Thursday, February 28, 2013

The coolest article I have read this week: What is the self?

Above, a "making of" video about my favorite Beatles track on perception and viewpoint, which (in part) is what the article is about. And, for that matter, what my novel is about. You don't have to be a Beatles fan or a brain scientist to pick up on what the article THE SELF: THE ONE AND ONLY YOU is laying down. It connects to all kinds of fascinating literary themes... notably perception. Here is the link: The self: The one and only you - 20 February 2013 - New Scientist

Monday, February 25, 2013

Are These The Greatest Novels of All Time?

Below, the decidedly unscientific results of our ongoing poll at THE 100 GREATEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME, the Google+ group I moderate. 

I have limited it to the top 50 or so, since we don't appear to have anything resembling consensus on anything beyond that. I will expand the list as we go along.

Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy retains the top spot, but just barely. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series moves up to #2.  Pride And Prejudice rises into the #3 spot. Joyce's Ulysses
is the most notable debut, tied at #14.

Join the group and cast your vote!



1/36/The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
2/35/The Lord of the Rings series
3/29/Pride and Prejudice
6/17/Harry Potter series
7/16/Anna Karenina
8/15/The Stand
9/14/Gone with the Wind
9/14/War and Peace
12/13/Fahrenheit 451
12/13/To Kill a Mockingbird
14/10/A Suitable Boy
14/10/Child of the Morning
14/10/Flowers for Algernon
14/10/Pale Fire
14/10/Silas Marner
14/10/Starter for Ten
14/10/The Life Before Us
14/10/The Princess Bride
14/10/The Bluest Eye
24/9/Les Miserables
24/9/The Canterbury Tales
24/9/The English Patient
24/9/The Illuminatus Trilogy Series
24 9 Their Eyes Were Watchung God
24/9/Finnegans Wake
24/9/The Secret Garden
32/8/A Tale of Two Cities
32/8/Norwegian Wood
32/8/Starship Troopers
32/8/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
32/8/Jane Eyre
32/8/I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
32/8/The Widow's Son
32/8/Mother Night
42/7/Jonathan Livingston Seagull
42/7/Something Wicked This Way Comes
42/7/Crime and Punishment
42/7/The Hydrogen Sonata
42/7/Wuthering Heights
42/7The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Thanks to +Steven Malone, +Neens xx+Theresa Nwairat+L. T. Dalin+Vincent Murphy  and +Alex Quirk  for votes this week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beta Readers: YOU ROCK!

This is to acknowledge the helpful feedback and invaluable ongoing support I've gotten from those who have given beta-reviews and critiques on  +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) -- which is now at 30,000 reader-ready words out of a projected 100,000.

My deepest thanks go out to  +Reazul Islam , +L. T. Dalin , +Daoud Ali , +Paul Kater , +Adella Thompson and +Nina Mideast Journal , all of whom have shared important notes with me on what works and what still needs tweaking.

If you would like to read chapters from the novel, or swap chapters so we can beta-read each other's material, please let me know. And when you do so, be sure to let me know your favorite opening track of a recording made before the year 2000. That way we'll know whether or not this was meant to be. (Mine is "Back in the U.S.S.R.," of course.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time

An interesting community on Google+ that I am moderating, THE 100 GREATEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME uses individual Top Ten lists to create a constantly updated, never-finished ranking of the greatest novels ever written. Looking forward to contributions from +Shikhin Sethi , +Duncan Ellis , and others. Join us!

Post a list of your Ten Most Important Novels of all Time, composed of books you have actually read.  I give your #1 choice 10 votes, your #2 choice 9 votes, and so on -- keeping track of everything in a master spreadsheet I share with the group.

Here is my own list:

6. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (consolidated into a single volume)

What's on your Top Ten?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Benedict Resigns. Why?

   Not that it has anything to do with my novel, except insofar as it involves unmerited religious and sociopolitical authority....

BUT ...

Pope Benedict is resigning, and this is the time to evaluate his legacy.

I figure, if you're going to state an opinion, you might as well state the most inflammatory one you've got in the arsenal. So here goes.

This Pope systematically covered up for child abuse before he was elevated to the papacy, and most of us are (ahem) sugarcoating that uncomfortable fact at the moment.

An excellent article by Adele Stan suggests that the Pope's resignation, rare but not unheard of in Catholic history, may in fact be related to the still-escalating sexual abuse scandal.

I believe what then-Cardinal Ratzinger did constitutes a criminal offense in the US. I also believe His Holiness should be going to a maximum security prison, not to a cloister somewhere. Some people don't want to hear that, but I think it must be said.

Observations about Benedict's ancient links to Nazi groups have led mostly to cheap jokes, and these jokes are dominating many of the discussions about his decision to resign. But there is nothing funny about knowingly protecting pedophiles. Questions about who should be held accountable for Benedict's manifest obstruction of justice are more relevant and more important, I think.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Incorporating them in a way that does not screw up Kindle formatting has been a major question. (They are an important part of the narrative stream in my novel.) I think I have come up with a solution, and will post an alternate version of the excerpt soon, inshaAllah.

Friday, February 8, 2013

JIHADI -- not the cover, but ...

We live in a visual world, and so one of the decisions you face while creating a book is what kind of visual marker to use for it.

People need to see something when deciding whether or not to read bits of your novel. Up to this point, I have been using a piece of public domain wallpaper in Arabic: the word JIHAD, in Arabic script, quite attractively laid out. A CIA agent's coming to terms with the one-dimensionality and prejudice connected to the English usage of the word JIHAD is part of what this book is about.

However, the novel is in English. Not Arabic. The foreignness and inaccessibility of the image, I realized, were not helping my cause, even though I liked the script and it served as a good writing prompt for me. I decided I needed to reflect the fact that the novel is about a CIA agent who, after converting to Islam, is left by his wife and ostracized by his peers.

So I changed the image I am connecting to this work in progress. Here it is.

I am NOT a credible graphic artist, but I do think this is an improvement. It's not the cover, and not not the cover. It might be a starting point for a discussion about the cover with someone who actually knows about cover design.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

APE, Kawasaki and the "Publishing Spring"

There was indeed a revolution, one with global implications, playing out over the last couple of years. But it wasn't in the Arab world.  It was on Kindles and iPads. This revolution has transformed the world publishing.

Guy Kawasaki calls it "Publishing Spring" in his essential book APE: How to Publish a Book, coauthored with Shawn Welch. For those of us who write for a living or promote others who do, this volume, regardless of whether you encounter it in its virtual or physical form, is as must-read as must-read gets.

As a novelist, nonfiction author, and nonfiction editor, I fall into multiple categories here, and must take multiple perspectives on the complex world of publishing. From all of those perspectives, I am grateful to Mr. Kawasaki for this updated map of the New World we must all navigate. If you, like me, are invested in the written word in multiple ways, and you haven't yet read APE, you should. Now.

It is not quite accurate to call this a "gospel" of Authoring, Publishing, and, yes, Entrepreneuring in our time. (That's where the weird title comes in, as you've probably already worked out.) Gospels, after all, stay fixed. This book, as Kawasaki and Welch are  quick to point out at the outset, is more akin to the Chicago Manual of Style: authoritative upon release, conditioned upon rapidly changing circumstances, and updated as needed.

APE has already given me a lot to think about with regard to my plans for +Jihadi, and I suspect it will change a lot more paradigms before it is through. If there is a more important piece of writing out there about publishing in the twenty-first century, I don't know what it is.

Buy this and read it. If only because it is cool enough to include a link to this video in the e-book version: