Monthly Archives: May 2009

Fiction Friday>>Time out

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for May 29th, 2009:

Choose one of the following (or both!)

Put this into your story – “Time out! Time out! We can call that, right?”

OR: write a poem from this image – A fallen star.

“Time out! Time out! We can call that, right?”

“For Christ’s sake, Shirley, get serious.”

“I am being serious. We’ve always dealt with Junior with time outs before. Why wouldn’t it work now?”

“Because what he did warrants more than a few minutes alone in his room.”

“We don’t know that he did it. We suspect that he did it.”

Hank sent his wife a pitying look. “How long are you going to play the mother hen? How long are you going to protect him? Look at him! He doesn’t even look like he regrets what he’s done.”

“You don’t know he did it!”

Hank winced at the shrill sound of his wife. “Why send him in time out, then?”

“Well, he was in with bad company. He ought to reflect on that.”

“Bad company?” Hank couldn’t believe his ears. He felt like his eyes would pop out of his head any minute. “Bad company? Shirley, you are the dumbest woman on this side of the Atlantic. The kid is drenched in blood, and it’s not his. He killed a man, Shirley. He killed him with an axe for the twenty bucks in his wallet and the ten year old TV is his living room. I’d say that warrants more than a time out.”

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Fiction Friday>> Unrequited Love

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for May 22, 2009: A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her.

She looked at Daddy across the table and suppressed a smile. He had fallen for her, hook, line and sinker, she was almost sure. Why else the expensive restaurant, the champagne, the personal limo instead of the one usually provided by her escort firm? Why else was he looking at her with moony eyes, a silly grin on his face?

Arthur, who wanted to be called Daddy when she was with him, was the big fish she’d worked hard to land, and the work wasn’t over. She nearly grimaced thinking of the night ahead but, in the end, who cared? She’d better buck up because she’d have to live with it -with him-every night if her plan worked.

Oh, there he was, taking her hand, making his moony eyes at her again. She suppressed a shudder when he wet his thick, red lips, leaving a film of saliva that reminded her of the slime of a snail. He sniffled, a nervous tic that always made her want to give him a tissue. His hand was pudgy and its skin flaky from eczema, the nails bitten to the quick. It didn’t matter. The man was filthy rich, and that was all that mattered.

Sex was a great lure, an addiction she was able to feed. Nothing was taboo for her, although her ability to shut down her brain came handy most of the time. She’d had to do a brain dump often with Daddy Arthur. Now she would get the reward she deserved for all those nights… well. She’d rather not think about them.

Daddy leaned toward her across the table. She did the same. He whispered in her ear. Startled, she leaned back. Felt herself blanch. Oh, God, how could she have been so wrong?

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Zumaya joins Espresso Project

The following is a press release from my publisher, Zumaya Publications. I’m particularly pleased that there are three places in Canada on trial:

Late in April, Zumaya Publications completed the paperwork that places all our titles currently being printed at Lightning Source into their pilot program with On-Demand Books, makers of the Espresso Book Machine. Other participating publishers are John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Clements Publishing, Cosimo, E-Reads, Bibliolife, Information Age Publishing, Macmillan, University of California Press and W.W. Norton.

Through this program, our books will be available for printing at all facilities that have an Espresso. There are currently 12 EBMs operational worldwide, and my understanding is that this pilot program is the first phase of a marketing plan to place more of them in the next few years. The ones already in operation are located at:

  • World Bank InfoShop, Washington D.C.
  • New York Public Library, New York, NY
  • New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans,
  • LA 
Internet Archive, San Francisco, CA
  • University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
  • University of Alberta Bookstore, Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • McMaster University Bookstore, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • Newsstand UK, London, England
  • Library of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt
  • Angus & Robertson Bookstore, Melbourne, Australia
  • University of Waterloo Bookstore, ON, Canada
  • Blackwell’s Bookstore, London, United Kingdom

Just about a decade ago, the first on-demand book printer came into being. The quality of the product, compared to the traditional printing methods, left a good deal to be desired; and the cost to print each copy was much too high for most book publishing uses. However, where only a limited number of copies-or a single one-was wanted, those early machines were both economical and sensible.

It was then that Random House editor Jason Epstein wrote Book Business, in which he stated that on-demand printing was the future of the industry. Epstein was one of the founders of On-Demand Books.

Since those early days, the quality of on-demand printing has grown exponentially, and today a digitally printed book is indistinguishable from its offset-printed counterpart with one exception: it will always have a glossy cover for technical reasons. By utilizing the improvements in digital printing technology, On-Demand was able to complete development of a compact machine that could revolutionize the way books are printed and sold.

The EBM, which costs $95,000 in its current incarnation, prints and binds a trade paperback book while you wait. Literally. In Blackwell’s bookstore, they’ve replaced the metal frame with glass so the buyer can watch as their book goes from digital file to finished product. You can view the process yourself at http://www.ondemandbooks.com/video2.htm.

The capability to print a book on-site in a bookstore or library means that shipping costs, both financial and environmental, are eliminated. Although no one has, as far as I know, calculated the environmental impact of the machine itself, it has to be borne in mind that the book would still need to be printed, yet that the now-standard print runs wouldn’t be necessary. Given 25-50% of those runs are returned and discarded, logic would suggest the EBM is a much more environmentally sound way of producing print books than any of the alternatives.

The benefits to independent booksellers in particular are clear. One of the biggest obstacles they currently experience trying to compete with superchain and online booksellers is their inability to offer a large range of titles. With an EBM, this would no longer be the case. They will be able to store the files for thousands of books and print off a copy when it’s wanted-and without paying fees to wholesalers and distributors.

In addition, they could, if provided with the proper files, print books for local people who may, for example, only want five or ten copies of a family history for personal use, thus providing an additional revenue stream.

The advantage for authors is that overseas sales will no longer be plagued by expensive shipping costs. This opens the whole world to the exchange of ideas through printed books in the way it has so far only been managed via ebooks.

We’re very excited about being part of this project, for all of these reasons. There’s something particularly exciting about being part of the future of an entire industry.

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Fiction Friday >> Time Warp

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for May 8, 2009
A man is given the ability to go back in time and change one event in his life.

It was true. He was here, five years into the past. He could relive this day, change everything. Amazingly, he had been given a second chance at making things better, at undoing what he had set in motion, what had changed his life and the lives of so many around him. He had hurt so many by that single act, that single choice. He hadn’t realized the impact it would have. It was only in retrospect, looking back at the events that led to that day, that hour, that minute, that he had given himself the luxury of regret. How many times had he wished it could all be undone, rewound, reshot, like the takes of a movie, until he had got it right. And now it could happen, it could be done. He could reshape this moment and all the moments that would come after. He didn’t know if his life would be better for it but at least he would not have that one excruciating regret.

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How to create mood with words

I recently finished Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and was astonished and amazed at the flowery prose. At first I thought well, yeah, he wrote it in 1839 so that explains it. But I’ve read other Poe stories and none of it was so over the top. So I reread it and realized that Poe had used this type of prose to create the mood — and that was the only goal. There is no moral to the story, no position (social or political), simply words that, combined, create this feeling of horror that spreads throughout. Here is an example:

I looked upon the scene before me–upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain–upon the bleak walls–upon the vacant eye-like windows–upon a few rank sedges–and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees–with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium–the bitter lapse into everyday life–the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart–an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.

With this introduction to the House of Usher, Poe continues to heap words onto the mood:

The vault in which we placed it (and which had been so long unopened that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us little opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and entirely without means of admission for light; lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my own sleeping apartment. It had been used, apparently, in remote feudal times, for the worst purposes of a donjon-keep, and, in later days, as a place of deposit for powder, or some other highly combustible substance, as a portion of its floor, and the whole interior of a long archway through which we reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. The door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.

There is no real point to this story, except for placing a protagonist in a surreal situation and make him experience terror. No writer could get away with this kind of “arabesque” today but there is something to say about studying the master of the mood.

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