I hesitate to write this. Like the kid who wishes another kid ill, and then it happens. The kid in his magical thinking figures it’s his fault. But it’s not looking good for print. It’s not looking good for advertising either. I’ve long known that advertising is the first thing companies cut when times get tough. Having worked in that field many years, I weathered mini-recessions time and again. Being a small time freelance designer meant that not only did I not become wildly successful and wealthy beyond my dreams, neither did downturns hurt me all that much. But I tired of the volatility of the industry just the same. Enter my first forays into publishing. I did some curriculum work for Junior Achievement. It was fun. The budgets weren’t big, but I didn’t have to go search for it either. Nor did I have do much “selling” (many a creative freelancer’s bane of existence). In short, I liked it. A lot.

So when finally an opportunity to work for an educational publisher came up I jumped at it. It was fun too, and for the first time in a long, long time I had employee benefits. Nice ones. Then years later, the company got acquired and things became not so fun anymore. Time to move on. Since then I have had lots more fun freelancing at doing trade books. But is the party over? Is it time to take the beer goggles off?  I hope not, I still love my dates. They still look good to me.

However, the writing is on the wall … if not in the books. (groan) This article: “The Financial Storm may Very Well Kill Print Media” is a sobering looking at the facts of life in the world of print media. We can hang on longer, maybe, doing what we do. But at the same time we better be thinking pretty hard about the changing world we work in and coming up with other strategies for surviving and thriving as publications designers, writers, and publishers. (And advertising workers better be thinking twice as fast.)

wwgdPerhaps there’s some good lessons in this book: What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis I am going to get it, right now. I’m downloading the audio version. I know. I am a part of the problem…. I am hoping to learn how to be a part of the solution. I want to ride the crest of the next wave and land safely on the beach in the new paradigm, not be drowned in this one.

Speaking of paradigms, my next post will be about changing paradigms and how we’ve seen them before in our industry (graphic design). One of the advantages of working a long time in one field is eventually you have the benefit of hindsight, the long view. It’s propbably the only good thing about getting older. I’ll draw paralells and contrasts to then and now…

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Another salvo in the changing battlefield of publishing shows that innovative and tech-saavy authors can win an audience and eventually a publisher. This article titled “Podcasting Your Novel: Publishing’s Next Wave?” reports on a fast growing trend that I have known about for a while.

I am addicted to audiobooks. If not for them I would never walk the dogs or go to the gym. I discovered Podiobooks when they first came on the scene. In the beginning there wasn’t a lot of selection, mostly scifi and some of that pretty awful. As they grew in public awareness they drew new authors too and began to post more books in many genres, and some of them really good. All of them were by novice authors, or authors completely unknown to me. Most probably never published traditionally.

Two authors really stood out though, J.C. Hutchins with 7th Son and Scott Sigler with Infected and Earthcore. J.C. Hutchins in particular produced an audio drama that rivaled anything Hollywood might produce, and a darned good thriller. All for free. Why give it away? Well, read the article. These two have a loyal “listenership” and now are on the bestseller list for real money. Kudos and congrats to them both.

Incidentally on the article the writer asserts that the audience is/was mostly young male scifi geeks. I’m not sure that was true, after all I’m an older woman. I’ve listened to books on tape on car trips and when walking or exercising for years and years. By the way you can also listen to many many old books that are now in the public domain also for free on Librivox. These books are recorded by volunteers so the perfomance quality varies, but it’s painless way to catch up on those classics of literature you’ve always meant to read.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the audiobook will completely supplant the ink and paper book anytime soon… at least I hope not. But, I am in favor of authors getting their work out there and finding an audience. It’s a moment of change, and change can be scary. It will all shake out in time and anything that helps authors and readers connect can’t be bad.

So no post in a while. Busy, busy. I am writing a YA novel in my spare time and it got me to thinking about epilogues and prologues. I have written a prologue to my story and I wonder what readers think about such things? For my story I think it sets the scene and tells something about the main characters. However, it’s not vital to the story. I haven’t thought as far out as an epilogue yet!

Sometimes epilogues add something vital, or wrap up a nagging loose end that wasn’t completely tied up in the ending scenes. This seems fairly common especially in thrillers, and sometimes in historical fiction. I for one thought the epilogue added at the end of the last Harry Potter book was utterly unnecessary and frankly, dumb. But I gather JK Rowling felt compelled to set all those “shippers” straight about who ends up with who, etc.

In Tolkein’s LOTR trilogy the final, final, final scenes in the Shire were cut from the movies, and the Return of the King could have ended with the crowning of Aragorn and the hommage to the four little guys and I would’ve have been very happy and balling my eyes out. But no, it went on, and on, and on … and on. Purists, forgive me, but really they poured the treacle on a bit heavy.

So I’m curious. Do you like epilogues or prologues? Or would you rather the writer just did a bang up job of ending the story on the right satifying note … you don’t want to know what happened next, or maybe you want it in the sequel? Prologues? Do they slow down the story? Should the author just plunk you down in the world he/she is creating and get on with it? (This is an excuse to try the polling widget. So please try it!)

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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.