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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

this 'n' that

It's another of those busy months, but let's try and comment on a variety of sundry matters.

First, a movie:

Tell No One: seen Sunday July 27 at Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema, auditorium #6 3.5 slithy toads.

This is such a really nifty movie that it's almost hard to believe it's French! (See my movie post from a few weeks ago.) Based on a Harlan Coben novel. Starts out with a man and his wife going for a romantic night at a country lake. She goes to get something, we hear noises, he goes to hunt the noises down, we seem him bashed with a shovel, black out, cut to eight years later. Two bodies have been found at the lake, which rouses old suspicions the police have that he may have murdered his wife. He starts to get e-mail which links to a surveillance camera picture that suggests his wife is still alive. He has to go on the run when police suspect him in the new murder of one of his wife's friends, and secrets slowly start to cascade out. It's been hard to find a bad review of this movie. No surprise. It's very well acted. It's taut and fraught; the scene where he jumps out his office window commencing an extended escape chase from the police who are out to arrest him is great movie-making on every level. It gets an almost top rating from me, with a half star deducted because the bad guy is just so clearly from another movie in the depictions during the film that you kind of wonder why this character is in the movie at all, and it's thus no surprise when we get the reveal. Some other nice surprises to be found in the ending, but I can't totally forgive this one awkwardness. I saw this on the same DC trip where I saw Jerry Springer, making for a nice weekend escape that I kind of needed, especially since it was on one of the big screens at the Bethesda Row, which is well above the usual art house grade. I wish they had one just like it in NYC, but it puts anything in NYC art house to shame, including Landmark's own Sunshine Cinema.

Speaking of Jerry Springer the Washington Post gave it a rave. I've been kind of bad in my past few posts on account of time and/or posting on the road to do the usual link set-ups, but if I don't get around to doing a round of linking later maybe seek out?

Right now I'm in Portland OR for the Willamette Writers Conference. I've added two more Whole Foods to my list, but I didn't do as good a job on pre-planning as I should have and missed a B&N around the corner from one of them. On the other hand, I did get to the Powell's in Beaverton OR where several of my clients have done signings. I met the very pleasant events coordinator and liked this Powell's even better than the main store downtown. It had a slightly bigger selection of new book copies than the downtown store, and unlike the quirky old downtown store which is a rabbit warren of rooms of different colors in different buildings, up stairs and down stairs and thru secret doors, the Beaverton store is in a big modern box with wide aisles and bright lights and all on one level. Some people will say it's uncivilized not to like the rabbit warren. Tough! And it's only a half mile or so from the Borders in Beaverton. Portland is a very literate city where you see lots of people reading books on the light rail, and where many of my authors are selling lots and lots of copies, so it's just been fun doing the bookstore rounds. Even the grocery stores get into the act. The Fred Meyer (owned by Kroger) in the Alphabet District had four Charlaine Harris, a GOBLIN WAR and a MISTBORN 2, and the Fred Meyer in Vancouver six Charlaine, and a LOST FLEET: VALIANT.

Alas, the last light rail train out to the airport and thus to the airport Sheraton still leaves downtown at the too-early time of 10:45; no 9:00 movies at the Lloyd Center Regal if you don't want to risk taking a taxi back. You still have to cut thru tumbleweeds to get from the hotel to the Mt. Hood stop. Though the new Cascades Center and adjacent light rail stop does mean a nice walking opportunity if I just miss a train at Mt. Hood and decide to walk ahead one station. I had this idea of going to the Ikea at Cascades to finally see an Ikea and try the swedish meatballs, but instead found a nice young writer at the conference who was willing to take me to bookstores in Vancouver in exchange for a bit of an education in the retail side of things, and then I noticed a Sweet Tomatoes on Mill Plain and new I'd found my dinner. I have this itty-bitty regret at losing my best chance at finally trying the swedish meatballs, emphasis on the itty-bitty. It was a fun evening.

Getting back to another topic I've talked about a few times... after several months in operation the main thing that's happening as a result of the changes at Borders, 4reducing titles both to have more face-out and to reduce inventory levels on account of their financial woes, is that it's killing the bottom 10% of 20% of my list while leaving the rest of it pretty much intact. It used to be there'd be books selling a few copies a week that Borders would stock at their very best stores in the category that helped to make those stores truly truly great bookstores. The Borders in Columbia MD, the one in Gresham OR. Now they're mercilessly cutting books early on that are doing OK but maybe no more than that, one book of mine that came out in April and which hasn't done badly but maybe hasn't sold fantastically as we've gone into July is now being cut at every Borders. A year ago it might not have been cut at hardly any and certainly not at the top sf/fantasy stores, and now it's just gone. At the best stores, the extended selection is a thing of the past and I can no longer go and find a particularly bigger selection. No really good store for horror that has five or eight Hot Blood anthologies. On the one hand, this isn't killing anyone short term. If a book is selling 10 copies a week in 2006 and now since it's no longer at 100 of the best Borders is selling only 5, the fact is that it isn't a big loss to my bottom line. But how well will book #2 in a series do when Borders is being so quicker with its hook on book #1? Would Jim Hines' Goblin books have done any business at B&N if GOBLIN QUEST had been treated the same way as this April 2008 book of mine?

Comic book scribe Kurt Busiek lives in Vancouver, and I know him from our distant pasts at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. I'll tell you what I told him when we got caught up on Thursday: his Trinity series for DC is growing on me. You'll know from my occasional funny book round up that I liked the first couple of issues enough to keep going and was still on board after a month. I read issues 7/8/9 on the plane out, and the series is finding its stride on many levels. It's a superhero book that isn't drowning itself in continuity. A lot of comic books are very monochromatic in tone while this one is showing some variety. The backup feature often a little different in tone from the foreground, and issue to issue showing some variation. Try this one. One sad thing: Kurt does not plan to give Mazing Man a cameo appearance like I was so happy to see him having in issue #1 of the new Ambush Bug series.

And now a rant: the next time you are asked for a photo ID when you check in to a hotel, make a fuss and try not to show it to them. This is the kind of stuff that offends my occasional mild libertarian streak on so many levels. The hotel will say this is something the credit card company requires, but it does not. Many hotel chains are experimenting with having lobby kiosks that allow you to check in without stopping at front desk, so it's bull for a hotel to say at same time as this is going on that they need to see your photo ID. Or the hotel will say that it's for credit card security. OK, so I make a room reservation weeks before my stay, I guarantee it with my credit card, and then arrive and give the hotel that same credit card. So what they think is the credit card was stolen by someone ten weeks ago, the theft was never noticed, the thief treasured the credit card to save for staying at this fine hotel, when he could have tried to like, fill up his shopping cart at WalMart with things he could actually use. Or the hotel will say it's because there's somebody who travels the country pretending to be me? I do think Tanya Huff once several years ago had a pretend Tanya Huff going to a convention or two or something, but is this really the kind of thing which we all know has happened to someone so often that we need to show our papers to check in to a hotel. I don't like this. I don't like to stay at hotels that act like their arriving guests are criminals, I don't like to have to show ID for things that don't require them, I don't like this one additional little step toward a police state like commmunist Russia where you need to show your papers to move about the country. And you know, the hotel doesn't usually say in your reservation confirmation that a photo ID is required to stay at the hotel, which at least when you make a plane reservation even if you did just emerge from a cave with that guy who didn't know Japan lost World War II they tell you when you book that you'll need to show a photo ID. Resist, resist, resist, and maybe if enough of us do it we can check into a hotel like we live in a free country.

Hard to know when I'll next post with Worldcon soon to keep me busy, but we'll see... this at least should give all three of my loyal readers something to complain about.


Lisa Iriarte said...

Hmm, I haven't thought about the I.D. thing at hotels much in years. We live near DisneyWorld and when they first started requiring a photo I.D. everywhere, we balked. Now, I think we've all become so accustomed (A.K.A. brainwashed) to showing our I.D., that we forget we didn't have to do so pre-9/11.

Your Tanya Huff story reminded me of a similar experience another author had. I read that Orson Scott Card had some guy in his home town going around to bars, claiming to be him, and picking up girls. Wild.

Looking forward to making your acquaintance at WorldCon.

Lisa Iriarte

Maria said...

Well now, perhaps had the Best Western in Wisconsin required an ID, my room wouldn't have been given away! You see, when I arrived, I was told that yes, they could see my reservation, but it was taken.

Okay, perhaps this was not the real problem as they kept addressing me as Frodo and asking if I was certain that I was not Frodo. (That is not even close to my name.) Perhaps I had accidentally made reservations under that name?

They still had a room for this Frodo person and not for me...yes, it did cross my mind to just say I was Frodo and pay with a credit card that clearly did not say Frodo.

Really though, showing an ID or not doesn't solve incompetence, does it?