Monday, September 03, 2012

What I did on my late-summer vacation

  1. Got word that I'll moderate a panel at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland next month. (I'll provide details when organizers post the program.) The convention's opening ceremony happens at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which could dovetail nicely with my Project Noir Songs event at Noircon 2012 the following month.
  2. Read a crime novel that comes up with a simple, creative, even daring strategy for coping with information dumps.
  3. Wrote and sent off the second of my two small contributions to what looks like an exciting project involving Scandinavian crime fiction.
  4. Heard a youthful member of my entourage declare: "I'm too young for juvie," then muse about his chances of getting into a good university.
  5. Surveyed the grim, unsmiling photographs of Boston Celtics basketball and Boston Bruins hockey players at Boston Garden TD Banknorth Garden and wondered what ever happened to the old-fashioned idea that sports were supposed to be fun.
  6. Also in Boston, saw the most flagrantly, blatantly disingenuous ad since that cigarette that declared "They're Not for Everybody. (But Then, They Don't Try to Be.)" That the ad featured a player who had since been traded in a salary dump by the underachieving Red Sox made its faux solemnity all the more delicious.
  7. Realized yet again the near-infinite number of ways in which trains are better than planes. Enjoyed the infiltration of New Age health babble in the train's café car, where the menu listed Tylenol, Dramamine, and Advil under the heading "Wellness."
  8. Started a book that misuses commas and misplaces quotation marks so frequently that I feel waves of gratitude for the rare puntuation mark used the right way.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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61 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Will you have time to do a Harvey Pekar pilgrimage while in Cleveland?

Me, I'd love to go to a B'con but dont quite have the readies to justify it. Someday though.

September 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been thinking of where I would go. One of his stories included some nice remarks about and panels of the Flats, so I could go there. I suppose I could also find the hospital where I worked and see if Toby Radloff still works there.

September 03, 2012  
Blogger Dana King said...

Looking forward to your panel and chatting you up. As always.

September 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

We're not supposed to publicize our panels until the full schedule has been posted, but I don't suppose it would hurt to reveal that mine is Saturday morning, but at a reasonable hour. I will see you there.

September 03, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Ah, yes--Wellness. I live in its capital.

You're not going to tell us what that unedited book is, are you?

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, looks like your man Rory McIlroy won again.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I smiled with unexpected benevolence upon "wellness" because Amtrak is so immeasurably superior to planes, including in the food department. I bought Greek-style yogurt on the train, if you can believe that, along with a hot dog and coffee at a surprisingly reasonable price. Try buying two yogurts, a good hot dog, and a large coffee in any airport, and see if you get change from a ten-dollar bill.

No, I won't tell you what the badly punctuated book is, at least not yet. I always wonder how I can expose such sloppiness without embarrassaing the author. Such mistakes are always the publisher's fault. No matter how sloppy an author might be, competent proofreading and editing would catch errors of this kind.

September 04, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Ah, Bouchercon. I'd forgotten about that. Have a good time. These days, I stay away, having never seen any gain in publicity to justify expense and hassle.

I hope to do much btter by having a new story in the current AHMM, and perhaps a blog to go with it, explaining how stories happen.

If the error count is very high, I think an author should be held responsible. We are asked at least 3 times in the process to approve editing changes.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

IJ

Every publishing house is different. At Serpents Tail I get one shot to edit, 1 shot to read the copyedit. I'm terrible at the latter stage because I'm so sick of the ms. by that point that I miss tons of stuff.

Peter

Rory is good. The Ryder Cup is goiing to be fascinating stuff this year. On another topic, have you been following the strange sock puppetry scandal in UK crime writing? I've been moving house so I missed the whole thing until yesterday. As much as I'd love to believe that all the mean, nasty 1 star reviews I've been getting on Amazon are the work of one discontented person I dont think thats the case, alas.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I'm sure some authors enjoy the camaraderie. As for explaining how stories happen, how about a guest post here?

In my experience, errors and sloppiness tend to be more frequent in self-pubished books and titles issued by smaller houses. If a publisher is not as rigorous about seeking author approval as yours was, that publisher can still fairly be assigned blame for sloppiuness.

This dovetails with my experience in newspapers these days, where detail work is a luxury no longer affordable.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I have read some discussion about the sock-puppet scandal. I was especially surprised by the latest instance of it, since I knew the author involved. I have just never taken Amazon reviews seriously, though, and I am dismayed that so many people do. So I don't know whether to laugh or to laugh even harder at the current scandals.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should add that I sympathize with your complaint about missing tons of stuff because you're so heartily sick of the manuscript. Fresh eyes are absolutely essentially, even if it means putting the MS aside for a few weeks or months and forgetting about it entirely before picking it up for an edit.

I generally write on a scale much smaller than novels, but even I will occasionally notice, sometimes several years later, an error that I missed in a blog post.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

A writer with a fragile ego, easily upset by bad reviews is going to be in deep shit living in the current era. One technique is, I suppose, to just not read any reviews. I dont do that. I eventually get round to reading all my reviews but I dont get upset. I take the Epicurean viewpoint: we're all going to be dead soon so whats the point of getting upset. And unless the review was written by a total lunatic I can normally take something out of it.

The idea that a respectable and well known writer is so driven by pettiness as to go after someone by creating a host of fictional reviewers and writing bad reviews of their work into the wee hours simply because a fellow author didnt - shock horror - like his book seems dangerously close to insanity to me.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or insanity of an especially calculated kind.

September 04, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I may take you up on the offer, Peter. The exrcise was an eye opener for me.

Re reviews: I cringe for at least 24 hours at one-star reviews, but Amazon readers are not altogether trustworthy. I've received one-stars because the book's price was thought too high, and because a reader couldn't grasp the protagonist's agony at his child's death and didn't approve of his behavior. (That one for my best novel!).

Re copy-editing: The only good copy-editing I got was from a British editor. It was hugely appreciated. In the U.S., I use a "stet" stamp when dealing with the changes.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Amazon readers are not altogether trustworthy."

Nor are comments on online newspaper articles altogether rational after the first two or three in any long string. I have bought books from Amazon and, whenever I receive an e-mail inviting me to review my purchases, I reply by asking how much Amazon pays for its reviews. For some reason, I have never received an answer.

The complaints I have about the book in question here don't involve copy editing. They could have been taken care of with minimally competent proofreading.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Peter, maybe you could tell us what the title of the second point on your list is then.

Trains are great. I ride a local one up to the Bay Area pretty frequently. And having gone across the country a few times on Amtrak, I really don't think there is any better way to see the country. They do seem to have a fair number of mishaps, though.

I write honest Amazon reviews, but I wouldn't bother to write one for a book I didn't like and didn't want to help get a wider audience.

I do think you can tell pretty fast whether a reviewer, whether there or on Good Reads or whatever really has anything to say to you personally. And one star reviews always seem to have some ax or another to grind.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, IJ

Well I won't say that the 1 star reviews dont hurt me when I read them, but the hurt lasts about two minutes and then is gone. If the 1 star review is completely crazy then I find that it doesn't hurt at all.

The idea of making up an identity to attack a "rival" however is utterly bizarre. Stu Neville is a far more successful novelist than me, but he isn't my "rival". Stu's a mate, a compadre, a brother in arms. I don't understand why S Millar - allegedly - did what he did. Why doesn't he see that we're all one the same side? And as for Ellory, well you would have thought that he had more to do with his time. I have to say that in the last nine years (since I pub'd my first novel) this is the strangest thing I've come across and for it to, er, explode in the tiny tiny Northern Ireland crime writing community completely beggars belief.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., we can discuss possible guest posts off line. As for blogs, if you start one of your own, I'd suggest strongly that you be prepared to post regularly and frequently. If you don't think you can do that, you might look into some of the group blogs, where a series of writers post maybe once a week each. Such blogs include Murder is Everywhere, International Crime Authors Reality Check, and Do Some Damage.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the second item on my list is a book in which the author will have the narrator say something like "He spared him the things tourists would be told, such as ... " and then proceed to tell the reader those very things. That's a rather engaging way of conveying information without making the reader feel like an idiot, I think. The book is An Aegean Prophecy (also published as Prey in Patmos) by Jeffrey Siger.

I find it easy to tell when an Amazon review is thoughtful and worth reading.

The problems I have had with Amtrak are due mostly to its having to yield occasionally to freight railroads that own stretches of track over which Amtrak trains must travel. But train crews personable, unlike their uptight, empowerd air counterparts. Plane travel is even more restrictive, prison-like, and grubbily mercenary than it used to be. When someone builds a rail bridge across the Atlantic, I'll give up air travel altogether.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I had not heard that Sam Millar was among the sock puppeteers. I like two of the authors he is said to have attacked, and now I'm going to try a third. I figure an attack from Sam Millar is an endorsement.

Ellory is the guy I know. I had him on a panel at Bouchercon last year, and we dined and drank together. I feel like the neighbors of a killer who tell a newspaper that they were shocked because "He was a quiet man."

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I hadn't heard anything about the sock puppet reviews before this, but then, it's not the kind of thing I'd notice. I don't understand the psychology of a writer doing this at all. Well, I suppose if it's vengeance for a perceived hurt, but it is a pretty petty way of retribution.

As for trains, I've probably mentioned this before, but I was coming back from the east coast and was almost to California when one of the train employees came through in the early hours of the morning and asked "Is there a doctor on the train?" They'd had a kitchen fire and someone had been burned, though I think not seriously. They did have to shut down the kitchen though and they had lunch boxes delivered somewhere along the way.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

On a plane, the crew would not have let a doctor through the curtain to first class.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I noticed the sock-puppet scandal through Twitter. I suggested that readers boycott sock puppets and buy books by the authors they attack -- until some manipulator starts posting false attacks against himself in an effort to take advantage.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Funny, but women are said to be far more likely to write poison pen letters than men, but in the online world, this seems not to be the case.

I have sat in first class a couple of times, though never on my own dime. Neither was sheer bliss. Once they put me by a malfunctioning door and once it was governed by a Nazi stewardess. But the gin did flow fairly freely and I sat near one of the guys from The Wire once, which was pretty cool.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I guess The Wire's commitment to gritty street life did not extend to making its personnel fly coach.

I remember that Boeing 747s used to have a lounge area where passengers could and stand and stretch one's legs. Now, crew announcements tell passengers that their presence in the aisles is unwelcome. They also tell passengers that "lavatories" in first class are reserved for first-class passengers "due to(sic) security concerns." I suspect very strongly that this restriction is due more to a sense of exclusivity that, increasingly, is the only thing that airlines have to sell.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

To be fair, this was after The Wire, so it wasn't on their budget. I later figured out that he had been working on an HBO show set in New Orleans.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If he was a method actor, he'd have tried to live within the character.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

But it was a different character, and this one would have probably tried to fly first class if he could have gotten away with it.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm just joshing.

I once saw Mickey Rooney at an airport. He seemed harried and ill-tempered. Whether this was in character, I don't know.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I once saw Dick Van Dyke. He seemed...withdrawn.

But then, you couldn't pay me enough to be a famous actor in an airport.

Or really, anywhere.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

It seems more than petty to me, it seems like that act of a crazy person. All that trouble to give someone a bad review on Amazon? Why? How does that help you?

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Rooney sure was not surrounded my admirers or anyone else. I'd expect Dick Van Dyke to wear a straw hat, a seersucker jacket, and a bright smile, possibly induced by alcohol.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'm not in the position of having books out there in a shaky market, but imagine elements of daring, of the urge to see how much one can get away with, may be part of the attraction for sock puppets.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Adrian, aggrieved and crazy can look pretty similar.

Peter, I don't think it is an act of daring, though. It's an act of cowardice. I'm surprised Ellory fessed up, frankly.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read all the details. Maybe he fessed up once he realized he could not avoid doing so. He and I had arrangements to be part of the customary Sunday night post-Bouchercon dinner in Cleveland. I wonder if this mess will affect his plans to attend and the subject will come up.

September 04, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Seana

I am still completely flabbergasted. The more I learn the more shocked I get. I was out of the internet loop for a week so I missed it when it was happening and only caught the tail end of the thing. I am even a little bit impressed that a spat between two N Irish crime writers could drag in Val McD, Ian Rankin, Ellory etc.

In the last month I've had a series of vindictive 1 star reviews of The Cold Cold Ground on Amazon.co.uk but it never occurred to me that it was an orchestrated campaign rather I reckoned it was just bad luck that 3 or 4 people hated the book at the same time. Now of course its got me wondering.
I do consider Stu to be a friend but I have to think that I am probably not one of the targets because A) I'm a pretty obscure voice and B) I'm 10,000 miles away from the craic/fireworks.

If I met Ellory I'd want to ask him why he's even wasting his time with this stuff. "You realise that most people go to the internet for the pornography, right?" I'd tell him.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I'm so out of the loop that this remains my only source on this stuff. Although I'm not as shocked as you are. Once it's happened it's an obvious possibility, and now I only wonder how Amazon will respond to the whole thing.

Peter will have to ask Ellory for his motivation. He can always email you privately with the logic behind it all.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'm not sure I know Ellory well enough to feel comfortable broaching the subject with him, but I'm sure the issue will come up. Someone suggested the whole sock puppet/Amazon review phenomenon might make for a fascinating Bouchercon discussion.

September 05, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Re sock-puppeteering: Yes, the whole thing is utterly despicable. But the way publicity works, his (their) sales are probably even better since he has been outed. There is a huge groundswell of self-published authors (many of them women) who have banded together to review, tweet, and like each others works. It smacks of desperation, but God knows their sales are far better than mine, so it works. They are frequently outraged by trolls giving them one-stars and battle with Amazon over this. Organized publicity campaigns tend to attract trolls.

Re blogs: You're right about blog sites, Peter. I have no intention of doing that. I don't have the time. I'm a writer. I write a blog for others only very rarely.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I was especially surprised that Ellory wound up at the center of a scandal. I'm sure every author wishes his sales were better, but Ellory certainly enjoyed critical respect, and I think his books sold well. He's not someone I expected would feel the need to engage in this sort of deception.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I'll occasionally get asked how I manage to blog every day. I reply that this blog is my writing and, as any writer should, I write every day. This is no mere promotional tool, which is one reason I keep it up.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Me, I'd love to go to a B'con but dont quite have the readies to justify it. Someday though.

Adrian, this would have been a good year for you to attend. Declan Burke and Fetch are both scheduled to show up.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Peter, don't rub it in. I'm sure Adrian would be there if he could.

I read an interesting article in the Guardian about this, but I particularly liked Barry Eisler's ambivalent take on it. I do think it is a substantially different thing to anonymously give good marks to your own book than it is to anonymously give bad marks to other writers.

September 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you either posted a bad link, or the Guardian has taken the article down.

I read elsewhere some of what Eisler wrote; keep in mind that, having turned his back on traditional publishing, he has a large stake in promoting Amazon's success. Count how many times he'll use the sneering term "legacy" when applied to traditional publishers -- though I have heard authors make a substantially similar case privately, minus the sneers.

September 06, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

No, when in doubt about blog links, it's usually me. Here's the Guardian link.

I wasn't aware that Eisler had turned his back on traditional publishing. If he did, like many writers right now, he probably had good reason. His article was more about signing on to the protest against sock puppeting and then realizing that it might be too black and white, at least as I read it.

Of course, he used to be a spy, so I suppose it could all be disinformation.

September 06, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: For historical interest, here is a photograph that includes R.J. Ellory and ms, among others, meeting in good fellowship after Bouchercon 2008 in Baltimore. Little did I dream at the time that he would ever be known for anything other than writing affecting novels that, arguably, expand the boundaries of crime fiction. And do not assume that you are at fault when the discussion turns to the Guardian. Both Adrian McKinty and I have experienced that newspaper’s censorship of uncongenial opinions.

I've never read Barry Eisler, but I know two things about him: that he is probably the highest-profile crime writer to turn to self-publishing, and that a Japanse crime fan whom I met at Bouchercon in 2010 spoke highly of Eisler's grasp of the Japanese language. So, I have I have some respect for the guy.

September 06, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A Quiet Belief in Angels is one of the more unusual and affecting crime novels I have read since I started Detectives Bwyond Borders. I suppose that proves that life is more complicated than any temporarily notorious scandal. Maybe I can play upon Ellory's guilt over this affair to get him to stand me a few gin and tonics in Cleveland. (Blue Coat is my preffered gin. Hendricks is an accepta ble substitute.)

September 06, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Seana, IJ

I have to say that I've found the whole sockpuppet thing terribly depressing. Esp among N.Ireland crime writers. I guess I'm terribly naive or simple or something but I thought we were a little community all in together against the man. (And by the man of course I mean, the Swedes).

September 06, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, the Hiberno-Swedish crime war is just a mirage, I guess.

I read somewhere, by the way, that, unlike R.J. Ellory, Sam Millar denies the allegations against him. But that was yesterday; the situation may have changed.

What I find creepiest is the extent to which some of the noncrime writers cheerfully admot posting bogus reviews.

September 06, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

The Northern Ireland aspect of all this reminds me a bit of meeting the author Michael Malone some years ago. He wrote one of my favorite comic novels ever, Handling Sin, and he came to the bookstore and beguiled us all in person. At that time he had moved to a college community in I believe Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And it was some sort of unbelievable gathering of writers I admired and they got together and had parties and other social things with each other. It sounded like a little Eden the way he described it.

But not too long after, there was some sort of controversy around someone and everyone took sides and it was probably never quite the same again.

I guess that's kind of the way it goes with small group dynamics, especially when there are egos at stake. Which is probably always.

September 07, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mark Billingham and Ellory are both scheduled to attend Bouchercon. I imagine there will be a sudden cease of conversation, a lowering of eyes, an awkward clinking of glasses, several sharp intakes of breath, and perhaps dramatically twangy minor-key guitar music should one walk into the bar while the other is drinking.

September 07, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I'm guessing Ellory won't be there now.

September 07, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm guessing he does but stays in his room. I did check the attendees' list. He's still on it.

At last year's post-Bouchercon dinner, he had everyone tell ghostly stories (his was damned good). Dinner was drawing to a close by the time my turn arrived, and he said he would hold ne to my promise to tell a story at this year's dinner.


We'll see. Maybe mine will involve the ghostly presence of Roger Jon Ellory, who hovered over proceedings even in absence.

September 07, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian and Seana, this just in: R.J. Ellory has been scratched from the attendees list and panel roster for Bouchercon in Cleveland.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So, Seana, you were right. You have greater insight into the psyche of sock puppets than I do.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, as long as that doesn't make me the master puppeteer, I'll take that.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, it makes you the resident expert on the psychology of sock puppetry.

Mark Billingham, whom Ellory is said to have assailed in his sock puppeting career, is a flamboyant speaker, a stand-up comedian, and a toastmaster. I could imaging that he might have been tempted to make a comical scene upon seeing Ellory that, however, might have made some spectators uncomfortable.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One unfortunate bit of scheduling is that John McFetridge's panel happens at the same time as mine.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I hope you and John will at least meet up in a bar or somewhere later to compare notes.

September 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, we've already talked tentatively about meeting for bagels or whatever Cleveland offers instead.

September 14, 2012  

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