An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spell check your tattoo!

From Geeky Tattoos.com


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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Jersey Shores and Spartacus


Judging by the reaction to a recent post by Deanna Fei – entitled, Why Every Writer Should Watch Jersey Shore – the TV show, like many reality shows, is polarizing; you either love it or hate it.

So let’s dive into this imbroglio and examine the issue as only the Demon can (or would dare). We’ll take a thought-provoking journey from the Jersey Shores all the way to France to take a potshot at the ghost of Flaubert, then we’ll return home to invoke our First President before heading off to the coliseums of ancient Rome. (I need the Frequent Fantasy MilesTM).

Ms. Fei writes, “Maybe my sense of humor is unevolved, but too often, I pick up a novel that's been described as hilarious, only to find that the laughs are mostly located in the author mocking his own creations for being less clever than he and his reader.”

The reference to mocking ones own creations reminded me of my extreme distaste for the novel, Madam Bovary.  I could feel disdain and contempt oozing from Flaubert’s pen as he engineered the demise of Charles and Emma Bovary. Then again, what else should we expect from an author who believed that “"hatred of the Bourgeois is the beginning of virtue…”  

I take umbrage at the notion that virtue begins with hatred.  

Which brings me back to Jersey Shores – and pretty much all reality shows – I tend to hate them, “them” being the show, not the people. Truth is, I have nothing to say about the players in the show, good or bad, because I know nothing about them.

Specifically, it is the fish bowl venue that defines reality TV, where every facet of person’s life is on display, that I abhor.  This is most likely because I am an introvert and would never seek to maximize my public exposure in such a way. Furthermore, I find much wisdom in the following from George Washington: “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”

Therein lays the clash of philosophies. If you are like me, and subscribe to Washington’s point-of-view, Jersey Shore, or any other reality show, is likely to rub you the wrong way. It’s not a right or wrong thing, it’s personal idiosyncrasy.

It also explains why I regard Jersey Shore as a spectacle, which leads me to another TV show: Spartacus, Blood and Sand (thankfully, this isn’t a reality show). The Roman Gladiators were commodities, pawns in the grand games played out before thousands of spectators. Are the stars of reality shows that much different? Are they not pawns whose lives are played out on millions of TV screens? Both get used up and spat out, so to speak. At least the truth of this was contained in the Gladiators’ oath, “I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.” Perhaps those in a reality show should take an oath that begins like this: “I will endure to have no privacy, to be cancelled at any time…” 

There’s no doubt that shows like Jersey Shore are polarizing. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I’m in the latter camp. However, I do not claim to be right or have the higher moral ground on this subject, Still, as an aspiring author, I feel it’s my duty to understand the origins of my antipathy, for better or worse.

Jeesh, I hate it when I get all philosophical and introspective like this. To cure myself of this malady, I am going to “veg out” tonight and watch the World Series.

‘nuff said!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Morse Code Kindle

Introducing the Kindle: Morse Code Edition. All your favorite novels translated to Morse Code. Read and listen to the beeps, the dashes, the pauses...oh my!

Wouldn't you love to read Moby Dick in Morse Code?

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Tony Soprano Query

What if Tony Soprano was an aspiring author? How might he handle the challenges of finding a literary agent? Sounds like a great idea for a book! 

Tony Soprano has got himself an unpublished manuscript.


Lord knows, he’s got a great story to tell. It’s all in there: the whacks, the goomahs and, of course, the importance of family.

One day, serendipity brings him into contact with the literary agent of his dreams, Stella Portalucia. Tony starts to tell her about his book; she cuts him short. “Send me a query letter,” she says. He is crestfallen; she explains, “it ain’t personal, it’s how I do business.”

Tony doesn’t handle rejection very well, but he’ll do anything to do business with Stella. Now, the man who has carved an empire amidst the teeming turnpikes of New Jersey must do the unthinkable – he must write a query letter!

Meanwhile, Carlucci Cacciatore, a former priest turned publisher, has secretly approached Tony’s wife Carmela about publishing a tell-all book. He’s made a damn fine offer.

So much for the importance of family.


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Saturday, October 16, 2010

A "fear sum" novel

Today, we reimagine a classic Tom Clancy novel, The Sum of All Fears:

From this:


To this:


A brilliant mathematician must
help the U.S. break a secret code.
But a rare phobia cripples him!

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Handbook for the Persnickety

In his previous rant, er, post, the Demon indicated he was in a persnickety state of mind. This inspired the Spawn-of-Query-Letters-RejectedTM to reimagine a classic management book, The One Minute Manager.

Instead of:

Why not a special edition for persnickety crowd?




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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Story is NOT the by-product of magic!

The Demon is feeling persnickety, cantankerous and audacious today. Which means someone, perhaps a Pulitzer Prize winning author, is going to feel his wrath...

I was reading Summerland by Michael Chabon when I came across the following, "take everything back to zero as long as magic and its by-product, story..." Huh? Is Chabon saying story is the by-product of magic? Do they really give authors prizes for writing such fallacies?

Story isn't a by-product of anything. To speak of it that way is to diminish its power and, yes, its magic. Story is not akin to whey, rising like a watery afterthought during the cheese-making process. Yeah, this is a visceral reaction on the Demon's part and it's hard to offer a logical proof to refute Chabon. But this persnickety, cantankerous and audacious Demon knows that story is not, has never been and will never become a by-product of magic or anything else. You listening, Chabon?

Perhaps the closest thing to a proof I can offer is the following from Elie Wiesel: "God made man because He loves stories."

Yeah, that sounds just about right!
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Penguin Classic Covers Revised


I came across these at Amy Fleisher's website

She did these to celebrate the 75th anniversary
of Penguin Books and to revamp "their most popular Classic
book covers to be more Penguin-centric.”

Penquin-centric indeed!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bill Maher's New Rule: Nobel Committee Must Rename The Prize


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Reader-Writer Covenant

In a blog posted at HuffingtonPost, Randy Susan Meyers asks, “What is the relationship between reader and writer?”  

Her answer: “I believe there should be a covenant between writer and reader. What it is that you, the writer, are offering to you, the reader? (Because I can't imagine a writer who is not also a reader.) Are you making a bargain with the reader and then keeping to it? Are you offering the reader the same qualities that you want when you're the reader? Are you offering them your very best?”

Alas, as someone who is going through the process of seeking an agent, I am painfully aware there are two other parties involved – the agent and, eventually, the publisher. Along the way, there must be offerings to them as well as to the reader.  It is a practical matter: without an agent and publisher, the covenant between writer and reader cannot be consummated.

I say this after having been rejected by thirty-five agents (yeah, par for the course). I also say this after having received some confirmation that the reader – writer covenant is more than a figment of my imagination. I asked a former writing instructor of mine, who has published several well-received novels, to review my manuscript. Her reaction:

“I first need to let you know how very much I love this book. It is exactly the sort of story I would have been thrilled by as a child. The characters are marvelous. It is playful, intelligent, imaginative, and even, at times, poignant. It functions on many levels, able to provide pleasure to both young readers and to their parents. And, ultimately, it offers a valuable message about individuality and creativity.”

Wow!  I have experienced the ultimate writer’s thrill: the visceral connection with at least one reader who loved what I had to offer. Even better, my writing instructor recommended me to her agent! (Alas, he doesn’t handle children’s books – which I understand, an agent needs to stay focused on what he does best).

Meanwhile, as I continue to query, Meyer’s observation leads me to wonder: what does the query letter have to do with the covenant?  

Let me elaborate with an additional observation from Meyers’s blog: “I want books that have dug deep, whatever the genre, and proffer those best hours of my day…Magic happens when writers tell their personal truth and dare to let their ugly out. That's when a writer has kept their covenant.”

Keeping the convent, eh? Well, one definition of the word covenant reads, come together – furtherance of cause.

Maybe I am just whining or allowing myself to be too easily discouraged – yeah, I should wait until the fiftieth rejection before feeling that way – but too often I have felt disconnected from the magic of my book during the querying odyssey. A query letter simply does not feel like a good first step for coming together in furtherance a cause – if indeed my book could ever become a cause.

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I look at my query letter and feel like a huckster, trying desperately to please an agent, any agent! I’ll use the finest clich├ęs, proffer irresistible emotional hooks (however irrelevant to the plot) and even invent a new literary device (can I patent that?) to further my cause.

Then I realize I am perilously close to abandoning the magic and truth of my writing. If I continue on this course, I may end up like the narrator in Robert Pirsig’s Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, when he says:  “What I am is a heretic who's recanted and thereby in everyone's eyes saved his soul. Everyone's eyes but one, who knows deep down inside that all he has saved is his skin. I survive mainly by pleasing others.”

Sigh!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

One Hundred Years of Solitaire

The Demon pays homage to One Hundred Years of Solitude:

The world’s most talented and self-absorbed card player wastes his life.



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