Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WLW Radio and Ruth Lyons fans will find this series of uploads to YouTube of interest: The full episode of "The 50-50 Club" for November 22, 1963. (A sadly historical day.)

This was during the period when WLWT and WLW radio were simulcasting "The 50-50 Club."


Saturday, June 26, 2010

"He had high cheekbones..."

Have you ever noticed how many characters in fiction are described as having "high cheekbones?" The incidence of high cheekbones in fiction is so high that a character would almost need to not have high cheekbones to stand out.
How far back does this go? I wonder if Prussian authors gave characters from Wisconsin or Florida high cheekbones. How widespread is it? Does an Asian writer cite high cheekbones as the distinguishing characteristic of a Brazilian? It’s a cliché that is worth giving up, in English literature, at least.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kobo E-Reader

I received a Kobo ebook reader earlier this week. Nobody seems to know how to handle caps with this name. I've seen it written "Kobo," "KOBO" and "kobo," in reviews, at the company's Web site ( and elsewhere. I'm going with Kobo. (The name is an anagram of "book.")

This intriguing little gadget is the first ebook reader I've owned. For what it does and what it is, the device is good, and I'm learning to make it do things it's not supposed to do. The Kobo is powered by internal batteries, which are recharged whenever you plug it into a USB port. I have read two lengthy books on it and have yet to drain the battery.

The USB port is also a route to adding books to and removing books from the reader. (It also communicates via a Bluetooth radio, but I don't have one.) Kobo's software (which installs itself on Mac or PC) communicates directly with the Kobo Store ( It will be sold by Borders for $149.99, commencing in July, and Border's will operate its own online ebook store. (More info here.)

The operating instructions and online help are sparse, and the process or purchasing an ebook, adding a free ebook to your Kobo or even just changing what's on your current reading list may be confusing for some. For now, here's a tip: treat Kobo like just another disk drive when it's connected to your computer.

Treating the device as a drive or folder greatly simplifies transferring ebooks and documents (PDF files, which is how newspapers and magazines will be delivered). Download purchased or free material to your computer, then copy it to the root directory of Kobo. When you disconnect Kobo from your computer, it will wake up and process the new material, adding it to the Kobo menus. This procedure also lets you get ebooks from any source. I'll try to find time to provide more detailed info and specs here later--after I write an article on the subject.

The images above are experiments: I scanned the reader to see if the display would be washed out or destroyed by glare. The screen background is lighter, and contrast is in reality better on the physical reader, but these images aren't bad. The first image is the cover of Dark & Disorderly, by Bernita Harris. This is one of the books I edited for Carina Press. If you like the idea of a paranormal mystery with a touch of romance, this book is for you. Bernita is an excellent writer, and the novel is quirky enough and has enough twists and turns to keep you intrigued through the final page.

I also edited In Enemy Hands, a science fiction romance by KS Augustin that offers some truly original ideas. The second image is the first page of the novel on Kobo. Click on the title to buy or read an excerpt from either book. Or visit

Back to the Kobo, here's a quick tour: the blue square at the lower right of the Kobo is a navigation button, used to move around menus, turn pages, change fonts and so forth. Along the left side are several function buttons (as labeled on the front: Home, Menu, Display, Back). The power switch is on the top, along with an SD card slot . The mini-plug-in for the USB cable is on the bottom. The Bluetooth radio supports RIM Blackberry devices, and the company are planning to support additional smartphones and tablets. Oh--and no color, of course, but novels are all about text. I expect it will be some time before color displays reach a reasonable price.
I still prefer reading books printed on paper.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Carina Press Official Launch!

June 7 is the official launch date for Carina Press, Harlequin's new line of genre fiction ebooks.

While Harlequin is known for romance novels of all types, Carina will not be restricted to romance. Carina will publish romance but planned or already on its list are fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, gay/lesbian, historical and other categories.

Cross-genre novels will also be offered. Among the first such offerings is a science fiction romance by KS Augustin, In Enemy Hands. (Yes, it's a science fiction romance that works!) Another interesting cross-genre title is Dark & Disorderly, by Bernita Harris--a paranormal mystery interlaced with romance.

Each of these books has fascinating original elements. Details in upcoming posts!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Book Descriptions

Two paragraphs down is an alternate description for my book On the Way to the Web. (Was ISBN 1430208694, now ISBN 143797242X, and being sold by Diane Publishing.) I bring it up because the copy, from Diane's Web site, is more interesting than the original. Compare it with the existing bookseller listings. Whoever wrote it tightened it up considerably. (I wrote a rough version of the original.)

I'd be more likely to buy the book with the new description. I would change a couple of things ("the failed entrepreneurs" ought to be "the failed entrepreneurs who somehow managed to recover and build empires out of little more than empty time..."). But it works as-is.

Introduces you to failed entrepreneurs, people who built empires out of little more than empty time, the innovators who laid the foundation for the Internet and the World Wide Web, the man who invented online chat, and the people who invented the products all of us use online every day -- in the 1980s, the 1970s, and before! Learn where, when, how and why the Internet came into being, and exactly what hundreds of thousands of people were doing online before the Web. See who was behind it all, and what inspired it all. The real stories are all here -- the great businesses, colossal blunders, and great showmanship that led up to the Net and the Web -- and beyond, turning your perception of the Web and the people who created it upside down. Illus.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Which is More Important—the Synopsis or the Manuscript?

Which is more important to an editor when you're submitting a novel--the manuscript or the synopsis?

As an editor, I always look at the manuscript first. Always. My first approach to a novel is as a reader, and I want to be exposed to your writing without having been “prepped” for who’s who and what’s happening by the synopsis.

As a reader and as an editor, I want to see two things in the first few pages of the manuscript. First, a narrative hook that urges me to read more. It should intrigue me right away, rather than make me wait several pages to learn there is indeed an interesting character in an interesting situation. It should present action, dialogue and/or emotion—or at least challenge the reader with a puzzling circumstance.

Second, I want to be able to identify the protagonist and the setting, and understand the story situation—again, without having been informed by the synopsis. I have received manuscripts in which much of what is happening during the first chapter or two is puzzling—unless you’ve read the synopsis. (Or, until you’ve read past Chapter 6.) This is because the writer assumes people will know what she’s talking about, or because she is too focused on the story to remember that the readers don’t know everything she knows.

This is not to downplay the importance of the synopsis. It serves several purposes. It gives an editor an idea of where you’re going with the story. That saves time, of course, and lets the editor know that you are not writing a cliché (“…and it was all a dream!”) and not rewriting a favorite novel or film. It also shows how well you’ve organized your story—especially important if it is an episodic tale, switches viewpoints, or is not told in time-linear fashion. A good synopsis is in some ways a map of your novel that shows in brief the high and low points as well as the major elements of the plot. With this map, an editor can see where your story needs a little redirection, whether a character or event needs to be emphasized, and so forth.

To sum up: write your novel in such a way that the reader doesn’t have to read the synopsis to understand the story. And don’t put anything in your synopsis that’s not in the manuscript.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Click Here for Success

There exists in the mind of many a writer an assumption that if you go through the motions of tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and so forth, success is assured. Not so. Just posting or sending "here's my book--buy it," more or less filling in the blanks--doesn't do the trick. The publishers of books about how to "build your brand" and bring customers howling to your site want you to believe that the Web has mystical powers. So do those with services and methods guaranteed to make you a success. They want you to believe that if the Web is stroked and penetrated in just the right way, it will erupt in an orgasm of dollars, Euros, zlotys or whatever.

A huge industry is built upon that kind of wishful thinking--the desire for the existence of a shortcut. A secret technique or set of simple actions that will, through some magical means, make editors and agents notice you, land big advances, and cause people to buy tens of thousands of copies of your book. (And maybe--just maybe--cause that book you haven't written to come into being, or at least make people think a mediocre work is great.)

In 30 years online, I have yet to find a button labeled "Click Here for Success!" that works. If you want promotion that is guaranteed to sell books, buy billboards and network television spots. Just don't count on breaking even.

I started promoting books online for Baen and others in the mid-1980s, and I promoted one of my non-fiction books (about the online world) to sales of over 200,000 copies. But the promotion wasn't done exclusively online. I've also had books sell tens of thousands of copies without serious online promotion (so have Andre Norton, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, and Stieg Larsson--pre- and post-Web).

What have I learned from all this book promotion? That successful promotion is (usually) anchored by a quality product, and Internet gyration is but one element in a larger effort. The secret, if there is one, can be found in promoting your work on multiple fronts. It also helps to concentrate on special niches where you're likely to be welcome.

Going through the motions of promotion doesn't yield automatic success--no more than saying you are a successful writer will make you one. Whether you motivate people depends in large part on what you deliver through the online channels, and the other promotional efforts--about which more in a later post.
--Michael Banks