Friday, March 28, 2008

An Amazon Monopoly?

This is certainly interesting:

Writen by Angela Hoy at Writer's Weekly

Some Print on Demand (POD) publishers are privately screaming "Monopoly!" while others are seething with rage over startling phone conversations they're having with Amazon/BookSurge representatives. Why isn't anybody talking about it openly? Because they're afraid - very, very afraid. purchased BookSurge, a small POD publisher/printer back in 2005. Amazon also lists and sells titles for the largest POD printer, Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram (the large book distributor). According to their website, Lightning Source serves more than 4,300 publisher clients and has more than 400,000 titles in their system.

You'd think Amazon's purchase of BookSurge might have made things a bit uncomfortable between the two companies. However, they continued to work together, getting books on demand to's loyal customers. Things appeared to be cruising along just fine, but perhaps not anymore.

To read the full article, click here

What exactly does this mean for the small publisher who uses Print-on-demand? Or the large publishers for that matter? Is this the death of Lightning Source and other competing Print-on-demand printers? Is Amazon becoming the monopoly it appears to be? Or is this a lot of panic over nothing?

I'll be keeping a close watch on this situation. So far, Laura' Fogg's book is still available for sale on Amazon. If anything changes, I'll let you know.

Beyond the threat of lost revenue for me and other publishers, this is a potential threat to free internet commerce and to free speech. How many writers will be silenced by Amazon's need to control the market? I believe keeping the internet free and information flowing is key to maintaining the health of our democracy. Any attempt to silence dissent, or corral businesses into a single resource for their product, is dangerous.

It's not the time to panic yet. Now is the time to be aware and see what happens. Perhaps Amazon will retract its position and avoid monopolizing book sales on the internet. Or if not, then it may be time for all of us to shop at Powells.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The KMEC interview is on line

Follow the link to hear to KMEC interview with Jane and I about Medusa's Muse and the Punk Anthology.

Midnite Society

(3-21-2008. the interview is split into two parts)

And a big thank you to Emilyn, who is a fabulous DJ and host. I had a great time!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Drunk on Friendship and Beauty

My Muse is satiated on beauty and inspiration; drunk on the energy of friendship and San Francisco. She and I went to The City on Saturday for a friend's baby Christening on Easter Sunday but decided to go down a day early to soak up some of that Bay Area vibe, and visit friends I haven't seen in three years. We dropped off my daughter with her dad, parked the van near the apartment I was staying at, and then hiked down to 19th avenue to catch the 28 bus toward Fort Funston. It was one of those warm, sunny days when smiling people crowd the sidewalks and the bay is full of sail boats. We walked over the hill to the Wharf where I was meeting my friends at the Wipe Out bar. I haven't been to The Wharf for years and couldn't resist walking all the way to Pier 39, dodging pedestrians and bicycles, sometimes walking in the road to get past the crowds gathered around street performers. My Muse stayed beside me, her hair flowing out like a net gathering creative energy, the snakes sticking their blood-red tongues out to taste the smell of people. I was late meeting my friends. My Muse decided to wander around the pier more, her eyes and ears wide with anticipation. A drag queen quartet grabbed her attention and she said, "See you later," as she vanished.

My friends found me at the front door of the pub and led me to a spot at the bar where we stayed for three hours, chatting, drinking, and laughing over old times. The three of us worked together at Renaissance Faire for many years and those two are more my family than just friends. After the bar they took me to the Rainforest Cafe, a cacophonies restaurant complete with a water fall and animatronic gorillas and elephants. My Muse found us after dinner and joined our evening walk along the water toward Market street where I would catch the Muni. Suddenly, she gripped my arm and whispered, "Look." Rising over the bay bridge, a full, golden moon shone brightly through the spans of the bridge. I pointed it out to my friends and they took a picture. You can't really see the moon very clearly, but the shot reminds me of that moment. Another full moon spent with my two dear friends. How many moons have we shared?

The next day I caught the bus again to Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, a massive stone, Gothic, European inspired church, with stained glass windows copied from Medieval images. I arrived just as the procession of the priests began. Long robed priests carrying incense and candles filed through the aisle toward the altar, singing as they walked. I couldn't find my friends until we all gathered for the Christening. Grace Cathedral baptizes people four times a year, so my friends brought their three month old daughter to be baptized on Easter. I finally saw them opposite the Baptismal font and saw their daughter for the first time dressed in a white Christening gown. They took their turn with 20 other families and when everyone lined up again to return to their seats, I pushed my way through the crowd to join them. We sat together and listened to the Easter service and beautiful choir. My Muse wandered about the church, pressing her hands against the smooth stone, breathing in the age and color of the windows, and shivering every time the Gregorian sounding choir sang.

After the service was a brunch celebration at the Beach Chalet. Good food and not too pricey, with a lovely view. The weather was again warm and the wind mild, so we all walked on the beach where we showed the baby the ocean for the first time. I've been friends with her mother since the 7th grade, so this little girl feels like my niece. I remembered when my own daughter saw the ocean for the first time. She was wrapped up warmly in a front facing snuggle pack and she kicked her feet and laughed when she saw the ocean waves hissing on the sand at my feet.

I drove home after that and spent a quiet Easter dinner with Rick. The next day I went to Orr Hot Springs with another friend and spent the entire day soaking and lounging, watching the sky, talking and eating good food. My Muse sat by the cold pool and watched the white blossoms fall from the trees and land softly on the water.
By the time I got home, my Muse was practically drunk on creative energy and passed out on my bed.

Today, her skin is glowing with the hum of creativity. The snakes are singing softly. We haven't started writing anything yet, but we are both filled with enough energy to write four novels.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Terena on KMEC tonight!

If you live anywhere near Ukiah, Ca, Jane and I will be interviewed on KMEC radio on Midnight Society with Emilyn, tonight (Friday, 3/21) at 8:00. We'll be chatting about Small Press Month, starting Medusa's Muse, and our current project, a Punk Rock Anthology. If you live too far away from Ukiah to get KMEC on your radio, you can listen to it streaming from the KMEC website, or check out the mp3 archive of Emilyn's show.

KMEC LP is an independent, local, low power radio station broadcasting from the Mendocino Environmental Center. It's an eclectic mix of all types of music, politics, news, and views from Mendocino County. I love listening to this station because you never know what you'll hear. Blue-grass one hour, Hip-Hop the next, then some Punk followed by Enya. My kind of station!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Laura Fogg at the La Conner Quilt Museum

Not only is Laura Fogg a brilliant teacher and exeptional writer, she is also a gifted textile artist. An exhibit of her work opens March 23rd at the Quilt and Textile Museum in La Connor, Washington. Laura wrote in her book about the curious relationship between her two worlds, that of teacher of visually impaired students, and as a visual artist. If you are in Northern Washington State, you have the opportunity to see how these two worlds combine. Teaching students who are blind involves a great deal of hands on, tactile, exploration. The child needs to feel the object to understand what it is. Laura uses fabric and other textures to create vibrant landscapes. The act of creating a quilt is a tactile process, as well as visual.

Monday, March 17, 2008

At last, the three Medusa's Muses were all together.

Jane, punctuation wonder girl and Medusa's Muse lead editor, is on leave from graduate school for a few months. To escape the ice encrusted Boston winter that refuses to end, she loaded up her little car and drove across the US via route 66, arriving just in time for Spring, and to join Laura Fogg and I at the Association of University Women's brunch. The event was at the North State Cafe in Ukiah, and the food was delicious, complete with chocolate covered strawberries.

Our presentation focused on the creation of Medusa's Muse and development of Laura's book, "Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers." Laura also read from the prelude and the chapter about my daughter. Afterwards, Laura answered questions before she had to leave early to begin her journey to Washington State for the gallery opening of an exhibit of her quilts. I finished our presentation by answering questions about the press and Medusa's two, new books, coming in Fall 08 and Spring 09. Overall it was a mellow, fun, stress-free event with good food and a great, interactive audience. We also sold quite a few books.

Jane stayed at my house that evening and we shared a bottle of champagne, given to me by my dear friend Jody Gehrman back in November to celebrate the launch of Laura's book. I've been holding on to it for a special occasion and having Jane and Rick, the two people who helped me start my press, together for the first time since the book launched, was perfect. We popped the champagne and raised our glasses to each other while I said a toast.

"To us. And thank you. I couldn't have pulled this off without you."

That champagne was the best I've ever had. Perrier Jouet Grand Brute from France; crisp, light, with a hint of spicy vanilla, and perfectly formed, tiny bubbles which vanished as soon as touched my tongue. None of that soda pop feel from the cheap champagne I usually grab. Dang, Jody, you know your champagne! The three of us laughed and chatted and dreamed about Medusa while sharing chocolate and cookies with our champagne.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Script Frenzy

My Muse was reading the posts on Blood and Ink when she saw this about Script Frenzy. "Terena," she yelled across the room. "I've found something for you!"

"Something else? You've found something more to fill my to-do lists?"

"Oh, hush. Look." She pointed to the computer screen where the website for Script Frenzy appeared. "It's a challenge. Write a 100 page script in one month, like that Write-a-Novel in a month challenge you wouldn't do."

"I'm really busy. I have zero time to write anything."

"Then make time." She stood and placed her fists on her hips. "You're not just a book peddler, you are a writer. You're forgetting that. And this is the perfect opportunity to write one of those scripts you have in your head that I've seen you jotting notes for."

I sighed. "I have Laura's book to promote, another book to edit and design, the Punk book to pull together, plus school. I don't have time to write."

Her eyes narrowed. "The last time you said that you almost lost me. Don't make that mistake again."

I remembered when I'd had to get a "real job" and stopped writing, and then the day I found her in the back yard, her skin baked black from lying in the sun for 2 months, the lawn littered with empty bottles of red wine. "You're right," I said. "This is getting ridiculous. I need to write the play and if a challenge like this will get me started, so be it." I sat at the computer. "When does it start?"

"April 1st."

"Great. The same day the new writer's manuscript is due."

"Terena, this is a challenge, not a test. If you can't get it done in one month, you can always finish it later. This is simply an opportunity to start."

A 100 page play in one month? I can do that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rocket Girls Celebrates Small Press Month

I just posted a piece about Small Press Month on the Rocket Girl's blog. Click on the link to read it.

Happy Small Press Month! Buy a small press book today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Inspiring, Busy Weekend With Laura and my daughter

My daughter and I went to Laura's quilt showing at the One Earth Gallery on Saturday. Great turnout. The gallery did an excellent job with this event and the space is perfect for viewing large pieces, like Laura's "Samba" quilt which is 12 feet by 10 feet. Also, you can see the quilt "Laura takes a leap" that is featured in the Until the Violence Stops Documentary. The imagery on the quilt, from the stream made of shining blue fabric to the grinning, nude woman leaping across it, is more vibrant when seen in person. Even my 12 year old daughter loved looking at the quilts and we spent an hour examining each one, discovering the hidden treasures Laura includes with the fabric, like large feathers, shells, beads, antique earrings and heavy necklaces, lace and bone. She peered closely at the quilt with the four faces representing the seasons and said, "That one looks like it's made of leaves, like fall." I loved spending this time with my child; a reminder of how much she's grown. Gone are the days when I'd have to chase her around the gallery begging her not to touch the art with her sticky fingers. Now we can talk about the creation of the art, laugh over the images, and enjoy the beauty created from bits of fabric, thread, and buttons. Plus, I'm sure she enjoyed it because it was made by Laura her teacher, and a very important person in her life. She did like the other artist's works too, especially the mosaic tiles. We plan to attempt a mosaic together this summer.

Sunday was definitely not a good Mother/Daughter day, but she did have an ice-cream date with her dad. I sold some of Laura's books at the Women's Political Caucus/Women's Art Awards event at the Fairgrounds (see prior post). Laura received an award for her quilts, along with four other women artists. Unfortunately, we didn't sell many books. Pretty much everyone Laura knows in our little town has already bought one. Happily though, I got to hear directly from people how much they love her book and how impressed they are with the quality of the book itself. One person said she's heard nothing but praise. It was also an excellent opportunity to let people know more about Medusa's Muse. Several didn't realize we're a local press. Whether sales were good or not, going out and talking to people about the press and the project was well worth my time. I gave away a few books, chatted with several people, met someone interested in submitting her own work, and got to spend time with my favorite author, Laura.

While Ronnie Gilbert was receiving her award, I looked out across the audience and suddenly felt a profound sense of home. Mendocino County. I listened to Ronnie sing one of her songs and watched the crowd soak up every word, felt the room humm with praise and hope, and realized I am exactly where I need to be. This community, especially the Mendocino Book Company, has been incredibly supportive of this little endeavor of mine and Laura's. Of course it helps when you publish the work of someone who knows EVERYONE and is respected by EVERYONE; makes selling the book a lot easier. But the community has also been supportive of me and the press, irregardless of Laura. People here support the arts, especially women artists, and they respect the work I've done creating the physical book from Laura's manuscript. I realized just how welcome I am here.

Just listening to Ronnie was inspiration enough. Here is a tiny elderly woman who has spent her entire life fighting for Social Justice with only her passion and music. And no matter what happened, even through being blacklisted in the McCarthy era of the 1950's, she has remained true to that cause. I hope I can someday be just as strong and outspoken as she.

Next weekend Laura and I are giving a talk at the American Association of University Women's brunch. Saturday, March 15th, 11:30 to 1:30, at the North State Cafe. We'll be discussing the process of developing her book, from the moment I asked to publish it to today, and talk about working together on the book, as well as working to help my daughter grow and gain independence. And with luck, Jane, the editor of Medusa's Muse, will be there too. Books will be available.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Laura Fogg Events This Weekend

This is a busy weekend for my author, Laura Fogg, and is the beginning of an even busier month.

On Saturday, March 8, One Earth Studio will open an exhibit of contemporary artwork called Pieces, so entitled because all three artists use "pieces" of things to create their work. Elizabeth Raybee creates mosaic, Susan Hadley works with collage, and Laura creates decorative quilts. If you are in the Ukiah, Northern Californa area, drop by. The gallery is located at 310 Mason St., and the opening reception begins at 4:00. This is a great opportunity to see Laura's textile art.

Then on Sunday, March 9, Laura will receive an award for her work in the arts at the annual Women's History Gala, hosted by the National Women's Political Caucus of Mendocino County. This event, now in its 25th year, honors women in Mendocino County and features Ronie Gilbert as well as many others. This is what the Willits newspaper has to say about Laura:

Laura Fogg's collage art quilts have been shown regularly since 2000 and received awards across the United States. Among her unique art quilts, Fogg's "An Unexpected Manifestation of Menopause/Laura Takes a Leap" was included in the documentary "Until the Violence Stops" aired on Lifetime TV and shown in theaters around the country in conjunction with performances of Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues." Of her success Laura says, "I couldn't have done it without my community-being nurtured and inspired as an artist and growing in all ways." Working in the field of Special Education for the past 35 years, Fogg recently authored a memoir of her experiences with blind children and their families, "Traveling Blind: Life Lessons From Unlikely Teachers."

Because this event has grown so large, with over 300 people in attendance, it has moved to the Fine Arts Building, Redwood Empire Fairgrounds, 1055 N. State St., Ukiah. The doors open at noon with time to view the silent auction, and the program will begin at 1 p.m. Ticketa are $10 and must be purchased in advance. Get yours at Mendocino Book Company, in Ukiah; Leaves of Grass, in Willits; Tangents, in Fort Bragg; or Out of This World, in Mendocino.

I'll be there as well, selling Laura's book, plus CD's from Ronnie Gilbert and books from Holly Brackmann. Stop by the table and say hello.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Memoir Lies: Why do writers make up stories and call them true?

I've read several articles about recent bestselling memoirs turning out to be fiction and the subsequent outcry against the authors. Kathy O'Beirne's 2005 memoir, Kathy's Story: A Childhood Hell Inside the Magdalene Laundries, about growing up in a Catholic home for fallen women. Love and Consequences, by Margaret B. Jones, in which she chronicles her childhood as a half Indian, half white girl living in foster care and running drugs in East LA. And there is the holocaust survival story, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years, by Misha Defonseca, a story in which six year old Misha travels Europe during WW2 looking for her lost Jewish parents. At one point in her journey she is rescued by wolves.

Why are so many writers creating works of fiction and trying to pass them off as truth? And why are we readers buying these outlandish tales to begin with? Why are wild, gut-wrenching, true-tales so compelling, and therefor, so profitable?

As a publisher of memoir, I am concerned by the possible backlash against the memoir genre. Because of a hand full of writers manipulating the truth, real, well written memoirs may take the penalty. If these high profile, lucrative memoirs are proven to be fake, then the entire memoir genre can be held as suspect. Laura Fogg wrote a beautiful memoir about her work with visually impaired children which is absolutely true and which I am proud to have published. I am afraid that no matter how good the writing or authentic the story, the fact that it is a memoir will make readers doubt her life's work as true. The children's stories chronicled in the book will be dismissed as melodrama, regardless of how real these children and their stories are.

As a writer, I am concerned that other writers feel it's perfectly fine to embellish their tales to get a bigger audience. Sadly, it looks like their action is justified, if unethical. Everyone wanted to read James Frey's A Million Little Pieces because of his incredible, bloody, dramatic voyage from addiction to sobriety. It was hard to believe he managed to overcome such insurmountable odds, but he did, or so we were led to believe. We are hungry for those stories; the little girl protected from the Nazis by wolves, the half Indian foster-child who escapes the ghetto and goes to college. We want to believe humans are that resilient, because if they can change their lives for the better, so can we.

Take a look at the Medusa's Muse mission statement on the website. One of the reasons I started the press was to publish the stories of people who were able to overcome great hardship and joyfully transform their lives. Laura's book shares her journey working with children who many of us would find difficult to interact with. Each one of those children taught her something about life.

I wrote a memoir several years ago about my best friend Paul who died of AIDS. It's been sitting on a shelf for 8 years and I've finally gotten back to it. I tried transforming it into a work of fiction so I could add to the plot and make the story more compelling to more readers. But fictionalizing what happened feels inauthentic, like I'm going for the laughs. I'm returning to the memoir format and I am trying very hard to revise it in a way that brings the scenes to life without adding lies. Memory is a tricky thing. Did he say he hated me when he threw me out of our apartment? Or did I add that to my own memory as I relive each moment with him? Truth is far more complicated than simple fact.

However, claiming "this is what I remember" to a blatant fictionalized "memoir" is no excuse. Nor is saying the events in your memoir are what happened to people you "know" and you were simply trying to give a voice to the voiceless as Margaret B. Jones stated in an article in the Times. That's what fiction is for.

I will continue to publish memoir and hope the backlash won't silence the many talented writers out there with true stories of transformation and resiliency. But I can guarantee we will fact check every story thoroughly. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the publisher to ensure that what is claimed to be true is actually true. Yes, a publisher can only go so far in fact-checking, but from the articles I've read on these false memoirs, it appears the publishers didn't do their homework. Maybe they were too caught up in the story, just as we readers were.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Small Press Month

Small Press Month
March 1 - 31, 2008
Small Press Month, now in its 12th year, is a nationwide promotion highlighting the valuable work produced by independent publishers. An annual celebration of the independent spirit of small publishers, Small Press Month is an effort to showcase the diverse, unique, and often most significant voices being published today. This year's slogan is “Celebrate Great Writing”.

Celebrate Small Press Month with a good book from one of the many excellent small presses, such as Seal Press, Dzanc, McSweeneys, Percival Press, and of course, Medusa's Muse.

For a list of some of my favorite small presses, check out my links list in the right hand column.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

My Muse put on a Power Suit and got to work

I was shocked to find my Muse sitting at my desk, a list in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, and my glasses perched forcefully on the end of her nose. She was dressed in a pale blue wool business jacket and skirt, and her mass of curly snakes was pulled up tightly into a trembling bun.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

She continued to stare at the computer screen, reading an article from Publisher's Weekly about the rise of internet book sales. "Catching up."

"Catching up? On what? Reading?"

She shook her head and spun the chair around to face me. "No. I'm helping you catch up on all this work that's been piling up since you became ill. I thought you could use my help today."

"Thanks. I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything. Just get me more coffee." She held out her mug while turning back to the computer screen.

I did as I was told, then returned with two cups of coffee. Handing her one, I sat beside her on the wooden stool. "What are you doing now?"

"Double checking you haven't missed any opportunities for book sales." She sipped her coffee without looking at me, then scowled. "Too much milk."

"Have I?"


"Missed any sales opportunities?"

"Not sure yet. I'll let you know." She finished reading the article, then hit the browser back arrow to return to the Galley Cat website.

I said, "Nice outfit."

She smiled and smoothed her skirt. "Never underestimate the power of a costume. If you dress professionally you will be professional. It's very hard not to feel in control in a power suit." She turned to look directly at me while reading from the list. "Let's see... you need to send notes on the Punk submissions to the writers. They're waiting for your direction. It is not good to let them wait too long. You should know that from your own experience of waiting for feedback."

"Of course."

"And then you need to contact someone about that form 571-L." She rummaged around in the pile of papers on the desk until she found the yellow form. "What is this, anyway? Property? You don't have any property?" Tapping the computer she said, "Unless you count this ancient lap top."

"Eight years is not ancient."

"In technological terms, it is. Have you considered buying a new one?"

"Right after I sell the Lamborghini"

My Muse set her cup down and folded her arms. "Very funny. I'm trying to be serious. You could use new equipment."

I nodded. "Yes I can. I could also use health insurance and new shoes, so the lap top will have to wait."

Studying the list again, she said, "Very well. Back to the task at hand. Why haven't you contacted H and R Block?"

"Because every time I tried to talk I would cough."

"You're not any more. Call them. You need to finish those taxes."

"Yes Ma'am."

Her eyes narrowed. I said, "I'm not trying to be funny. I'm simply respecting the power suit."

My Muse continued. "Get the contract in the mail for the new writer, send two books to PMA for the conferences, reserve a hotel room for Expo, call KUGS again, contact the gallery for Laura's exhibit to see if they need books early, oh... and get that Audio book finished." She smiled, set down the list, took a large sip of her coffee, then stood. "There. That should get you started."

"And what will you be doing in that lovely power suit?"

"I'm going to look over that story you've been working on. Hopefully your latest revision has improved it."

I sat in the chair which felt warm from the heat of my Muse. "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

"Perhaps..." My Muse vanished.

This is the first time my Muse has paid any attention to the business side of publishing. It made me feel that the two sides of my creativity, the artistic and the practical, were melding, which was an excellent sign for the health and viability of Medusa's Muse. If my brooding, hungry, writing side and my optomistic, intuitive business side could work together, then I wouldn't be pulled apart by the dueling parts of my nature. I could approach publishing holistically. My Muse taking an interest in tax forms was a start.