publishing values, publishers would probably end up near the very bottom, perhaps just higher than professional book critics. Bookstores would go near the very top of most snap lists, but where would they really rank if a proper value list was made? The only way to answer that is to wrestle with our own list and to ask others to do the same. In a very long-winded way, I’m going to do that right now. Come along with me if you like.

One of the joys of value listing are the chicken-and-egg problems that arise immediately. Can you have books and not authors? The answer is yes. Perhaps there’s a future where no new books are written, but we still have all the classics and what came before. Okay, can you have books and no readers? Of course. I wrote books for quite some time with no readers. They just sit there. So is it books we value the most? Or is it the act of them being read?

What about readers without books? It’s not technically reading, but we had a very long and rich oral tradition before writing and literacy became more common. Would I rather have stories being told and enjoyed over a world full of books that no one can read? Now we’re zeroing into the top of my list. Readers win out over books themselves, because if the physical things went away, we could still have Story with a capital s. Audiobooks and the oral tradition could survive. This would be a world without writers, so no new stories, which is a shame. But it’s better than a world full of writers if none of their stories are being heard.

My list thus far:

1: Readers

I’ve already decided that the shape story comes in is not as important as the act of them being told and enjoyed. So books and bookstores are not yet a priority. Right now I just have people enjoying previously concocted stories as they are spoken aloud or listened to from a recording. What we need are more stories, so to the list we add writers:

1: Readers
2: Writers

The audience and the artist. Getting these two down in this order makes almost every decision I’ve made as an author, bookseller, speaker, publisher, blogger jump right out at me. Lower prices and more reading options for readers. Better pay, better contracts, fewer barriers to entry for writers. This is why value listing is so important. If you rank books #1, you value a world of dusty or bare shelves. But with these two down, do books now come third? Or is an e-book only world better if it includes publishers or agents and the value they add? Or is a retailer for e-books more important than a world full of books but not a single bookstore? Where do I rank books, publishers, and bookstores?

Behind editors, that’s where.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors

Whoa. Really? Yes, dear reader. I wouldn’t have published a single book without the input and courage I received from my editors. That includes my mother, sister, cousin, online friends, and my writing club members. Editors go back to the oral tradition mentioned above. They were the people honing and refining story to make them better, offering suggestions and input, often becoming storytellers themselves. They are the super-reader. The beta-reader. The book-perfecter.

Would you prefer a bookstore full of unedited manuscripts over an oral tradition of finely honed masterpieces? I doubt many sober lovers of story would come to this conclusion if forced to decide. Perhaps those who have never seen a rough draft and don’t realize how far that last level of polish takes a work.

Editors are key. They are more important than physical books. and I have to rank them accordingly. Within this group are the agents who act as editors but do so much more. Again, this is why these listing exercises are so useful. Editors add tons of value but are rarely discussed when we talk about our love of books. Speaking of which, can we finally add books to the list?

Not so fast. We are back at the dreaded retailer/book/publisher question from earlier. What does a world without a book retailer look like? This means no sidewalk shops or bazaars. No online retail. No used bookstores. No place that transacts for the sale of a book at all. We have eager readers, talented authors, capable editors… do we want them producing book-shaped things but nobody can earn a living from their efforts? What about having a retailer like Audible, which would allow easy access to all these books, a steady income for many authors and editors, but no physical books?

It’s the earnings side that has me putting bookstores next on my list, before we even have books! So e-books and audiobooks only. For many, I know books would have shown up by now, and that’s a fair call. But then authors and editors are working for free forever. And that’s something I can’t value over the physical shape a story takes.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)

Painful, I know. It’s not supposed to be easy. Surely we get books now, please?! I’m writing this as a kid who was obsessed with books and who has remained surrounded by them ever since. I can’t walk past a bookstore without popping inside. When I visit friends, I often end up standing in front of their shelves reading spines, comparing tastes. Any antique rummaging begins and ends with the boxes of books. And yet … they aren’t going to make my top 5. Because now that writers can earn a living in my value list, I have to add the institutions that make sure everyone has access to books. Next on my list is libraries.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)
5: Libraries

Libraries without books? I’m as aghast as you are. But if you are going to give stories the shape of a book and not allow libraries in this world, I beg you to reconsider. Libraries are so critical that I very nearly rank them #4 on my list, except that this makes the career of a writer impossible. Libraries do more than provide a place for people to enjoy stories for free. They provide expertise in finding those stories and in cataloging them. As stories have become more and more digital, libraries have added even more value. Yes, I rank them higher than books. But thank goodness the physical object can finally go on the list.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)
5: Libraries
6: Books

Whew. Man, that hurt to wait so long, but I can’t reason through it any other way. Now that we have books, we can reclassify retailers as bookstores. Of course our old world could have had e-book kiosks and digital-only brick and mortar stores. All that’s changed is the container our stories go inside.

Once you get past the really hard decisions, it’s tempting to slap the rest of the list together. Resist this temptation. Weigh the rest with the same level of care. Make sure you aren’t leaving anything out. We still need cover artists, audiobook narrators, publishers, professional book reviewers. These will round out my top ten (I consider large scale printers covered by the category of “books” itself).

It’s difficult to choose between cover artists and narrators to be honest. Both deserve much more recognition than they get. Good cover art can make or break a story’s success. But as audiobooks have grown, and to pay homage to the critical importance of how this industry got its start with oral storytelling, I have to give narrators the nod. I know audiobookphiles who choose their next purchase over the voice more than the writer, and for good reason.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Bookstores
5: Libraries
6: Books
7: Narrators
8: Cover artists

That leaves publishers and reviewers, who should not feel completely diminished. Making the list at all is something. There are entities that add tons of value to the storytelling enterprise who aren’t even mentioned here, like formatters and typesetters, booksellers and bloggers. But the final list goes:

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Bookstores
5: Libraries
6: Books
7: Narrators
8: Cover artists
9: Publishers
10: Critics

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey

PG will note that he’s read several of Hugh’s books and has enjoyed them all.

Focus on Short Fiction

From Writer Unboxed:

There are many bad reasons to focus on short fiction and one really good one…and both present their own problems. Stick with me as I show you how to adapt your writing to short fiction OR expand your short stories into novels.

Bad Reasons to Write Short Stories

Short stories are great for your career, they say. Start with short fiction, they say, to

  • Build your publication credits
  • Help new audiences find you
  • Let editors know you’re serious
  • Raise your profile by winning contests
  • Keep your novel fans happy in between books

The problem is not everyone loves short stories. I’m talking about readers and writers, here.

Writing short, while undeniably a useful skill, just isn’t something everyone loves. Maybe you’re in that group.

The bigger problem for you is that the mythical ‘they’ who tell you short stories are a great tool in your toolbox aren’t wrong.

But don’t worry, I’m going to explain some of the reasons you find it hard to write short, and I’m going to show you some techniques for stopping your story’s attempt to become an epic 14-part novel series.

Good Reasons To Keep It Short

If you love short fiction, that comes with its own set of problems:

  • Nobody has made a living selling short fiction since 1959. (OK, I made up that date, but do you know anyone your age who has earned a decent hourly wage for a short story?)
  • The majority of readers read novels, not short fiction.
  • When you show a story to your fellow writers, 98% of them say “this would be a great first chapter” or “I really want to know more.”
  • You feel like you ought to be writing novels (because that’s what most people read and buy), but the thought is terrifying: like the difference between the fun of decorating a single room vs. committing to building a whole house with underfloor heating, a solarium, and a bathroom for every guest. You have no idea how to get started and you’re not even sure you want to.
  • When you try to ‘add words’ you get the feeling you’re just adding words, not actually adding to the story.

Fear not: in this article I’m going to show you some of the ways short stories and novels differ so that, no matter which one you’re trying to build, you can read the blueprints and create something that stands on its own.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Burning Books: Akram Aylisli on Literature and Cultural Memory

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:


ON FEBRUARY 9, 2013, the works of writer Akram Aylisli were publicly burned in Azerbaijan because his writing upset the Azerbaijani government. Aylisli watched his books burn via the internet, an experience he describes in a 2018
 essay excerpted in this very magazine. Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev stripped Aylisli of the title of “People’s Writer” and his presidential pension; his wife and son were fired from their jobs, and he received death threats. In 2014, Aylisli was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by supporters from several countries. In March 2016, he was invited to address a literary festival in Venice, Incroci di civiltà; however, the 79-year-old writer was detained at the Baku airport, and trumped-up legal charges were filed against him. Those charges are still pending.

. . . .

MARK LIPOVETSKY: In March 2016, you were slated to deliver a speech at a literary festival in Venice, but could not attend because you were denied permission to leave Azerbaijan. You later published the remarks you’d planned to give. At the start of the speech, you write, “Now we are all defenseless before these inconceivably cruel times. There are periods in history when nothing can fill the emptiness of the human heart: not religion, not science, not literature.” Do you feel the same way now, and what does it mean to be a writer in such times?

AKRAM AYLISLI: I’d like to first of all clarify the circumstances of my situation that not everyone understands completely. They made me sign an agreement not to travel, so I don’t have the right to leave the confines of Baku. What’s more, the prosecutor’s office confiscated my proof of identity. Without that proof, a person has no actual rights — can’t take part in elections or anything. The prosecutor’s office was supposed to investigate my case within a year, according to Azerbaijani law. But to this day, the case that was opened in March 2016 hasn’t been reviewed. They simply aren’t processing it. This all weighs very, very heavily on me psychologically, and all of it puts pressure on me. But I think some people are starting to overcome the anxiety they felt about the fact that part of Azerbaijan’s land was, let us say, under the control of Armenia. They’ve calmed down a bit, and I think [laughs] that calm will in some way make a difference in my life. They’ll calm down and finally say: “So what about this guy? How much can we really cut him off from society? This kind of thing isn’t good for him.” I think this will all pass. I’m sure of it.

In terms of how I live in this difficult time, it seems to me that no matter what the circumstances, no matter what situation a writer lives in, he lives in his own world. For example, I didn’t feel the loss of what was taken from me very deeply, and I wasn’t depressed because I never remembered myself being free. I never felt that: not in school, not at university, not at work. I felt myself to be a little bit free only at my work table, my writing desk. They couldn’t take that away from me. It can’t be taken away from any writer. I live now through literature. It’s possible to live through literature — there’s a lot of air there. More, maybe, than there is even in the street, especially during a pandemic.

From your trilogy Farewell, Aylis, which of these novels — YemenStone Dreams, and A Fantastical Traffic Jam — is the most important for you?

If I think about it, Stone Dreams. I wrote Stone Dreams for Azerbaijanis, not Armenians. I wrote it out of the desire that not all of the bridges between our peoples would be burned. So that there would not be this deep alienation, particularly in terms of culture. We are, after all, a Turkic people, but in point of fact we are people of the Caucasus. Our mentality is of the Caucasus — not Turkish, not Central Asian, specifically of the Caucasus. I wrote Stone Dreams out of the desire to bring people closer, so that people wouldn’t think that we have to revile one another, that we have to kill one another.

Who has supported you? Are there writers, cultural figures, who supported you in Russia and Azerbaijan?

In general, the Russian intelligentsia defended me a great deal — Andrei Bitov, Viktor Yerofeyev. That level of writer — important writers — really defended me. A few Russian journalists, also. In Azerbaijan, my support mainly came from young writers. Among them, many people understood things as I understand them, and in the way people will someday understand.

How can we, readers living all over the world, help you?

You’re already helping me. We’re sitting here, today I’m looking at you, at such good-hearted people. That joy is enough for me, if only for a few days. Sometimes you suddenly remember such good moments, and that helps you live. I don’t know how exactly readers can help. Many organizations wanted to help me. In Norway, they even proposed an excellent situation so that I could move there. I didn’t go, because someday these people will understand that I love Azerbaijan more than they do. I think there are individuals among the Azerbaijani people who know that I love Azerbaijan more than the authorities do. It’s dangerous to say so [laughs], but it’s necessary.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

PG thinks its a good idea for him and others who live in liberal Western democracies to reflect on those who do not from time to time. Such an exercise helps to avoid feelings of entitlement and nurture feelings of gratitude, at least for PG.

“Stone Dreams” by Akram Aylisli

From Words without Borders:

The condition of the patient just delivered to the trauma department of one of the major Baku hospitals was very serious.

They took the patient, who was lying unconscious on the gurney, along the very middle of the half-lit hospital corridor that stretched the length of the whole floor to the operating room, which was located in the other wing of the building. There were two women in white lab coats and two men, also in lab coats. The surgeon himself walked beside the gurney, a spare, silver-haired man of middling height, distinguished from his colleagues by his reserve, the compelling sternness of his face, and the particular cleanliness of his lab coat.

If there was anything unusual or seemingly incongruous in this ordinary scene of hospital life, it was the tragic humor in the appearance and behavior of the person who’d brought the patient to the clinic. That small, fidgety man of fifty-five to sixty whose small face was not at all in harmony with his enormous, round belly ran around the doctor constantly repeating the same thing over and over.

“Doctor, my dear Doctor, they killed him! Such a man, in broad daylight, they beat him, destroyed him. It’s those yerazy, Doctor, yerazy. Five or six of those yerazy-boys who fled from Armenia! Those sons of bitches, those refugees simply don’t respect people, Doctor, my dear Doctor. They don’t recognize artists or poets or writers. Just call someone an Armenian—and that’s it! Then they slam him to the ground and trample him like wild animals. They tear him to pieces, and no one dares get involved. I told them: ‘Don’t beat him,’ I said, ‘That man’s not Armenian, he’s one of us, a son of our people, the pride and conscience of the nation.’ But who listens? They didn’t even let me tell them my name. They kicked me so hard in the side that I almost died there, too. Right here, Doctor, in the right side. It still hurts badly now.”

The doctor didn’t really understand what the man who’d brought the patient was saying. Maybe he didn’t want to understand. Maybe he wasn’t even listening to what that fussy, funny man who’d knotted a yellow tie over a brown checked shirt was babbling without pause. However, an observant person might have noticed that the doctor from time to time smiled into his moustache. And not because every word, every gesture of the man who’d brought the patient rose to comedy. But, rather, because the light-haired man lying on the gurney was slender and remarkably tall. And it’s possible that the contrast in appearance between these two reminded the doctor of the very saddest pages of the story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

When they reached the doors of the operating room, one of the men wearing a white lab coat blocked the path of the funny man in the yellow tie.

“Let him in,” said the doctor. “It seems he has something to say. Let him have his say.”

Although the operating room was considerably smaller than the corridor, all the same it turned out to be a spacious room with a high ceiling and gigantic windows. The operating table standing directly in the center resembled the linen-covered gurney on which they conveyed the patient. The two men in white lab coats delivering the gurney that bore the patient lifted him, laid him on the table, glanced at the doctor for permission, and silently left the operating room.

“Peroxide!” said the surgeon loudly to the nurses, rolling up the sleeves of his lab coat. “Bring it here, wipe off his face.” Looking at the patient covered in blood, he muttered an oath, and turning to the man’s companion, he asked, “Who did this to him?”

“I already told you, Doctor: yerazy. Those bastard refugees arriving from Armenia. It wasn’t enough to smash his face. They also knocked him to the ground like wild animals and began beating him in the stomach. It’s a good thing, Doctor, that I arrived in time. I went out this morning to get some air in the city. I’m coming down from that cursed place they call the Parapet when I see five or six mustachioed scoundrels beating up a man at the edge of the fountain. And people just standing by and watching in silence . . .” Then he suddenly hesitated. His lips continued to move, but the words, it seems, died in his throat.

“There’s no more peroxide, Doctor,” said one of the nurses in an apologetic voice, as quietly as possible. (One of them was elderly, the other quite young.)

“There should be some alcohol,” said the surgeon without hope.

“No, Doctor. Everything we had was used up yesterday.”

“Fine, clean him with water. Don’t use too much manganese.” The doctor washed his hands with soap at the sink standing in the corner of the room and then went up and stood in front of the operating table. “Take everything off of him. Leave only his underwear.”

The patient—his face, nose, chin, the collar of his orange wool shirt, the lapels of his bluish jacket covered in scarlet blood—was lying so calmly on the operating table that it was as if his most evil enemy rather than he himself had been beaten up in the aforementioned Parapet Square. He was sleeping deeply, although frequent, harsh moans escaped from his chest. Not only did he sleep but, apparently, also dreamed, and it seemed that his dreams gave him great satisfaction.

While the women washed the dried blood off the patient’s face, the doctor checked his pulse. When the nurses had stripped the patient, he began to examine him attentively, as if compiling a report for himself or dictating to someone.

“Put two stitches in his lower lip. No fractures noted in the area of the jaw. Two dislocations in the left hand at the elbow and wrist. Two fingers dislocated on the right hand: the thumb and middle finger. Severe muscle trauma in the left leg. A fractured kneecap in the right leg. No serious anomalies noted in the back, rib cage, or spine. No skull fractures observed.” The doctor fell silent and again cursed angrily. “A concussion!” He said this loudly for some reason and in Russian, then pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his trousers, slowly wiped the sweat from his brow, and added in Russian, “A brutal beating!”

After every word the doctor said, the face of the man who’d brought the patient reflected all his feelings, all his pain and suffering. With difficulty, he held himself together, so as not to burst out sobbing. When the doctor had finished his exam, the man’s self-possession was also at an end. He wept violently, like an aggrieved child.

The eyes of one of the women in the white lab coats standing beside the operating table (the younger one) filled with tears. The elderly nurse was also upset and shook her head woefully. And the doctor was very sorry for the man. He began to calm him.

“There, there, this isn’t good . . . It’s nothing terrible. In fifteen days your friend will be like new, I’ll make a beauty out of him.” Lowering his head, he thought a bit and then again lifted his head and asked cautiously, “So, you say this man is Armenian?”

The eyes of our comic hero bulged in surprise.

“Really, you don’t know him?! You don’t know Sadai Sadygly? The pride of Azerbaijani theater! Our number one artist! You really don’t know this great master, Doctor? You haven’t even seen him on television? You’ve even seen me on television more than once, Doctor. Maybe you just don’t remember—Nuvarish Karabakhly, a well-known actor of comic roles. Maybe you don’t know me. I’m not offended by that. But there’s no one who doesn’t know Sadai Sadygly. You see, no one else in the world has played Hamlet, Othello, Aidyn, and Kefli Iskender like he has.”

Link to the rest at Words Without Borders

You want accuracy, but not representation

You want accuracy, but not representation. If you know how to make the figuration, it doesn’t work. Anything you can make, you make by accident. In painting, you have to know what you do, not how, when you do it.

. . . .

I want a very ordered image, but I want it to come about by chance.

Francis Bacon

All painting… is an accident

In my case all painting… is an accident. I foresee it and yet I hardly ever carry it out as I foresee it. It transforms itself by the actual paint. I don’t in fact know very often what the paint will do, and it does many things which are very much better than I could make it do.

Francis Bacon

‘Francis Bacon’ Review: Furious Beauty

From The Wall Street Journal:

In the spring of 1949, the press baron Viscount Rothermere gave a ball that defied Britain’s postwar decline. The men wore white tie, the women their family jewels. The Queen Mother was there, and so was the royal of the moment, Princess Margaret. Late that night, the princess, giddy with Champagne, took the mic from Noël Coward and delivered her party trick. Her Royal Highness began to sing, off-key and out of time. The revelers loyally cheered and called for more.

Margaret was just beginning to mutilate “Let’s Do It” when a “prolonged and thunderous booing” emerged from the crowd. The band stopped, and the princess reddened and rushed from the room. “Who did that?” Lady Caroline Blackwood asked the man at her side. “It was that dreadful man, Francis Bacon,” he fumed. “He calls himself a painter but he does the most frightful paintings.”

More than a decade before the end of the “Lady Chatterley” ban and The Beatles’s first LP, the iconoclasm of Francis Bacon announced a new era in British life. By his death in Madrid in 1992, Bacon was a social and artistic icon, his battered face the image of painterly tradition. Openly gay, he was the king of Soho, a nocturnal drinker and cruiser, his motto “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.” By day, alone in his studio, he was the exposer of torn flesh and gaping mouths, of the secret shames and spiritual collapse that, in the postwar decades when French thinkers ruled in concert with French painters, made him the only truly English existentialist.

With “Revelations,” Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan enter a biographical field as crowded as the Colony Room on a Friday night. Almost all the revelations are already revealed: the Baconian literature includes testimonies from Bacon’s critical patron David Sylvester; his fellow artist and slummer Lucian Freud; his drinking friend Dan Farson; and his assistant Michael Peppiatt. Mr. Stevens and Ms. Swan might, like Bacon’s friends, share a tendency to confuse the man with the art—like Oscar Wilde, Bacon was his own best work—but they bring a sober eye and an organizing mind to Bacon’s “gilded gutter life.” As in their acclaimed “de Kooning,” the authors frame their subject and his work as a portrait of the age.

. . . .

Erratically educated, Bacon “wasn’t the slightest bit interested in art” until 1930.

. . . .

Almost entirely “self-taught and untouched,” Bacon turned to painting. A critic mocked his first publicly exhibited portrait as “a tiny piece of red mouse-cheese on the end of a stick for head,” and he was judged “insufficiently surreal” to be included in London’s International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936. He and Nanny Lightfoot survived by holding illegal roulette parties.

. . . .

The war made Bacon. The revelatory evils of Nazism, the bombing and the newsreels of the death camps all forced the public to acknowledge the horror and the moral vacuum from which it had emerged. The critics, too, realized that Bacon had “found the animal in the man and the man in the animal.” A magpie for quotations and influence, Bacon liked to quote Aeschylus: “The reek of human blood smiles out at me.”

From then on, Bacon was famous and rich, unless he had lost at the tables. The authors excel at illustrating his formation—Bacon destroyed almost all his early work—his manipulation of his image and value, and his helpless gambling in the power games of love. He believed in beauty and tragedy, and he got and gave both.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG includes a portion of one of three panes in a triptych for those unfamiliar with Bacon’s work. PG expects that the virtues of Bacon’s artistic sensibility may be a learned taste for some.

Excerpt from “Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground),” a painting by Francis Bacon

How to Recognize If You’re Being ‘Lovebombed’ by a Narcissist

PG realizes that he probably forgot about Valentine Day, so he’s trying to make amends.

From Lifehacker:

Gary Chapman’s 1992 book The Five Love Languages described the various ways that people display affection in romantic relationships. It became something of a cultural touchstone, putting in relatable terms how people use physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and giving gifts to demonstrate admiration. But when do displays of love slide from a genuine gesture into something born of narcissism and emotional control?

It can feel like a nebulous line, but if you’ve ever been in a relationship where a partner would shower you with love in excess, perhaps with a deluge of gifts, praise, and affection only to later use it as an emotional cudgel, you may have been the victim of “lovebombing.”

Being lovebombed is a newer concept, so let’s unpack what it means to be with someone who subjects you to it, and how you might cope if lovebombing happens to be part of your relationship.

. . . .

Lovebombing is inundating someone with waves of affection, compliments, gifts, and the like in an effort to sweep them off their feet, usually in the early stages of a relationship. The darker side comes when the person doing the love bombing uses their effusiveness to hold control over their partner, possibly manipulating them into feeling bad or thinking that they’ve somehow failed to reciprocate the affection.

InStyle points to the recent lawsuit filed by the singer FKA Twigs against the actor Shia LaBeouf, whom she accuses of physical abuse, assault, and emotional distress. In the beginning of their relationship, LaBeouf allegedly sent Twigs (real name Tahliah Barnett) up to twenty bunches of roses a day in addition to hopping the fence of her London home to give her various love notes. The relationship turned dark when LaBeouf allegedly subjected the singer to various forms of abuse, she claims, such as threatening to crash their car unless she told him that she loved him, and physically assaulting her in a public gas station.

The polar extremes of such described behavior is classic lovebombing. Basically, it’s about reeling in another person in an effort to control them emotionally, and it’s usually a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. As Ami Kaplan, a psychotherapist, told Cosmopolitan in 2019:

It’s about really getting the other person. Then when they feel like they really got the person and they feel secure in the relationship, the narcissist typically switches and becomes very difficult, abusive, or manipulative.

Ultimately, lovebombing is a tool for manipulation, and a way for a narcissist to project the image of a perfect partner. As the psychologist Suzanne Degges-White wrote in Psychology Today in 2018:

Narcissists in particular are known for their skills at manipulation, as much as their penchant for self-love. They may use flattery and attention as tools to build themselves up as the perfect partner, the better to gain your trust, affection — and, ultimately, adoration.

Link to the rest at Lifehacker

PG notes that he has been very happily married to Mrs. PG for some time and is definitely not aware of current romantic trends and pitfalls, so he is not in a position to know if lovebombing is a threat or a menace.

He’s on firmer ground with New York publishers, none of which have ever attempted to love-bomb PG.

Scholastic and PRH Remain Untouchable as Top Children’s Publishers

From Publishers Weekly:

Scholastic’s trade group has been on a hot streak for over a year, and that performance is reflected in the publisher’s dominance of PW’s children’s fiction bestseller list in 2020. The company had 53 books that made the frontlist fiction chart last year, up from 43 in 2019. Those titles also averaged longer stays on the chart, occupying 574 bestseller list positions. There are 25 titles on each of PW’s weekly children’s lists, for a total of 1,300 positions on each list over the course of a year—meaning that Scholastic had 44.1% of the frontlist fiction bestseller positions, up from 28.8% a year ago.

Scholastic author Dav Pilkey’s Fetch-22 (Dog Man #8) was on our frontlist fiction chart every week in 2020, and Scholastic published six of the top 10 titles with the longest runs on last year’s bestseller list. Another title in Pilkey’s Dog Man series, For Whom the Ball Rolls, spent 34 weeks on the list.

Pilkey is a mainstay of PW’s annual review of the children’s fiction bestseller lists, but Scott Cawthon, while a bestselling author, has not always finished high in our year-end tallies. In 2020, though, he had two books in his Five Nights at Freddy’s series with long frontlist fiction chart runs: The Silver Eyes was on the list for 44 weeks, and Into the Pit had a 33-week run. Other Scholastic top sellers were the 10th volume in Aaron Blabey’s Bad Guys series, The Bad Guys in the Baddest Day Ever, which had a 35-week stay, as did J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, illustrated by Jim Kay.

Scholastic’s tremendous 2020 showing on the children’s frontlist fiction chart meant down years for most other publishers. Simon & Schuster took the biggest hit in 2020, falling from second place on the ranking in 2019 to fifth place. In 2019, S&S’s bestseller performance benefitted from the release of the movie Five Feet Apart; the original Five Feet Apart novel by Rachael Lippincott was on our list for 35 weeks, and the tie-in edition had a 28-week run.

HarperCollins slipped into second place on the children’s frontlist fiction bestsellers by corporation ranking, with a 10.5% share of chart positions. HC had two titles with long frontlist fiction bestseller runs last year: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate hit the list for 33 weeks, and FGTeeV Presents: Into the Game!, published by HarperAlley, stayed on the list for 32 weeks.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Because They Are Hard

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last night, I spent an hour trying to find a word. Not because I’m having cognitive issues or because I’m being exceptionally picky. I was doing my Spanish homework. The professor gave us a definition for a word in the story we had read, and wanted us to find the word to go with the definition.

I understood the definition. I thought I understood every word in that story. Could I find the word she wanted? Hell, no. As you can tell, I’m still a bit frustrated by this.

And midway through that frustrating and ultimately futile search, I heard myself think, I’m 60 years old. Why am I putting myself through this?

That thought came up a lot yesterday. I’ve revamped my system so that I’m pushing myself in a couple of areas. I have set deadlines that I could have easily met once before in my life, but haven’t strived to do in years, partly because I had been so ill for so long. (See the recent post titled “Deadlines.”) I had gotten into the habit of thinking I can’t or I can only instead of why not try?

2021 has become the year for me to try. I’m working on revamping my thinking in a variety of areas, from what I’m capable of to what I want to do. It’s a whole different way of approaching life, one I haven’t had the ability to do for nearly thirty years.

. . . .

I sure understand now why so many adults want to coast. I could do so. I could let my professor give me a pass on a number of things, from my dyslexia to my lack of time. But I’m the one who chose to take the class as a student, not audit it, and I’m the anal doofus who still wants to get good grades, even though I know (at some point in some class) a good grade won’t be possible.

Hence the striving. The hour spent on a single word when I could have been doing something—anything—else.

. . . .

A friend of mine went back to school for his M.F.A a few years back (required to do so for a job he needed to get) and he cut every single corner he could. He got dual credit for the work he was doing as work and also for class. I suppose I could do that, in a variety of areas, if I wanted to.

I don’t want to. We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I realized that’s kind of my mantra for life itself. I get very frustrated when a writing student of mine or a writer friend of mine complains that writing is “hard.” I get even more frustrated when they get angry and want to quit after a rejection.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Lesya Ukrainka’s Revisionist Mythmaking

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:


February 25, 2021, marks the 150th birthday of the modernist poet at the top of the Ukrainian literary canon, Lesya Ukrainka (Larysa Kosach, 1871–1913). Having chosen, at the age of 13, the pen name “Ukrainian woman,” she went on to reinvent what it meant both to be a Ukrainian and a woman.

. . . .

“I am quite well aware that this is impudence,” she admitted with a sense of delicious irony in a letter to a friend, interlarding her mock-confessional Ukrainian with German words and quotes from Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, “yet ’tis ‘has been pronounced on high’ that I must mit Todesverachtung throw myself into the maze of global themes […], which my countrymen, except two or three brave souls, dare not enter.”

As a modernist, she broke with literary tradition in two significant ways. First of all, she rejected a provincializing paradigm imposed upon Ukrainian culture by the Russian Empire. During her time, the only acceptable image of the colonized people was that of ignorant peasants, and stir Ukrainka’s fancy it did not. A polyglot in command of nine European languages, she populated her poetic dramas with archetypal characters from classical mythology, Scripture, medieval legends, and Romantic poetry. Twining Ukrainian anticolonial subtext and European cultural context, Ukrainka also undermined the masculinist underpinnings of some familiar plots. A turn-of-the-century writer in a ruffled-collar blouse, she revised the key myths of Western culture from a woman’s point of view, venturing into literary territory later to be explored by second-wave feminists.

. . . .

Ukrainka’s poetic drama Stone Host (1912) became the first story of Don Juan in European letters written by a woman. Tirso de Molina, Molière, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Lord Byron, and Alexander Pushkin were among her predecessors. Ukrainka’s version transforms the fabled libertine, the great Romantic sinner and seducer into his supposed conquest’s plaything. Donna Anna is the unmistakable New Woman of the fin de siècle, albeit dressed in Spanish courtly garb. Confused by her rationality, Ukrainka’s Don Juan cries out, “You are indeed stone, without soul or heart,” only to hear in response, “Though not without good sense, you must admit.” Don Juan agrees to sacrifice his freedom and become Donna Anna’s sword in the fight for the throne. Donna Anna’s manipulative power compensates for her overall powerlessness within a male-dominated society, which can silence her no longer. Ukrainka’s heroines seize the right to tell their stories.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

PG doesn’t wish to rain on the triumphant parade of Ukrainica’s heroines, but must point out that Joseph Stalin did a pretty thorough job of crushing millions of Ukrainian women and men during the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine (The Holodomor, “to kill by starvation” or Terror-Famine).

Powerlessness is not always gender-related.

Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933. In Famine in the Soviet Ukraine, 1932–1933: a memorial exhibition, Widener Library, Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard College Library: Distributed by Harvard University Press, 1986. Procyk, Oksana. Heretz, Leonid. Mace, James E. (James Earnest). ISBN: 0674294262. Page 35. Initially published in Muss Russland Hungern? [Must Russia Starve?], published by Wilhelm Braumüller, Wien [Vienna] 1935.

Tardiness in Approving New Comments

PG apologizes for not tending the store as usual. The post that immediately precedes this one (chronologically) is his only excuse.

PG especially apologizes to those who posted their first comments during the past couple of days. PG has TPV set to require that the first comment from a visitor be held for moderation to help cut down on comment spam.

Once PG has approved the first comment, subsequent comments should appear nearly immediately (you may have to hit the reload button on your browser) provided that you are not bitten by a werewolf and converted into a comment spammer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny Teaming up on New Political Mystery Novel

From BookRiot:

If you love political mysteries, you’re in for a treat this October when a novel hits shelves written from an interesting new perspective: that of former Secretary of State and presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton is teaming up with award-winning Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny to co-write State of Terror, which tells the story of a newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State who must solve a series of terrorist attacks. The book will hit shelves on October 12, and is being jointly published by Clinton and Penny’s publishers, Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press respectively.

State of Terror takes place just after a four-year presidential term that pulled America away from the world stage. A novice Secretary of State is appointed by her political rival, and shortly after, the country is rocked by multiple terrorist attacks. The Secretary must put together a team capable of finding the source of the attacks while also preventing the American government from crumbling.

Clinton’s political experience influences several aspects of the new novel. After losing to former President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, Clinton was appointed by Obama to serve as Secretary of State for four years. The novel is also influenced by the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy tactics.

. . . .

Penny shared that she “couldn’t say yes fast enough” to writing a book with Clinton. “Before we started, we talked about her time as Secretary of State. What was her worst nightmare? ‘State of Terror’ is the answer.”

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG felt an impulse to be snide, but perhaps recent intensive grandchild therapy has mellowed him out.

For the time being.

Curators of our culture are hard at work, even under present circumstances. Where would our culture be without them?

Offspring

The reason that posting has been a bit irregular in recent days is that, after their Covid vaccines kicked in, PG and Mrs. PG entered one of the vehicles that has spent most of its time in the garage of Casa PG and turned on the cruise control.

After a period of time, they arrived at the home of one of their offspring who, in turn, has several offspring of her home.

PG will attest that grandchild therapy is an excellent treatment for a condition PG’s father used to call, “Barn Sour.” When an animal, generally a cow/bull/steer or a horse, is kept in a pen in the barn for too long, that animal will become listless and fail to thrive.

The treatment for barn sourness is to let the animal out of the barn into a corral or other space where it has the opportunity to move and interact with a variety of other animals. Even an older large animal will sometimes kick its back legs in the air and trot around a bit before settling down to the serious business of sniffing as many other animals which will hold still for that greeting/examination.

Like an old barn sour bull, PG has rejoiced in being freed from his Covid barn to kick his back feet in the air. He has not noticeably spent a lot of time sniffing his grandchildren (grandsons who have been permitted to roam about generate a sort of sweaty boy smell, particularly if they have been able to somehow avoid a bath the night before), but he has enjoyed interacting with grandchildren of both genders.

The image at the top of this post is a photo of a group of guard animals arrayed across the entrance to PG’s and Mrs. PG’s bedroom. PG was unable to ascertain exactly what threats they’re guarding us from, but since only pleasant experience have occurred since their first appearance, PG expects that is an indication of their efficacy.

Venice’s Mauri School 2021: ‘The State of the Book’

From Publishing Perspectives:

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the 38th Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri program, a “School of Booksellers,” was held at the end of last month in a digital format rather than in its customary venue at Venice’s Fondazione Giorgio Cini in the former San Giorgio Monastery.

Titled “The State of the Book in Europe,” the event on January 29 drew as many as 1,200 attendees from many parts of the world, an unusual chance for many to get a look at this normally much more exclusive symposium.

. . . .

Host Nana Lohrengel, secretary-general of the Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Foundation, opened the day and handed off to the foundation’s chief, Achille Mauri. He described what’s normally the boat ride to “the most beautiful island in the world–Palladio and Brunelleschi’s San Giorgio Maggiore—with “a breakfast of warm pastries” and “a drink of Grignolino,” the red varietal of the Piedmont, “by the labyrinth early in the morning.”

One of the most gracious comments of the entire day came in this brief welcome from Achille Mauri when he explained the special value of the symposium’s traditional, opulent setting. “Luxury,” he said, “is so therapeutic. Zoom can’t compete with that experience.”

. . . .

As the early lockdowns hit, bookseller Linzalone says “We succeeded by drawing not only on our internal resources but also by using the Libri da Asporto service [a book delivery company] in the beginning. That allowed us to keep selling at a level we never expected,” even while applying for supplemental small-business support.

“We realized it was possible and we kept selling, not just in the store but also by visiting the customers at home.”

He adds with a smile, “I wouldn’t call it clandestine selling, but we were literally selling books in the street.”

. . . .

And while the top-line news there was that the Italian book industry saw sales grow by some 2.4 percent last year, Prometeia’s Tantazzi does warn in his new presentation that “It’s virtually impossible to say how 2021 is going to pan out.”

Levi, speaking for AIE, makes the interesting point in his comments that in 2020, while fiction accounted for a third of the market, foreign fiction fared slightly better than Italian fiction. And yet, as has been reflected in many world markets, “The biggest increase during the pandemic year was seen in specialist nonfiction—law, management, literary criticism.”

What may be contrary to many other markets’ experience is the fall tracked in Italy’s children’s book sales in 2020. But Levi notes that this decline had been underway for several years prior to the pandemic.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG loved the quintessentially Italian observation that “Luxury is so therapeutic.”

He’s not certain exactly when he and Mrs. PG will be able to corral the funds and energy for a long flight to Italy, but Venice and Florence are certainly powerful incentives to do so.

The Future Will Be Monthly: Subscription Models for Authors

From Indies Unlimited:

Netflix. Lootcrate. Amazon Prime. Everyone has at least heard of most of these, and you probably subscribe to one or two of them. From TV to men’s razors, the subscription model is catching on with consumers.

According to Deloitte, 69% of households now subscribe to one or more video streaming subscription services. A survey conducted by Global Banking and Finance Review reported that 70% of business leaders say subscription business models will be key to their prospects in the years ahead.

How can publishing get in on this thriving new trend? Let me count the ways.

Publishers have a big hurdle to jumping into a subscription model: no reader buys every book they publish. But authors don’t have that problem. They can cultivate readers who will read everything they put out, and it is these authors who can benefit greatly from implementing a subscription model of their own.

How do we know this? Because they are already doing it.

Services like Patreon allow authors and artists to cultivate patrons either on a monthly basis, to per creation, while services such as Shopify and Payhip let you sell digital downloads and memberships. Another site, Gumroad, gets you set up to sell everything from ebooks to physical products and create a membership site. Want to keep things simple? Add a subscription payment button to your website with PayPal.

Paypal is what author Dean Wesley Smith uses to process subscriptions to his very own magazine, Smith’s Monthly. Each month, Smith publishes a print and electronic magazine containing several short stories a full novel, and serialized fiction (and he sells the individual issues on Amazon and other sites as well).

. . . .

Indie author and small press publisher John G. Hartness uses Gumroad and Patreon as a subscription service for $5 monthly short stories. Hartness also sells ebooks and audio downloads via Gumroad, and these are often cheaper than Amazon and the other ebook sites because Gumroad takes a smaller cut, so it’s a win-win for both the author and his readers.

You’ll need to have at least some of your books wide on Amazon, and you likely won’t get the traffic that the world’s largest search engine for books does, but over time it can be a nice chunk of change. It works for print books as well. For $25 a month, my patrons on Patreon get signed print copies of my books, with free U.S. shipping, as well as free stories and snippets. And it’s another fun way to interact with your readers.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG is old enough to remember various book-of-the-month clubs, so subscriptions are definitely not a new thing in the book world.

That said, indie authors come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. PG knows some that are organizing book projects in which several authors contribute a short story to a collected stories ebook and it is widely-believed that a regular email newsletter from an author to readers who opt-in to receive it is a good way of keeping readers engaged between book releases.

For other authors, writing books is what gets them up and in front of the computer each morning. As much as they appreciate those who buy their books, writing a chatty newsletter instead of the latest chapter in their noir novel is a burden.

Others have day jobs, some in offices, others on assembly lines and others who are shuffling children hither and yon to school, sports, music lessons, doctors, and dentists. These authors may need to spend their writing time focused hard on their first or next book.

A subscription model is fine if you have the inclination, time and energy to pursue it, but, in PG’s HO, getting good books out the door for readers to buy is Job #1.

Waiting for the Plane Tickets: Rights Pros on Digital Events

From Publishing Perspectives:

Almost every time you look into your inbox, another invitation has arrived to a publishing industry event online, right? And as you may have noticed, the specialized rights sessions appear to be gaining on many of the other types of programs vying for your attention.

As the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic wears on, more and more niche rights events are being produced, and they’re drawing increasing levels of participation among agents, scouts, editors, and even rights-savvy authors.

Today, for example, Finland’s Oulu Writers Association has opened its two-day event for rights professionals, focused on northern Finnish writers and their works. We were alerted to this one by Urtė Liepuoniūtė at the Helsinki Literary Agency the program, Black Hole: Books Meet Rights, offers one-on-one business meetings Saturday (February 20).

What we’ll do today is hear from some industry players about how these programs work for them—and how they compare to the physical book fair, rights center, and trade show experiences made impossible for a year now by the pandemic. And we’ll look at several other events coming up this spring.

LeeAnn Bortolussi at Giunti Editore

Giunti Editore international rights manager LeeAnn Bortolussi in Milan says that in her experience, smaller events online seem to be working better than the larger ones.

“They’re more personal,” she tells us, “and I’ve actually met new people this way.”

These digital events, Bortolussi says, “can never replace physical events, but I’m thinking that in the future if one is busy and a long trip to a far-away event is not possible, then a virtual trip can be an excellent way to participate.”

When asked what the key difference is for her between a physical in-person event and a digital one, she says, “We’re all saying that online is not good for meeting new people and making new contacts and that the serendipity of a physical fair can be lost; on the other hand, we’ve had some great, long and in-depth meetings via video chat that would not have been possible during a chaotic fair.”

And her verdict? Bortolussi sees a place for both kinds of events once the physical fairs are re-engaged. “We’ll find a perfect balance and blend of both methods as they both have positive qualities.”

Michele Young at Macmillan Children’s Books

In London, Pan Macmillan Children’s Books rights director Michele Young tells us that her team “responded quickly to the changing circumstances brought on by the coronavirus.” Her comments are quite indicative of what we hear from many, and Young parses the pros and cons succinctly.

“We immediately embarked on the virtual Bologna book fair in March 2020,” she says, “followed in the year by virtual sales trips to assorted markets undertaken by different members of the team, and then the virtual Frankfurt 2020—by which time our meetings had more than doubled compared to the virtual Bologna across every time zone. We’re now preparing for a virtual Bologna 2021, and virtual fairs have now become business as usual for us.

“We’ve worked closely with the publishers to develop new-style digital sales materials, including video content to showcase our preschool and novelty offering.

“We’ve also expanded into celebratory online events with our international partners,” Young says, “We marked our bestselling picture book The Gruffalo reaching 105 translations.

“We were joined by 115 guests who participated enthusiastically in online chat. Some of these guests would most likely not have been able to join in on a physical celebration, so this virtual moment gave us the opportunity to reach more customers and to stay in touch.

“Our online meetings are less hectic than the 30-minute-or-less rushed meetings at a physical book fair,” she points out, “and we can have more in-depth conversations. But physical fairs allow for chance meetings in exhibition halls or at social events after the fair with new or old customers—or an opportune sighting of a book on a stand which a customer falls in love with.

“Digital fairs can never replicate this,” Young says. “While we’ve adapted and embraced this new virtual way of working, we know that our business thrives on our close relationships and that there will always be a place for face-to-face contact.

“And we look forward to that returning.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG notes that human beings as a group are very adaptable. He also notes that methods of doing business that were efficient fifty years ago may not be terribly efficient by today’s standards.

In past lives, PG enjoyed getting on a plane at someone else’s expense and flying to an entertaining location where he ate and drank and slept at someone else’s expense. The experience was very nice and he typically had a good time, particularly if the destination had collected a lot of lawyers in one place. (Having attended quite a few gatherings peopled by individuals in various occupational/professional groups, PG will assure one and all that lawyers have the most fun and are the most fun.)

That said, from the standpoint of operating a well-run business enterprise (which automatically eliminates all traditional publishers), if you can get a job done with a series of phone calls or video conferences while sitting somewhere that is a reasonable commuting distance from your home, more of the money generated from your efforts will fall to the bottom line, either yours or your employers’.

If it’s your bottom line, you can use some of the money to travel to a location entirely of your choosing at the time of your choosing with the person/people of your choosing and spend your time there doing or not doing whatever you like.

PG recommends Florence or Venice, but not everyone will agree with him, which is one of the delights of being a member of humanity.

Can Brotherly Love Produce a Book?

From Publishers Weekly:

I began pondering how to describe what it’s like writing with my brother with the metaphor of a river flowing into a sea in mind. It provokes the notion of something vast and abstract, like cognition, that is then contextualized as a specific memory. I next found myself staring at my morning coffee, wondering just how grandiose our ideas tend to be. A French press stood not far behind with more “liquid gold.” The aha moment during my routine will be found herein. This sort of pivoting is a hallmark of our creative endeavors.

Anyone with a sibling can imagine how uncompromising writing with one could become. And yet one could also likely imagine how rich the experience could be because of an inextricable common bond. Ehsan and I are not “classically” trained writers, and that was a major challenge for us as first-time authors. Writing in the service of story can take on a life of its own. Going into writing the Wild Sun series with procedural naiveties—unencumbered by knowledge about the “right” way to craft a story—was arguably the greatest benefit to our collaboration. We gave each other the confidence to create whatever was boiling to the surface. There were no expectations.

Well, that is not totally true. We expected to find our taste translated onto the page. That is something that we have found to be immensely satisfying. Taste is subjective—for the most part. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” At the same time, it becomes objective within context.

We overcame initial collaborative hurdles with a tremendous amount of preproduction planning… and bourbon… and edibles. The one thing I can say about Ehsan and me is that we are dreamers. Not necessarily fantastical or ideological—more so in regard to the depth of a singular idea. Imagine worldbuilding as breadth and narrative as depth. We relish being 15,000 feet up in the air. High, if you will. This is where the abstract and tectonic elements of a story often dwell. The “river flowing into a sea” stuff. Spending so much time in the clouds growing up together allowed us to envision how the coffee would (should) taste when back on the ground.

This process has also been a look into how meandering thoughts eventually find a way back home. And how I need to explain writing with Ehsan through a French press metaphor.

It begins with a trip to the café for coffee beans. They are whole and require a good deal of grinding before they reach their grittier final form. Emphasis on grinding. This would essentially be our preproduction stage. (Ehsan and I began cutting our teeth on writing with a screenplay concept we had been tinkering with. Wild Sun is actually a fully realized backstory to one of the characters from this movie idea.) I personally have a proclivity to visualize story, and fortunately, while Ehsan also does so, he is more into studying plot and structure. We would take our burgeoning formal understanding of writing and apply it to works we love, film or novels. It is how we began to formulate our concept of taste and what we could actually do with what was in our heads.

Once we take the grounds and add them to a French press, it requires boiling water as the vehicle for creating the coffee. Consider this element of heat as one of the more challenging parts of us writing in tandem. It is often grueling at first. We would both take shots at opening the novel, and once combined it would feel dense, slow. We were too mechanical in the initial goings, and pacing suffered. This caused a good deal of frustration for us, because our taste was completely unmoored from what was landing on the page.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

More Apologies

PG apologizes for another light blogging day today.

He realizes that he has had too many of those in recent days, but this one is unavoidable.

Nothing’s wrong, nobody’s sick, the World ‘O PG is looking good.

Back soon.

Story Resolutions: Mastering the Happy-Sad Ending

From Writers Helping Writers:

It was 10pm, and I was trying to sleep when my door flew open and my sister came in, wailing like a wounded puppy. “Why did you kill him?”

I cleared the sleep from my eyes. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Michael! You killed Michael!”

At that, I couldn’t help myself from laughing. Not a nice thing, I know.

Curiously, she went ahead to profess love for the story—particularly the ending that made her cry. Fascinating, right? My story was able to create such a strong emotional reaction because it avoided the safety of a happy ending and the depression of a sad ending. Instead, it opted for the more fulfilling happy-sad resolution.

Why Happy-Sad Endings?

Before we answer the question of why, let’s explore the story endings that we commonly see. To put it bluntly,

  • A sad ending is when the story ends on an overwhelmingly negative emotion 
  • A happy ending is when the story ends on an overwhelmingly positive emotion 

In both instances, it’s clear what the final emotional beat of the story is. However, the third type of ending introduces a new kind of experience. 

In a happy-sad ending, the story ends on two opposite emotional beats, making it harder to pick one over the other and leaving the audience in a happy-sad state. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a perfect example. I wept like a child and I loved every bit of it. 

One reason these endings work is because they seem closer to real life than happy or sad ones. Life rarely has happily ever afters. There’s always a price to pay, and many times, the sacrifice is unexpected. When a story is able to reflect this familiar experience, it gains an extra philosophical depth. 

Secondly, if one emotion creates a desired effect, two will multiply that effect. Story is about emotional manipulation, and what is a grander act of manipulation than getting the audience to feel more than one emotion?

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

How Getting Canceled on Social Media Can Derail a Book Deal

From The New York Times:

When Simon & Schuster dropped Senator Josh Hawley’s book a day after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, the news caused an explosion of attention, condemnation and praise.

Amid the cries of censorship and cancel culture, however, the way the publisher backed out of the deal got relatively little attention. Simon & Schuster invoked part of its contract typically referred to as a morals clause, which allows a publisher to drop a book if the author does something that is likely to seriously damage sales.

Widely detested by agents and authors, these clauses have become commonplace in mainstream publishing over the last few years. The clauses are rarely used to sever a relationship, but at a time when an online posting can wreak havoc on a writer’s reputation, most major publishing houses have come to insist upon them.

“They’re just something you have to deal with now,” said Gail Ross, a media lawyer and the president of the Ross Yoon Agency, whose clients include Senator Sherrod Brown, former Attorney General Eric Holder and the CNN contributor Van Jones, among dozens of other political figures and journalists. “Because you’re not going to be able to sign a contract without them in some form.”

. . . .

Morals clauses do not require authors to be upstanding citizens. Used in contracts across many industries, such clauses are designed to protect companies’ financial interests if somebody they’ve invested in — be it a chief executive or a football star being paid to wear a logo — does something that harms their reputation. But since the point of these clauses is to protect a company from damaging behavior it doesn’t yet know about, morals clauses are, by their nature, vague.

. . . .

“They’re squishy,” Ms. Ross said. “An agent’s job or a lawyer’s job is to make them as objective as possible.”

The clauses vary from publisher to publisher, and even from one literary agency to the next — every agency strikes its own deal with each publishing house — but the general principle is that they take aim at conduct that would invite widespread public condemnation or significantly diminish sales among the book’s intended audience, and that the publisher didn’t previously know about when it signed the deal. If an author has a propensity for getting in fistfights, for example, the book cannot be dropped because he or she gets in another one.

. . . .

“It diametrically changes the premise between a publisher and an author, which traditionally always meant that the author’s words in the book were what was promised to the publisher, not the behavior beyond it,” said the literary agent Janis Donnaud. “The fact that the publisher can be judge, jury, executioner and, in fact, beneficiary of these clauses seems incredibly outlandish.”

. . . .

Regnery, the conservative publisher that signed Mr. Hawley after Simon & Schuster dropped his book, also has a morals clause — what Thomas Spence, its president and publisher, described as the “infamous 5F of our contract.” Regnery will not take it out.

“This is the one thing in our contract that I have virtually no discretion over,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s got to be in there.” The morals clause in Mr. Hawley’s new contract was not a contentious issue, Mr. Spence added.

. . . .

In the book world, executives say these clauses were a part of Christian publishing agreements before they became fixtures in mainstream deals. The televangelist Benny Hinn was dropped by his publisher, Strang Communications, for violating its “moral turpitude provision” in 2010, after he was caught in a relationship with another minister before his divorce was finalized.

. . . .

The clauses began proliferating more quickly after the #MeToo movement revealed allegations of misconduct against many public figures, including Mark Halperin, a journalist and author whose book contract was canceled by Penguin Random House in 2017 under its conduct clause.

Today, Penguin Random House requires conduct clauses in all its contracts — that way, according to the company, the publisher isn’t implying that it trusts author A but not author B.

. . . .

Agents generally consider Penguin Random House’s clause to be less onerous than others, in part because the company states that authors will not have to repay any money they’ve already received; the publisher just wants the right to walk away. Simon & Schuster, on the other hand, typically includes a clause that says it can demand its money back. (Penguin Random House said last year that it plans to buy Simon & Schuster.)

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG will observe that morals clauses are massively squishy sorts of things wherever they’re used.

As the OP suggested, some of them are effectively punitive damages clauses when they require an author to repay all the money she/he has received from the publisher, regardless of whether a publisher could prove to a judge or jury that it actually suffered any financial damages due to the author’s misbehavior. As a general proposition, courts tend to look askance at contract provisions that are unduly punitive, but that involves spending the money to get the matter before a judge.

In an era when Woke culture apparently has the power to turn business executives of all sorts into quivering and spineless pools of goo, a morals clause can be dangerous to a traditionally-published author’s financial and emotional health, both presently and in the future.

PG’s three potential responses for an author:

  1. Provide in the publishing agreement that, if the publisher invokes the morals clause to terminate the publishing agreement, neither the publisher nor any of its employees, agents or representatives will make any public announcement or other disclosure that states or implies that the publishing agreement was terminated due to the author’s alleged violation of the Morals Clause. “The parties have agreed to an amicable termination of their publishing agreement” or something boringly similar announcement of the termination of the publishing contract might be specified in the publishing agreement. The purpose is to make certain that the termination of the publishing contract doesn’t bring any attention to the author or publisher. This gives the publisher the protections it seeks via the Morals Clause without publicly tarring the author’s reputation.

2. Write under a pen name, then live in meatspace and politically under your real name. Demand a clause in your publishing contract that requires the publisher never to disclose your real name and include a substantial financial penalty if they do – 3X the amount of money they have already paid you plus any unpaid portion of your advance if the publisher or any past or present employee ever connects your pen name with your real name. Require that a model be used if the publisher wants an author photo and an agreement that any media interviews be conducted remotely without video. Make certain the publisher’s obligations and penalty for failing to maintain your anonymity continue for the full term of the publishing agreement, e.g., the full term of your copyright.

3. Require that the Morals Clause be reciprocal. Under the publishing agreement, the publisher together with its executives, employees and representatives, will be held the same standards of behavior that apply to the author pursuant to the Morals Clause. In the event of the publisher, etc., violates the morals clause, the author is entitled to exact similar penalties as the publisher can exact if the author violates the morals clause.

Bookstore Sales Fell 28.3% in 2020

From Publishers Weekly:

Bookstore sales rallied slightly in December from deep monthly slumps for most of 2020, but were still down 15.2% in the last month of the year compared to December 2019. For all of 2020, bookstore sales fell 28.3% from 2019, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

December bookstore sales were $879 million, down from $1.04 billion in December 2019. The 15.2% December drop was the smallest decline since February, when sales slipped 0.7% before the global pandemic struck. In March, sales fell 33.2% as retail lockdowns kicked in, then plunged 74.2% in April as stay at home orders fully took hold. May sales were slightly better, falling 60% from May 2019.

Bookstore sales declines generally eased as 2020 moved toward the end of the year. November sales were down 21.5%, following a 28.9% decline in October. For the full year, bookstore sales were $6.34 billion compared to $8.84 billion in 2019.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Yesterday’s Absence

PG apologizes for not demonstrating proof of life on TPV yesterday.

Casa PG had quite a bit of snow yesterday. And the day before yesterday. And the day before that.

Neighborhood skiers have all disappeared.

Along with their vehicles.

One mentioned skiing to PG prior to his disappearance.

PG is willing to admit that skiing actually happens. However, he also suspects that skiing may also be a ruse to avoid shoveling snow.

When giant or semi-giant snow is forecast, the rusor escapes to some snowless place until the snow in the neighborhood finally melts, then returns with a tan and brags about how great the slopes were to every rusee who stayed and shoveled. Thus the rusor is proclaimed as the master or mistress of snow, seeking and conquering the stuff at its deepest wherever it may lie while mere mortals just push bits of it off the sidewalk.

However, no one who resorts to this ruse king of the slopes strategy to avoid clearing their driveway is ever willing to make the sacrifice of reclining beside a pool in the warm sun, a glass of liquid with a little paper umbrella close at hand, wearing ski goggles. If they think of it at all in their langor, they probably believe that tan lines resulting from their sunglasses will fool people into thinking they were wearing goggles on the slopes.

This allows an astute observer like PG to know that no pristine white slope was sacrificed to relieve his neighbor from the Puritanical virtue of shoveling a lot of snow even when more snow will fall during the coming night, a task that Sisyphus would have recognized.

(Yes, PG knows that some people wear sunglasses while they ski, but kings and queens of the slopes always descend so rapidly through the deepest snow that sunglasses would be quickly dislodged. Besides, no one ever sees a a high-speed Winter Olympics ski champion not wearing goggles or sporting a goggles tan.)

On a serious note, PG notes that many in Texas and other southern states, have experienced widespread and prolonged power outages due to a period of extreme cold following an ice storm that has cut off electrical power for millions.

For visitors to TPV who live in warmer climes, an ice storm can be much more destructive and disruptive than even a snow storm.

Ice can bring down multiple electric power lines in rapid succession, triggering outages that can quickly spread across cities and regions. Ice can make driving impossible, even for large trucks responding to fires and trucks that bring much of what people need to live in metropolitan areas and smaller trucks that distribute it from central warehouses. Most US food stores rely upon daily delivery of food via trucks to replenish their shelves and have room for no more than 2-3 days supplies of non-perishable foods in attached storage spaces.

In southern states, many people don’t have cold-weather clothing because they don’t need it. Fireplaces are decorative. Wood stoves or coal stoves are virtually non-existent. Even layering up with ten golf shirts or 15 sun dresses won’t keep you warm.

Let me tell you this

Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.

Jodi Picoult

But love is always new

But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.

Paulo Coelho

How Roses Came to Mean True Love

From The Wall Street Journal:

“My luve is like a red red rose,/That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1794, creating an inexhaustible revenue stream for florists everywhere, especially around Valentine’s Day. But why a red rose, you might well ask.

Longevity is one reason. The rose is an ancient and well-traveled flower: A 55 million-year-old rose fossil found in Colorado suggests that roses were already blooming when our earliest primate ancestors began populating the earth. If you want to see where it all began, at least in the New World, then a trip to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, roughly two hours’ drive from Denver, should be on your list of things to do once the pandemic is over.

In Greek mythology the rose was associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love, who was said to have emerged from the sea in a shower of foam that transformed into white roses. Her son Cupid bribed Harpocrates, the god of silence, with a single rose in return for not revealing his mother’s love affairs, giving rise to the Latin phrase sub rosa, “under the rose,” as a term for secrecy. As for the red rose, it was said to be born of tragedy: Aphrodite became tangled in a rose bush when she ran to comfort her lover Adonis as he lay dying from a wild boar attack. Scratched and torn by its thorns, her feet bled onto the roses and turned them crimson.

For the ancient Romans, the rose’s symbolic connection to love and death made it useful for celebrations and funerals alike. A Roman banquet without a suffocating cascade of petals was no banquet at all, and roses were regularly woven into garlands or crushed for their perfume. The first time Mark Antony saw Cleopatra he had to wade through a carpet of rose petals to reach her, by which point he had completely lost his head.

Rose cultivation in Asia became increasingly sophisticated during the Middle Ages, but in Europe the early church looked askance at the flower, regarding it as yet another example of pagan decadence. Fortunately, the Frankish emperor Charlemagne, an avid horticulturalist, refused to be cowed by old pieties, and in 794 he decreed that all royal gardens should contain roses and lilies.

The imperial seal of approval hastened the rose’s acceptance into the ecclesiastical fold. The Virgin Mary was likened to a thornless white rose because she was free of original sin. In fact, a climbing rose planted in her honor in 815 by the monks of Germany’s Hildesheim Cathedral is the oldest surviving rose bush today. Red roses, by contrast, symbolized the Crucifixion and Christian martyrs like St. Valentine, a priest killed by the Romans in the 3rd century, whose feast day is celebrated on Feb. 14. In the 14th century, his emergence as the patron saint of romantic love tipped the scales in favor of the red over the white rose.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

The Garden

From The Paris Review:

Ma thought it was a good idea. That we work together in the garden. But it wasn’t a garden then, just a long rectangle of funky-smelling earth behind a two-story apartment house in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. An elderly couple named Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz owned the house and backyard. This was in the early seventies, and already the Jews were moving out. I was ten or twelve the summer we worked in the earth. The Schwartzes lived downstairs from us in that house, and on Fridays their apartment went semidark because of the Sabbath. What a beautiful word for something I didn’t know anything about. Then, one day, I saw the tattooed numbers on Mrs. Schwartz’s arm and in a flash everything I’d learned in school flooded my mind and heart: all those bodies laid to waste, gold teeth extracted and made into something else, the gas chambers and the musicians who played as the walking dead stood naked, hoping for water, hoping to be cleaned.

And there was more. There is always more pain and beauty. Recently, a friend told me about the gardens Jews kept for Nazi families who wanted something beautiful to look at while they smelled death at work, had schnapps and what all outside, the condemned Jews not lifting their heads as they worked the earth and tended flowers, such beautiful living organisms thriving on a plantation where murder was grown and harvested. And I think of Mrs. Schwartz now as I think about the earth behind our house—her house—and the numbers blooming on her arm like flowers. I never got to ask her how old she was when she was marked like that, and did she remember or see barbed wire fencing the condemned in like the wiring around flower beds and vegetable beds our innocent neighbors used to keep predators out? Nor did I get to say to her, even as those numbers on her arm blossom and die in my memory, What is it about flowers that no matter where they’re grown—in death camps or by the sea, in private homes or on the border of war zones—why is it they keep on flowering while insisting on their right to inspire feelings in us that we can barely know, or articulate in all our truth and terribleness?

When I think about the Schwartzes, I think about their building, our home, and I think about the steep staircase leading up from the street to our apartment, and the long shape of our apartment itself, and the fact that we lived next door to a gas station where fumes bloomed. This is the only apartment I have vivid memories of—we moved a fair amount when I was a kid—and part of what I remember about it is the garden or, more accurately, how the garden came to be.

It wasn’t anything but overly fertilized rust-colored dirt when Ma said she thought something could grow there. She was always trying to make a family, and to make that family grow. But there was so much bad earth. Our father didn’t live with us; for most of the time I knew him, he lived with his mother, in Crown Heights, a bus ride away. It had always been this way. My parents visited, and on weekends out my father took me and my little brother on long walks around the city. We saw the beautiful consumerist goods on Madison Avenue, and, in the Village, heard women catcalling to passersby from the Women’s House of Detention. Rainy days in Chinatown, and some snowy days at the Guggenheim Museum, or looking at the precipitation falling on the stone lions at the New York Public Library. And then there was my father’s hand, or, more accurately, certainly from an emotional point of view, my hand in his tougher rougher bigger hand and it was the best foreign feeling in the world: I knew his hand but not him, and even now that feels like defeat, my remembering the pleasure of my hand in his, and all that I wanted from him that wasn’t forthcoming. My dreams of him were always tied up with things ending—at the end of our Saturdays together, he took a gypsy cab home—and so with a kind of death. On some level I must have wanted him to stay even though I couldn’t stand him, or stand him leaving. In any case, I can’t believe these memories continue to make me vulnerable to him, the way flowers are to our human hands—cut them or leave them alone? Water them or let nature take care of them? The flowers are vulnerable to us!—and remind me that all I want to do is find my father again, but in a better person, a he who will protect me from the original father who maybe taught us how to cultivate flowers, but certainly not how to find soul-nourishing love when it’s needed, which is always.

I don’t remember when my mother suggested growing flowers. But for sure her impulse was in part inspired by her desire to keep looking for activities that prompted and encouraged our father to be a father to his sons. That was part of what mediocre therapists might call their dynamic—her hope and his pulling back, her cajoling him and telling him what he must do, and him doing it sometimes, but always grudgingly. Daddy was Ma’s only real baby, or the only one who was allowed to be a baby. I remember her saying she would ask the Schwartzes about the land, and I remember my father standing with me at the Schwartzes’ door soon thereafter, and the deeply kind Mr. Schwartz telling my father that the dirt back there had been overly fertilized by someone a long time before, and it had been left untended after that. In my memory or my imagination, which is usually the same thing, my father says to Mr. Schwartz, I’ll take care of it. Or perhaps it was my mother who asked the Schwartzes about the ground, then decided we would make the best of it. Because that’s what she always did. And maybe what I wanted my father to do.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG remembers the nice guy who always wore a yarmulke in the shop where he took his dress shirts and dry-cleaning in Chicago a long time ago who also had blue numbers tattooed on his forearm that showed on warm days when he had his shirtsleeves rolled up.

PG never commented on the numbers since he knew what they represented and thought the nice guy might not want to talk about the experience. The nice guy never made any attempt to hide the blue numbers and had certainly earned the right to show them or cover them a million times over without anyone questioning his choice.

Some other guys who had fought in World War II or Korea also had tattoos that identified them with their experiences as well and some of them were detailed and colorful and said things like “Iwo” or “Chosin” but seeing those tattoos never effected PG as much as the tattoo that the nice guy in the yarmulke showed on warm days. That’s the one PG remembers vividly.

Update on Comments Issue

PG thanks those who have sent suggestions about PG’s mysterious problems with Comments numbers not showing correctly, either via comments to PG’s prior post on the topic or via email.

After considering the information submitted by helpful visitors and doing a bit of research, PG think he’s found a fix.

Here’s a brief summary of PG’s latest theories which may or may not be correct. (Time might not even tell if they’re correct. PG doesn’t actually care if he understand exactly what he might have done to fix the problem, he just wants the problem fixed.)

Trigger Warning for Computer Science People: PG is not going to use a lot of technical terms because he would probably not do so correctly. He’ll simplify things down to the level his brain can process today. If PG’s brain mistakenly simplifies something into total incorrectness, feel free to clarify/correct in the comments.

That said, relax. PG isn’t going to try to do this sort of thing on a regular basis or, perhaps, ever again. Unlike straightforward legal doctrines such as The Rule in Shelley’s Case, PG understands that he can’t actually understand computer science stuff.

Being a lawyer for a long time has, however, allowed PG to sharpen his hand-waving abilities into something that impresses him, if not others.

Unfortunately, hand-waving doesn’t always work on computers the way it might work on carbon-based life forms.

Statement of Problem and, Hopefully, Solution

  1. Like a great many other WordPress sites, TPV uses a caching plugin. PG has a very good hosting provider (now), Hosting Matters, but even a very good host uses hard drives and, even with fast hard drives and fast internet connections, there’s going to be a lag between a visitor to TPV clicking on something and any hosting provider delivering a response to the visitor’s browser.
  2. A widely-used means of reducing that turnaround time is to add a caching plugin to the WP site. Basically, a caching plugin tells WP it doesn’t need to bother the servers much, because the plugin already knows what WP is looking for.
  3. This works fine so long as the caching plugin actually knows what it claims to know.
  4. Sometimes when a widget or something else is changed in a WordPress site, the caching plugin doesn’t get the message. So it says bananas are still yellow today because they were yellow yesterday even if the yellow bananas have disappeared and been replaced by green bananas. (PG apologizes if he got too technical about bananas.)
  5. So PG has added another plugin that says it fixes the problem with the existing TPV caching plugin holding onto stale info by forcing the caching program to forget the stale info.
  6. PG doesn’t know what happens if the plugins disagree about what truth is.
  7. So far, it’s looking like it works, however.

Let PG know if the comments seem to be better.

Arrogant people

Arrogant people are non-learners. They invest their energies in maintaining a cozy feeling of complacency, and complacency is the biggest single enemy to the process of continuously learning from experience. Arrogant people are exactly the sort of people who are destined to have one year’s experience 20 times rather than 20 years’ worth of experience.

Peter Honey