The galleys (review copies) of Locus Amœnus came out today. Permanent, the publisher, will be sending them to Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly and various other trade review publications.
Okay, so maybe picking a Latin phrase, Locus Amœnus, with its weird spelling, for the title of my latest novel might make it a little hard for people to recommend it to friends. (If you order now from Amazon you can get 13% off.) Locus amœnus can be pronounced in English, Low cuss a men us, with stresses on “low” and “a.” In Latin you want to make “amœnus” sound more like “a moin us.” I have also heard amœnus pronounced “uh mean us.” Any of these are acceptable. This is America, after all.
Locus Amœnus means “pleasant location,” and it’s used in poetry to describe a restful place where nothing bad ever happens. It also happens to be the scene of the crime in many of Ovid’s tales, an idea which fits well with the theme of my novel. I couldn’t pass up this phrase for my title, despite its awkwardness, because the story is set in the rural upstate town of Amenia, a would-be pastoral paradise where I own a sheep farm. The name “Amenia” of course comes from the same Latin word as amœnus. Amenia is, by the way, variously pronounced as “Uh many uh” or “Uh meanie uh.”
Here is the final cover design for Locus Amœnus, which will be released at the end of April. The novel is a dark comedy/tragedy, a revision of Hamlet set in rural upstate New York in 2009. I requested a graffiti font for the tile to add a bit of irreverence to contrast the pastoral scene. The designer chose to use a bullet-holes-and-blood font to make it look like a thriller. The story does involve an old murder, two accidental deaths, some bloody noses and an allusion to Shakespeare’s heap of bodies at the end of his play, but no one actually gets a mob-style hit in Locus Amœnus.
Great News! My new novel, Locus Amœnus, will be published by Permanent, the same press that did my first and third novels, Smoking Hopes 1996 and Naked Singularity 2003. Help me make this novel a success by going to Amazon.com and posting quick 20-word reviews of my other books and boost my ratings. I am really happy to be working again with Permanent Press editor and publisher, Judy and Marty Shepard, and their new partner Chris Knopf, who have built their small press into an impressive, independent not-quite-so-small press, which, as the New York Times says, publishes some “literary gems” on a “shoestring” budget. I signed the contract today, and they expect the hardcover to be in bookstores early 2015. Advance review copies available soon. I’m looking for blurb writers and reviewers too. Let me know if you want a free e-copy now.
The program will air Thursday, January 23, 2014
Here’s a summary of the story: In this dark comedy, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, have retreated from Brooklyn to the idyllic rural countryside upstate, where for nearly eight years they have run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately their outrageously obese neighbors, who prefer the starchy products of industrial agriculture, shun their elitist ways (recycling, eating healthy, reading). Hamlet, who is now 18, is beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Zoloft, endless war, core curriculum, and environmental degradation. He becomes very depressed when, on the very day of the 8th anniversary of his father’s death, his mother marries a horrid, boring bureaucrat named Claudius. Things get even more depressing for Hamlet when his friend Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, claims Claudius is a fraud. The deceptions, spying, corruption, will ultimately lead, as in Shakespeare’s play, to tragedy.
Unaware, perhaps, that they no are no longer reaping rewards for their creator, used hard copies of my novels find their ways into online used bookstores and resell and resell. I am all for recycling, in theory, but not in this particular. Neither publisher nor author gets a cut of used book sales. What an author can do is buy up all the used copies, which are sometimes priced as low as a penny, and resell them at a higher price. I have tried my hand at this, but I make a lousy bookseller. I refuse to bubblewrap, doublebox or otherwise over-package books the way Amazon does (they seem to think books are potentially able to explode if jostled in the post), and I don’t get orders in the mail very quickly. Although it might be of some benefit, I’m not too keen on spending a lot of energy learning how to be a bookseller as well as a writer. Gone are the days when some publishing-house intern with nothing better to do took care of things for the pampered writer. These days most authors, be they with small or large publishers, have to do a lot of their own PR, dealing personally with book stores and reading groups. I don’t want the added responsibility of resale management. Continue reading
The greatest fault of literary awards is that they, like the review industry, are largely directed at new writing. There is no reason why the “best” books should be “new” books. Whereas commercial fiction is topical, trendy, and has a very short shelf life, literary fiction is not. If an industry supporting quality writing is to succeed in this changing publishing world, it must distinguish itself from the fashion industry where being “the latest” is every thing. A new philosophy for literary fiction publishing must focus on the maturing title as well as the new one. Continue reading