Friday, December 20, 2013


The Chrysanthemum and the Rose (Book 8) is now available!

Buy it in paperback or on Kindle
Buy it on the Nook
Buy it on other eReader devices

From the back cover:

There is peace in Derbyshire as a new generation of the Darcy family begins, but the younger Mr. and Mrs. Darcy set their sights far away, to Japan, an island nation closed off to all but a few foreigners. There they will travel to find Georgiana Darcy’s elusive former teacher, the wandering thief Mugin, so that she can finally complete her training before settling down to married life in the English countryside.

But getting into Japan, a country hostile to Westerners and controlled by the Tokugawa shogun, won’t be easy, and finding Mu Gin will be even harder. Is the young couple up to the challenge?

In Altman’s eighth novel, we travel far abroad to the dangerous world of 19th-Century Asia, where political tensions are high and danger is very real.    

Review Policy:

If you have reviewed most or all of my past books on Amazon, you are eligible to receive a paperback copy for review.

If you have reviewed at least one of my other books on Amazon, you are eligible to receive ab eBook copy on any format for review.

If you post a review of your own volition and give me a US postal address, I will send you a little Asian good luck charm thingy.

If any of these apply to you, contact me.


There will be some contests. I will be giving away only one copy of the paperback (it is expensive to buy and ship because it is so large) so you should look for that. I will also be giving away prizes and numerous eBook copies, so stay tuned!

Otherwise, happy reading!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I don't know what to write in people's books

I don't even know how to use this type of pen
Yesterday I was asked to autograph a book I have a short story published in (it's coming out officially later - I'll post about that then) and I wrote, "Keep on truckin'!" Because seriously, I have no idea what to write in these things. I'm not famous enough to write nothing except my name if the person is standing in front of me. Famous authors either only put their name in or only put their name and the person's name in. I'm supposed to come up with something.

For book 1 I pretty much universally wrote, "Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the book" or something to that effect, even though some of them were not going to read the book because they were friends or family members. I actually personalized one a little too much to give to one of Grandma's friends and my mom ended up cutting something I said (about loaning a car to someone?) right out of the page, leaving a little cut at the bottom. Then for a little while I tried, "It is a universal truth that a good author must be in want of a loyal reader" which ended up being way too long for my awful handwriting.

I'm just going to think out loud in this post about possible things to put in the book:

"Thanks for reading!"

"Keep on truckin'" (not valid if person is a trucker)

"If someone steals this book, may they be punched to death by wolves" (I actually put this in one of the books I assigned for Brandy but I misspelled wolves, which is why I need Brandy to edit everything I write in the first place)

"There's a spider on your back."

"[Insert witty comment here]"

"Thx! My handwriting is terrible."

"[Insert personal, moving comment here]"


"Welcome to Night Vale" (I love this show)

In other news, Book 8 is now available for Kindle and for all other eBook formats. It will be available in print when we finally get Createspace to not mess up the cover alignment, which will hopefully be this week. Then I'll do the "it's officially published" post and start doing some contests. One of them will be to win a paperback copy of the book, which is very heavy and expensive and therefore will only be open to US residents or people with a US mailing address. You probably want to enter that one. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Book 8 is almost ready! The copyediting is done, most of the formatting is done, and there's just some processing over at Createspace before it can released on all formats, which will hopefully be late next week or early the following week. Remember that Book 7 is still on sale until December 15th for the Kindle, and books 1-3 are on sale for some unknown amount of time (Sourcebooks decides these things, not me) so if you don't have them on Kindle but you can't go anywhere without them you'll want to scoop them up.

The print version of Book 8 will be a little pricey. There is nothing I can do about this; Amazon has a minimum price to print the book. I will just say this: You will be getting a lot of book for your money. Lots and lots of book.

Anyway. Motherhood.

In the romance/historical romance genre that I started out in, motherhood isn't addressed a lot. Usually the story is about the man and woman meet, usually under less than perfect circumstances, and then by the end of the book they're together, or by chapter 3 if it's regular romance and they need to get to the sex before the reader gets bored. With a lot of Pride and Prejudice sequels you need to have some plot before that (or don't) because Darcy and Elizabeth are already together, but unless there's something wrong with Elizabeth's child-bearing abilities and that's the plot (I have yet to see one where the problem was on Darcy's end), they usually pop out a kid within a year and all is well. And they are perfect parents. Darcy may be cold and Elizabeth independent, but G-ddamn if they aren't the best parents ever because any other possibility would be horribly depressing to us.

In certain instances in my large cast I decided "this relationship is going to be like this" and this relationship is going to be like that" and there were occasions were I just let the text flow as the characters acted like I thought they would. In real life, there are all different kinds of parents, and in real life once kids get older their relationship with their parents cannot be described as "perfect" unless things are creepy and weird and the kid needs a life. After the kids are about age 3 you need to start seeing a push-and-pull for both the mother and the child to be real.

One of the more awkward situations I got into with my fans was that people thought Georgie (Georgiana Bingley) was not really a good parent, which is a subject that comes up a lot in Book 8, but I think it's because her relationship with her daughter is harder to understand than the typical Regency "I love my kid to bits and now that they popped out of me my whole life is dedicated to tickling them or whatever" thing you see in fiction which certainly wasn't true to life. Mothers were expected to have servants take care of their children for the first three years, even to send them to another house if the current house was crowded to be raised by a wet nurse. Hanging around babies was not a Regency rich people thing to do, but Georgie also connects to her child (and her mother) differently than the original cast in that she's not outpouring with visible affection all the time, which is how a "good mother" acts in romance fiction. Just like you don't treat your child like you would a puppy doesn't mean you don't have a deep emotional connection that is the strongest thing in your life; it was just very hard for me to express it the way I felt was true to her character. At this point in the series I was more interested than being true to characters than genre norms, which you probably figured out by the fact that they also go to Japan.

Of course I'm probably preaching to moms to know way more than I do about the subject, but oh well. ;) That's right. It's 2013 and I'm finally into smilies. I'm a late bloomer.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Historical Accounts

First of all, SALE! There's a sale on Book 7 (Young Mr. Darcy in Love) on Kindle, now going for $2.99 until December 15th in honor of the release of Book 8, so go pick it up at this low-low price before it's too late.

Moving on, I'm going to give away a small plot point for Book 8 here, but during the course of the book, the younger Darcys (Geoffrey and Georgiana) meet the shogun of Japan. This was a pretty difficult thing for foreigners to do in 1828, but it did happen occasionally. I pulled historical for that scene adn the scenes leading up to it from a real source: Charles MacFarlane's book, Japan: An Account, Geographical and Historical from the Earliest Period at Which the Islands Composing This Empire Were Known to Europeans Down to the Present Time and the Expedition Fitted Out in the United States, etc, which was published in 1852, a time in which apparently you got paid by word in the title? Anyway, it gives detailed description of European interactions with the Japanese government in the Tokugawa period, prior to Japan opening its ports to foreigners.

I noticed something interesting about the book. The original compay I found was in the City College library and dated from probably the 1920's. When I went to order the book oline, I got a new reprint with a cover like this:

Now you probably didn't notice this, but there's a blank circle at the top of the book. Here's what the original cover looked like:

Notice something there? A Swastika. Now the Swastika has a number of different meanings, most of them originating from Asia either as a symbol of the mythic Aryan race that had/has nothing to do with Hitler, or a good luck symbol which became particularly popular in Buddhism. In Buddhism (the official religion on the Tokugawa regime, even though the Emperor himself was a Shinto priest) it also represents the symbol for eternity and is often drawn on the Buddha's empty chest. 

When the book was published it was entirely harmless, even in Europe. Obviously since then it's become one of the most negatively-associated symbols on earth to Westerners, something that still baffles people in the East. Clearly, when Elibron Classics went to reprint the old edition in 2005, they decided to wipe it from the cover and hope no one noticed. The original image is actually still in the book, opposite the cover page, as it probably appeared in 1852, as that's where prints were placed. 

I'm usually against censorship, but this is a rare example of when I'm not. India is loaded with swastikas, though the Hindu swastika goes in the other direction and sometimes has dots between the lines. I remember flinching in front of my guide on my first night in New Delhi when we stopped in front of one, and him rolling his eyes with frustration. Obviously he's had a lot of customers do this. But I didn't apologize for it either.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How A Cover Comes Together

Rejected cover (with the old template on the
bottom) because of lack of color
The official cover of Book 8 (The Chrysanthemum and the Rose) isn't done yet, though I'll explain why in a minute. It's fair to say it's almost done, thanks to fans over at my Facebook group page (seriously, that is the best way to be part of the conversation, go check it out). A lot goes into the cover art, which is why so many self-published books look really crummy. People either don't know how, think they know how but actually don't know how, or don't care, which is fair if it's only an eBook. My Kindle doesn't even show the cover page - it just loads the first page of the first chapter every time. But if you're putting out a pint book, you should really put time into the cover.

First of all, I don't do the cover alone. I do most of the conceptual work but have a graphic artist put it together and give it a nice polish. It's cheaper since he's not starting from scratch, but I know I need a professional to make sure everything lines up and people are getting a quality product.

(1) Load template. The template we use is based on Sourcebook's layout for books 2 and 3. It's a good layout, with a clear title and image and has a nice all-about look. The changes will be largely cosmetic between books. Books 5-8 all have the same fonts and the same general layouts. Most of them have the same pattern on the bottom half, though we changed it for book 6 and we'll change it again for book 8 because of the Japanese theme.

(2) Find public domain image to use. There's a ton of it online dating from the Regency period. Sometimes it's actually hard to find an image that hasn't been used for another edition of Pride and Prejudice or another published fan fiction. Some people prefer static images of say, a house or trees or something, but I prefer to have a scene of characters even if they don't look exactly like the characters in my books and never well. It's also important to be consistent with what my two previous publishers have done. I see a lot of people reusing the same images because they're popular so I try to avoid those. I also need the image to be a high-quality scan and large enough to fit neatly on the cover, and the image has to work as a square. This is the most difficult part of the process. I went through 4 hours worth of Japanese images for Book 8 before settling on the one I found in the first five minutes because I am a crazy person.

(3) Color scheme selection. At this point we've used most of the basic colors that look good on books (Book 1 is green, Book 2 is blue, etc). We don't want to directly re-use any colors. At this point Dave (my graphic designer, say hi to Dave everybody!) usually picks a color based on what we can't use and also what goes well with the image we picked, which is why Book 7 is orange, a color I normally would have thought would never work.

Rejected cover (old template). Was not a square
enough picture and only featured one person.
(4) Get the trim size. This can only occur when I go to format the book, which can only happen after ALL the editing is done. I upload it to Createspace and they tell me how many pages the book is going to be. Based on that number, we can calculate the size of the image we need because we know how wide the spine is going to be. It's actually one long image - the back cover, the spine, and the front cover - that they stamp onto the cardboard material that will be wound around the book to create a cover. As of today Dave can't go forward because I haven't done this yet. There is still some editing and layout to be done. The trim size is very difficult to change so I have to know exactly how many pages the book is going to be and I can never ever change that once the cover image is created. This is why, for formatting reasons, there are sometimes empty pages at the end of the book. They're there because I did some last-minute formatting that changed the amount of pages I needed but it was too late to change the number of pages in the book because the cover was done, so I had to leave a bunch blank to get back to that exact number.

Final cover choice for the image;
The old template is still in place
because we haven't gotten around
to changing it yet.
(5) Createspace tells me something is wrong with the image, even though nothing is. Createspace likes to do this to us. We submit exactly what they say they want and they say something's wrong and then we submit the same file and say it's fine. The system is automated so I don't know what they're picking up.

(6) I order a "proof" copy, which comes and the spine image is like 1 mm wrong and Createspace says it's my problem and/or their system isn't perfect, and I fret about things I can't change for a while. So it goes.

I'm shooting for a December 15th publication date for Book 8. That is not in any way a hard date. My roommate is doing a last-minute final check on the text while I put everything into layout, finish the glossary, and try to find a way to pay my copy-editor. I hope she takes plasma or packages of Chrystal Light Lemonade. But I do hope for a mid-December publication. The eBook will almost certainly be available first because of technical things like shipping times and ordering proofs for the paperback. Watch this space for giveaways and deals coming up soon! I will discount Book 7 in the two weeks leading up to Book 8's release so people can get caught up.

In other news, I'm in Rabbinical school now, so there are additional reasons for me to be crazy these days.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cover Art

Let me say this outright: Book 8 is the best book in the series. Some fans of it don't particularly agree with me (they are partial to 4 or 5 or 10) but I think it's the best book because I had the most fun researching it and the most fun writing it so it is the best. To me. You can decide for yourselves.

I am having an issue finding the perfect cover image, as I want a perfect cover image for this one, and because it mainly takes place in Japan I have a whole different avenue of period art open to me. You can go to the album of potential covers on the Facebook group page here to put your 2 cents in, which is bad saying because your opinion is worth more than 2 cents to me. I know you're at a slight loss because you don't know what happens in book 8, but let me just say this: Japan, fight scenes. Lots of both of those. That should start you in the right direction. And of course if you want to submit a public domain image to me as a suggestion based on what's already up, I am open to that. I am SUPER open to other people doing work for me.

There will be swag for this book. Little Japanese keychains or whatever. I haven't made the trip to Chinatown yet but whatever they are, they will be very light and easy to mail. Watch this space for ways to get some (picking the winning photo is one of them).

Friday, November 8, 2013

In Which I Emerge from Hibernation Like a Bear in Spring

Book 8 should be rolling out next month, so it's time to start posting on this thing again. Book 8 is called The Chrysanthemum and the Rose. Yes, I know that's not super spellable, but look, we're eight books in. If you're even reading this you definitely have found my Amazon page or my website or my Facebook group page and you know how to follow a link I'll be posting when it goes up on Amazon. I'm aiming for December 15th, but there have been some copyediting delays that were out of my hands, so I don't know yet.

What have I been up to:
- Finding a new literary agent for my graphic novel (found!)
- Starting Rabbinical school
- Writing other books, mostly horror

There's plenty to look forward to! Book 7 will be on sale for Kindle prior to the release of Book 8 in case you need to catch up, and there will be all kinds of contests with great prizes and rewards for loyal fans. So watch this space!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Contest Winners!

1 paperback copy of The Darcys and the Bingleys goes to: Liz Josette 

1 paperback copy of The Road to Pemberley goes to: Cherri Trotter

1 digital copy of Georgiana and the Wolf goes to: Geenzbeenz

1 paperback copy of Georgiana and the Wolf goes to: BeckyC 

Copies of Kindle Books 1-5 goes to: Luthien84

1 paperback copy of Young Mr. Darcy in Love goes to: Janite Sarah

You all should have emails from me. If not, email me and let me know! And congratulations!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And you should probably enter those contests, too

I spent last week at the 42nd Pennsic War. For those of you not aware of what Pennsic is, it's kind of hard to explain. A Ren Faire that's not open to the public and lasts two weeks? Yes. An excuse for heavily-armored people to beat each other with wooden sticks? Yes. A medieval reenactment of anything? No.

Pennsic is the annual war between the East Kingdom (the East Coast of the US) and Mid-Realm (everything West of Pittsburgh) staged by the SCA, or the Society for Creative Anachronism, which sort of involves roleplaying everything from the Fall of Rome to the reign of Elizabeth I. So there's a lot of guys dressed like Celts and Romans and Tudors and Samurai running around, buying cool handicrafts from each other and participating in massive battles of a thousand or so people that are determined by who gets hit the most. The war isn't really about winning so much as having an excuse to get together (It's said, the loser gets Pittsburgh).

Does this look familiar? Brian wore it in Book 3
It's also the ever time I will ever call myself a jock. Not because I'm particularly built or particularly good at fighting (I'm actually pretty bad) but because I go there mainly to suit up in armor and fight, and not do a whole lot of the other stuff like bardic circles and learning crafts and archery and whatever else is going on. Maybe some drinking, because there are really interesting forms of liquor there. Pennsic is the kind of place where you can walk around the campground at 10 in the morning with an empty goblet and someone will fill it with homemade mead that is really heavy on the honey.

I'm not going to get into the technicalities, but despite living in New York, which is in the East Kingdom, I was part of Drachenwald, the European/Middle Eastern/African kingdom, representing the Israeli shire of Ma'ale Giborim because spiritually, I live in Israel, and the only reason I don't physically live there is that I get really sick from the water.

I had a lot of fun this year, managing to fight two days in a row (which in armor can be really hard). I have no idea who won - probably Mid-Realm because they had far more people on their side. But that's not really the point of it. The point of it is to get bashed on the head a couple times and say, "Wow, my helmet sure works! Totally worth the money!"

So long, Pennsic. See you next year!


If you want to enter last month's contests, you have a week to do so! Leave a comment on the blog post of your choice. And remember to leave your email so I can contact you if you win!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ghost Posting!

I posting but I'm not actually here! Oooooo [rattling chain sound]. I am posting from a phantom zone called "the Wednesday before." Ooooooooo [more rattling chain sounds]. I used the scheduling button because I am away! Oooooooooo.

Right now I am, G-d willing, driving to Pennsic, the best thing ever, and I will be fighting on the battlefield tomorrow. Pictures to come. Pennsic is like a Jane Austen convention, only it's outside and you don't have to wear an unflattering empire gown and force your significant other to attend dance workshops to learn a 15-minute piece he will never use again and also it is awesome. There's always a couple guys there wearing uniforms from Colonial Times even though the cut-off for time periods is the reign of Elizabeth I, but they are all really hot because the uniforms are wool.

This is the final week of the month of contests, and there are two giveaways. Please leave your email address in the comments to enter. Enter before August 20th to be valid.

(1) A set of Books 1-5 on Kindle version. Open to anyone who can open a Kindle file, which is everyone in the world if you download the program free from Amazon.

(2) A signed copy of Young Mr. Darcy in Love. Open to anyone with a US address. Sorry Canadians - rates have really shot up and the book is really heavy.

Spooky, right? No, of course not. Not at all.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I was going to do a real blog post this week, something with content, and then my brain melted

This week's contest: There's two.

(1) A signed, paperback copy of Georgiana and the Wolf  (Book 6), available to people with a US mailing address.

(2) An eBook edition of Georgiana and the Wolf (Book 6) Book 6, available to anyone.

Please leave your email address and specify which contest you are entering. You cannot win both contests, even if you are Cherri Trotter.

The contest is open until August 15th, so feel free to enter if you find this post late!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

So many contests, so little time

An alternate cover to Book 7
Note to reviewers: If you have a review blog, you can get an eBook copy of Book 7 by emailing me. If you have reviewed the previous books, you can get the paperback edition.

I know some of my readers prefer paperbacks to eBooks, and some of you are overseas. Maybe Amazon won't ship to your country, or maybe it will be very expensive.

You can now obtain the book directly from me. I can buy the book directly from Createspace, so before Amazon takes a cut it's much less. I'm committed to getting anyone a copy who wants a copy, so here are the current offers:

US buyers: $15 for a signed copy, which includes shipping (sent media mail)
Overseas buyers: $10 + the cost of airmail for a signed copy.

Contact me for further details or to place an order.

Please note: I will not ship to India because it will not get there. The Indian postal service is vastly underpaid and regularly steals packages. Trust me, I'm speaking from some experience.

Contest Time!

This week I've giving away a signed copy of The Road to Pemberley, the anthology I edited. It is not directly related to the series, so as a result I have a lot of fans who don't have it. If you would like to win a copy, leave a comment on this blog with your contact info. And there's still time to sign up for last week's contest!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book 7 Now Available!

After some delays and consternation, Book 7 was published more or less on time, and is now available on all formats.


Two young suitors, torn apart by time and circumstance. Geoffrey Darcy, son of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, is completing his third and final year at Cambridge under the watchful eye of his cousin and graduate fellow George Wickham Junior. Georgiana Bingley, daughter of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, is spending her time in London with her sister and friends, where matchmaking and flirtation rules the social scene.

But trouble is brewing with King George IV’s advisors, including a scheming minister and a mysterious figure from Germany bearing secrets of the Darcy family. Can the family survive the suspicions of the highest court of the land?

In Altman’s seventh installment of The Darcys and the Bingleys, she follows the children of the characters of Pride and Prejudice as they struggle to right the wrongs of the past and find their own wedded bliss.

Buy it in paperback here. 

Buy it on Kindle here.

Buy it in all other eBook formats here.

Review Copies: If you are a reviewer with any kind of book blog, email me to get set up with a copy. This will be an eBook. Only people who have reviewed the previous books on Amazon will be eligible for a paperback because it is big and very expensive to ship. For those buying it, you're certainly getting your money's worth!

Contest: I will be running weekly contests for the next month.
Up this week: 1 paperback copy of The Darcys and the Bingleys. What's that? You've already read it? Well, do you have a copy with my signature on it? I didn't think so. Please leave a comment on this blog by August 1st. Offer limited to US and Canada. Please leave your email or some other way to contact you in your post.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Because of the impending release of Book 7 in early July, the Kindle versions of Books 5 and 6 are temporarily on sale for $2.99! Pick them up while you have the chance.

 Click on the images to buy

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nuts and Bolts

This is not a terribly interesting post so here
is a cute image to go with it.
Very few people know how a novel comes together. Not even authors really know unless they self-publish, because the editorial and layout team at the publishing house handles it. That’s why so many self-published novels come out so badly – margins too wide, font too small, no page numbers, overly simple cover. People try to reduce page count to reduce price, which isn’t a good trade-off for the reader. And some people publish on eBook only and don’t worry about it.

I had some experience with this when I self-published Pemberley Shades as a POD (print on demand) back in 2008. I was trying to copy the layout of the 1949 edition to be loyal to the text, right down to the number of pages and the centering of the page numbers. But I had to guess at the font.

I’ve now done it eight times, and it remains tedious. When it comes back from the copy-editor, I review all the changes and upload it to Createspace, where they reformat it to my chosen trim size (which is very common but not preferred by their printer). Then it’s time to go in and chose the font, number the pages, and choose things like whether the chapters should have capital names and whether the count should start on page 2 and whether to number the introduction. Every single thing you see on the page is the result of a careful decision – or unfortunately, a not-so-careful decision, which is why I keep changing fonts between editions. Arial for Book 5 was a bad idea, but I didn’t know anything. Book 6 I used the recommended Garamond, but it turned out I had a weird edition of Garamond and that’s why it looks strange. Book 7 is in Minion Pro or something like that, or I hope it will be but it involves a lot of formatting issues with Createspace.

Boring, right? But it takes hours and hours and it’s something I have to do, always forgetting how long it actually takes until it’s 4 am and I’m still doing it and ON G-D IT GOES ON AND ON.

Book 7 (Young Mr. Darcy in Love) is almost done. We’re shooting for a July 1st release, but it may be a bit later than that if Amazon holds it up with processing. It will be available on all eReader formats from Smashwords. If you would like a review copy, contact me. If you would like a print copy, you are eligible for one if you have reviewed at least five of my other books on Amazon. They don’t have to be long and they should be honest reviews, but it costs me money to send out print copies so I need some reliability.

Also coming up with July: Lots of giveaways and sales on my older books! So stick around. There’s lots more coming up. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Publishing's Bad Business

Business first: The cover of book 7 is mostly decided, but I haven't officially sent it to my graphic artist who perfects the work because I don't have a page count yet, so you're welcome to comment on it. For more regular updates, you should really be visiting my Facebook Group Page, which is where all the action is. We're aiming for a July 1st release - in that range, anyway - with the eBook probably out a week ahead of the paperback because of the various waits in the approval process at Createspace. There are some big sales coming up - details to come - and contests around the release of the book, so stay tuned.

In addition to books 8-10 rolling out over the next two years, I'll also be working on a companion guide to the series, which lists all the dates and characters and historical background and discusses how the books generally came together. There's also short pieces and scenes that were left out of the print versions. After that ... well, I imagine, a rocking party in NYC where I celebrate never having to do anything Austen-related again.

In other news, I spent Thursday of last week at the Book Expo of America, publishing's trade show, where I was admitted as the assistant to my boss, a literary agent. They do technically allow self-published authors there but they don't WANT them there, and people with that on their badges generally get ignored. This is a trade show where editors and marketing people and book buyers and librarians have a chance to meet and do business and big publishers work up excitement about their new books. In BEA tradition, I was almost handed a ton of giveaway books I did not want because I would not read, and in the past few years I've perfected the art of not walking out with twenty of them.

It was also a time for attending panels where important people who think they have their finger on the pulse of their readers and a lot of charts and sales numbers to prove it say incredibly backward things about new technology and emerging markets. For example, there's publishers who are actually concerned about pirating and use expensive DRM (digital rights management) software to try to prevent it, which has never ever ever worked in the history of DRM. You could sink time and expense on hiring experts to protect you, or you could just go out into the woods and throw dollar bills into the biggest pit you can find. They will have the same result.

As outdated as this pirate's weapons.

Also in the panel someone said public libraries were the future of publishing, and people clapped because they were librarians and they don't want to be out of a job. But if libraries switch over to eBooks for their non-research materials, no one will go to them, and they won't need staffs. Or a building. I think this was lost on some people.

The main thing that occurred to me this year more than other years is the particular way in which the publishing business model is a bad model, and it only gets away with it because people agree to work there for far less money than other industries and there still is a certain worship of books, which is good. But their business model is super, super bad.

Anyone in business knows two basic things: (1) you have to produce a product people will want to buy, either because they actually need it or they think they need it, and (2) you have to sell that product at a price your customers can afford (only Apple is exempt from this). If I had a business selling backyard saunas, and twenty people came in each day and 19 of those people said they would love to buy my sauna but couldn't begin to afford it, I would have to seriously rethink my pricing to stay in business. Especially if the guy next door was selling perfectly usable, well-scrubbed, refurbished saunas for 70% off. Then I would be in real trouble.

In publishing, the company decides what books will be sold largely on guesswork, then decide on a price through a set of factors that are complex and can't possibly be seen by the average consumer, who probably just thinks that hard cover books cost too damn much. I for one have a reading habit well beyond my ability to pay, and when you consider I would have to pay $10 per book to take it out of the library (subway both ways to get it and then to return it), the only way to satisfy my needs it to find books on the used market, where I usually go for the cheapest possible price (or next-to-cheapest, if the cheapest one is in really bad shape to the point of being unreadable). I pick up books on street stands, in Salvation army stores, at flea markets, and from Amazon's used book shop. This is a blind spot for publishers because they have no reason to track non-sales (they make no money off a resale). And I can't be the only one doing this. Book costs decrease because they're resold; the only time I ever buy a new book is after Amazon marks it down or I have a coupon and I have also ruled out finding it cheap on the used market.

In other words, most books are too pricey for me. We're taking into account the fact that I'm poor, yes, but if people want to be reading as many books as I'm reading per year, or anything close to that, and they don't want to spend time and money going to the library only to find out they have to wait for the popular book to become available again, they're going to go used.

Indian book publishing has a different model. They price books based on how much the literate market can afford to pay for them. Even books that are imported for sale from abroad can prove to be too expensive so they reprint them in India, where paper is cheaper, at a drastically lowered price. This meets the demands of India's flourishing literary culture that they inherited from the British (or the English-language part did), which increases as more people become literate. So if they can meet the demands of the market, why can't the industry in America? If people are going out of their way to buy cheap e-editions or used books with damage to avoid high prices, it means prices are too high.

To be fair these recommendations would be hard to implement. Amazon can afford deep discounts because it sells its books at a loss, making up the money with high end electronics. It does this because it wants to dominate the market, which has worked out pretty well for them. But books shouldn't be a luxury item. Publishers have to face the idea that people are buying books cheaper because that's the real selling price the market can bare, not the ever-increasing prices set at a time of higher economic prosperity. And no amount of blogs and Facebook pages and Pinterest accounts and Twitter accounts and Goodreads author pages that they beg authors to throw up are going to change that.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Greatest Gatsby

Last time I compared The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. Tonight I'm just going to talk about the movie, which has no connection except that Daisy is played by Carey Mulligan, who played Kitty Bennet in 2005th Pride and Prejudice. Too bad Kitty Bennet has never been an interesting character.

First If you have 6 hours left in your life, download and listen to the audiobook of The Great Gatsby. Second, if you don't have 6 hours left your life, G-dspeed and stop wasting time with this blog. But for the rest of us, I recommend avoiding the Jake Gyllenhaal read (the guy who sounds and looks like Tobey Maguire, who's actually in the movie, but isn't the same guy to confuse you) and trying the Frank Muller version so commonly floating around on torrent sites. It is a great read but I enjoyed it more in audio form, something that is rarely true for me when it comes to books.

Then I recommend trying the most recent movie, partially because the other versions were lousy (particularly the Robert Redford one) and partially because it is awesome. I enjoyed Baz Lurmann's choice of directorial style, the one known as 'totally insane.'

"One of the greatest books in the English language and set in the 1920's? Let's make sure the movie is in 3D and feature as many modern rap stars as possible! Some of the scenes won't even be in focus! It'll be great!" And thank G-d no one stopped this asylum patient who is somehow allowed to direct movies.

The Great Gatsby is a book about excess and wild parties, or the first half is, and it really works for the first half, except maybe the first 10 minutes of the movie where the camera speed is turned up to "meth addict" and I'm serious when I say some important shots aren't even in focus. It's really disorientating and makes you grateful when people are just standing around and talking instead of trying to go places, but it also speeds up the duller moments that need to be in there, such as that critical first scene at Tom and Daisy's that establishes the tone for the book but is agonizingly slow. Things only get better with the scene at Myrtle's apartment (or her sister's, I was never clear on that), one of the slowest moments in the book where bored rich people say boring, dumb things and none of them involve Gatsby. Worst orgy scene ever for reasons not involving the technicalities of an orgy, and I've read Mr. Darcy's Diary (Sorry Maya. Thanks for making that scene short). In the movie it's a great amount of fun that you feel like you're having and Nick actually gets off some funny lines, which he continues to do in the movie in a way that doesn't pop out so much in the book because you're not staring at Tobey Maguire's confused expression.

Then Gatsby finally shows up in the fantastic set of a party just as glamorous as you were hoping and movie continues full tilt but with less confusing tracking shots as it builds up the relationship between Nick and Gatsby, which is harder to see in the book because Nick is the narrator looking back on the past and making harsh judgments and the movie he's more obviously a character. The sweetest scene in the movie is when Nick agrees to host the tea party with Daisy. Gatsby rushes to essentially reward him with free money via business connections, and Nick just says he'll do it as a favor, because he wants to, and Gatsby is shocked. I never noticed it in the book.

And then awful, awful Daisy, played very well by Carey (her husband is even better), and the movie slows down as the book does. But Baz Lurmann somehow made the scene of Daisy crying into a pink shirt not ridiculous, which was a masterpiece of directing as far as I am concerned. If the was an Academy Award for not fucking up an awful scene from a book, he would win it. He would win ten of them. He would get nominated a bunch of times and then win a bunch of times. Getting that scene right means you win Great Gatsby.

The reason I was so impressed involves my high school encounter with the book. One day our teacher let us watch part of the 1972 movie with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, which she explained was a total flop. "And this is the most ridiculous scene! Everyone just laughed and laughed! Killed the whole movie." And Mia's crying into this pink shirt and it's just awful and we all agreed with her.

The rest of the movie is a little dull, and at times still a little too over-the-top to be achingly sad, though there's one brief moment where I forgot that this book was a cautionary tale and begged that maybe this version wouldn't work out that way, and they would actually end up together. (Spoiler: they don't) I'm not a huge fan of DiCaprio, but he really sold me on Gatsby not just as an obsessive weirdo - which, to be fair, he is - but as a guy totally lost in his dream. Also bravo to whomever was in charge of making sure the actors had red eyes as if they'd just been crying or were going to cry, which had to be a good 40% of the movie. At some point even Tom looked like he at least had allergies or something.

Comic by Kate Beaton

In the end I obviously recommend this poignant, well-acted, incessantly well-crafted movie that makes the best of narration to capture the literary genius of Fitzgerald's descriptions. And the book has perhaps one of the best final lines of all time (even if it has a confusing run-on sentence), and it's also in the movie:

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning —— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

You can even listen to it:

Starts at around 1:54.

Up next: Hopefully I get back to talking about my upcoming book, which does not involve the facade of the American dream and instead involves British people trying to marry each other.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gatsby vs. Darcy: An Unwinnable War

I had a long drive over the weekend and spent seven hours listening to the audio version of The Great Gatsby (the Frank Muller version), a book I hadn't read/heard since high school. I do recommend the audio version because when the book gets a little dull and you space out, the book continues as if you've continued reading! It may be one of the best English-novels ever written but there certainly are a lot of places to space out.

Had you asked me to describe it prior to the weekend, I would have said based on fuzzy memories, "There's a narrator living in a house next to a rich guy named Gatsby who is in love with a married woman and her husband is a jerk. Then I think there's a car accident and someone probably dies off-screen and the novel's over." Which is mostly accurate. As Kate Beaton pointed out in her book Hark! A Vagrant, it's a great novel for high school kids to read because it's basically a primer on how to find metaphors in books but it doesn't have many likable characters to relate to.

Compare this to the beloved but mostly metaphor-less Pride and Prejudice, which seem so to be its opposite in many respects. Both are about rich people trying to get married to the right people but mostly spending lots of time hanging out because they don't have anything else to do. When I first read Pride and Prejudice (also in high school) I found the first half mind-splittingly boring. It wasn't until Elizabeth got her explanation letters from Darcy that I suddenly realized I was reading a truly great book. In Pride and Prejudice you're agonizing over every moment of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance; in The Great Gatsby you're trying to determine what Fitzgerald is trying to say about G-d via the eyes of T.J Eckleberg's discarded advertisement in the valley of ashes. Darcy gets the girl, and Gatsby doesn't, mostly because he doesn't have the right kind of money ("old money"), another issue that is a focal point of Pride and Prejudice - inherited vs. landed money.

I could go on about this, but I'm not writing a paper for an English class. I will say that I recommend the audiobook version and taking another swing at the novel, whose beautiful words don't really translate to screen.

In other news, Book 7 (Young Mr. Darcy Falls in Love) has gone to copy-editing, so we're looking at a July release. It's a longer book than Book 6, and set safely back in England, where young people are again trying to pair up. There's going to be a lot of contests and giveaways and sales on the older books when we get nearer, so keep watching this space.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Week of April 7th

What I Learned This Week

(1)   When you’re at the bottom of your career, earning-wise, you have nowhere to go but up. Right? RIGHT?!?
(2)   The day before I die, I should write whatever the hell I want but try to make it bittersweet, knowing it will be read in place of an obituary written by other people.
(3)   That if I had a cat I would name it “David ben Purion.”
(4)   The guy responsible for inventing printed gun technology is the kind of person who clearly should not own a lot of guns, which is unfortunate. I put the odds of him dying in a shootout/gun accident at 50/50.
(5)   That I should have written more off these down when I thought of them and not put it off to Friday.