Book Review: The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes NovelThe House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two points about THE HOUSE OF SILK (and the notion of writing a Sherlock Holmes story in general):

  1. Sherlock has been done so many times, especially recently, that the character is basically a cut-out. You prop it up, and substitute whoever you like, be it Robert Downey Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch.
  2. That said, the author (in this case, Anthony Horowitz) is in a slightly odd position. Because everyone is so familiar with Holmes, all his characterization feels like a retread. I almost skimmed over those parts … keen intellect, yeah yeah … stunning deductions … yeah, been there.

That said, Horowitz tells a good tale, weaving orphaned children, immigrants, a man apparently threatened by an Irish gangster, and the nefarious doings of well-to-do into a story with a bunch of twists and turns that he ties together in a way that is both surprising and satisfying.

He also writes well. It isn’t just good prose, but he adds period detail with his use of language, especially anachronistic terms.

It’s not the kind of book that I’d expect to see shortlisted for the Booker, but it’s a good story, a fun read, and moves along at a lively pace.

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“Moneyball” and the Case of the Copycat Song

I saw “Moneyball” this weekend. It’s an excellent movie, but I still think Michael Lewis’ book is even better. My suggestion: Go read the book. Then go see the movie.

But one thing the movie has, which the book doesn’t, is a subplot involving Beane’s 12-year-old daughter. In the movie the daughter sings and plays guitar, and the song she writes becomes kind of an anthem for her father.

The song, called “The Show,”  was actually written by a singer-songwriter named Lenka and released in 2008. Here’s Kerris Dorsey’s cover (she’s the actress who plays the daughter), in a video that looks like a trailer for the movie:

Lovely song, eh? But since I’m a hobbyist musician, I spend a lot of time listening to music, and I thought it sounded familiar. Like, really familiar. Like, substitute-other-lyrics-on-top-of-existing-song familiar.

Which existing song? “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz (first released in 2005):

I took a look at the chords, and they’re not the same (though I think they’re both using variations on the I-IV-V chord progressions). Then I compared the first two lines:

“The Show”:

I’m just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle

“I’m Yours””

Well uh you dawned on me and you bet I felt it,
I tried to be chill but you’re so hot that I melted,

Similar number of syllables, similar meter. You could easily sing those four lines as a single verse.

Hmm.

I Must Be Crazy: I Signed up for NaNoWriMo

I signed up for NaNoWriMo. In case you haven’t seen it, that’s a mashup of National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a thing among some writers (usually the ambitious ones). The idea is to write like a maniac for 30 days. And you “win” if you get 50,000 words written.

But damn, that’s a lot of words. If you do the math — and this is one time when writers will — it works out to 1,667 words a day. That’s about seven pages a day, for 30 straight days.

I don’t expect to “win.” I’ve got a full-time job, as well as a part-time job as a dad/husband/dish-doer/errand-runner/math-homework-helper.

Also, I’ve tried not sleeping. It hasn’t worked out too well. I’d also like have my wife not divorce me.

So why go through all the trouble? Because it’s there! Also because I’ve been dipping my toe in a new project, and this gives me the institutional excuse to dive into the deep end. And because the things I regret are usually things I said no to.

Besides, writing is easy! As Gene Folwer (or someone else) once said, “All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

So, starting in 90 minutes, it’s November. And I’ll be cranking.

PS – You can see my progress on the widget on the right (because I know you have nothing better to do). And should it come to pass, I expect the widget will also show my lack of progress.

If you want to know more, check out their site. Or Nathan Bransford’s post about NaNoWriMo resources.

A Moveable Feast of Goats


I’ve been writing about my trip to Paris recently, and because I have a copy sitting around, I picked up Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, his memoir of living in Paris as part of the American expatriate circle of writers in the 1920s.

I’m not all the way through it, but I happened to wander over to the Wikipedia page (linked above), where I learned it was published after his death, and been edited by his fourth wife. Apparently Hemingway returned to the memoir shortly before his death, and it included a lengthy apology to Hadley, his first wife (which got cut).

Not only that, “literary critic J. Gerald Kennedy of Louisiana State University pointed out the artificially heroic nature of Hemingway’s self-portrait in A Moveable Feast. He contrasted it with the sexual ambiguity and fascination with androgyny found in Hemingway’s unfinished novel, The Garden of Eden.”

Not only that, I found another lengthy piece about the memoir that appeared in the Huffington Post, which was written because Hemingway’s grandson was going to published a “restored edition.” It goes even further down the rabbit hole about the sad, sordid family history, and how the various wives and children of wives might have affected the books’ edits.

Wow. I’m not even going to weigh in on that. Instead, I got about fifty pages in, and found this:

The goatherd came up the street blowing his pipes and a woman who lived on the floor above us came out to the sidewalk with a big pot. The goatherd chose one of the heavy-bagged, black milk-goats and milked her into the pot while his dog pushed the others onto the sidewalk. The goats looked around, turning their necks like sightseers.

Goats! Cruising around Paris! Sure, it was 80-plus years ago, but still. When I was in Paris, I saw a lot of cars and tour buses. But no goats.

Why I Suck at Goodreads

I have a slightly embarrassing confession, which if you read the title of this post you might have guessed: I suck at Goodreads. For those of you who aren’t obsessive book types, Goodreads is a sort of “social cataloging” site where you can make reading lists, make friends, compare friends’ reading lists, write blog posts, book reviews, see how many books you have in common with a friend, etc.

A wonderful idea, in practice. But that depends on you practicing things like logging in and participating. With pretty good intentions I updated my reading list some time late last year.

Between then and now, I haven’t stopped reading. I had Tinkers listed as the book I was reading, and the sad fact was, I stalled on page 81 (or you might say, I stopped tinkering with it). But that’s one of the problems with social media sites: despite heroic efforts by software engineers to make the sites robust yet easy to use, one of my apparent destinies on earth is to be a use case that throws a site’s shortcomings into sharp relief.

For example, I have every intention of finishing Tinkers. I’m leaving the bookmark in. I’ll come back to it one day.

Or maybe I won’t.

But how do you express that on Goodreads? The four default lists are good and commonsense: all, to read, currently reading, and to-read. But really, I start a lot more books than I finish. I get them out of the library, I get them as gifts, I swap them with friends …. I start some, some sit by my bed, others on my dresser, others in stacks around the house.

In the broadest possible terms, I guess my books fall into “to read,” “currently reading,” and “read.” But almost every book has its own shade of gray. Tinkers was a gift from a good friend, so I am more motivated to finish it because of that. I have three books by the same author. I’m about 100 pages into the first. Probably won’t read the other two. How do I express that on a list?

I’ll probably finish the ones on my list now (in the screen grab, above). But what about the music instruction book I have? It’s nonfiction, and not the kind of tome you read from beginning to end. You dip into it, you know? Am I reading it? Well, yeah. Also, no. Am I done with it? Yes. No. Depends. But since I’ve started it, it shouldn’t be in the “to read” list, right?

Except there’s a section that’s over my head right now, but when I can play more, I’ll go back. At some point I am going “to read” more.

I’d argue that I have a separate relationship with almost every book I could conceivably put on my list. And I could put books into groups, but the groups wouldn’t have simple names. For example:

  • Books that I was hot about when I bought them, but then I cooled off (Cloud Atlas, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle)
  • Books by authors who are friends of mine
  • Books I picked up on a whim
  • Books I stopped reading because I’m a feckless dilettante
  • Books I read because everyone else had, yet I felt slightly icky and disappointed with myself for having finished them (Da Vinci Code, Dragon Tattoo)
  • Books I ought to read because they appeared on some goddamned BBC Book List challenge, and despite having an MA in English, I somehow missed

Can’t you just see some programmer shaking his head at that last list, and saying, “No no, that’s much too long to fit into the book-list-name parameter string”?

That’s sort of my point. Zadie Smith makes this point too, as does Jaron Lanier. Smith wrote a good essay for the New York Review of Books about Facebook, and mentioned Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. Here she is summarizing him:

Lanier is interested in the ways in which people “reduce themselves” in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate. “Information systems,” he writes, “need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality” (my italics).

Smith asks whether we’re reducing ourselves to fit into the software. My answer is, of course we are.  She floats an extreme stance (though her piece is, as is all her writing, considerably more nuanced)

Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green color-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is.

I’m not so naive to think social media would be possible without limits. That’s actually part of the fun, to work within parameters. And for all its shortcomings, social media allows me to keep distant friends visible on the periphery, to get a condensed version of what’s happening in their lives. And there’s no better break from being a productive worker bee than a little slack-jawed happy time on Facebook or Twitter.

On the other hand, Facebook’s mobile app asks for my location EVERY SINGLE TIME, and its contact fields don’t include a field for Twitter. For its part, Twitter has the de facto effect of quantifying your popularity, either by number of followers, number of retweets, number of favorite stars (don’t ask), or even third-party algorithms with crappy spelling, like Klout. If there had been numeric popularity rankings in my high school, I might have seriously considered moving to Alaska to work as a fry cook.

On the other hand, one thing I like about Twitter is its lists. I don’t actually use them much, but it’s fun to see the lists I appear in. A short list of list names:

  • Sweet supportive saints
  • froods
  • inkpunk-types
  • 1-800-400
  • locomocos

Do I know what those mean? Not really. But the randomness is what makes it great.

To its credit, Goodreads allows you to edit your “shelves,” which is to say you can make up your own names for your own lists. Naturally, I had to try it. How did it work?

books-i-ought-to-read-because-they-

… Yeah. I sort of figured.

A Look at Three Ways to Get Published

I recently attended a talk by literary agent April Eberhardt. Her talk, The New Era of Publishing: How to Choose the Best Option for You,” outlined the rapidly changing publishing landscape.

Her thesis is that “the power is shifting to the author.” As an example, she noted that the big six publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, Bertelsmann, and Simon & Schuster) were responsible for 80 percent of all titles in the US three years ago. Now they’re responsible for 60 percent.

She quoted a few stats about the explosive growth in e-readers … but all you have to do is read the news to see abundant evidence of that for yourself.

Eberhardt had a few other principles:

  1. There is no one “right” way to publish.
  2. Authors and readers no longer need publishers to find each other
  3. There are a variety of business models developing now, including ebook self-publishing services like Smashwords, and smaller self-publishers like Publication Studio in Portland. Eberhardt noted the beginnings of “agent presses,” a hybrid business model where publication costs and profits are shared.
  4. The route to publication changes – that is, it could go from traditional publishers to e-publishing. For example, Joe Konrath left his publisher to sell his self-published e-books online.

After outlining the principles, Eberhardt outlined pros and cons of the three most common paths to publication:

Traditional Publishers

Pros:

  • Publishers do much of the footwork, including publicity
  • The status of being a published author

Cons:

  • The odds. Competition for agents is fierce. As former literary agent Nathan Bransford commented, “Agents get 10,000+ queries a year and take on maybe a handful of clients. Going strictly by the numbers, an agent’s inbox is far more competitive than any writing contest.”
  • The ratio of agents to editors is also bad
  • Advances are shrinking
  • It can take up to two years from signing with an agent until publication
  • Authors still do marketing and promotion themselves
  • You may or may not make a profit, since 99% of books never earn out their advance. And in that case, you lose your opportunity to publish your next book

Small Presses

Pros:

  • Status,
  • May pay, limited marketing

Cons:

  • Submitting is a lot of work, including research and following publishing guidelines
  • They may not respond (or if they do, it may take ages)
  • Competition is tough
  • Up to two years between acquisition and publication
  • You will have to self-promote
  • You probably won’t make a profit

Self-Publishing

Pros:

  • You control the rights
  • It’s relatively easy
  • It costs about $2,000 to $3,000 to self-publish well (that estimated cost includes hiring an editor, getting your book laid out/formatted, cover design, and marketing/promotion)
  • You make money as soon as you recoup costs
    • The web is a good marketing tool:
    • It’s good if a book targets a niche
  • You can experiment with various marketing approaches
  • You can choose title, cover art, story – you can even publish two different versions for different markets (I would have liked to see an example here, but didn’t get a chance to ask that question)

Cons:

  • Self-publishing still carries a stigma
  • As Eberhardt says, “self-published books have to be better than traditional books.”
  • It’s still a lot of work to find readers and make sales.

During the Q&A at the end, it was interesting to see how many people were focused on the traditional route to publishing (and the status boost). Also interesting was a comment she made about agents, which is that they sell to the big six – there’s not enough money in selling to the smaller presses to make it worth their time.

What I would love to see (and haven’t yet) is a gauge on how real the “stigma” is. Because two examples leap to mind where an ebook, a print-on-demand book or a self-published book could have further advantages.

  1. A book with niche appeal. In grad school I wrote a golf novel. While there are a lot of golfers out there, it’s clearly a book that’s going to appeal to golfers, but not to many non-golfers. Yet a publisher needs to gamble that they can recoup costs on a book, so if its subject matter has limited appeal (instead of broad-swath, Dan Brown appeal), you can see why a publisher would avoid the risk.
  2. A book that’s time sensitive. Think about the “life cycle” of the book. Say it takes a six months to write and another six months to edit, and then you sign with an agent within six months of submitting it. Say the agent sells it in three months (all this is relatively fast, by the way). Then the book will go into production for at least a year. That’s three years. If your subject matter is at all dependent on current events, that’s a long time.

What do you think?

Cows and Charities and Links and Books, oh my!

Happy Monday! Today’s grab-bag  post:

First, for those of you who made it here via Nathan’s blog, I am in for the Heifer International comment=$1.00 charity extravaganza. Leave a comment, I’ll donate a buck. If there are too many comments, I’ll cap it at a level I can afford. But let’s try not to invoke that unless we have to, shall we? By the way, I did this last year, and gave Heifer $50. I can do better than that this year. Oh, and if you have a blog and want to play along, let me know, and I’ll link to your blog.

Update: I cribbed Nathan’s elegantly formatted list, and pasted it here. It didn’t paste so elegantly, but it is complete.

  1. Practically Twisted
  2. Ink Spells (also a pledge to match your donation!)
  3. First Person Irregular
  4. Daily Awesomeness by Louise Curtis
  5. Jenn Hubbard (Blogspot)
  6. or Jenn Hubbard (LiveJournal)
  7. Minus equals plus giving blog
  8. T. H. Mafi – LET’S MAKE SOME MONEY.
  1. Missed My Stop by Robyn Bradley
  2. Tera Lynn Childs
  3. Anna Saikin
  4. Audra Krell
  5. Life and Literary Pursuits of Alexia Chamberlynn

If I may wag my finger for a minute, you really aren’t in the spirit of the holidays if you just give gifts to your friends and family. In the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof makes this point quite well: “One of the paradoxes of living in a wealthy country is that we accumulate tremendous purchasing power, yet it’s harder and harder for us to give friends and family presents that are meaningful.”

Kristof’s comment comes at the end of an excellent column, “The Gifts of Hope,” where he describes eleven organizations that are exceedingly worthy of your charitable giving. And before you go pleading poverty, visit the Global Rich List to see where you really stand.

Second, I propose John’s Yule Law, which states that children’s excitement and anticipation for Christmas is inversely proportional to parent’s frantic panic to get ready. (This is apropos of nothing, of course, except for the daunting status of my to do list.)

Third, I’m noticing that thanks to my social media friends, I often have more good links than I know what to do with. Case in point are a few good stories I haven’t managed to regurgitate on Facebook and Twitter.

Mental Floss had a list of “10 Works of Literature That Were Really Hard to Write,” which is interesting even if you haven’t struggled to write anything lately. One work is Gadsby, a 50,000-word novel without the letter “e” (yes, really). Another is Finnegan’s Wake, which James Joyce dictated to Samuel Beckett, with some unexpected results.

Another is a book I read and highly recommend, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby, which was made into a critically acclaimed film in 2007. You should read this book. Why? For no other reason than to honor this man’s determination:

In 1995, at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a major stroke and slipped into a coma. He regained consciousness two days later, but his entire body—with the exception of his left eyelid—was paralyzed. Still, Bauby was determined to write. Using only his lucid mind and one eye, he began working on his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Each night, he’d lie awake editing and re-editing the story in his mind, memorizing every paragraph as he hoped to relay it. By day, his transcriber would recite the alphabet to him over and over. When she reached a letter Bauby desired, he’d wink. Each word took about two minutes to produce, and during the course of a year, Bauby managed to tell his story of life in paralysis.

Fourth, I want to chat a bit about Paul Quarrington, a Canadian author who died earlier this year. The Torontoist blog ran a nice appreciation of him today: “At his best, Quarrington filled his pages with whimsy, and then pulled out the rug at the last minute, revealing the dramatic, even tragic, story he’d been building underneath all along.”

My favorite book of his is Whale Music (also made into a movie), which was one of the many reasons I decided to write a book about musicians. Here’s the description of Whale Music:

Des Howell is a former rock ‘n’ roll star who never leaves his secluded oceanfront mansion. Naked, rich and fabulously deranged, he subsists on a steady diet of whiskey, pharmaceuticals and jelly doughnuts and occasionally works on his masterpiece, “Whale Music.” One day, upon awakening from his usual drunken stupor, Des discovers on his sofa a young alien from the faraway universe of Toronto. This girl has made the trek to Des’ hideaway because she believes in the “Whale Music” and she’s crazy enough to think that Des can make a comeback hit with his mad magnum opus…

Fifth, thanks for reading!

I Review an Obscure Book Called the Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After being in print for seven years and selling 80 million copies, The Da Vinci code’s reputation won’t be changed one iota by my review. Will that stop me from writing a review? Of course not!

First, it’s a great premise. You’ve got one sekrit society out to get another sekrit society, and they’re sekritly fighting over some explosive sekrit that would change history. And, it’s the Catholic Church and all, which has kinda sorta had a big impact in the western world.

Then there’s that Da Vinci the genius guy thing, and anagrams, puzzles, riddles, and number puzzles. There’s the guy-that-helps-you-who-turns-out-to-be-a-bad-guy. You know, that stunning plot reversal you never saw coming.

But … there’s the writing. Consider, for example, “A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.'” Pro tip, Dan. Voices don’t speak. People speak.

Or, “On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.” Also, if you’re frozen, you’re NOT MOVING. I know, details. They’re pesky.

Or, “Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.”

If I can wear the picky pants a minute longer, a silhouette is a solid form, like a shadow, so our dying frozen curator would be unable to see the skin, hair, irises or pupils.

I knew his prose would be hammy on the way in, but still. All three of those examples are from the prologue.

Speaking of also and still, after Saunière has been shot (oops, spoiler! sorry!), he leaves himself to die after graffiting himself until he’s chock full o’ clues. But how can he be sure that his granddaughter, police officer Sophie Neveu, will get magically summoned to the crime scene just because he leaves a little number code jibber-jabber? Yeah yeah, suspension of disbelief. My bad.

And that whole Teabing guy? You know, the art curator? Making him rich, fine. If you’re going to spend half the night dumping religious history on your readers, best to do it in the sumptuous lap of luxury. But making him have 24/7 access to his own private plane? AND pilot?

Ironically, my favorite part of the book was that info dump, though that says more about my tastes as a reader than anything else. Alas, the book falls apart there, too, since the Priory of Sion was apparently a hoax created by a man later convicted of fraud.

Still, this is a step up from his earlier work, like Angels & Demons, where the Illuminat were trying to destroy Vatican City with antimatter (no, really), and unfortunate readers had to contend with characters named Vittoria Vetra and Gunther Glick … and “Hassassin.” (I’ll give you only one guess what he did for a living.)

So, who knows. Maybe Brown will learn from his reviews and eventually become a successful novelist.

Oh, wait.

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Review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Depending on the phase of the moon or my biorhythms, this could be a 3 or 4 star review. Overall I liked it. It’s a good yarn, with corporate intrigue and family secrets and even a murder mystery all rolled into one. I liked Lisbeth, and thought Mikael was a decent character, though a little lacking in imperfections.

I had some small quibbles. Though it read well, it could have been tightened. I also thought the factoids e.g., “X percent of women have suffered domestic violence,” weren’t necessary. I felt like those stats were bolted on as a bit of do-gooder journalism.

But while checking the spelling on “Blomkvist,” I read this on Wikipedia: “Larsson, who was disgusted by sexual violence, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. He never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth – like the young heroine of his books, herself a rape victim, which inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.” That said, why IS there so much explicit violence against women in the book?

The only other thing that bothered me structurally was the how the corporate baddy was faceless. I fully understand that the heart of the story was the Vanger family, but if you never meet the guy responsible for sending the protag to jail, and then you don’t meet him at the end either, it feels like it could have more conflict. But what do I know, he only sold about jillion copies.

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The Social Contract

As a writer who submits and someone who works with social media, I’ve been following a recent Twitter spat with some interest.

At the risk of stumping for Twitter, I think all writers serious about getting published should be on it. I’ve met writers, had literary agents answer questions, participated in contests, and been exposed to a lot of great information about writing and publishing. It’s like a perpetual writers’ conference and kaffeeklatsch.

I’ve also seen agents use Twitter to publicly react to queries in real time. Because Twitter messages are can’t exceed 140 characters, the query, book and writer remain anonymous. Most of those were one-day experiments. Then along came @InternAmie, an account where an intern at a literary agency reacted to queries and submissions as she read them, using the hashtag #queryfest. Here’s a two-part example:

“Memoir-lover that I am, I almost cried when this otherwise stunning memoir opened with an intense scene, but then … Nope–nevermind. The women’s fiction started out great, but major plot inconsistencies would’ve made agent frown & pass.”

The @InternAmie account is now closed, apparently a result of an online backlash. Afterwards the opinions were mixed:

theborderlord I found #queryfest incredibly helpful – it gave a rare insight into how the query system really works. Shame @internamie has vanished.

Tessasblurb If you have a problem with people judging your writing surely you’re in the wrong business… #writing #queryfest

yabreviewed Anonymous as it is #queryfest makes me more nervous about sending mine. To have it end up being a topic of discussion on twitter? No thanks.

Writers of fiction spend hours creating imaginary situations, but it’s nearly impossible for them to picture their work sitting in a huge pile along with hundreds of other submissions. This is @theborderlord’s point: @InternAmie was reading and reacting to submissions objectively, andoutlining the reasons she did or didn’t think they were working. In other words, she was an unbiased beta reader that didn’t sugar-coat things. (If you ever get a beta reader that does this for you, consider yourself very, very lucky.)

I think @Tessasblurb makes a good point, too. After I’d been working as a journalist and freelancer for years, I went back to get an MA in creative writing. Journalism schools understand that their degree is vocational, so getting out there and working is part of the process. But unlike J-school, submitting pieces is optional in an MA.

My MA program was full of people who desperately wanted an authority figure proclaim them Good Enough to Be Published, as if this were some absolute, like knighthood. So these writers worked in a fretful vacuum, like kids from the suburbs afraid of going downtown. I wanted to see them submit, over and over again, until they learned that rejection and having people dislike your stuff isn’t the end of the world–it’s a necessary part of being a writer.

That said, I agree most with yabreviewed. Querying is the first step of a business relationship, which works when both parties operate in good faith. But if a stranger discloses details of your query or pages (even if they can’t be traced back to you), that disclosure violates one of the evolving tenets of social media, which is to ask permission to use other people’s stuff.

Imagine an agent’s website with a submission form containing a checkbox and this: “I agree to have my work paraphrased, excerpted, and possibly commented by an anonymous party online for all to see.” Would you agree to that? I wouldn’t.

I’m not sure what the final chapter of the InternAmie saga will be. I hope she’s still reading submissions, since I want everyone reading my submissions will be like her, turning to the next query in the hopes it will be great.

I also hope the publishing community learns from what happened, instead of pointing fingers. But there are still agents who make sport out of the slush pile (such as Slush Pile Hell, which I find terribly unprofessional), just as there are writers who excerpt from agents’ e-mails, or snipe about them on forums.

In other words, social media is a little like publishing: What you post on a blog, or as a comment, or in a forum, or on Twitter is widely accessible and will be around for a long time. So you don’t want to use other people’s stuff without asking, and you want to make sure what you said isn’t something you’ll regret later.