November 2008


twslogoSo given the spirited discussion we had about this subject last Saturday at my Writer’s Meetup group, I encourage those members to listen to this episode of The Writing Show in which Paula B. interviews Jennifer Silva Redmond, Editor-in-Chief of Sunbelt Publications, an award-winning small press that celebrates the natural and cultural history of the Californias. What she has to say backs up some of my points and reiterates some of what Carolyn Hayes Uber was saying in her interview here. If you ever want to be published you can’t afford to ignore what people in the business say they want, and maybe even more when they tell us what kind of behaviors really tick them off. After all, it may be their jobs to give your submissions fair consideration, but remember that their time is limited and the volume of demands on their time is tremendous. Why on earth would you want to do ANYTHING that would make it more difficult for them or annoy the very people whom you NEED to champion your work? Hmm?

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I’d be interested to know how many aspiring writers enter writing contests. We’ve been advised that it’s not a good idea to enter contests that charge an entry fee, particularly those that charge a fee that is relatively high as compared to the “prize” (if any). Preditors and Editors provides a list of contests they approve or not (they disapprove of any that charge). Though, this list seems sadly out of date.

abna_logo-200I’ve just heard of a contest offered by the “300 (million) pound gorilla in the room”: Amazon. Co-sponsored with Penguin Group (USA) not exactly a fly-by-night publisher. The contest is called: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award click the link for more info. Basically you submit your novel during the week of February 2–8, up to 10,000 entries will be accepted. But you must sign up and submit during that period and they cut it off when the number has been reached. They will be narrowed down to 2,000 by “expert reviewers”. penguinlogo_smallThe field gets winnowed further and the last 3 will be voted on by Amazon.com customers. (Like American Idol for your book?) The winner gets published by Penguin with a $25,000 advance. There is no entry fee. Worth checking it out.

Also a poetry contest offered by Blue Mountain Arts, the greeting card and book publisher located in Boulder, CO. This is the 13th biannual competition. Also no entry fee. First prize is $300. Contest closes December 31. They also buy poems and verses for their card products.

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The new Palms tower. The Playboy Club is on floor 52, just above the Palms sign.

It must be mighty chilly in Hades, because I never thought the day would come when I’d be invited to a private shindig at Hugh Hefner’s club in Las Vegas, let alone go. Well, the trip has been exceedingly strange ever since I started working with Stephens Press roughly five years ago. The first launch event I attended was for Norm Clarke’s first book, Vegas Confidential: 1000 Naked Truths. That event was held in the Palms’ ghostbar (made famous by MTV’s show, The Real World). So, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by the things that happen in this business.

Norm’s new book, Vegas Confidential: Sinsational Celebrity Tales is all tasty dish, and all juicy gossip about what the celebs do in Vegas. The good citizens, and the bad boys, and naughty girls. The smart and the clueless, the generous, and the cheap bastards too. Vegas became Hollywood’s playground decades ago, but what happens in Vegas is all fair game these days.3dcvrvcsinsmall

Norm wrote a good book; it’s a fun read. I designed the cover and interior pages. It’s chock full of color photos and we’re all pretty pleased with the design. I am betting it’s going to do well. I’ll be posting some spreads on my website soon. You can get more info and buy it here: Vegas Confidential

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Sue, Norm and Jeep (Sue's hubby).

And here’s a link to Las Vegas’ NBC Channel 3 coverage of Norm’s party at the Playboy Club. Below are picts of the party.

At times it seemed the paparazzi outnumbered the guests! There were a lot of Vegas notables there most of whom I wouldn’t recognize. But we did meet Rita Rudner, among others.

Sue snuggles up to Hugh Hefner's evil twin.

Sue snuggles up to Hugh Hefner's evil twin.

Sue's daughter Emily gets a hug from Tina Turner's impressionist.

Sue's daughter Emiy and Tina Turner's twin.

Amanda Uber interviews Robin Leach.

Amanda Uber interviews Robin Leach.

The Strip from the PB Club bar.

The Strip from the PB Club bar.

As promised here’s the scoop: Vegas Valley Book Festival 2008 got kicked off with a keynote address by one of my fave authors, Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman’s address began with a short reading from his latest The Graveyard Book his spooky homage to Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Gaiman spoke about the impact of books, stories, and reading on his life as a youngster in England and the impact that stories of all kinds and from all mediums continue to have on children and adults everywhere and in every time. In his rambling address he talked about writing, publishing, genres, and “where do writers get their ideas anyway?” (answer: everywhere).

We should not stop kids from reading crap, because clearly some great stuff can be grown in crap.”

—Neil Gaiman
(on what kids read, imagination of the reader making any book better)

He so clearly enjoys speaking, and covered so much about the writing life, though it was dark and I didn’t take notes. The auditorium was packed and my guess is about 400 people attended. After the intermission Gaiman took audience questions and continued to  wax poetic a half hour after he was supposed to be at the private gathering over at the Mandalay Bay. And speaking of that…

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Yours truly gets a pictures with the gregarious and gracious Mr. Gaiman.

His next work for adults will be (I believe) his first non-fiction book about China, and Chinese mythology. Part travelogue, and part mythology? This will be in the works for most of next year. Due out sooner are two picture books Blueberry Girl, charmingly illustrated by Charles Vess and first written as a poem for friend Tori Amos, and Crazy Hair a poetic romp with equally crazy illustration by Dave McKean. He read this one for us and said we we’re first audience to get to hear it. It’s very funny and cute, and we paged through it at the party and the design is fab. He’s currently working on a two part Batman comic story, and hinted that this is the R.I.P. issue for the caped crusader. (Well, sure but y’know he’s a super hero, with like, super powers.)

People asked whether there will be sequels to several of his works. He said he’d really like to do one for The Graveyard Book, and hinted that there may someday be one for American Gods (I’m so there!) and maybe Neverwhere. Had a great time. Late night, and Neil totally deserves some time off, but as we now know he doesn’t do holidays well; sneaks off to write in a deck chair. That’s OK Neil, use some sunscreen and take extra ink, we’ll wait.

PS: The Mix at Mandalay was the site of the after party. On the 64th floor dark, all painted black with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the strip. Fabulous, but LOUD, and disorienting. The restrooms feature a wall of glass in every stall, black “throne” facing out to space, darkened interior, you pee facing the world. Weird. And yes.

Here’s where I’ll be tonight: http: Vegas Valley Book Festival Keynote address. Have I pimped this enough yet? Later on a party… photographic evidence coming later.

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”

Edited to add:

We did it! I am so proud of us. More of us voted than EVER BEFORE. EVER! And what a historical event. I hope that the unprecidentness of this event will in the future not even merit a mention. We elected a fine candidate. Someday, that’s all we’ll need to say.

It’s always neat when different things you love come together. I’ve long been a fan of Bob Edwards from Morning Edition on NPR. Except he’s not on NPR anymore, and I have missed him. But I discovered from Neil Gaiman’s blog that he’s featured on a recent Bob Edwards show on XM radio. Well I don’t get XM Radio, but how cool! You can get it for free via iTunes. Here’s link to the Bob Edwards Blog.

He interviews Neil about his new book, The Graveyard Book. Neil talks about writing for children also, and what his career has been like up to now. And another synchroncity to add is that this Wednesday I’ll be lying off to Las Vegas to attend the Vegas Valley Bookfest where I’ll get to see Mr. Gaiman speak and then attend a private bash with Neilhimself and 99 other of his closest friends. Yes, you can be jealous now—go ahead.

But that’s not all, I’ll be rubbing shoulders with some other celebs and wouldbe/wannabe/oncewas celebs at another exclusive event. But you’ll just have to wait for the details.