Thursday, April 30, 2009

Statesman's XL gets snakebit


My neighbor Tony with the rattler.

This evening I opened the front door to discover a three-foot rattler slithering around on the porch. I promptly ran out the back door to the neighbors and "helped" Tony and his kids off the sucker.

Speaking of deaths, today the Austin American-Statesman's XLent weekly tabloid officially died, though it was replaced with something very similar but wit a different name. Truthfully it was an acknowledgment that what had been the XL had actually been dead for a good while. I was a grad student and part-time copy editor when meetings were held that resulted in the new Gen-X concoction that was part the same old entertainment tabloid and part a pseudo-zine. A few years later I was an assistant entertainment editor at the Statesman and writing a lot of creative personal essays that appeared in the XL. It was a brief period when creativity was encouraged at the Statesman. I'm sorry to see it go as the Statesman and newspapers everywhere squirm like that snake on a knife blade.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The realities of book royalties

What authors actually make from their books is something no one really likes to talk about. Here are a couple of factual discussions, one about romance novels and another from a New York Times best-selling author who reveals the truth behind her royalty statement. Then an agent parses the statement for what it really means. Worth checking out! Thanks to Helen Ginger for pointing me to this!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The book review in repose

Here's what no one tells you about being a published writer: people will hate you, be bored with you and sometimes even overpraise you. Yes, I'm talking about the snarky book review, a nasty little secret I've tried to avoid mentioning in the time my novel-in-stories Evacuation Plan has been out. But sometimes you just gotta speak up.

Take the woman who said this about my book:

"The narrative is all first person, but jumps from the main writer, to each of a variety of people he meets at the hospice - some staff and some greiving family members. The whole premise is a bit suspect in the first place as I doubt any hospice just lets a filmaker or writer hang out at its nurses station and sleep on its couches as our main character does here. Most of the, what are essentially short stories, are not interesting, with the exception of one or two."

Ouch! Of course, the book was inspired by my experiences on a very similar hospice couch...

Now here's what the same reviewer had to say about a few other horrifically bad books:

"A good quick read, but the stream of consciousness thing is annoying coming from a teenage narrator and I found the whole premise kinda shallow and uninteresting."

--The Catcher in the Rye

"A few worthy scenes and descriptions. But overall too disjointed, irrelevant, and dare I say...boring at times. It felt like absolutely no movement to any discernable plot, just meanderings around an only vaguely interesting family tree."
--One Hundred Years of Solitude

"I don't usually care for short stories and this collection is no different. Although her descriptive ability is good, short stories have to get interesting or relevant very quickly for me, and none of these did."
==Interpreter of Maladies

"I can't relate to the characters at all and feel no emotional connection or lessens learned. Not even a joy in being placed in another setting and time, since really it's a miserable set of circumstances."

--Great Expectations

"Recommended to me as a friend's favorite book, but I couldn't get through it. Just too unbelievable and I find it easy to lose focus with his writing style."
--Henderson the Rain King

" starts interesting, and then devolves into useless dialogue between characters I care little about. It just feels like too much work to read."
--The Sun Also Rises

I couldn't be happier to be in such crappy company.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Friday night my novel-in-stories EVACUATION PLAN won the North Texas Book Festival Book Award for adult fiction. The winners in the other two categories were from Texas Tech Press. The award honors books from independent publishers. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

North Texas Book Festival award finalist

I've been remiss in noting that my book Evacuation Plan is one of three finalists for this fiction award which goes to the top Texas book from an independent press.

I'll be signing my novel at noon Friday at the Denton Barnes & Noble, in advance of the North Texas Book Festival Book Awards (cross your fingers, for me) later in the evening.

Oh, and read my latest newsletter here:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Biily Lee Brammer and a Lost Gonzo

I get the cool honor of teaching Honors courses with a Texas focus at Austin Community College. This last month has been particularly interesting, with me moderating a panel discussion of Billy Lee Brammer's classic novel of Texas politics, The Gay Place, and a visit from Bob Livingston, a member of Jerry Jeff Walker's Lost Gonzo Band and a true Texas musical legend in his own right.

The Brammer panel included Don Graham, Gary Cartwright, Babe Schwartz, Jan Reid, Kaye Northcott and Nadine Eckhardt. It followed a premiere screening of a short film adaption of part of The Gay Place by Brammer's daughters Shelby and Sidney Brammer.
Bob entertains my class.

Easter and the eggs are a cracking

Nicholas got into the whole Easter egg thing, including the basket.

Cracking a cascarone on Dad's noggin.

Making Easter cookies with Grandma.


Getting the grand tour in Tiffany's vintage wagon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A book cover in waiting

I'm about to get seriously at work writing my mother's story as sort of a mix of fiction and nonfiction (it's something she asked me to do before her death, and it's a truly compelling story.). Here she and her no-account father are in a photo I think should be on the book's cover.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Our little monkey turns 2!

Nicholas turned two this week and we celebrated at my sisters' place with monkey cupcakes from the Czech bakery in Taylor. Elmo is history for Nicholas, with Curious George and anything with a motor replacing him.

Adding to the excitement, on Nicholas' birthday, his cousin Ben Johnson was born!


Monkeys are always funny. That's a fact.

My sisters gave Nicholas this Curious George tea set. He had high tea with a rabbit.

Nicholas will be sharing his birthday--not his monkeys!--with this little critter below who shall be known as Ben Johnson.