Jan 25, 2014

When to Persist… and When to Quit By Kameron Hurley

My recent guest post on persistence in the writing game at Chuck Wendig’s place was actually the result of the confluence of a few things. The night before I headed out to ConFusion last weekend, a regional convention in Detroit, I read Seth Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and when to stick).

Anyone who’s followed my blog – in particular longtime readers who’ve been around since those first days back in 2004 – knows I’ve been writing a long time, and suffered a lot of ups and downs. It turned out that after all that time, getting my first three books published wasn’t the end of this road, though. Just like getting married or winning the sports trophy isn’t the end of a person’s story in real life, getting a book published isn’t the end either.
In truth, it’s just the beginning.
I happened to have a new series on submission, and was getting some very frustrating feedback. I started to question why I was in this game. If it wasn’t the money, or the copies, or the “fame” (oh god if any of you want fame, more power to you, but I’ll take money over fame ANYDAY)– what the hell was I in this for?
The “dip” in Godin’s “the dip” is the long slog you enter into with pretty much every new skill you’re looking to acquire. It’s after that first blush of fun and rush of getting good pretty quickly wears off (the way I felt after I went to Clarion, when I felt like I advanced 2 years in my craft in just six weeks), when all the sudden shit gets really hard, and you’re not seeing the results commeasurable with the effort anymore. It’s getting to that point when you’re finally getting personal rejection slips, but haven’t gotten a sale. It’s that time when you’ve already got a book published, but are pushing ahead to try and prove yourself with the next one. It’s the long slog when “getting better” takes far more effort than before, with less noticeable results.
And, unsurprisingly: the “dip” is when most people quit.
Godin argues that this is completely natural, this quitting. It’s part of the process. If we didn’t have the long slog, everybody would be a surgeon, or a lawyer, or a writer or a movie maker.  Why not? Afterall, if you’re always seeing results that are exactly in line with your efforts, it doesn’t feel like a con – it feels like a natural progression. But we’re not all cut out to be lawyers and moviemakers.
The natural progression is the naïve way we *think* things are supposed to work. We think our results and our efforts should match. But no.Here’s what Seth’s graph looks like:thedip
Tons of people quit a new task just as it’s paying off there on the first rise. That’s totally fine if you’re pursuing something as a hobby. I am only going to get so good at gardening, or modding ponies, or making terrariums. I’ve reached the level I want to reach. I’m cool with not getting better. People who want to be the best at something, though, who want to be better than everyone else – who want to be master gardeners or master pony modders – need to keep going,  keep pushing, keep improving, and inevitably, they hit the dip. The long slog.
The worst time to quit the dip, as shown in the graph, is right at the end, just when it’s starting to pay off. I’d say this is like quitting sending out stories just as you’re starting to get your first personalized rejections. Horrible time to quit. You’re actually just starting to come out of it.
The tricky part is that for many writers, there isn’t one dip. There are multiple dips.
This is something that Godin kind of glosses over. You may, indeed, be getting better at your craft over time, and sell some books, but just because you’re getting better doesn’t mean the market is prepared to support you. You can suffer from imploding publishers, bad marketing, bad covers, bad timing, messed up distribution, or any number of external things that can negatively impact your career. If your sales numbers due to these external screw ups are bad enough, it can completely fuck your career.
It can send you right back to the bottom of another dip.
This is where I felt I was when I started reading this book. Like I’d reached some kind of unending slog of a fucking place. On the one hand, yay, my first book did OK! On the other hand, shit, half my sales were ebooks and so when you look on Bookscan (which both other publishers and booksellers do) it looks like I sold half what I actually sold. On Bookscan, it doesn’t look like I have two books that earned out their advances already.  It looks like a fucking trainwreck.
And thus: the dip.
I started to wonder why I was still in this writing game, committing myself to a profession with long periods of slog that continually threw me back into the dip. If my definition of success wasn’t money or fame or copies sold, what the fuck was it? Because to stay in this game, I needed to have another metric. I needed something else to drive me forward.
Enter ConFusion, that regional convention I went to. This is the second time I’ve gone. The first time, I felt like an imposter, sort of running around looking for people to talk to like some desperate n00b. I felt wayward in the bar. I did all right on panels, but that writer-stuffed barcon going on felt like something happening in another world. Trying to break into it took more effort than I possessed.
Things happened a little differently this time.
Something has kicked loose in the last two years – maybe because of all the blogging, and how active I am on Twitter – but all the sudden I went from being nobody who didn’t have anyone to talk to to somebody people recognized, and to feeling comfortable around a bunch of writers I’d thought were way out of my “league” (Scalzi has a great post-ConFusion post with baseball metaphors you should check out), most of whom I’d interacted with enough online that they almost felt like old friends.
In truth, I was so relaxed with the small bunch who showed up Thursday night I even had a few drinks with them – usually a no-no for me at cons, which I consider business events (my spouse insists I didn’t say anything I wouldn’t have sober. I just said it MORE LOUDLY). It turned out that folks I knew in passing, or only knew online, were even more awesome in person than they were virtually, which was pretty awesome. Most importantly, I was really comfortable with them, which for somebody introverted and anxiety-ridden like me, was a huge relief. People started coming up to me who certainly didn’t know me two years before. Something had changed in the way folks perceived me. All the sudden, after ten years of slog, some sort of “ah yes, you too are a veteran of this rewarding and yet often so shitty business” thing kicked in, and going to the bar to mingle was suddenly easy instead of anxiety-inducing.
But the most valuable part of this con wasn’t just in feeling like I was part of the community. It was realizing in speaking to folks that it’s fucking hard for everyone. That there are dips in careers. That people you maybe think are selling millions of copies…
aren’t.  That people you think have quit their day jobs… sure as fuck have not. That sales weren’t always stellar. That reputations built on blog posts are, indeed, only built on blog posts. That everybody fucking hates bad reviews, and fucking reads them anyway.
This is, indeed, the game. There are no guarantees. All you have are the words, and your own persistence.
Going to ConFusion was a really good thing for me. Writers work in isolation, and when you’re yelling at the keyboard, alone, staring at sales numbers, alone, and waiting on responses from potential publishers, alone, it can wear you down. I live in Dayton, Ohio, which doesn’t exactly have a rollickingly community of progressive writers, and my best friend moved away last year, so I’ve been even more isolated than usual recently.
So when I came home from this con, I was reminded that I wasn’t alone, and that not only were there people in my shoes, who had gotten through rough patches like mine, but there were people actively  rooting for me, too.  A lot of really fantastic people.
Writing fiction, for me, is not like gardening or making terrariums. Writing fiction is something I want to be exceptional at. It’s something I want to continually get better at. It isn’t something I want to quit – no matter how many dips I have to churn through along with my colleagues.
That’s when I realized that my definition of success needed to change. Because if I started chasing big money and sales numbers (which I would still LOVE, naturally, and continue to aspire to), it was highly likely I’d be miserable, at least for a few more years, and then miserable again when, inevitably, I hit another dip. Instead, I needed to have a new definition.
And that definition of success, I realized, was the act of persistence itself.
If I’m still in this game, throwing words at the keyboard and spouting off at cons, a decade, two decades, four decades from now, then fuck it – I’m a success. Because the number of dips I’ll have pushed through and overcome by then will be multitudes.
Winning is bouncing back. Winning is persisting. Your mileage may vary.
The system is made to make as many people fail as possible, and the only part of it you can control is whether or not you get up to fight another day.
That’s all I have.
Like the saying goes, “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.”
That’s the recipe, for me. That’s where the magic happens, for me - that long moment you’re on the mat, sucking air, that seventh time you get hit, when you’re not sure if you can get up.
And then you do.
You get up eight.
Get up.

Carl Sagan’s Undergrad Reading List: 40 Essential Texts for a Well-Rounded Thinker

Earlier this year, we brought you Neil de Grasse Tyson’s List of 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read. The list generated a lot of buzz and debate. Indeed you, the readers, contributed 133 comments to the post, a record for us. Given your enthusiasm, you might want to check this out – a newly-discovered reading list from the man who mentored Tyson as a youth and laid the foundation for Tyson’s current role as public scientist/intellectual. Yes, we’re talking about Carl Sagan.
Last month, The Library of Congress acquired a collection of Carl Sagan’s papers, which included Sagan’s 1954 reading list from his undergrad days at The University of Chicago. There are some heady scientific texts here, to be sure. But also some great works from the Western philosophical and literary tradition. We’re talking Plato’s Republic, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The Bible, Gide’s The Immoralist, and Huxley’s Young Archimedes. It’s just the kind of texts you’d expect a true humanist like Sagan — let alone a UChicago grad — to be fully immersed in.
If you want to participate in the same intellectual tradition, we suggest visiting our previous post, The Harvard Classics: A Free, Digital Collection, which puts 51 volumes of essential works right at your fingertips.
You can view Sagan’s list in a large format here.
via Brain Pickings
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See Carl Sagan’s Childhood Sketches of The Future of Space Travel

sagan drawing
Click the image above to view it in a larger format.
Carl Sagan had his first religious experience at the age of five. Unsurprisingly, it was rooted in science. Sagan, then living in Brooklyn, had started pestering everyone around him about what stars were, and had grown frustrated by his inability to get a straight answer. Like the resourceful five-year-old that he was, the young Sagan took matters into his own hands and proceeded to the library:
“I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars … And the answer was stunning. It was that the Sun was a star but really close. The stars were suns, but so far away they were just little points of light … The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. It was a kind of religious experience. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale which has never left me. Never ever left me.”
This sense of universal wonder would eventually lead Sagan to become a well-known astronomer and cosmologist, as well as one of the 20th century’s most beloved science educators. Although he passed away in 1996, aged 62, Sagan’s legacy remains alive and well. This March, a reboot of his famed 1980 PBS show, Comos: A Personal Voyage, will appear on Fox, with the equally great science popularizer Neil DeGrasse Tyson taking Sagan’s role as host. Meanwhile, last November saw the opening of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive at the Library of Congress.
Among the papers in the archive was this sketch, titled “The Evolution of Interstellar Flight,” which Sagan drew between the ages of 10 and 13. In the center of the drawing Sagan pencilled the  logo of Interstellar Spacelines, which, Sagan imagined, was “Established [in] 1967 for the advancement of transpacial and intrauniversal science.” Its motto? “Discovery –Exploration – Colonization.” Surrounding the logo, Sagan drew assorted newspaper clippings that he imagined could herald the key technological advancements in the space race. Impressively drawn astronauts in the corner aside, I most enjoyed the faux-clipping that read “LIFE FOUND ON VENUS: Prehistoric-like reptiles are…” Good luck containing your sense of wonder on seeing that.
via F, Yeah Manuscripts!
Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

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George Orwell Got a B- at Harvard, When Michael Crichton Submitted an Orwell Essay as His Own


In his 2002 memoir, TravelsMichael Crichton took his readers back several decades, to the early 1960s when, as a Harvard student, he tried an interesting little experiment in his English class. He recalled:
I had gone to college planning to become a writer, but early on a scientific tendency appeared. In the English department at Harvard, my writing style was severely criticized and I was receiving grades of C or C+ on my papers. At eighteen, I was vain about my writing and felt it was Harvard, and not I, that was in error, so I decided to make an experiment. The next assignment was a paper on Gulliver’s Travels, and I remembered an essay by George Orwell that might fit. With some hesitation, I retyped Orwell’s essay and submitted it as my own. I hesitated because if I were caught for plagiarism I would be expelled; but I was pretty sure that my instructor was not only wrong about writing styles, but poorly read as well. In any case, George Orwell got a B- at Harvard, which convinced me that the English department was too difficult for me.
I decided to study anthropology instead. But I doubted my desire to continue as a graduate student in anthropology, so I began taking premed courses, just in case.
Most likely Crichton submitted Orwell’s essay 1946 essay, “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels.”  He eventually went to Harvard Medical School but kept writing on the side. Perhaps getting a grade just a shade below Orwell’s B- gave Crichton some bizarre confirmation that he could one day make it as a writer.
via Reddit
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10 Mythological Deities Of Love And Lust

While the standards of beauty may have changed throughout the centuries, all humans share an inescapable biological urge to procreate. Feelings of love and lust are therefore extremely important and have influenced even our deities—who, after all, are usually reflections of our own characteristics.

10 Xochiquetzal Aztec Mythology

With a name meaning “precious feather flower” the Nahuatl language, it’s no surprise that Xochiquetzal was an Aztec goddess of love. Various other aspects of Aztec life, such as flowers, pregnancy, and prostitutes, also fell under her domain, making her one of the more popular deities of the time—a feast in which her devotees dressed up in animal masks was held every eight years. Because of her affinity for marriage, she was often believed to be the wife of the rain god Tlaloc.
Unlike most Aztec fertility goddesses, Xochiquetzal was usually depicted as a beautiful young woman, which caused her problems with some of the more misogynistic gods of their pantheon. While still married to Tlaloc, she was kidnapped by Tezcatlipoca, the god of the night, and forced to marry him, after which she was enthroned as the goddess of love. By another of her husbands she was also the mother of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of Aztec mythology.

9 Clíodhna Irish Mythology

Clíodhna was an Irish goddess sometimes depicted as a banshee or even Queen of the Banshees (or Fairies, depending on the translation). However, she was also the goddess of love, perhaps because she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Unlike many other love deities, Clíodhna remained chaste, keeping her love locked away until she met the mortal Ciabahn—who, in a lucky coincidence, just happened to be among the most handsome men ever to have walked the Earth. Clíodhna loved him so much that she left Tir Tairngire, the land of the gods, to be with him.
However, when the other Irish deities found out about this, they conspired to get her back. While Ciabahn was away, Clíodhna was lulled to sleep by the music played by a local minstrel and was subsequently taken by a wave (the tide in the area is still referred to as “Clíodhna’s wave”). Depending on the source, she was either returned to Tir Tairngire or drowned in the sea.

8 Tu Er Shen Chinese Mythology

A relatively minor deity of Chinese mythology, Tu Er Shen—or Hu Tianbao, as he was known when he was mortal—is the god of homosexual love and marriage. Born during the Qing dynasty, Hu Tianbao found himself attracted to an official of the local government, spying on him naked through a hole in his bathroom wall. When his peeping was discovered, Tianbao was beaten to death. Moved by his unrequited love, the gods of the underworld took pity on him and restored him to life as the deity of homosexual relationships.
Perhaps because they were used as a slang term for homosexual men, rabbits are considered a symbol of homoerotic love in China, and Tu Er Shen is often depicted as a rabbit in the few shrines dedicated to him. Sadly, in many of the places where he is worshiped, homosexual activity remains a punishable criminal offense.

7 Hathor Egyptian Mythology

One of the most popular, and longest-lasting, of the Egyptian goddesses, Hathor was mentioned as early as the second dynasty (around 2890-2686 BC), and perhaps even before that. Since she survived for so long, Hathor took on a number of roles, including spells as the goddess of love, beauty, mining, and music. However, it was her time as the Eye of Ra which led to her most interesting stories. The Eye of Ra is the term Egyptians used for the feminine counterpart to Ra, a role filled by a number of goddesses, including Ra’s daughter, Hathor.
Found in King Tut’s tomb, a story known as “The Destruction of Mankind” tells of a time when Hathor, at Ra’s insistence, became the war goddess Sekhmet in order to punish humans for their sinful ways. When the bloodthirsty goddess got out of control, Ra tried to stop his daughter—but failed. Just before she killed every last person on Earth, Ra managed to get her drunk. Hathor immediately forgot what she was doing and returned to normal. In another, possibly equally disturbing story, she performed a striptease for her father in order to cheer him up.

6 Eros Greek Mythology

The Greek version of Cupid, Eros was Aphrodite’s son and the god of desire and attraction (although, he was sometimes depicted as one of the Protogenoi, or primeval gods). Much like his Roman counterpart, he often took the form of a young winged boy, complete with bow and arrow. He was fiercely loyal to his mother—although he was prone to fits of disobedience. That rebellious aspect of the god showed up prominently in his most famous myth.
A young woman named Psyche was born and proclaimed to be so beautiful as to be the second coming of Aphrodite. As was her nature, the goddess was angered and sent Eros to shoot her with her arrow and cause her to fall in love with the ugliest man on Earth as punishment. However, her beauty was so great that Eros fell in love and ignored his mother’s wishes, whisking Psyche away. Eros never revealed his identity but Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her and she peeked in on him when he was sleeping. Betrayed by his love, the god fled and Psyche wandered the Earth until Zeus agreed to let them get married.

5 Rati Hinduism

Photo credit: Aditya Mahar
More popularly known as the wife of Kama, the god of love, Rati herself plays a large role in love and lust in Hinduism. With a number of names, most of which speak to her immense beauty, it seems obvious Rati would be the goddess of desire. Depending on the source, she is the daughter of either Daksha or Brahma. In the case of the latter, she was the reason for the god’s suicide, after he lusted after her. Rati immediately killed herself as well (they were both quickly resurrected).
But Rati’s biggest claim to fame was successfully changing Shiva’s mind. The Destroyer, sworn to ascetic ways after his first wife’s death, had been forced to fall in love again. In revenge, he killed Kama, turning him to ash with his third eye. The best known version of the story has Rati persuade Shiva to revive her husband, with the caveat that Kama is to be invisible for eternity.

4 Oshun Yoruba

The goddess of beauty and love, especially of the erotic kind, Oshun is extremely popular among the West African followers of the Yoruba religion. Renowned for her beauty, she is usually depicted as a woman adorned with jewelry, although she is sometimes shown as a mermaid. Oshun is also preeminent among the female deities of the Yoruba religion and demands the respect that title deserves. When the gods were first creating the Earth, and they neglected to ask Oshun to assist, she made it impossible for them to make anything until they came to her for help.
Due to her reputation for complete purity, Oshun is also often associated with fresh water, an extremely important resource for the people of Western Africa. In addition, she also protects women and children during childbirth and is also seen as a protector from diseases, especially smallpox.

3 Hymen Greek Mythology

The god of married love, Hymen was a lesser-known god of the Greek pantheon. Either the son of Apollo and a Muse or Dionysus and Aphrodite, he led a charmed life thanks to his beauty, until he fell in love with a unnamed maiden, who didn’t feel the same way. While Hymen was trying to court her, she was kidnapped by pirates, along with a number of other young women (some versions of the myth even have Hymen taken by the pirates because his beauty made them mistake him for a woman).
Whatever the reason, Hymen found himself on the ship and killed the pirates, saving the girls, and convincing his love to marry him. Their marriage was so successful that it became the ideal to which every Greek couple aspired—his name was included in the wedding songs in order to invoke his blessing.

2 Yue Lao Chinese Mythology

Yue Lao, otherwise known as “The Man under the Moon,” is a popular figure in Chinese mythology, as he is the matchmaker and overseer of heterosexual marriage. Widely connected with the red thread of destiny, Yue Lao is often seen as benevolent deity, binding two people’s hearts together in love and marriage.
The best known story involving Yue Lao is that of Wei Gu and his quest to find a wife. After years of unsuccessful attempts, Wei Gu came upon Yue Lao reading from the book of marriages. Insisting he know who his future wife was, Wei Gu was shown a vision of an old woman with a young child, living in poverty. Distraught that the old woman was to be his wife, Wei Gu ordered his servant to kill the young child, though she escaped serious injury. After years passed, he finally found a suitable wife and noticed she had a scar. When Wei Gu asked about it, he was astonished to find that she had been the young child he tried to have killed (although he probably never told her; some secrets are best kept hidden).

1 Freyja Norse Mythology

Freyja, which translates as “lady,” had a number of roles in the Norse belief system. As well as the goddess of love, she was Queen of Fólkvangr, a place similar to Valhalla, where half of those who died in battle would go after death. However, unlike most of the other deities on this list, Freyja had a vicious bad side, full of greed, jealousy, and evil deeds. Among other things, she’s credited with teaching witchcraft to humans, a practice seen as evil by the Norse.
She was often at odds with Loki, who sought to torment the goddess and steal items from her, including her famed necklace Brísingamen, which was later retrieved by Heimdall. In addition, Freyja would constantly scour the Earth for her husband, who would go missing from time to time, crying tears of red gold as she searched. She did have one tremendous advantage over the other deities on this list—her favored mode of transportation was a chariot pulled by cats.

Book lovers know the Strand's a rare find, with works linked to Salvador Dali, Shakespeare and even Marie Antoinette

Unique volumes feature authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, along with works that date back to centuries ago

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
The Strand Book Store’s rare books department managers Vasilis Terpsopoulos (l.) and Darren Sutherland, with events director Emily Simpson

You can get a copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” at the Strand Bookstore for just $3.95 — or you can get a rare edition of the same Lewis Carroll novel, signed and illustrated by Salvador Dali, for $10,000 upstairs.
Welcome to the rare book room at the Strand — the famous used-book store that is also home to hundreds of unique tomes.
The book-lined room on the top floor hosts readings and other literary events, but it mostly serves as a showroom for bibliophile porn: the shelves include such rare finds as a one-of-a-kind edition of “Ulysses,” a rare American first edition of “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” written by “Harry Potter” wizard J.K. Rowling under a pen name, a signed limited edition of Stephen King’s “The Shining” sequel, “Doctor Sleep,” and even a small green book once owned by Marie Antoinette, who famously lost her head.
“Books like this are so significant,” says Vasilis Terpsopoulos, a 24-year veteran of the bargain bookstore, who manages the rare book room with Darren Sutherland.
‘Kempis Imatazione de Cristo,’ which dates to 1550 and is valued at $350, and ‘Collection de Moralistes Anciene,’ once owned by Marie Antoinette dating  to 1783 and valued at $750
‘Kempis Imatazione de Cristo,’ which dates to 1550 and is valued at $350, and ‘Collection de Moralistes Anciene,’ once owned by Marie Antoinette dating to 1783 and valued at $750
The pair once sold a 1632 William Shakespeare folio for a staggering $100,000 in 2006. Today, the hits just keep on coming:
In a safe, Terpsopoulos and Sutherland keep a first edition of “Gone with the Wind,” priced to move at $15,000. On a nearby shelf is a 1784 collection of moralist stories from Plato and Socrates. It’s marked at $750 — with the same yellow discount stickers that are used downstairs.
Also under lock and key is perhaps the biggest rarety: “Commentary on the Psalms” dates back to 1480 — and remains a beautiful example of a Medieval manuscript (priced accordingly at $35,000).
Perhaps the greatest feature of the collection is not a rare book, but the room’s accessibility. Unlike other antique book dealers, the Strand’s historic library is open to anyone who heads upstairs.
A display case containing rare books at the Strand
A display case containing rare books at the Strand
“People can come in off the street,” Sutherland says. “You don’t need an appointment to see these books. You can interact with them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The Strand by the numbers
Miles of books: 18
The Strand’s rare books manager Vasilis Terpsopoulos displays an Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali.
The Strand’s rare books manager Vasilis Terpsopoulos displays an Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali.

Number of floors: 5
Years in business: 87
Year building was built: 1903
Sale price of Shakespeare folio: $100,000
Latest big sale: $20,000 for Albrect Durer’s “De Symmetria Partium”

Paula Weston Author of the Rephaim series - Authors who review

I’m a published author. I’m also an avid reader.

So is it okay for me to talk online about the books I enjoy?
Long before I was published, I was a book blogger. I wasn’t on anyone’s mailing list and I didn’t receive ARCs, I just read widely and wanted to chat about the books I loved.
I started my first blog in 2007, called Great Stories. After a few years of building up a reasonable following of like-minded readers, I realised my reading choices were too eclectic for a single blog, so I created a second one dedicated to fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and zombie stories, called Other Worlds (mostly YA, but not exclusively).
Even back in those days, I confined my posts to books I enjoyed. Probably because I bought most of what I read and reviewed, and – with my own writing going on in the background – I didn’t have the time to invest in books that didn’t appeal to me.
And then in 2011, after many years of writing and submitting my own work to publishers, I was signed by Text Publishing in Australia (and then later by Indigo/Orion in the UK and Tundra Books in North America). So I started a third blog focused on my own writing (the one you’re reading now).
Within a few months of that first contract, I wound down the other two blogs (due to time commitments). But I still kept track of what I was reading on Goodreads. I had never given starred ratings on my own blogs, but picked up the habit on Goodreads, given it’s a convention of the site.
When Shadows debuted in Australia in 2012, I became a Goodreads author, which gave me a completely different perspective on the site.
Now, with a click of a button, I can see what everyone is saying about my work. Most reviews of my books are thoughtful, encouraging and often grin-inspiring. Others rip my heart out and leave it crushed on the side of the road. The latter are never easy to read, but I respect everyone’s right to express their opinions – after all, I don’t have to read them.
But experiencing Goodreads as an author made me realise that everything I write about other books can be read by their authors. A no-brainer, yes, but I’d never really sat down and thought that through. My reviews were always for my fellow readers: “Here I loved this, you might too”.
I started to wonder what authors thought about having other authors rate and review their books. Granted, my ratings and comments were overwhelmingly positive, but still….So for a while, I didn’t know how to ‘be’ on Goodreads. I still wanted to keep track of what I’d read and what I wanted to read. (My Goodreads TBR collection is always my go-to list when I can’t decide what to pick up next.)
Then I changed tack. I stopped reviewing all together. But I missed it. I actually enjoy writing about books I’ve loved, especially when it leads to conversations with other bloggers/readers about those books.
So I decided to write comments about books I’d read and not give a rating. But that felt like a cop-out. And I know how lovely it is to get a strong star rating on Goodreads.
As of lately, I’m back to leaving ratings and (mostly brief) comments because it feels more meaningful to me as a reader. As usual, I only post on Goodreads about books I’ve really enjoyed, so they’ll generally all be novels I feel deserve five stars. And again, this is because I’m only reading books I seriously expect to love. So my Goodreads posts are definitely recommendations. They are not intended to be a critical analysis. (By the way, I also include my ever-growing favourite reads list here on my site.)
I know there are divided opinions about how authors should behave as readers, particularly online. I’m trying to find a comfortable middle ground where I tread lightly in both roles, but still offer something meaningful for my own readers, and readers who share my tastes in books.

I’m interested to hear thoughts from book bloggers (and authors) on the topic.
(Side note: I wrote a post on Life of Pi – particularly focused on the island scene – on Great Stories back in 2008 that, for a long time, had the number one Google ranking for ‘Life of Pi explained’. It still gets hundreds of hits every week and still attracts comments. I’m actually kind of proud of that. You can find it here.)

Life of Pi explained

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of the most analysed, discussed and debated books of recent years, not just because of its plot, but because it makes the reader question what they have read and what they believe.

The Booker Prize winner author was one of the major draw cards at last weekend’s Brisbane Writer’s Festival, and he didn’t disappoint. He spoke about his motivation for writing Life of Pi, and how researching the story changed his life along the way.

In this post, I’m going to share a few of the things he spoke about. Those who haven’t read Life of Pi – and intend to – may want to look away now. Don’t spoil the experience of discovering the book’s talking points for yourself.

Life of Pi provides the kind of literary experience fans tend hold close to their hearts. Yann understands that, and opened his talk by promising to try and do “the least damage” to individual interpretation of the story. Because the interpretation of this story is everything.

The tale begins with Pi, the son of a zookeeper in India, who becomes curious about religion and simultaneously practices Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, much to the consternation of his respective religious teachers.

Pi’s religious instruction is interrupted when his family decides to relocate – along with a large menagerie of animals – to Canada. Tragically, the ship sinks during a storm.

What follows is a fascinating, perplexing and occasionally disturbing story of survival.

When Pi finally washes up on the shores of Mexico 227 days later, he recounts two versions of his story. The same facts are offered, with a different interpretation.

In the first, Pi is the sole human survivor on a life boat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a huge Bengal tiger called Mr Parker. The second has no animals and is far more brutal. One requires suspension of disbelief, the other is “reasonable”.

Yann said the very structure of the story itself is designed to force the reader to subconsciously choose whether they are prepared to walk away from the “reasonable” to accept the better story. In other words to have faith, when to do so makes no sense.

The background to how the novel came about is interesting in itself, but this post is more concerned with the story what makes it such an original piece of narrative fiction.

The key for Yann was the question posed by Pi at the end of the book to the Japanese shipwreck investigators: which is the better story? For the author, this is the question at the heart of choosing a life of faith.

While researching Life of Pi, Yann – who describes himself as being “secular” before writing the book – read a lot of scripture and books about scriptures. In doing so, he started to ask himself “what would it be like to have faith?”

To find the answer, he put aside the aspects of religion that repel him and went to India’s diverse holy places “pretending” to have faith. He candidly admits that once inside that space, he didn’t want to leave.

Up to that point, Yann says he’d always considered himself a “reasonable” person. “When you’re reasonable, you have to make sense of everything.”

But he said being reasonable didn’t leave a lot of room for religion. “And when religion is ignored, art suffers. Society doesn’t dream when it is being uber reasonable.”

Life of Pi was his personal protest to stop making sense. To believe in a reality beyond the chemical.
One of the great moments of the session on the weekend was Yann’s explanation of the purpose of “the island”, one of the more obtuse plot developments in modern literature.

He said it served the sole purpose of making the “animal” version of the story harder and harder to believe. Even more so than the chance of a blind boy and blind tiger, coming across another blind shipwreck survivor, it’s at the point of the island that disbelief breaks down and the reader wants rationality kicks in.

“Many readers assume it is something deeply symbolic they just don’t get, or it’s an hallucination –they need a reason to prop up the fiction.”

But in his own words “religion goes beyond the confines of the reasonable”.

The second story – the one without animals and strange flesh-eating islands – involves no faith. “It’s all about man’s inhumanity to man. That’s not the reality I want. I want to go back to the first story and choose to believe.”

For him, life is a matter of subjective interpretation of objective reality. Ultimately, Yann presents a very post modernistic perspective (all stories have equal validity – there is no ultimate truth, only what you believe).

Having said that, the author admits that after looking at all major religions, he’s become “pretty comfortable with Jesus”, although it’s safe to say he is not a member of any organised religion.

Regardless of whether you share his views on religion or philosophy, there’s no denying Life of Pi is an amazing use of narrative structure to encourage readers to think beyond the story – to even question what they believe and why.

Heroic Words of Wisdom

Illustration, Print Design, Typography
My work, centered around comic book characters, comes with the challenge of reaching to an audience beyond those who are already fans of those characters. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy very much to see existing fans of these characters who enjoy my work. However, up until this project, I've been indulgent of being a fan, and neglectful of the challenge of reaching that larger audience.
Superheroes already have a prominent place in pop culture. Their images can be seen anywhere. As a fan I enjoy seeing the strength of these characters in the spotlight, but because I am looking to reach a new audience, I needed to find a new light. I had to consider that comic books are a series of images accompanied by dialogue, and since it's the images that are already so prominent, I decided to focus on the dialogue.
In my mind, one of the most famous pieces of comics dialogue is the oath sworn by Green Lantern. I gave this some deeper thought and realized that the oath is, in a way, applicable to real life. Anyone, should they choose, can swear an oath to stand against evil. Then it hit me. Have all comic heroes said things that are applicable in real life? Have they all said things that can inspire any of us, comic fan or not?
Re-purposing the artwork of Jim Lee, Francis Manapul, and some others, along with my own, and combining it with my usual minimalistic style, I've developed this project spotlighting some quotes from these heroes that can inspire us all daily. Enjoy!
Featured on Monarch Daily
This is a personal project, and is not officially affiliated with DC Comics.

Jan 24, 2014

The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing

Posted: 23 Jan 2014 07:16 AM PST''

One of the subjects we have been probing for a long time is the inevitable impact that increased purchasing of books online would have on the shelf space at retail and what that would mean to trade publishers. (You’ll see that this speech that is well more than a decade old also says publishers are going to have get audience-centric, or vertical, as well.)
Of course, there has already been one shock to the system — one “Black Swan” event — which was the closing of Borders stores in 2011. That suddenly took about 400 very large bookstores out of the supply chain. Since then, the anecdata about independents — which includes encouraging, but unaudited, financial information from the BEA and a lot of rah-rah from thriving indies (a fire we threw a log on with a great break-out session at DBW last week) — has been very upbeat (although Bowker data seems to suggest Amazon gained more from Borders’s passing than anybody else did). And while B&N has continued to show some sales slippage, its more drastic setbacks have been in the Nook business, not selling print in stores.
One distracting fact for analysts considering this question has been the apparent slowdown in the growth of ebook sales, suggesting that there are persistent print readers who just won’t make the switch. The encouraging fact is distracting because it is incomplete as far as predicting the future of shelf space at retail, which is the existential question for the publishers, wholesalers, and bookstores (and, therefore, by extension, for legacy authors too). We need to know about changes in the division of those sales between online and offline to really have a complete picture. If ebook takeup slows down but the online buying shift doesn’t, the bookstores are still going to feel pain.
This point about the key index being online sales versus offline sales rather than printed book sales versus digital book sales is a key one that we’ve been hammering for years. It was nice to see Joe Esposito emphasize it in a recent post of his addressing some of my favorite questions about Amazon.
We had a panel of four successful independent booksellers at DBW. One of them, Sarah McNally of McNally-Jackson, has recently been quoted as saying she worries about the future of her Soho bookstore when her lease is up. (Rents rise quickly in that part of the city.) Meanwhile, she’s taking steps to move beyond books to retailing design-heavy but perhaps-more-enduring retail goods like art and furniture. (And, in that way, McNally-Jackson takes a page out of Amazon’s book, not limiting themselves to being a bookstore brand.)
A friend of mine who is a longtime independent sales rep says that even the successful indies are finding it necessary to sell books and other things — cards, gifts, chotchkes — to survive. The mega-bookstore with 75,000 or 100,000 titles or more was a magnet for customers in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. It isn’t so much anymore because the multi-million title bookstore is available through anybody’s computer. This is a fact that makes the number of successful stores a weak indicator of the distribution potential available to publishers. If replacement stores carry half the inventory of the ones that go out, we can have a lot of indie retail success stories but still a shrinking ecosystem into which publishers distribute their books.
In general, the proprietors of successful indie bookshops and their trade organization, the American Booksellers Association, paint the times as hospitable to independent bookselling. They dismiss the skepticism of people like me that believe that the current surge of apparent good fortune is due to a window of time (now) when Borders’s closing removed shelf space faster than Amazon and ebooks had removed demand for books in retail stores.
It has been an unspoken article of faith that bookstores would not go the way of stores selling recorded music or renting and selling video, both of which are segments that have just about entirely disappeared. The physical book has uses and virtues that a CD, a vinyl record, a DVD, or a videotape don’t, not the least of which is that a physical book is its own “player”. But it also provides a qualitatively different reading experience, whereas the other “physical” formats don’t change the consumption mode at all. Of course, that only helps bookstores if the sales stay offline. People ordering books online are overwhelmingly likely to order them from Amazon. In other words, it is dangerous to use the book’s ability to endure as a proxy for the bookstores’ ability to sustain themselves. The two are not inextricably connected.
But the fate of almost all trade publishers is inextricably connected to the fate of bookstores. There are only two exceptions. Penguin Random House is one, because they are large enough to create bookstores on their own with just their books. The other is publishers who are vertical with audiences that open up the possibility of retail outlets other than bookstores. Children’s books and crafts books are obvious possibilities for that; there aren’t a ton of others.
The feeling I had at Digital Book World is that most people in the trade have either dismissed or are wilfully ignoring the possibility that there could be such serious further erosion of the trade over the next few years that it would threaten the core practices of the industry. With more than half the sales of many kinds of books — fiction in the trade area, of course, but also lots of specialized and professional and academic topics — already online, many seem to feel whatever “adjustment” is necessary has already been made. They got support for optimism at Digital Book World. Stock-picking guru Jim Cramer touted Barnes & Noble’s future (because they’re the last bookstore chain standing) and, from the main stage, the idea was floated that Wal-mart might buy and operate B&N as part of an overall anti-Amazon strategy.
All that is possible, and I have no data to refute the notion that we’ve reached some sort new era of bookstore stability, just a stubborn feeling in my gut that over the next few years it will turn out not to be true. I don’t mean to ignore the positive signs we’ve seen over the past year or so. And the overall decline in physical retail versus online purchasing affects all retail, not just books, so it is possible — some might say likely — that the rent squeeze will ease. It isn’t just bookstore shelf space that seems to be in oversupply compared to demand; that’s broadly true of retail. So your gut may differ and would have some logic to support a contrary point of view.
But my hunch (and this is not a “prediction” as in “this will happen; take it to the bank”) is that shelf space for print in Barnes & Noble and dedicated bookstores could well shrink by 50 percent over the next five years. What CEO or CFO of a trade publishing house would consider it prudent not to consider that possiblity in their own planning?
Obviously, less shelf space and more online purchasing change each publisher’s practices in many ways. They will want to deploy more resources for digital marketing and less for sales coverage. They will want to own less warehouse space and less inventory, changing the overall economics of their business. As we’ve been saying for years, they’ll find it sensible to become more vertically consistent: acquiring titles that appeal consistently to the same audience. Each house’s own database of consumers will become an increasingly important component of their equity: an asset that provides operational value today and balance sheet value if they become acquired.
But, most of all, publishers are going to have to think about how they maintain their appeal to authors if putting printed books in stores becomes a less important component of the overall equation. It is still true that putting books in stores is necessary to get anywhere close to total penetration of a book’s potential audience. Ignoring the in-store market obviously costs sales in stores but it also costs awareness that reduces sales online. (After all, stores are very aware of the “showrooming” effect: customers who cruise their shelves with smartphones in hand, ordering from Amazon as they go!)
But that’s today when the online-offline division may be near 50-50 overall and is 75-25 for certain niches. If those numbers become 75-25 and 90-10 over the next five years, the bookstore market really won’t matter that much to most authors anymore. Whether through self-publishing or through some fledgling publisher that doesn’t have today’s big publisher capabilities but also doesn’t have their cost structure, authors will feel that the big organizations are less necessary than they are now to help them realize their potential.
Higher ebook royalty rates, more frequent payments, and shorter contract terms are all very unattractive ways from the publishers’ perspective to address that issue. So far the marketplace hasn’t forced publishers to offer them. If bookstores can hold their own, the need to move to them may not be compelling for a long time. But if they don’t, most legacy publishers will have very few other levers to continue to attract authors to their ranks.
We are already seeing big publishers quietly moving away from publishing books that haven’t demonstrated their ability to sell as ebooks: illustrated books, travel books, reference books. That implies an expectation that the online component — particularly the ebook segment of it — has already changed the marketplace or certainly will soon. Adjustment of the standard terms with authors is a shoe that hasn’t dropped, but if the marketplace continues to change, it might become very hard to keep things as they’ve been.

The Shatzkin Files

Rubber Soul by Greg Kihn - Book tour+ Giveaway

Rubber Soul Tour

Tour Schedule


Rubber Soul  Rubber Soul by Greg Kihn 

Greg Kihn is a rock star, seasoned radio host and author. Rubber Soul, his latest novel is inspired by intimate interviews that he conducted with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Best, Yoko Ono and Patti Harrison. Though Rubber Soul is fiction, as Greg says it is “100% historically accurate” and an candid glimpse of the phenomenon that is The Beatles. Rubber Soul is a an innovation in the Rock Thriller genre, taking readers on a rollicking ride through The Beatles legacy from the early days in Liverpool to six sold out shows per night in Hamburg and full-fledged Beatlemania. Dust Bin Bob runs into some lads from Liverpool at his second hand shop on Penny Lane. The lads: John, Paul, George and Ringo and Dust Bin Bob become firm friends, sharing vinyl that will spark a revolution. Murder, mystery and Beatlemania mayhem ensues—with the boys narrowly avoiding an international incident and an attempted assassination. It’s the ultimate Beatles story that could have happened!  


“There’s no one more qualified to write a rock-and-roll novel than Greg Kihn. He’s the real deal and at his Kihntillating best in this book.” – Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple “Rubber Soul is a magical mystery tour de force by Greg Kihn, a rocker who obviously has a way with words as well as music.
His imagined story about the Beatles is fast-moving, full of twists and tension, and musical nuggets and insights. Great story-telling set to a Fab-four beat.” – Ben Fong Torres “Rubber Soul captures what Rock-n-Roll is all about – and Greg Kihn would certainly know!
This nearly-true story of the Beatles is pure magic and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” – Eddie Money “Greg Kihn is the most compelling author who ever had a top five singing career. Rubber Soul is a fantastic story by Greg, with an historical back beat. I urge you not to miss this.” – Joan Jett
“I’m happy to report that Rubber Soul, the latest work by my pal Greg Kihn, has correct punctuation, complete sentences, even full paragraphs – some of the exact same literary devices that can be found in the greatest novels our culture has ever produced!
It’s also written in English, which happens to be one of my very favorite languages.” – “Weird Al” Yankovic “While the RIAA may not be able to certify Kihn’s work with a gold disc, fans of Kihn and The Beatles, as well as those who long for the simpler yet magical time of the 1960’s will thoroughly enjoy and fall in love with Rubber Soul. They certainly don’t write ‘em like this anymore.” – Chris Shapiro, RetroPulse

gregAuthor Greg Kihn
NBC called Greg Kihn “Rock’s True Renaissance Man” and for good reason. As part of the eponymous band he has: toured the globe, had hit records, been inducted into the San Jose Rock Hall Of Fame, opened for the Rolling Stones and jammed with Bruce Springsteen. You may have heard of his smash worldwide #1 hit “Jeopardy” and “The Breakup Song”, not to mention the parody written by Weird Al Yankovic. Being a famous and successful rock star is only one part of the mosaic that is Greg’s story. In the 90s Greg poured his passion for lyrics into writing fiction—publishing four novels, one of which “Horror Show” was nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. In this vein, Greg merged his love of writing with Rock and Roll and wrote “Rubber Soul”—a unique rock murder mystery featuring The Beatles. The inspiration for this novel came from Greg’s interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Best, Yoko Ono and Patti Harrison. In this way Greg gained exclusive access to the biggest band ever to exist. “Rubber Soul” is a work of fiction, but it is 100% historically accurate and a story that only rock veteran Greg Kihn could have written.
  Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 2/16/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary.
You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  

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Excerpt #1

Bobby Dingle, AKA Dust Bin Bob, runs a stall for his father’s second hand shop at the Penny Lane Flea Market in Liverpool. Bobby loves American R&B records and collects them from the merchant marines returning from America to Albert Dock in Liverpool. He displays them in at the Flea Market. One day he meets some amazing individuals: Around the corner came two leather-jacketed young men, each with a pink-tipped cigarette jutting from his lips, and each with the swagger of someone who didn't give a damn. Two James Deans. Teddy boys. They stopped in front of Bobby.
"What's this, then?" the first one said with a thick scouse accent. The second shrugged, looking at the prayer rug and ostrich feathers. "A mysterious visitor from the east." They eyed the records. "Hold on. What's all this?" Bobby noticed their hair; greasy, swept back, just spilling over their collars. They looked a bit scruffy with uneven sideboards and tight stovepipe trousers.
The first one picked up a record and read the label. "Chuck Berry!" "Chuck Berry? No! It can't be! Let me see that!" "Blimey! Little Richard! Bo Diddley! Where did you get these?" Bobby smiled, letting the slight gap between his front teeth show. "I have a special source, straight from America. Those are brand new releases. You can't get ‘em anywhere else." "Do you have any idea what you have here?" Bobby nodded. "Actually, yes, I do." "It's the bloody Holy Grail."
The two young men exchanged astonished glances. "Are these for sale?" "Yes, they are." The two Teddy Boys shifted on their feet. "I'll tell you the truth, mate. We're in a beat group, and this is just the type of music we do. You know, American rock and roll. I'm John and this is Stu." John stuck out a hand. There was something in the way he stood that suggested a coolness far beyond anything Bobby had known. Bobby accepted the hand.
"I'm Bobby. Pleased to meet you. This is my father's stall. He's got a secondhand store in Merseyside. We specialize in previously owned merchandise. A little of this, a bit of that; something that might have mistakenly wound up in the dust bin but is still quite serviceable." John barked out a laugh, then slipped into a spastic impersonation. He looked like a juvenile delinquent Quasimodo. "Dust Bin Bob! Dust Bin Bob! Your coming was foretold to us!" Bobby eyed John. Cheeky, he thought, very cheeky.
"So, you're in a beat group, eh? Are you professional?" John nodded vigorously. "Definitely professional. Oh, yes. The talk of the town, we are." "So you must have lots of money to buy records." John spat. "This is Liverpool, man. Look around you. The place is a bloody poorhouse. Nobody's got any money, least of all the beat groups." Bobby shrugged.
"If you don't have money, then you can't buy records." John said, "I was wondering... You think it might be possible to just hear 'em?" Bobby took the Chuck Berry record out of John's hand. "This is not a lending library. Why should I let you hear these beauties?" "Because we need the music, man. We're going to conquer the world, you'll see. To the toppermost of the poppermost, and beyond. Bigger than Elvis." Nobody laughed. John pawed at the cracked pavement with the pointed toe of his winklepicker shoe.
"You aim to learn the songs in one sitting? That doesn't seem possible." John smirked. "We're good." Bobby turned to Stu. "Is he always this cheeky?" "It's worse than you think," Stu said. Bobby rubbed his nose and looked the musicians over again. "You say you play the music of Chuck Berry?" "Like the man himself." "Little Richard?" "Mother's milk to us." "That's bloody amazing. In all of Liverpool, Dame Fortune has sent me you. So if I let you listen to these records, what's in it for me?" John hunched over, playing the spastic again. He twisted his face and spoke in a crone's voice. "What's in it for me? For me? Something for me, sir?" To Bobby, John's clowning mocked everything he stood for as an independent businessman.
Bobby frowned, suddenly a shade more indignant. "That's right. Something for me. Is that so wrong? Bloody hell. It's a hard life down here in the fleas. A fellah's gotta eat." John straightened with a wry smile and a wink. "You drive a hard bargain, Dust Bin Bob. How about a lifetime pass to all of our gigs, forever. That's gotta be worth a fortune." Bobby snorted. "How about half a bar. From each of you." “Bloody embarrassing, that is. You don't want the lifetime pass?" "No offense, but... It can't be worth much." John looked wounded. Bobby sighed. "OK, I guess I'll take it along with the money." John brightened.
"Deal!" "I'll need that in writing." "Of course, of course. You won't regret this, Dust Bin Bob."

Excerpt #2:

The Ed Sullivan Theater on West 53rd Street only held seven hundred people but the show had received about fifty thousand applications for tickets. Cops lined the street in front. Bobby thought the Beatles were keeping remarkably calm. Ed Sullivan himself greeted the band, waving a telegram from Elvis Presley.
“He wishes you luck,” Ed said proudly. “Elvis and the Colonel both wish you success in America.” All four band members nodded, impressed that the King of Rock and roll would acknowledge their presence. Bobby stayed out of the way and accompanied George’s sister Louise to her seat. Bobby saw a dense crowd of teenage girls squirming in their seats.
The atmosphere crackled with electricity. TV cameras waited. At last the stiff, uncomfortable image of Ed Sullivan appeared. After a rehearsal John had said Ed walked like he had a pole up his ass. Bobby could now corroborate this although no pole was visible. The red lights above each camera flickered on; the time was at hand. Ed welcomed the viewers, made a few remarks, then introduced a brief commercial.
A minute later he returned to a breathless audience. He must have known his words would go down in history, yet he rushed through them in the excitement of the moment. “Now, yesterday and today, our theater has been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agree with me that the city has never witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles. Now, tonight you’ll be twice entertained by them, right now, and in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”
Paul counted off the song and went into the first line of All My Lovin’. As soon as the band joined in, shrill keening filled the air. The sound shook the theater walls, echoing across America and raised the hair on the back of Bobby’s neck. Hysterical screaming drowned out the music washing over them like a sonic tsunami. Louise clutched Bobby’s arm. The response to the Beatles was thunderous. The manic behavior of the audience frightened Bobby.
Faces around him seemed twisted and desperate. The screaming rang in his ears. Tears rolled down the cheeks of the female audience members. Bobby found himself swept up in it and realized he too was shouting at the top of his lungs. The Beatles seemed above it all, delivering their music to the frenzied masses in a thoroughly professional manner. The harmonies in All My Lovin’ were perfect; the vocal blend was as natural and smooth as the Everly Brothers. Bobby was impressed that the group could play that flawlessly with relentless screaming in their ears. All My Lovin’ ended and Till There Was You started with another Paul vocal. Bobby thought it odd that they would follow All My Lovin’ with another ballad sung by Paul but realized it was probably a group decision with Brian Epstein and Ed Sullivan approving the choice.
The third song, She Loves You, galvanized the audience and caused the greatest reaction of the set. Bobby considered She Loves You the ultimate Beatles song. Its “yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus and high pitched “whooo” at the end of the verses made it instantly recognizable. When it ended the theater seemed to deflate. When the Beatles left the stage a huge vacuum sucked up the atmosphere. Bobby looked at Louise. She blinked unbelieving. “Good Lord. I don’t believe it.” “It’s beyond anything we could imagine,” Bobby said.
They hardly noticed the next act, a man in a tuxedo doing card tricks. Bobby’s mind went back to the Beatles. He wondered what they thought of it. They were used to British Beatlemania, but this was… well, this was out of control. Bobby wondered where it would all lead. The cast of the Broadway show Oliver followed, but Bobby couldn’t focus on the song. Frank Gorshin did impersonations of celebrities Bobby never heard of, but Bobby enjoyed the man’s elastic face and wild body language. Tessie O’Shea stood larger than life, strumming her banjo and belting out show tunes, but it seemed boring and ordinary to Bobby. The Beatles made everybody sound boring and ordinary. An odd comedic team did a skit about a boss and his secretary, and Bobby found himself glancing at the clock, counting the minutes before the Beatles returned.
At last they were back, and the screaming began anew. “One! Two! Three! Fah!” Paul barked the count and Bobby instantly recognized the guitar intro to I Saw Her Standing There. George played his dark brown Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar held high, picking the notes to the solo with a flourish. Bobby wondered why he wasn’t using the black Rickenbacker he’d bought in St. Louis. John was playing his. Bobby imagined the matching black guitars would have looked cool on television. I Want To Hold Your Hand finished the set and caused the audience to expend what little


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