This came from one of my authors, tongue in cheek, when I asked how he was progressing on his current project. I’m compelled to quote his response and the citation.

“Among Chuang-tzu’s many skills, he was an expert draftsman. The king asked him to draw a crab. Chuang-tzu replied that he needed five years, a country house, and twelve servants. Five years later the drawing was still not begun. “I need another five years,” said Chuang-tzu. The king granted them. At the end of these ten years, Chuang-tzu took up his brush and, in an instant, with a single stroke, he drew a crab, the most perfect crab ever seen.

“More on Chuang-tzu: Italo Calvino tells the story in ‘Quickness’, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium. And the story is probably originally from the Chuang Tzu text (or Zhuang-zi), which was compiled during the Tan Dynasty, 202BCE-220AD.”

Obviously, this is not my advice. The best way to make deadlines is to stick to your schedule. If you’re having problems, tell your agent and editor asap. It’s easier to write the perfect book one chapter at a time!


Isabel Allende will tackle Zorro in a new novel to be published in May. Allende already wrote one of the better historical novels about California, Daughter of Fortune. I loved her take on the Gold Rush. Often, when we think of the west we’re stuck with the baggage of our “Western” canon, with its quiet cowboys and gunslingers, without much insight about the diversity of people who emigrated west, or those who traveled east or north to get here, for that matter.

This hits a nerve for me as we just finished watching the first season of Deadwood on DVD. Creator, David Milch, deconstructs many of the myths and characters of the old west in high, poetic, and profanity-laden style. It’s a great series if you can get past the cursing, and made me wonder if there might be room for a similar coverage of my current hometown, Placerville, aka Old Hangtown, aka Old Dry Diggins.

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I love learning about new categories and sales strategies. I’ve spent so much time in the tech and business book world that I’ve missed some fun spaces.

We adopted a dog last week. He’s about one and we don’t know much about his prior history except that although he is generally good natured, he was in a house without kids and cats, while we have a few of each. So this is a new adventure. Our last dog was very obedient from the get-go and lived only to please and if we wanted him to live with cats, that was fine by him. The new guy, Montana, has a much more pronounced prey drive, so we’re doing everything we can to try to acclimate him to his new situation while protecting our feline relations.

So, as with anything new in our lives, we first turn to the web for answers. What I’ve found is a huge market of competing ideas and philosophies on dog training. And a surprising (to me) number of trainers have self-published books or ebooks and they’re doing a credible job of online marketing using a mix of free content, eZines, bonus eBooks, add-on videos, audio teasers, forums and email consultations: a many headed hydra of content.

When I have questions about my dog’s behavior I want the information right away, and I can tell that other dog owners are in the same boat. These sites make it easy for me to get a sense of the training philosophy and the trainer and offer me lots of free goodies and sneak peeks at useful tips and techniques. You can see one good example at Adam Katz’s page here .

What’s notable is that these are writers who might not have the kind of profile needed to really make a trade book work, but they can find a reasonable market by selling their books and videos directly to the public, and with a much higher rate of return for each copy sold.

I’m not sure who said “content is king,” wait, I’ve googled it: yes, Bill Gates said this (among others) in an essay from 1996, where he also said, “If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.”

Even for 1996, none of that was really rocket science, but it’s certainly the state of the web today, and it obviously works for writers and business-people who can integrate content into their online business model.

Re Montana, we’re not very hopeful about the cat situation, but we’re going to keep working on desensitization and correction, and while we’re at it we’ll have plenty of support from online resources as well as professional trainers.

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Well, it’s a blog about books and me, books and my job in the publishing industry, books I’ve read and books I’m especially proud of having represented.

I’m sure there are better blogs about books. As a reader, I’m a person who reads everything — perhaps another way of saying I have no taste. In the last week I’ve re-read John McPhee’s, Control of Nature; much of Charlotte Joko Beck’s zen primer, Nothing Special; and I’m hip deep in the third book of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, The Dragon Reborn. How’s that for a chaotic mix?

I often return to McPhee and Joko Beck when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I’ve been properly overwhelmed this week so I find them very comforting, a good soup. McPhee writes so well and clearly about geology and time, nature and landscape, and helps me to appreciate my place in the ultimate scheme of things. And Joko Beck always reminds me of where I am inside. I highly recommend her.

I’m new to Robert Jordan, but I’m thoroughly entranced and entertained with his epic. It’s a huge series, and I find it inspiring around all the great themes of self-knowledge, self-reliance, and responsibility. These are also all huge issues in my life right now so the books really resonate with me.

More soon once I learn how to use this space.

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