Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Belle de jour!

So, the amazing people at Institut Francais have invited me to speak at Paris Book Fair 2013! Salon du Livre aka PBF is held at the Paris Porte de Versailles over 4 days.

Obviously, from the above it's pretty clear that I'm bursting with excitement and not just because it's Paris and I loved that episode of GG when Blaire pushes Serena into the fountain (just nod like you know what I'm talking about). The topic of the panel I'll be speaking on is "Educational publishing, children's literature and ebooks in Africa" which pretty much sums up my life so what's not to be excited about?

I was initially only meant to go for 2 days but I want to take advantage and see some of the city. During Frankfurt Book Fair last year, I got onto a panel but I didn't get to see anything beyond the subway station stops between my hotel and Frankfurt Messe. Not doing that again. This time, I'm going to go uber-tourist on Europe. I'm going to take photos like I'm an American in the Kruger Park. I'm going to own it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Please be published and available for me to read now? KTHXBYE

There are a lot of 2013 most anticipated book lists going around. It's kind of like the flu. This is not that. For me, there is only one book: this year belongs to Dessen. PW feels much as I do:

"Sarah Dessen’s new novel, The Moon and More (Viking, June), does not ship for several more months. But the lucky audience – largely teen girls and young women – who turned out on January 18 for her event in Pittsburgh was the first to hear Dessen give a sneak preview. “This is the first time I’ve read from this book out loud!” she exclaimed, to the obviously enthusiastic crowd."

Man, do I wish I'd been at that event. Can't wait to read the book.

But I've got to admit, The Shining Girls is looking mighty damn awesome too... I'm strongly considering pre-ordering from those fine folk at the Book Lounge. Here's the blurb:

The Time Traveler's Wife meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in this story of a time-traveling serial killer who is impossible to trace--until one of his victims survives.

In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

Working with an ex-homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby has to unravel an impossible mystery.

The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the classic serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing girl in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

Book Lounge has two pre-order options available: a paperback edition for R162 (retail price R180) or a hardback limited collectors edition for R261 (retail price R290).

The books will be signed by Lauren (winning!), and word on the street is that she is happy to personalise/dedicate the books as required ("To B-dogg from L-dogg"?). In order to qualify for the discount, books must be paid for before the publication date of 15th April

So maybe when payday comes I should treat myself with the paperback edition?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book blog tours, Y U NO LIKE SA?

I'm not really sure what it is about South Africans and book blog tours. And I'm not just talking YA authors (although off the top of my head, I can think of more than 10 SA YA writers) - I'm talking about authors in general of fiction, non-fiction, and whatever other genres fit in somewhere in between that. Personally, I think they are a jam and wonder why authors aren't jumping over each other to do more. I suppose with such a small trade publishing industry, there are few authors being published at all hence few interested in doing this kind of promotion thing. There are probably few publishers of non-education, non-university texts too (although I'm not against an ECO1001 textbook blog tour, btw).

I suppose there are time constraints because most SA writers cannot afford to have writing be their day job and must rely on their jobs as journos and copywriters and ad agency zombies (I'm colourfully filling in the gaps of my own knowledge of the industry here). You can't really be blogging all about time when there are clients and bosses to be impressed.

On the other hand, there are so many authors turning to self-publishing these days (if the buzz is anything to go by) and enough who are writing for independent trade houses and not getting their 15 minutes and could be using blogs as a platform to find a little spotlight.

There are a couple of book blogs in SA - some of them actually pretty good. There are quite a few bloggers who love talking to authors, interviewing them and sharing a variety of locally generated reading content. Maybe soem of them are doing this blog tour thing - albeit on a very mini scale. So why aren't these two forces of awesome - bloggers and authors - uniting for SA book blog tours? Heck, why aren't SA authors doing book tours full stop?

While I understand and accept that it's expensive and time-consuming, I still think that it's so worth it to take your books to as wide an audience as possible and that there are ways to visit schools and libraries and get other entities (including government and those schools) to foot the bill.

Somebody enlighten me, for reals: What is it with South Africans and book blog tours?

More on how to run a blog tour by Beth Barany

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Confession: I hate the Exclusive Books Summer Sale

Twice a year or whatever Exclusive Books has the worst sale known to book-kind. It's not that I particularly dislike Exclusives. I mean, they aren't my favourite but I have purchased (too many) books from them and ordered online. I think the whole Stickers thing was a stroke of genius. That being said, kalahari is 8 times our of ten cheaper and has a better selection of the books I actually want to read.

You guys, even though peeps on Twitter be going on about how 'great' the Summer Sale is/was, how they really got 'awesome' deals: who has that ever really happened to? All the stock on sale is out-of-date or is overflow and needs to be shipped on out to make way for new copies of Fifty Shades. No attempt is made at a balanced mix of bestsellers and lesser known titles - especially for fiction or YA. It's not like I could go and get a copy of Hunger Games at R50. Or anything by John Green. If I'd ever seen Dessen in a EB, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be on sale either. So what's the point? I have a to-read list longer than my arm and I know I am never in one billion years ever going to find those books at any sidewalk EB sale. The warehouse clearance sale looked like it was going to be a lot better and, granted, it was. But really only if you want to get kids' books. Books are priced and sold by weight not quantity so it really makes sense to stick up for a year of kids' bday pressies all at once. For anyone else though? I can't see how you could actually look through piles of things you do not want to find something you may or may not sort of want because, hey, it's on sale.

Perhaps my feelings about EB's lame attempts at a sale are a result of #firstworldproblems: how are you supposed to find anything with no key words, cmb+F or search bar? In the real world, how can you expect your customers to be able to differentiate from hundreds of products that they can't establish their preference for until they actually buy them? You can judge a book by it's cover but it's probably not going to be what you think. How do you then signal to consumers that somewhere in that stack of stuff, you as the retailer, just want to rid of is a book that will change their lives? And how is EB going to convince me that it's even possible that that book is in there at all when all I see in front of me is - let me be real - kind of a fail?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bernadette, oh Bernadette...

The Book: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

And it's About?

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world

In a Word, it was... Surreal

I have a massive girl crush on this book. It was definitely up there in the top three books of last year and I devoured it in like two days.

Bee, Bernadette's wonderfully strange daughter, has aced her report and as her reward, she wants a family trip to Antarctica. The prospect of having to leave the city she has come to loathe ironically terrifies Bernadette and so begins a series of bizarre and hilarious and very bad decisions - including hiring an PA in India who she only communicates to via email and to whom she essentially outsources all her life admin (which - btw - is actually my dream come true).

Bernadette is my hero: she is an undercover genius but she's been in disguise as a housewife and stay-at-home mom for so long that she can't remember who she used to be. But she is a little cray and when she disappears things get even crazier than they were when she was still around.

I loved reading about the links between creativity and madness, whether it be in fiction or non-fiction. I'd like to think that the whole thing is one big, spurious accident where the correlation between the two is more a function of people wanting to romanticise artists and creatives, making even the sane ones seem a little wack. I'd like to think this because going mad is actually a legit fear for me and I'd hate to think I was predisposing myself to catching the crazy by working on my manuscript, or even blogging.

Oh, Bernadette, I really did wonder where you'd gone and I was happy to follow you and Bee to the ends of the earth to find out. Loved it.

#nowplaying Halcyon

I had a dinner party last Friday night that saw half of my dinner guests in my living room, doing guitar solos from some Dire Straits LP, well passed midnight and well passed the age where it's cool to be doing guitar solos in public. It was a very 'we are infinite - kissing Emma Watson while we roll down the highway' kind of moment even though I barely even know who Dire Straits is. It was just watching everyone with their eyes shut, jamming so hard and with total abandon. It was that thing about music that's always taking you somewhere: back to a time or a place or even back to someone you used to be. Even in varsity when all I did was listen to music and watch series and party and listen to music and cry - books were still much better ways for me to escape and just jam. Words move me, not beats.

Even when I listen to a new band or a new song, the first thing I want to hear is that great line. I loved the Arctic Monkeys so much circa 2007 because every one of their songs was laced with these one liners than could break your heart. '505' remains a song that's words always do something a little different to me every time I listen to them:

But I crumble completely when you cry
It seems like once again you've had to greet me with goodbye
I'm always just about to go and spoil a surprise
Take my hands off of your eyes too soon

I loved discovered bridges like that. But the feeling is far in between these days. Every thing on the radio sounds the same, MTV doesn't even play music anymore and Lord knows I miss me some DC++ so I don't feel like I discover much new music anymore, let alone many lyricists who slay you with their poetry just before the beat kicks in.

Today was a little different. I stumbled on Elle Goulding's Halcyon album. There are so many heartbreakers on that album, so many lines that cut deep and you just keep bleeding. ARGH. Why is this woman not more famous? Why isn't she on repeat on every radio station?

Only You starts with this winner:

Only you can be the aching in my heart
My enemy, the only animal I couldn't fight
You hold me in the dark when storms arrive
Only you

Dead in the Water made me think of all the toxic relationships I've let wither and die in the last seven years:

If I was not myself
And you were someone else
I'd say so much to you
And I would tell the truth

But Explosions broke my heart. Because the worst break-ups are the ones with your friends. And the ones even worse than that are the ones where you're not in love but you stay together anyway:

And as the floods move in
And your body starts to sink
I was the last thing on your mind
I know you better than you think

I don't know much about music or about writing, as it turns out. And apparently, there are a lot of Ellie Goulding haters out there who would agree wholeheartedly with my previous statement. It's not all that surprising that there are also many music critics who totes disagree with my 'lyrics before everything' approach to musak. But, you know, in the words of Liz Colville:

I keep on obsessively listening to Halcyon, drowning out the nitpicky chatter of the critics. Music is armor that can be used to ward off scrutiny of all kinds, including that of the music itself.

Read the article that made me fall in love with EllieG (<-- that is totally going to be a thing now: I'm bringing it in)

Friday, January 18, 2013

I won a BOOK! *dances*

Okay, mayhaps I'm a little too excited but I honestly do not believe there is such a thing when it comes to the prospect of free books. There was a time when I was just ordering books left, right and middle-centre (see what I did there, Jam Alley fans?) from NetGalley because they were free. To be fair, most of the books I got were not all that great because I am a South African blogger and so that means most of the big publishers won't give me their books for free (*tears*). NetGalley did give me the gift of a lifetime though in Tell the Wolves I'm Home because that was hands-down the best book of 2012 for me - YA, NA or adult. But I digress.

Over at The Book Fairy's Haven I wons me John Green's The Fault in Our Stars which I really, really must read already. I've pretty much read all his books and feel like I should blog about this at some point because he is John Green and he's pretty much made of win.

I also won Sarah Dessen's yet to be released new book The Moon and More and to say that I worship at the alter of Dessen doesn't really get to the depths of my love but - I totes do. If I start to go a little cray cray as June 2013 approaches, that is why.

I hear that TFiOS is heavy on the TEABS* and the DNRIP** so I'm excited.

*The End of A Book Sadness
**Do Not Read in Public (i.e. there will be ugly crying)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brazzaville - here i come!

So I'm going to Brazzaville! I died a little death of joy when I got the invite from Institut Fran├žais. And now, flights are booked, hotel is booked, all I need is a VISA and a yellow fever shot and I'm good to go.

Backstory: I met this so chic and very lovely woman at a presentation I sort of helped my ex-boss with at Frankfurt Book Fair. He half-jokingly, half-seriously told her the next time they needed someone to talk about digital Africa or mobile reading or any of that, they should invite me instead of him. And they totally invited me!

Institut Fran├žais is organising a roundtable in Brazzaville on February 16th-17th about "Digital revolutions for books and literature in Africa", during the literary festival "Etonnants Voyageurs". The literary festival will apparently focus on "Africa Rising" which is totally cool with me and I love talking about digital/reading/mobile/Twitter things so I'm very excited. What I am slightly less excited about is my lack of French. I have requested a translator and I really hope he/she is kick-ass because otherwise it's going to be a weekend lost in translation and without that awesome pink wig. I met this cute American MA candidate last night who told me how much she had enjoyed staying in Kinshasa and going over to Brazzaville and visiting Goma and I was just like 'one step at a time, lady'. I don't think I'll be visiting the DRC on my trip.

I'm also half-jokingly, half-seriously concerned about my flights. There aren't any direct flight on the days that I need to be in Brazzaville so I'm flight OR Tambo - Nairobi - Brazzaville on the way there and Brazzaville - Kigali - OR Tambo on the way back. The probleem is that the flight back has a two hour stop over at like midnight, leaving Kigali at like 2am. How am I going to stay awake, y'all? You know 22:30 is like my bedtime. Naturally, I have chosen to take the offensive against sleeping in the airport very seriously and already ordered two books I am dying to read: The Raven Boys and Every Day. Every Day looks so amazeballs that I can't even keen it together thinking about reading that book. Is it wrong that I'm almost more excited about reading it than I am about speaking in Brazzaville? Probably. Do I care? Not really.

Guys, the hotel I've been booked into also looks super-fance and you have to know that luxury hotels are pretty much my favourite place to read. So much for exploring the city...