Filtering by Tag: BOOKS

I'm in a Library

I’ve fallen back in love with libraries, as of late. I used to think they were graveyards filled with tombstones. Now I see they’re immortal. All those stories between the covers. My favorite libraries have shelves so big you have to turn a wheel to pry them a part and walk between them.

Buy "The Tumor" — my short story that’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

The Annex

I used to live in Los Feliz. Now I live in Burbank. Every so often, I go back to Los Feliz, and the other night I went to Skylight Books. My favorite thing is the bookstore's Art Annex. It's a few doors down on Vermont and stocked with graphic novels, art books, screenwriting books, photography books, and chapbooks. It's like the creative, mutant, smaller twin to Skylight. While there, I happened across a new book by Dave Cooper, a longtime favorite artist of mine. He's a maker of what could be called comics and a kind of psycho-surrealist. I first fell in love with his work through Ripple, which is a crazy magical work that forces you to think about the body, and sex, and human relations in all kinds of mind-bending new ways. A few weeks ago, when I was at Wacko, I spotted an Eddy Table doll, so I figured something was afoot. In any case, I was delighted to discover the latest work by Cooper at the Art Annex: Mud Bite. What's Mud Bite? It's hard to say. It's the story of a guy with bulging eyes, and a girl with a skin problem, and a river of mud. And there are scary bugs, too. It's a joy to encounter -- filled with curious and awful things, moments of bizarre beauty and strange twists, and oddly enlightening to your soul. Check out the trailer for "The Absence of Eddy Table." Holy cow!

Buy "The Tumor" -- my latest digital short story that's been called "a masterpiece."

Last Weekend

Last weekend, I went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I'd been to the FoB before, but when it was at UCLA, and it's now at USC, which I'd never been to before. USC is sprawling and nice, but there's something sort of flat and banal about it. Although there is some interesting architecture. I was there to see my friend Matt Young sit on a panel and discuss his new memoir, EAT THE APPLE, which is an amazing and experimental memoir that explores what multiple deployments do to a young Marine's mind. I highly recommend it. I got to meet BLACK HAWK DOWN author Mark Bowden, who was on the panel and discussing his new book, HUE 1968; read his rave of Matt's book in the New York Times. We didn't stay long at the FoB, because there were amazing shrimp tacos to be had at the appropriately named Best Fish Taco in Los Feliz. That inspired choice was thanks to Maggie Waz, a great young, talented, and hilarious writer who has an alter ego that is going to Mars.

Buy "The Tumor" -- a new digital short story that's been called "a masterpiece."

What's Your Book Cover Memoir?

This morning, I bought three small paperback books: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Immoralist by Andre Gide, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Together, the trio tell the story of my Book Cover Memoir. If you're on Twitter or Instagram, take a photo of your Book Cover Memoir and hashtag it #bookcovermemoir.

Rats

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I went to Jim Ruland's Vermin on the Mount reading series this evening and ended up listening to Lol Tolhurst read about the early days of The Cure, so that was pretty cool. The reading took place at Book Show in Highland Park; it's a curious place, filled with sideshow art, amusing zines, and general curios. I particularly enjoyed hearing Ben Loory read "The Writer" from Tales of Falling and Flying. It's a really beautiful story. Buy a copy of the book. I did. You should, too. Sometime next year, I'll be reading in the series. I'll post the when and the where when I know. And Book Show is a really curious place. Check it out sometime.

Buy This Book

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I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of my buddy Matt Young's EAT THE APPLE: A MEMOIR.

It just got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly!

"In this bold memoir, ex-Marine Young examines how war transformed him from a confused teenager into a dangerous and damaged man. Fresh from high school and with no direction, Young walked into a Marine recruitment center in 2005 and sealed his fate. Soon he was suffering the indignities of basic training before being deployed to 'the sandbox' in Iraq, where he sweated, masturbated, shot stray dogs, and watched friends get blown up."

What I'm Reading

Typically, I wouldn't read a book like Don Winslow's The Force, yet here I am. I read someone writing about it somewhere, and they described it as in some way Joycean, so there you go. It's about a dirty cop, and a city in disorder, and the blurry line between the supposed good guys and the purported bad guys. It's long and engrossing and a suitable summer read. 

Here's a snippet:

"A strong wind finds its way through every crack, into the project stairwells, the tenement heroin mills, the social club back rooms, the new-money condos, the old-money penthouses. From Columbus Circle to the Henry Hudson Bridge, Riverside Park to the Harlem River, up Broadway and Amsterdam, down Lenox and St. Nicholas, on the numbered streets that spanned the Upper West Side, Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, if there was a secret Da Force didn't know about, it was because it hadn't been whispered about or even thought of yet." 

The Rules Do Not Apply to Writing Memoirs

I never really decided to read Ariel Levy's The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir. It just sort of happened. In fact, I never bought the book. I visited a bookstore twice and both times picked up a copy of it (a different one each time, I'm pretty sure) and sat in a chair and read it. For some reason, I read the second half first. Then I left. Then however many days after that, I returned, not really intending to read the rest of it, but thinking maybe I would, and then I read the first half. The book is built around a famous and terrifying essay that Levy wrote for The New Yorker in which she has a miscarriage in a foreign country: "Thanksgiving in Mongolia." I was floored when I read that in 2013. How could she get so raw? I marveled. It was like entering an emotional abattoir. But the problem is that the book feels like she got a book deal based on that essay, and then she sort of padded the book around it. The book is thin. I mean it's 224 pages, but it feels thin. It feels sort of hurried and rushed and manufactured. Maybe it was or maybe it wasn't. I wasn't really a fan of Levy's first book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, which was pretty much just a collection of essays, and was also sort of politically opposed to everything I was thinking at the time of its publication. She sort of paints women as dumb marks, but I suppose that is her opinion. In any case, her Rules book is about her unconventional upbringing, and her marriage, and her miscarriage, and how life can be happy, and life can be sad. Frankly, it sort of feels like "book contract fulfilled." I don't know why. She sort of speeds through life at a high rate, and maybe she doesn't want to think about the deep, dark things, and maybe that's OK if you want to write a magazine article, but maybe a book demands more. Or maybe her rules are the ones that apply.

How to Write a Book Proposal, Ranked

I spent some time recently rewriting a book proposal for a narrative nonfiction book. Some parts were easy. Some parts were hard. Here are my thoughts on the easiest parts and the hardest parts, ranked.

Image via  HuffPo

Image via HuffPo

The Overview. This is the part of the proposal where you deliver the elevator pitch of what the book is. IMO, you can do this in one of two ways--although, of course, you could also think of yourself as blending the two. Either you can talk directly to the reader--which I think is a more masculine approach--or you can perform the act of being a writer on a stage--which I think is a more feminine approach. I actually did each one for two different-but-related iterations of this proposal. I ended up going with the former. Frankly, I think the former states its value and the latter asks the reader to state its value. In negotiating, the former is referred to as "anchoring." I found the more masculine way of doing it to be easier, but that's just me. Difficulty level: Medium. Rank: 7.

The About the Author. This is my favorite part of the proposal to do and for me the easiest. I think it's easy if you have a platform, but I suppose if you don't, it would suck. After I do this part--which I've done as anywhere from one to three pages; this time it was two pages--I tend to feel more positive about myself, like, look at all I've done! I guess if you don't have much of a platform, you could feel like you were trying to knit a sweater out of dental floss. Sucks for you. Difficulty level: Easy. Rank: 1.

The Marketing Plan. Man, are there a ton of ways to do this one. At one point, like, a year ago, I paid a young freelance editor to talk me about a different proposal for an hour, and she sent me another proposal that had sold. That author knew what was up; he'd worked in the industry. He had bullet points, and it was a plan. It wasn't some writer nattering on about things they may or may not do or may or may or not know how to do. I've worked in PR and gotten paid to make stuff go viral online, so I know how to do this stuff, and I ended up going with something pretty basic. I think, based on a lot of what I read, you want to make it clear that you get this is a hustle, and that you're a writer who can hustle, so I tried to convey that. Difficulty level: Medium-easy. Rank: 3.

The Comparative Analysis. This proposal has the best comps section I've written for any proposal. It has five books on it, and I read every one of them closely, and I thought about how mine was similar and how mine was different. In a way, my book doesn't have a lot of comps, but I think my analysis did a good job of positioning it in the market. Having access to that database that tells you what the real book sales numbers are would've been nice. Difficulty level: Medium. Rank: 4.

The Timeline. I wasn't planning on doing a timeline for this book, but along the way I saw another proposal that had sold, and that person had included a family tree, and I think that got me the idea of a timeline. Did you know there's a timeline-maker thing in word? True story. I LOVED DOING THE TIMELINE. It was SO MUCH FUN. I think I originally thought it would have like 15 things on it, but it ended up having 30. I loved that it looked really professionally laid out, and that it enabled me to combine visuals and text, and that it looks like art. If you get stuck on your proposal, make a timeline. It will make you see things clearer. Difficulty level: Medium. Rank: 2.

The Outline. I wrote another book proposal last year for a different book, and the outline for it was so easy. This time around, the outline was very challenging. It ended up being quite long, and it required me to interweave multiple stories. It was intellectually, emotionally, and structurally challenging. I think it asked me to go against how I operate, which is intuitively, and pushed me to think in a linear fashion, which I don't. I did not enjoy this experience. But I think it came out strong. There's so much interesting stuff in it. And some great writing. My hope is that it serves as an invaluable road map as I move forward. Difficulty level: Nigh impossible. Rank: 8.

The Sample Chapter. Compared to the outline, this is easy-breezy. Finally, you get to do what you do best: write! This is scenes and dialogues and humor and sly winks and action. In fact, I'd argue it's everything that a book proposal isn't. In a way, it's child's play. And that's nice. Difficulty level: Medium. Rank: 6.

Oh, and ... There's the title, the title page, and the epigraph. These things changed over time, but in the end I decided to go with the most high-impact choice that was the most simple. Difficulty level: Not bad. Rank: 5.

Bored? Get a shock when you buy THE TUMOR, a "masterpiece of short fiction" by Susannah Breslin.