Back in mid-May, my list of Things To Do sported the word Newsletter at or near the top. And I’d have been on it like brown on rice but for another Thing To Do:
Fall down. Break hip.
And that’s about as much as I care to share about How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Recovery’s a slow process, and no more interesting to read and write about than it is to undergo. So let’s move on, shall we? Here’s what I’ve got:
1. Great news for liars!
Or fictioneers, should you prefer a gentler term. As many of you know, I’ve been writing about writing for almost as long as I’ve been writing about anything. (And that’s literally true; while my Writers Digest column on fiction didn’t get underway until late 1976, I had the temerity to publish an article on dialogue in Author & Journalist way back in 1958.)
The WD column led to two books, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit and Spider, Spin Me a Web, each composed of collected columns and both still in print. Which is better? Well, I’d probably give Spider the nod—but from a commercial standpoint it’s not even close. Year in and year out, Telling Lies is the sales leader by a considerable margin…and it’s pretty obvious that what makes the difference is the title. Leaving aside the subtle effects of arachnophobia on potential buyers, I feel safe in concluding that the prospect of profitable prevarication is a strong incentive.
A few years ago, it dawned on me that I had sufficient post-Spider columns to fill two more books. I had the good sense to call them The Liar’s Bible and The Liar’s Companion, concocted for each an appropriate subtitle, and brought them out via Open Road Integrated Media. After five years my arrangement with Open Road had run its course, and I reclaimed my titles, and have just now brought out Bible and Companion in ebook and trade paperback form, all tricked out with splendid new covers, and don’t they look fine?
They do. But those aren’t your only books for writers, are they?
Well, no. My very first book for writers is also my most recent. It’s Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel, and its original version had only the first seven words of the title, as the universe had not yet become pixelated. A year and a half ago I tacked on those final two words, and while I was at it I added around 30,000 words of new material, and published the book in an expanded and updated edition that’s been very favorably received. While writing itself hasn’t changed all that much over the years, the writer’s world is very different than it was four decades ago, and I’m glad to have been able to bring the book into the present century.
And while I’m at it, I really ought to say something about Write For Your Life. My first venture in self-publishing back in 1986, it grew directly out of an interactional seminar with roots in the Human Potential movement. My wife and I toured the country presenting it, and I wrote the book to make the seminar available to writers who couldn’t attend in person. I printed 5000 copies—this was before anybody had thought up Print-on-Demand—and we sold them all, and that was that. We came out a few dollars ahead, which is more than I can say about the seminar business.
You sound bitter.
No, it was fun, and money wasn’t really the point. Anyway, a couple of years ago I reissued the book as a trade paperback, and ever since it’s been a consistent lead title for us, without any real promotional effort. I guess I can thank word of mouth—or word of blog, or word of social media. The book addresses the Inner Game of Writing, focusing on the writer within, and you may or may not be receptive to it, but it might be worth a look. It’s available as an ebook as well, but in this instance I’m particularly inclined to recommend the paperback, as it’s easier to work your way through the various processes with a physical book in hand.
Republishing Bible and Companion has claimed some of my attention during this tedious business of Recovery, though most of the actual work has fallen on my Goddess of Design and Production. Similarly, other deltoids than mine have shouldered much of the burden of the summer’s other business, which comes under the heading of…
2. LB in translation.
It’s been just over two years since I teamed up with Stefan Mommertz to publish his German translations of the first Matthew Scudder short story, Aus dem Fenster (Out the Window) and the first novel, Die Sünden der Väter (The Sins of the Fathers). Since then I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Stefan and Sepp Leeb, and at this point more than half of the Scudder novels are now available in German, in both ebook and paperback form. (Several of the short stories are available, but only as ebooks.)
In the past month, we’ve brought out the fourth novel, Tief bei den ersten Toten—and the title deserves a word of explanation. The English title is A Stab in the Dark, and that works fine in English, but Stefan felt it missed the mark in German. I thought about it, and recalled that the first title I’d proposed to Arbor House was Deep with the First Dead, a line from Dylan Thomas’s poem, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London.” (Scudder encounters the poem in an East Village bookshop, and it nudges him toward a solution to the case, and the quoted line very much fit the book’s storyline.)
My editor at Arbor House, Jared Kieling, loved the book but not the title, and the alternative I came up with was A Stab in the Dark; Jared found it a much stronger title, and he was probably right. My only regret at the change was that I’d written a book some years earlier called After the First Death,and had drawn the title from that very poem, and I’d have liked to get a second title from Mr. Thomas.
And now, with Tief bei den ersten Toten, I’ve done just that.
Sepp’s latest translation also required a new title; A Long Line of Dead Men doesn’t seem to work as a German title. (Same thing happened in French.) We settled on Der Club der Toten, and the Goddess in Colorado came through with the cover, and as they say on the Ku’damm, “Bob ist Dein Onkel.”
They don’t say any such thing? Well, never mind. Here’s a current list of our German titles. The posted links are to Amazon’s US platform, but you’ll find the books on all Amazon platforms worldwide, and on most other platforms—Kobo, Nook, Thalia, Apple, etc.
Drei am Haken
Mitten im Tod
Tief bei dem ersten Toten
Acht Millionen Wege zu sterben
Nach der Sperrstunde
Am Rand des Abgrunds
Ein Ticket für den Friedhof
Tanz im Schlachthof
Ruhet in Frieden
In Teufels Küche
Der Club der Toten
3. Meanwhile, in Spain…
…a stab is still a stab. which is to say that the fourth Scudder novel, A Stab in the Dark, is now available in a splendid new translation by Ana and Enriqueta Carrington, who previously rendered all the Scudder stories into Spanish in La noche y la música. (El hombre peligroso is their good work as well.)
Is there something vaguely familiar about the cover of Cuchillada en la oscuridad? Indeed there is, and if you scroll up you’ll find the same noir attitude and the same artful typography gracing the cover of the same novel’s German edition. Neat, innit? LikeTief bei dem ersten Toten, Cuchillada‘s available in both ebook and paperback form.
I should also mention El sicario, the new translation of Keller’s debut, Hit Man, by Mª Carmen de Bernardo Martínez. The book’s selling at a remarkable pace, and I’m not sure why. Neither Maca nor I have been making much promotional fuss, so I can only credit word of mouth—or some 21st Century equivalent thereof like blogs and social media. We’re delighted, I must say, and Maca’s moving along with the second Keller novel, Hit List. (La lista del sicario? We’ll see…)
4. What else?
Well, a little of this and a little of that. Theo Holland, voice artist extraordinaire, has followed up The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleepwith Tanner’s Twelve Swingers, and is already at work on The Scoreless Thai.
Alive in Shape and Color, the sequel to In Sunlight or in Shadow, is scheduled by Pegasus for early December. ISOIS featured stories based on paintings of Edward Hopper; AISAC’s fiction roams the museum coridors, with masterpieces by Gauguin, Magritte, Van Gogh, Rodin, Balthus, Renoir, Dali, Bosch, and Rockwell among those inspiring the 17 entries. You might want to pre-order it now to lock in the best price—and to assure you a stack of first edition copies for holiday giving.
I’ll be sticking close to home for what’s left of the summer, and don’t expect to budge much before Bouchercon in October, where it will fall to me to interview Guest of Honor Megan Abbott. Aside from that, I see the weekend as a likely occasion for disappointment. This has been a year for award nominations, and it began for me with an entirely unexpected Edgar Allan Poe award for my ISOIS short story, “Autumn at the Automat.” Well, that story has since been shortlisted for two more awards, the Anthony and the Macavity, and I’m reasonably certain it won’t win either one. The book in which it appeared, In Sunlight or in Shadow, has itself been shortlisted for an Anthony award as Best Anthology—and it won’t win, either.
Finally, The Private Eye Writers of America have nominated “Keller’s Fedora“ for a Shamus award for Best Short Story. PWA normally presents the Shamuses (Shami? Never mind) at a dinner held during Bouchercon, but not this year; instead they’ll announce the winners via newsletter in September and mail the awards.
So that particular disappointment will come a month early, with the other three following in October.
How you do carry on. When you read the Pooh books, who was your favorite character?
What difference does that make?
Just answer the question.
Well, I guess it was Eeyore, but…
There’s a surprise. Have fun at Bouchercon.
Yeah, right. Don’t cry for me, Toronto…