God, does anyone have the energy to do anything these days? I'm not not one of those people who relishes summer to begin with, but this one has been beyond the pale. So sitting here in front of the computer seems like a good way of killing some time until the weekend begins.
New format for this week's blog entry - Bulleted points!
* I think I am a bad blogger. All of the professionals keep saying "you must blog constantly." Keep it short - and often. Ugh, does that mean I should no longer write my ponderous, self-indulgent mini-essays on whatever I happen to be thinking about at the time? Perhaps a question better left unanswered. The thing is, this blog has helped me solidify my thinking on a number of points over the years - blogging as therapy/professional development. Oh well, one follows one's Muse, right?
* Complaint of the week. Or, to phrase it more positively, let's call it the "Crazy wish of the week." I'm sure many of you have noticed the millions/billions that go into movie production and publicity. A new book by a literary luminary can come out, and the world's collective response is "Meh." But let Brad and Angelina walk out their front door, and let the orgy of publicity begin. Why is it that the media engines who ignore our requests for a review - won't give us the time of day, return our phone calls, or read our emails - slobber all over themselves when the new Will Ferrell movie comes out? Listen, I'm not saying we need THAT much. Just give me, say, 10% of the publicity and attention that the movies get. Everyone benefits, except maybe the movies, but I doubt Hollywood is in danger of going away.
* Epiphany of the week. In corresponding with a favorite writer, I came up with a line that I quite like. And what kind of editor would I be if I wasn't wise about re-purposing content? So here it is: "If Apple ran a bookstore, there'd be a line of people around the corner waiting to get in." Take note, B & N.
* Worry of the week, followed by relief of the week. My assistant subscribes to LinkedIn, which is now full of listserv-like message boards. She follows the mystery writers, the vast majority of whom are vanity-published and asking for tips on how to publicize and sell their work. I thought, "How on earth am I going to get any attention for my books with all this noise out there?" I despaired. But then it hit me: In a crowded marketplace, the market turns to signifiers of quality to help make their decisions. And, say what you will about the state of fiction publishing today, 85-90% of it is more than 100% better than 99% of vanity-published stuff.
* Reference book of the week: The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, edited by Rosemary Herbert (Oxford, 1999). Somehow, this one escaped my notice upon publication. Which is odd, because I have many of the Oxford companions and love them, EXCEPT for the way they indicate cross-references by an asterisk BEFORE a word, which drives me insane. What I particularly like about these books is their ability to sum up the essence of a term or idea in an appreciative but somewhat critical manner. I turned first to some of my favorite writers and found the summaries of their work to be quite insightful. I can see that this will become a valuable reference, especially for future postings here on Mysterious Matters. (The price tag's a bit high, but knowledge is valuable, and the Oxford Guides all feel strong and sturdy, which I like.) I don't really read those writers' guides - we have scads of them here. They seem to be heavy on techniques but low on pixie dust and soul, probably the result of trying to quantify too exactly what makes good fiction. A couple of publishers have contacted me to ask me if I'd like to turn Mysterious Matters into a writer's guide... of course it's tempting, but I'm sure there are people who have already said everything I'd say, anyway.
*Currently reading: The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler (FSG, 2009, translated from the original Swedish). I will admit that I approach FSG books with some trepidation. I consider myself a good reader and critic, but much of their list is just not suited to my tastes. However, I've noticed several of the Macmillan companies, formerly somewhat stodgy, opening themselves up to crime fiction (think Holt with Benjamin Black/John Banville, not my favorite books but they're OK and I think they do reasonably well, and they do give one a bit of a craving for Bovril). Also, I've got this skepticism about the Scandinavians. In true publishing fashion, everyone's looking for the next Stieg Larsson (whom I thought was quite, quite good). But this book called out to me and I'm about a third through it, and thoroughly enjoying it. It does what really turns me on in crime fiction - it builds layers upon layers of deception (a quality I enjoyed in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, too). It's more grisly than I expected, and more disturbing. Translation seems able. Overall, this book is doing what I love a book to do for me: It's sucking me into its deep, dark vortex, in much the same way that The Girl... did. The key "problem" I see, so far, is that many readers just may not buy into the premise and the facts of the opening chapters. They're a stretch, without a doubt. Somehow this doesn't matter in this book, though - but then again, I have always been more than willing to suspend disbelief if the writer (or, in this case, writers) make me want to.