Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Author Stephen Stark posits the future

Shelf Media Group is publishing their first e-book, Margaret Brown gave me a quote from author Stephen Stark that I thought would be interesting reading. 
Shelf Unbound: The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door is available only as an e-book. Is this the future of book publishing?
Stephen Stark: No. It's not the future of publishing, it's the present. And it's an unnerving and uncertain present for a lot of people in the book publishing industry. It's a moment of great tectonic movement and, for me, tremendously exciting. I think that what we're doing with Final Appearance is, if not unique, then completely cutting edge, all of the benefits of an indie publisher lashed up with the technology of self-publishing. There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, when all of this is figured out. But right now, there's a wave that's swelling, but not cresting. I think that we, Shelf Media and I, are on the top of that swell with Final Appearance. I have no idea whether Final Appearance, or any other of my subsequent novels, will be riding that wave when it breaks. But I really think it's important to be a part of the gaggle of surfers who are out there, slightly ahead of the swell, betting on when it's going to break. Not just for the success of the novel itself, but to shape the industry in some small way -- get out there and paddle like crazy. I think Shelf is out there, its board waxed, its toes curled right 
 alongside of me.

Below is an excerpt from the book along with the full interview

Girl meets boy meets shark meets multi-verse in this sexy, deeply romantic, literary page-turner
from New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year author Stephen Stark. Read the following excerpt and you’ll see why we jumped sky-high at the chance to publish Final  Appearance as our first e-book.

“Ellen Gregory in Love”

The water was warmish (at least for North Carolina in June) and you could feel the warmth of the water at the surface, and an icy bite from the depths, almost as though the water were swimming within itself. You could see the beach. The taste of saltwater was in her mouth and she looked at Michael, his curly, dark hair matted from the wet, his face full of joy. He was just beyond her and he was laughing, rising and falling in the swells—he had that Midwesterner’s delight in the ocean. Now he was floating on his back and pointing at the gulls, which were
Every where now. The water caught a thousand mirrors of sunlight, and for a moment, she lost sight of Michael. The gulls were everywhere, wheeling in the sky, dipping into the water, floating. There was a strange moment of panic as she scanned the water for him—and suddenly he was next to her, his mouth right next to her ear. Hi, he said. Hi, yourself, she said. You’re beautiful, he said and kissed her. Are you cold?, he said.  No, she said, It’s wonderful.  He kissed her again, and when he moved away, she went to him and kissed him again. This is what it could be like, she thought, as he dove under again and resurfaced a few yards from her. He splashed at her and she ducked, and then he went underwater again. And then she was floating in the swells, watching the gulls and other sea birds dipping into the water, watching the man she loved, his dark hair gleaming wet.

Michael had completely flunked whatever litmus tests she’d had. He was a nerd, a geek—good-looking—but still. A scientist. A video-game-playing, ABD Ph.D. professor-to-be, with geeky friends, who argued passionately about things she’d never heard of. And who had never heard of her because while he did own a TV, it was kept safely in a closet, just in case something important actually happened.
Love: Well, here it was, the strangled breath when she was near him, this waking up in the morning next to him feeling like every day was Christmas.

They were not terribly far out—ten or fifteen yards from shore. Not far from here the bottom would fall off and sweep deeper and deeper into the cold darkness of the Atlantic, where it would give way to shipping lanes and container ships and vast unseen storms and would not rise again except to the sweet calls of some child across the world, the endless thunder of surf.  She floated on her back, looked at the blue, blue sky. Here she could watch the irregular vortices of gull-flight, the perpetual motion of the waves. Here she could see her friends—blurs on the sand, stripes of color. She thought of Michael and wondered at the bizarre way that life happens. You get to a place and look at what surrounds you—sun, water, sky—and marvel at the circumstances that brought you here. But where was she? On the precipice between today and tomorrow, between with him and without. She thought she felt a cold current come up from the deep and a chill of fear rode through her.  Michael was beyond her, his skin darker than she had ever seen it, his hair catching sunlight, blackly metallic. He had been next to her a moment ago, the warmth of him, the brush of his legs, the cup of his hand on the back of her head, treading water and kissing her, and then he had drifted away, and she knew he would swim back to her, and that was the way she was thinking of it, the future, or near-future. They would drift away and come together. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Until it was nauseating to think of it.  When the fish bashed scraping against her leg, almost dragging her under with its mass and speed, she thought for a moment it was Michael, being uncharacteristically rough. This pissed her off—the scrape burned in the saltwater and she could feel herself going hot with anger she had never felt with him. She shouted, but he could not hear, and then suddenly that thought dissolved into confusion. Just a few yards away from her, he burst through the surface, way too high speed, jetting like a water skier almost, sideways, his head rising up out of the water and leaving a gorgeous arc of shimmering water droplets, one arm flailing down towards his hips, his legs, the other grappling somehow to right himself. His face had a broken, aghast look. Inhaled water gagged his scream of Get out now. And in that hill of water, that wake-like wave that thrust him sideways, she could see the fish, could see how enormous it was, bigger around than a barrel and long enough that she couldn’t even see where it ended. Just the fin itself was enormous. At least as tall as her arm. And she felt the way she felt when Wayne Townsend had kidnapped her, with absolutely no control over anything.  The fish thrust him out of the water as high as his waist and drove him toward shore, then sideways, and she froze utterly, the reality of it just too bizarre and monstrous to believe. And then the adrenaline came and she willed herself to swim.

From The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door by Stephen
Stark, Shelf Media Group 2011,
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Pushcart Prize winner Laura Kasischke calls The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door “entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful—like no novel you’ve read.” We talked to Stark about the novel, the future of book publishing, and his reputation for writing exceedingly hot sex scenes.

Shelf Unbound: Your previous novel, Second Son, got great reviews but would not have been described as a “page-turner.” What prompted your change in style?

Stephen Stark: In a very basic sense, I just wanted to tell a good story. It’s been a long time since Second Son, nearly 20 years, and the world has gotten weirder and weirder since then. It’s no by any means an original statement, but it seems to me that the kind of realism that I was working in then just isn’t up to the task of reflecting the world I see around me. Still, I don’t know that I’d say it was a change in style so much as a change in approach. From the start, with Final Appearance, everything was on the table. I made the conscious decision to use every tool I possibly could to open the story up and give depth to the narrative. The main character, Ellen Gregory, is a public figure, a very public figure, and so you’ve got parts that are newspaper stories, parts that are TV news reports, a magazine-style interview with Ellen, and then there’s some “genre” stuff mixed in. Above all, I wanted to entertain myself. Which isn’t to say that the earlier novels didn’t entertain me, only that I was going through some very difficult life transitions during the time I was writing Final Appearance and I wanted to laugh, but I also wanted to say something worth saying.
Shelf: How’d you come up with your the character of Ellen, a, stand-up comic turned sitcom star?
Stark: To the best of my recollection, she just kind of came out of nowhere—this
killer comic from the Midwest with the black thong tutu, fishnet stockings, and
shit kicker Timberland® boots. This sort of thing happens all the time—I was
actually working on another novel entirely, and at some point, I began a chapter
that had Ellen in it and, bang, suddenly that other novel was history. Like a lot of people who chase particular dreams, Ellen does a lot of self invention to get where she’s going. On one hand, she’s Ellen, the fresh-faced, corn-fed blonde, girl next door from the Midwest, but on the other, she’s ELLEN!, the take-no-prisoners comic, that crazy chick in the tutu. I’m totally fascinated by this whole idea of being two people at once. To me, a significant part of the novel is her terror at reconciling the two, the struggle she has with those two identities.

Shelf: Final Appearance is a deeply romantic, character-driven novel, with
some very hot sex scenes. Which is more of a challenge to write: intimate,
authentic dialog or intimate, authentic sex?
Stark: I’d say that intimate, authentic dialogue and intimate, authentic sex are
simply two facets of the same thing. I’ve gotten a certain amount of attention for
my sex scenes over the years, particularly regarding their alleged hotness, but it
almost makes me feel as though people are missing the point. So much of what we do and how we think is suffused with sex that leaving it out of a novel (or my novels) would be a disservice to my characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be explicit, although sometimes it does, which can be tremendously revealing of character. When I approach a sex scene, I write it as authentically as I can. What would Michael do and how would Ellen react? Or the obverse. The same is true of intimate dialogue. What would Michael say and how would Ellen respond? Sometimes the circumstance calls only for something like, “later, after they’d made love,” but sometimes the motion of the story calls for the whole business of two adult human beings being naked together. And it’s almost exactly the way I approach intimate dialogue, which is often, at least figuratively, two people being naked together. It’s been said that character derives from action, and of course that’s true, but I think that the right kind of dialogue—the confusions, the caesurae, the misunderstandings, the nakedness or the guardedness—is also hugely revelatory of character.
Shelf: Final Appearance is available only as an e-book. Is this the future of
book publishing?
Stark: No. It’s not the future of publishing, it’s the present. And it’s an unnerving and uncertain present for a lot of people in the book publishing industry. It’s a moment of great tectonic movement and, for me, tremendously exciting. I think that what we’re doing with Final Appearance is, if not unique, then completely cutting edge, all of the benefits of an indie publisher lashed up with the technology of self-publishing. There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, when all of this is figured out. But right now, there’s a wave that’s swelling, but not cresting. I think we—Shelf and I—are on the top of that swell with Final Appearance. I have no idea whether Final Appearance, or other of my subsequent novels, will be riding that wave when it breaks. But I really think it’s important to be a part of the gaggle of surfers who are out there, slightly ahead of the swell, betting on when it’s going to break. Not just for the success of the novel itself, but to shape the industry in some small way—get out there and paddle like crazy. I think Shelf is out there, its board waxed, its toes curled right alongside of me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

BEA Peaks Forward

A significant challenge for BookExpo has been delivering information on what is happening at BEA for the audience that it is intended or to the people that would be interested in the information.  Being candid, BEA has done a poor job of executing this historically.  There a lot of reasons, many of which were out of BEA's control - but that is not relevant going forward.  It is one thing to admit you have a problem - which BEA has had in terms of this issue - it is another thing to step up and fix what is wrong.  I promise you now - BEA will make this light years better.

BEA will do a number of new things for 2012 so the programming is more accessible, making  BEA more valuable for everyone that participates - both exhibitors & attendees.  

Here are a few of the planned changes:
  • The majority of BEA's programs will be completed and posted 60 days earlier.
  • BEA will have a new schedule making tool that will allow for a personal agenda of events to make your planning simple.
  • BEA will segment programs from the start so you can search in the areas that interest you and your business needs.
  • BEA sessions will identify what job titles or roles programs are intended to allow people to select session to learn new skills or to develop advanced skills.
  • The BEA website will be easier to navigate.
  • Most sessions will run 50 minutes to allow you to get to another session easier.
  • BEA will review the whole programs schedule to reduce and eliminate conflicts for similar programs.
 We won't be perfect, but we will strive for perfection.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


From a BEA Press Release that just went out this morning:
Over 40 Russian Authors and Translators to Travel to New York City;
An Institute and Awards for Translation to be Part of Ambitious New Program

Norwalk, CT, October 20, 2011: Russia will be the country of focus and attention at BEA’s Global Market Forum 2012, June 5 – 7 and BEA will figure prominently into Read Russia 2012, the largest Russian initiative ever to promote Russian literature and Russian book culture in the United States. The Read Russia 2012 program, sponsored by the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication and Media under the direction of Vladimir Grigoriev, will feature translation grants for the publication of contemporary and classical Russian literature in English, author tours for leading Russian writers and their publishers, a major exhibition on children’s book art, and a traveling film series and a new documentary television project about Russian literature. Over 40 Russian authors and translators are expected to travel to New York for various activities associated with Read Russia 2012 and BEA’s Global Market Forum.

The creation of a Russian institute of translation as well as awards to popularize and foster translations for both Russian contemporary and classic prose and poetry will be among the highlights of the cultural and professional programming for the Global Market Forum 2012 which will take place in New York during BEA, June 5 – 7 at the Javits Center. Negotiations are underway with several major cultural institutions in New York for ancillary events directly tied to the Global Market Forum and Read Russia 2012. As noted by Vladimir Grigoriev at a recent press conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the principle focus of BEA’s Global Market Forum will be to broaden the presence of Russian literature in America. Grigoriev noted that while in the past Russian literature has had a prominent role internationally, “today very few Russian writers find the reading audience they deserve, which is what we want to start changing through our efforts at and around BookExpo America in 2012.” Peter B. Kaufman, President and Executive Producer of Intelligent Television and Program Director for Read Russia 2012 in the United States, added, “We have a great opportunity to use all kinds of media – online, TV, radio, film – to bring Russian literature to new audiences stateside.”

While making this announcement, Vladimir Grigoriev was accompanied by Mikhail Shishkin, one of the most gifted new Russian authors, who has recently been awarded the prestigious Haus der Kulturen der Welt international award, for the best of the younger generation. Shishkin added how excited he was at the prospect of being part of the upcoming program at BEA. Steven Rosato, Show Manager for BEA, notes: “The Global Market Forum and Read Russia 2012 are combining this year to make a major presentation at BEA. This is the most ambitious undertaking that we have had so far from any of our international guest countries. We look forward to substantially increasing awareness for Russian authors and literature not just at BEA but through various cultural programs that will reach the public during the week of BEA.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 Sets Traffic Record in September with Over 10 Million Unique Visitors

I saw this in the Mediabistro website FishBowlNY and thought it was interesting.  10 million unique visitors - that is boatload of web traffic!  I love NY Magazine - I subscribe to the hard copy and their online pop culture page Vulture.  It is always interesting and relevant.   

September was a historical month for New York, as its website topped 10 million unique visits for the first time. While that’s great news, the best part about it might be that about 90% of the users during that time were enjoying web-only content. That is because the digital verticals that make up have all become brands on their own.

Vulture has become a force in the pop culture world, Daily Intel is a great source for breaking news and politics (especially now that they have Jonathan Chait contributing), and The Cut has become a must read for commentary on the fashion industry. Not only are these blogs delivering quality, they don’t skimp on quantity either: Adam Moss recently said that publishes new content every six minutes during the week. Every six minutes!

With over 10 million visits it’s inevitable that some of those people end up becoming print subscribers, so beyond increasing digital ad revenue, those hits help the magazine’s numbers as well. New York appears to have found a winning strategy. Don’t be shocked if other titles follow its lead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poached Post from today's GalleyCat

I am posting this article about Spain's Planeta Prize for two reasons - one being that the US reads so few books in translation (3%) which is an absurdly low number - maybe knowing that a book was so good that it was awarded $833k might get someone's attention.  The second reason I am stunned by the amount - WOW that is a lot of Euros and even more Dollars!. 

Last weekend Javier Moro won Spain’s 601,000 euro ($833,800) Planeta Prize for the novel El Imperio Eres Tú, a book about a 19th Century Brazilian emperor.Direct Link to GalleyCat

Literary blogger M.A.Orthofer noted that the English-speaking press has given the award “very, very little” coverage. He also linked to a list of the world’s richest literary prizes. Why do you think the mainstream press ignores many prizes on this long list of major awards?

Here’s more from The Literary Saloon: “money might not be everything, but in that respect this prize is in a whole different league than the Man Booker (hell, at €150,000 the runner-up — apparently Tiempo de arena, by Inma Chacón this time around — gets more than double the Man Booker winner’s take) — and the ‘major’ American prizes (Pulitzer, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle) are strictly minor league by comparison.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Missing Frankfurt Posts & Miss Julie's Librarian Blog

I am somwhere between furious & grateful for the Blackberry issues last week.   I posted several times from Frankfurt that were duly sent off into the electronic atmosphere from my Blackberry and never made to my blog for consumption.  Still can't figured out what happened.  I am furious because I spent 3-4 hours pecking out several posts using up the precious little spare time I had of last week.  I should be grateful because what I was sharing was forced at the end of some long days and probably not that interesting. 

I can share one thing - people commenting on whether Frankfurt was slow or busy (I heard both)- does that really matter?  Frankfurt is so appointment driven - I had packed schedule and saw the people I needed to meet with and that is what matters.  There are pleasant surprises and you do make connections at parties and receptions, but I know before I get on the plane leaving JFK if Frankfurt is going to be slow or busy.  I was swamped and will be busy for the next six weeks just following up on everything. 

Below is a link to Miss Julie's current post The Cybil Awards; or,"if you liked it then you should have put a medal on it." It is a great explanation on The Cybils, which are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ book awards.

BEA's Official Librarian Blog

Friday, October 7, 2011

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words

Debbie McManus - the wonderful rep on the BEA team sent the photo below to me which I thought was awesome.  It is fascinating to see without an identifiable message or goal, people are just fed up to the point that they are gathering to protest en masse all over the country - I guess they are protesting that things suck for everyone.  That is what happens when the Top 1% of the population controls more than 43% of the US's total wealth.  Look at the pie chart below the photo - as sobering as pie chart gets.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Interview with the son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from Shelf Unbound

The following is an interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from Shelf Unbound about the soon to be released APRICOT JAM and other stories by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  With Russia being featured country in BEA's 2012 Global Market Forum program - I thought it would be most appropriate to bring some attention to landmark Russian literature - both old and new.

october/30 november 2011 unbound 31

Counterpoint Press  translations: Solzhenitsyn

You cansign up for your free copy of Shelf Unbound magazine at:

In his novels such as The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounted and renounced Soviet oppression, earning him imprisonment, exile, a Nobel Prize, and an acknowledged role in the defeat of communism. Some of his final published works are available in English for the first time in the collection Apricot Jam and Other Stories; on the occasion of the publication of ApricotvJam we are quite honored to present this interview with the author’s son Ignat Solzhenitsyn, well known in his own right as the principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Shelf Unbound: In the recent The Solzhenitsyn Reader, editors Edward E. Erickson Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney write, “Today most informed observers appreciate the central role that Solzhenitsyn played in the defeat of communism. More than any other figure in the twentieth century, he exposed the ideological ‘lie’ at the heart of Communist totalitarianism.” How do you describe your father’s legacy and relevance today?
Ignat Solzhenitsyn: My father’s legacy lies first and foremost in his extraordinary contribution to Russian literature at a time when many doubted its very viability. His novels and stories have left an indelible impact on the world. As for the role that his writings and his personal courage played in bringing down the Soviet dragon, he is routinely listed alongside John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan amongst the prime movers of that historic victory.
Shelf: Published in 1973, The Gulag Archipelago was banned in Russia until 1989. Two years ago Russia’s education ministry made the book required reading in Russian high schools. What does this turn of affairs indicate for the state of Russian culture today, and what, if anything, does it mean to you personally?
Solzhenitsyn: That The Gulag Archipelago has become required reading in Russian high schools is not only a testament to its enduring relevance and power, but also one of the most positive and hopeful signs that today’s Russia is beginning, at long last, to face her frightful past. It is very, very good news.
Shelf: The works in Apricot Jam and Other Stories have until now not been available in English. Tell us about the title story and about what meanings your father was intent on conveying at this time of his life.
Solzhenitsyn: The title story is an eloquent indictment of the hypocrisy and callousness of the Soviet ruling class—not only its apparatchiks and henchmen, but its lackeys in the cultural sphere. Here is a premier Soviet writer (widely recognized as Aleksei Tolstoy) turning a willfully blind eye to the very social injustices that his Communist ideology was supposedly trying to correct. Ego returns to the heroic, though bitter, theme of the Tambov peasant uprising in 1920-21, and its brutal suppression. Adlig Schvenkitten is a gripping autobiographical tale of twenty-four harrowing hours on the Prussian Front in January 1945. The stories are amazingly diverse in setting, plot, and style. If there is a common theme, it might be the pervasive effect of time in the shaping of individual character.
Shelf: What personal characteristics do you most remember about your father?
Solzhenitsyn: Well, I most remember him as a loving, supportive father. But, speaking more objectively, he had a seriousness of purpose in his everyday life and work that was deeply inspiring. He had a great respect for knowledge, for scientific achievement, for language, but also a healthy skepticism of human nature.
Shelf: Your father died in 2008. At the end of his life, had he written everything that he wanted to, or was there still more that he wanted to say?
Solzhenitsyn: One of the great blessings of his life is that, after decades of racing against the clock to complete the enormous tasks he had set for himself (most especially The Red Wheel), he not only succeeded in completing them, but had ample time left over to tie up loose ends and to delve into unexpected, unplanned projects, such as these binary tales.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trying to figure out what's what in the ever changing world of e-book devices

Trying to understand all the different devices for reading these days is an not easy task.  What is  the 'best' choice?  Trying to figure out where it lives in the food chain - the closed system like Kindle or an open like Nook?  For a consumer, a closed system makes things simple - for the industry an open system levels the playing field and has more options. The best thing I read last week (I can't recall from where) summed up the main device players nicely: 
  • The iPad is a tablet computer
  • The Nook is a tablet reading device
  • The new Kindle Fire is a tablet browser
Still - there is a lot to navigate.  I did add a link below from CNET - I have found their info useful. CNET Reviews: The Best eBook Readers

Lastly - I came across this article detailing the biggest difference the new Kindle offers and I thought that worthy of including here.

Amazon Silk - The biggest Kindle innovation is not hardware, it's software

By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes  September 28, 2011, 8:24am PDT

Summary: Amazon’s Silk ‘cloud-accelerated’ web browser is a game changer.

Lots of information coming out of Amazon.s Kindle press event today. There’s a new $79 Kindle, a WiFi Kindle Touch for $99, a 3G Kindle Touch for $149 and the new Kindle Fire tablet for $199.

But out of all this mouthwatering hardware, it’s a software innovation that interests me the most - it’s Amazon Silk?  What is Amazon Silk? Put simply, Amazon Silk is a mobile web browser that’s powered by Amazon’s colossal EC2 web services platform. According to Amazon, ‘Silk isn’t just another browser.’

All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform. Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely. In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.

So, it’s a browser powered by cloud computing.  Amazon Silk is available exclusively for Kindle Fire users.