Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Seeing you asked for them, a sampling...

I'm on the plane home.

I'm typing this on the plane home, although I won't send it until I get back tonight, by which time I'll already be home, and it'll be out of date...

Let's see. Yesterday I was photographed in the morning, then tumbled off to Gottingen by train. Actually walked around Gottingen for a little bit with Doris-from-Heyne-my-publisher, and bought Maddy some small toys, and bought myself a notebook that looked like it wanted to have a book written in it.

I'll write of Martin Semmelrogge
And talk about him in my blog
As he would do, had he the blog
And were I Martin Semmelrogge

Then we went back to the hotel that Martin Semmelrogge was staying in, and waited for him to arrive. He has a wife, called Sonja, and a dog who travels with them, a polish sheepdog called Crazy, and a fast car, but no driving license any more, so he only drives late at night. It being daytime, Sonja was driving, and there were traffic jams. So he was a bit late.

Martin is a German actor, famed for his bad-boy roles, along with his occasional brushes with the law from moments of Hunter Thompsonian excess. He is an engaging man, with a rattish, raffish grin.

I tell of Martin Semmelrogge
Who travels with his wife and dog.
They call him Crazy. That's the dog.
And, maybe, Martin Semmelrogge.

He's very funny. Our first meeting, over a lunch a few days ago, he explained how to get out of trouble driving fast across America. You need a radar detector, and you have to tell the police that because you are German that you misread the speedometer and thought it was in Kilometers, not Miles, per Hour. Of course, he told me and Gaby-from-Heyne-my-publisher, occasionally the police call each other to say that there's a man in a red mustang doing 120 mph, or you get shopped by a trucker, and then you spend the night in jail.

He thought Gaby and I should drive back with him from Hamburg to Frankfurt, instead of taking the plane.

Zooming through the Rain and Fog
There goes Martin Semmelrogge
In his car his wife, his dog,
but not me or Gaby.

He certainly upped the entertainment quotient for the tour. And when I got too bored or stressed I would make up Martin Semmelrogge poems to amuse myself...

Now in the end I'll pettifog
I've rhymed it "Martin Semmelrogge"
It should be "Martin Semmelrog-ge"

Anyway, the Gottingen reading was enormously fun -- I did the best reading I've ever done of Sam's "I believe" speech. Then train back to Frankfurt, and by 1:00am I was settled down for a night in the airline hotel, where nothing worked properly and I couldn't get online. A previous guest in the room had set the TV alarm for 6:00am, and it worked perfectly, and I cursed him and his ancestors, not to mention his progeny and his camels.

Then the plane.

Alisa Kwitney (who is, in no particular order, a former editor of mine and my friend since about 1990, author of the Chronicle "Sandman: King of Dreams" book [the mysterious Sandman coffee table book that either has or hasn't been published recently, depending on where you look for it], and a very smart and funny novelist) got me a copy of her new book "Does She Or Doesn't She?" and I've been carrying it around for a while now. Somehow the plane seemed a good place to read it. It has a quote from me about Alisa (with an added editorial exclamation mark) on page one and she thanks me in the acknowledgements because every now and again when she was writing it she'd ring me up and chat about her plot, and I'd say "Well, why don't you do something like this...?" without much idea of what I was talking about, given that I hadn't read the book she was writing.

Anyway, apart from the fact that the book's title is not as good as the book, and that all Alisa's books have been lumbered with those identikit Chick Lit covers which show cartoons of sassy women strutting coolly off the page while toting Accessories, it's a terrific book. The heroine has a fantasy at the start of most chapters, each fantasy in a different genre. My favourites were the hilarious Bewitched pastiche, and the Vampire sequence, which showed that Alisa could do the Laurel Hamilton thing brilliantly if she wanted to. And meanwhile the story is something that starts out more or less normally, and then dissolves into a lunatic farce of FBI men, Russian aphrodisiacs, TV Soap Opera, hot water pipes, identity, infidelity and attempted murder. And sex. Lots of sex. Lots and lots of sex. Lots and lots of sex, written by an old friend, which is marginally more embarrassing to read, even when you're really enjoying the book in question, than you might think. Anyway, it's the kind of book that fans of genres (except cowboy fiction. She didn't do cowboy fiction in there...) would really like if it wasn't for the way the cover tells them not to pick the book up.

Which reminds me...

Saw the entertainment weekly photo. Very nice.

I was wondering how many books per year you're requested to write blurbs for. In the past two weeks, I've seen a note by you written for Craig Thompson's Good-Bye, Chunky Rice and Robin McKinley's Sunshine. If things continue at this pace, I'll see 48 blurbs by you in one year.

And I wonder, if you read something you don't like, do you simply refuse to write the blurb?

Sure. Or if I don't have the time or the inclination to read something. And I'm actually on a sabbatical from doing blurbs, because it makes it easier to just say no to everyone. But people still send me advance manuscripts or proofs of books, and lots of the blurbs that have come out on book covers in recent months � Robin McKinley's, Nick Sagan's and the latest Greg McDonald Flynn novel, for example, have just been my comments on what I'm reading, taken from this blog. I'm not sure if the Craig Thompson blurb (it was for Blankets, by the way, not for Goodbye Chunky Rice) was from this blog or not.

I keep running into the problem of not knowing whether to say nice things about books here or not. Mostly I still do, because it's fun to recommend books to people. But if I put something up here on the journal I tend to qualify statements, and write something like"If he'd paid more attention to details this would have been a perfect book. As it is, it's only unmissable if you have nothing else to read. Still, the description of the Assassins Anonymous meeting is absolutely gripping and if the rest of the book were this good it would have been magnificent," which publishers then leave out the qualifying bits of, and I find myself saying "a perfect book... unmissable... absolutely gripping and... magnificent!" on the back of someone's book.

Whereas something that's meant to be a blurb normally stays a blurb.

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