Sunday, November 22, 2009
What Happens in London
The Viscount Who Loved Me
An Offer From a Gentleman
When He Was Wicked
Everything and the Moon
Brighter Than the Sun
buythebookcv.com now has two dozen book club hardcovers by BERTRICE SMALL going all the way back to the mid-1980s!
SKYE O'MALLEY SERIES
All the Sweet Tomorrows
A Love For All Time
This Heart of Mine
The Last Heiress
Love Remember Me
WORLD OF HETAR
A Memory of Love
A Moment in Time
The Dragon Lord's Daughters
The Love Slave
Friday, November 20, 2009
We've all heard the stories about health insurance companies cancelling policies and benefits. They are not supposed to cancel individual policies, but they can eliminate a class of policies that are proving unprofitable.
I don't support this. Insurance should be a collective pool of risk, not a game of chicken.
However...things being as they are...
Think back to 15 months or so ago. The economy was accelerating down a slippery slope. At the core, the decline in real estate prices beginning in 2007 led to the bottom falling out of the mortgage-backed securities market. These were owned by brokers, hedge funds, and a swath of smaller investors.
These mortgage-backed securities were often insured. During 2008, mortgages failed and insurance was paid out. Then the insurance ran out.
The property/casualty insurance company AIG had been known for insuring unusual risks--big concerts, stunts, etc. They appraised risks well enough to make insurance both affordable and profitable. They were known as a class act, and they consistently met regulatory reserve requirements.
The credit insurance subsidiary of AIG was none of these things. They sold everyone insurance on investments without keeping cash reserves for the risks they were insuring. They didn't seem to recognize the possibility of a massive run on claims even after a decade of unusually volatile market activity. They didn't seem to know or care what the consequences of their actions might be.
It was AIG that got the first big chunk of bailout money a year ago--money it used to pay policyholders 100 cents on the dollar of their claims. This is the major reason that Goldman Sachs was able to bounce back so soon. Goldman was so cash-poor that it had to take government money at the end of last year. Once AIG paid off Goldman's claims, it was able to repay the government with interest and post a $4 billion profit by the second quarter of this year.
Not everyone got bailed out. Stock values fell around 40%--no bailout for us. Lehman Brothers bondholders have no backup plan. Anyone insured through smaller credit insurers didn't get bailed out. When the claims reserves ran out, that was it. But AIG got bailed out because it was special: it was declared too big to fail. And AIG in turn passed that money on to big players like Goldman--and others who caused the problem in the first place by both creating mortgage-backed securities and increasing the demand for them beyond what the market could sustain. Goldman doesn't have to pay its claims money back to the government even though that's where it came from.
So here's my point: why didn't AIG simply cancel its insurance on all mortgage-backed securities when it saw the end coming? Or at least when the credit division ran out of money? Then the rest of the company wouldn't need a bailout.
But, you may argue, that's not fair to those who had the foresight to buy insurance. If you argue this, you have to also agree that cancelling other forms of insurance is not fair, either. Insurance policies should not be treated like callable bonds. I don't argue with this...
...but since we're already allowing insurance cancellation to happen to innocent people, why not include the guilty? In this case, the ones who were insured by AIG had created and profited by these dud investments and then moved the risk of failure to someone else. Why not move the consequences of failure back on the creators?
The money would still be gone, and the bailout still would have happened (though not for 100 cents on the dollar!), but there would have been an important bookkeeping change. Instead of the bailout money going through AIG to Goldman et al, it would have gone straight to AIG's policyholders. And Goldman, et al, would still owe it back to the taxpayers. With interest.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
GIFTS FOR KIDS
Lord of the Rings trilogy
His Dark Materials trilogy
Little House on the Prairie 5 in 1 omnibus
Dragon trilogy by Margaret Weis
Sterkarm Kiss/Handshake by Susan Price
Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
The Shapechanger's Wife by Sharon Shinn
Sevenwaters fantasy trilogy by Juliet Marillier
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Julie Kenner's high school vampire duo (Good Ghouls Do/Getting Even)
Mammoth Book of Manga
Drawing Shoujo Manga
NEW in stock
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson HC
White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz - Arcane Society HC
Mercenaries by Angela Knight - TP
Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong HC
Hotshot by Catherine Mann pb
Book club hardcovers by Sabrina Jeffries, Nicole Jordan, Bertrice Small, Eloisa James, Karen Hawkins, Karen Ranney, Hannah Howell, and more
COMING THIS WEEK
Book club hardcovers by Bertrice Small, Catherine Anderson, Virginia Henley, and more
SERIES AVAILABLE (books sold individually)
LA Banks Vampire Huntress series in trade paper and some pb
Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series in hardcover
Laurell K Hamilton - Anita Blake and Princess Merry - HC and pb
Charlaine Harris - Sookie Stackhouse - pb and HC
Jim Butcher - Harry Dresden HC and pb
Jillian Hunter - Boscastle HC and pb
JR Ward - Black Dagger Brotherhood pb and some HC
Kim Harrison - Hollows pb and some HC
Lara Adrian - Midnight Breed pb
Sara Douglass - Crucible, Troy Game, and Wayfarer Redemption HC
Robert Jordan - Wheel of Time HC
Lora Leigh - Feline Breeds pb
Cheyenne McCray - Magic pb
Anya Bast - Witches pb
Christine Feehan - Ghostwalker pb and some HC
Jacquelyn Frank - Nightwalker pb
JD Robb - In Death pb and some HC
Karen Chance - Cassandra Palmer pb
Carrie Vaughn - Kitty Norville pb
Keri Arthur - Riley Jenson pb and some HC
Kresley Cole - Immortals After Dark pb
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Health care reform has been painted as only affecting access to and payment for health care. But health care reform would have a positive ripple effect beyond the direct delivery of care that would benefit even those who are happy with their current health care. Here is where some of those ripples go:
Republicans in Congress champion tort reform, yet health care reform would be a huge step toward reducing tort verdicts.
1. Cost Efficiency. It’s been widely reported that the U.S. pays more for health care than other developed nations, both in pure dollar amount and as a measure of ratio to results. Because raw costs are higher, tort verdicts that reimburse health care costs are higher.
2. Cost Efficiency Multiplied. There’s another cost component to tort verdicts: pain and suffering. This is a normal part of a tort verdict. There is no additional threshold or requirement to show intent to cause pain; it’s just a given. Nor does any court try to measure an individual’s degree of pain and suffering. “Pain and suffering” is usually calculated as a multiple of actual costs. Jurors tend to perceive that higher medical bills means more pain and suffering. Though some states like California have a cap on pain and suffering awards, even in California, three times costs is not unusual, and ten times costs is not unheard of. Thus, high health care costs can affect tort judgments exponentially.
3. Precluding Lawsuits. Finally, consider that the biggest tort awards to individuals start with someone suing to recover medical expenses. However, if medical bills were taken off the table completely—if no one had to sue to recover medical expenses because everyone received care—there would be no medical bills to worry about. If everyone had disability insurance, there would be no loss of income as a result of injury. In short, for many plaintiffs who would otherwise receive high awards, there would be no need to sue.
Eliminating lawsuits for those suing to recover only medical costs would in turn reduce taxpayer-funded court costs, make room for speedier civil trials (criminals must be tried immediately, but civil cases can drag on for years) and reduce the need for civil jurors.
B. Compassionate Awards. The second way tort awards are affected by health care is really about how juries are influenced by how health care is delivered. The law recognizes that there will be times where a plaintiff is clearly injured, that the defendant may have contributed to the result, but that what the defendant did or didn’t do doesn’t warrant legal liability. Put another way, accidents happen. In these multitude of cases, juries are supposed to deny the plaintiff any recovery.
Many compassionate people serve on juries. They see that a plaintiff is truly injured, and they want that person to have adequate care, especially when the plaintiff is a conscientious, innocent victim. Though it is forbidden to even mention insurance during a trial (on pain of mistrial), juries are also not stupid. They know that companies and institutions have liability insurance and sick/injured people are far less likely to have health insurance. Thus, they may return a verdict of negligence just to make sure the plaintiff can pay medical bills and continue to receive care.
If paying for adequate care was not an issue—if everyone received care without question of cost—the motivation for these awards would disappear.
A. General Liability. Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance is very different from health insurance and largely sold by different companies. Liability insurance, part of P&C, is far more expensive because liability insurance pays for lawsuit expenses, settlements, and judgments. Reducing medical costs reduces court costs and verdicts, which reduces liability insurance premiums. For common types of coverage like home, auto, and business liability, P&C offers many choices and is priced competitively. Home, business, and auto insurance each have a property insurance component and a liability insurance component.
B. Medical Malpractice. Medical malpractice is a very specialized type of coverage offered by only a few companies, and only state by state. The reason is that the pool of buyers, health care providers, is small, and award sizes are large. Thus, there is a smaller pool among which to spread higher claims, which increases the business risk for the insurance company and premiums for insureds.
Med mal is considered a P&C coverage, albeit a specialized one. It exists to pay liability costs. Med mal is particularly hard-hit by “sympathy” verdicts because it’s just more likely that any little mistake by a doctor can result in injury. People make mistakes. We’d all hate to think that we could be sued for an ordinary lapse of concentration at work, but that’s what doctors face every day.
If med mal awards are reduced overall and “sympathy” awards eliminated, med mal premiums for health care providers can be substantially reduced. Since these premiums are factored into fees, reducing med mal premiums will reduce total health care costs, synergistically reducing verdicts further, and so on. Reduced awards would reduce the ratio of risk to number of insureds, and would result in more accurate pricing (less padding in premiums to protect against unusually high awards—lower premiums).
The more specialized the insurance coverage is, the less competitive it becomes, and the more the market is controlled by the insurance companies offering it.
BARRIERS TO COMPETITION
In addition, the roller coaster nature of the med mal insurance business creates a barrier to compete. A company had better be very sure it knows what it’s doing and have a lot of cash reserves before it enters the med mal market because it may not survive mistakes. It better also be prepared to slice a state’s insured pool even smaller.
If an auto insurance company has to pay unusually high awards in a year, it takes a notch off of profits. If a medical malpractice insurance company with its smaller pool of insureds has to pay unusually high awards in a year, it could go out of business. It’s not surprising then that even large states have few choices for required med mal insurance.
Reduced awards would have the ancillary benefit of lowering the business risk of med mal insurers and result in lower barriers to enter the med mal market. More carriers could reasonably compete (as they used to when verdicts were lower).
Employers pay for group insurance based on statistics about their employee population, including age. The higher the average age, the higher the group premium. This is not the biggest factor contributing to age discrimination, but it’s not insignificant.
The biggest factor impacting age discrimination is still salary: older workers have worked their way up to earning more. But while an employer can negotiate salary with an older worker, especially during a recession, there is no negotiating benefit premiums.
Real estate? Yes, real estate. Or more specifically, foreclosures. Even with unusually high unemployment rates, the number one reason for home foreclosures is medical bills.
Thousands of people put off retirement they could otherwise afford so that they can keep job-related health benefits until they are eligible for Medicare. Those people are keeping others from moving up. Thousands more stay in jobs with benefits rather than strike out on their own. This reduces entrepreneurism, the backbone of economic progress and our competitive position in the world. These are inefficiencies that keep our GNP from developing to its full potential. Plus, a few jobs opening up would improve unemployment during this recession.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Did you ever notice that many of the things Republicans have accused Democrats of are things that they are already doing or supporting to a greater degree? For example:
· John Ensign’s righteous indignation over Clinton’s assignations while Ensign was having a full-blown affair with a staff member who was the wife of another staff member. For a while it did seem like the Democrats were linked with sex scandals and Republicans were linked with money and personal privacy scandals, but now the Republicans have pulled ahead in all areas.
· Accusing Democrats of “politicizing national security” just before the release of a book accusing the Bush administration of timing the release of national security-related information for political ends and suggesting they also overstated the danger level for political reasons.
· Accusing Democrats in general and Obama by name of racism (though since Republicans had been openly stirring the racial violence pot before the election, this doesn’t quite fit the preemptive strike scenario)
· Accusing Democrats of hiding in health care legislation “death panels” who will make life or death decisions about who receives treatment and who doesn’t. There are no death panels in the legislation, but there are de facto death panels right now. They work for the Republican-supported insurance companies, and when they deny coverage, benefits, and treatment, they and their shareholders win and sick people lose, maybe even die.
· Accusing Democrats of wasteful spending when Republicans have been spending our national debt into the stratosphere for 30 years. The last big spending Democrat was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. Clinton reduced the annual deficit. Why does this myth persist?
· Accusing Democrats of manufacturing public support for health care reform and other issues
· Accusing Democrats of manufacturing scientific evidence supporting climate change and other issues
· Accusing Democrats of trying to turn the country into a fascist state.
Simultaneously, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to turn the country into a socialist state. I have to add here that these two together bug my 16-year-old daughter to no end. She just got an A in history, and she understands that fascism and socialism are drastically different. Under socialism (in theory), production and distribution of goods and services is owned by the public with equal rights for all. Under fascism, the strong eliminate the weak, which is closer to Republican extremism than Democratic.
Then there are accusations of doing what Republicans are already known to have done, like collect an enemies list (Nixon for sure, Bush likely) and take too many vacation days (Bush took many more vacation days at this point in his term than Obama has). Do you remember Republicans accusing candidate Obama of bad taste and poor judgment in asking for campaign contributions last fall as the economy slid into recession?
Why do Republicans accuse Democrats of doing what Republicans are already doing? Is it guilt? Is it lack of imagination? I believe it is tactical: a preemptive strike.
Why is it better to be the first to accuse? First, there is a certain origination value when an accusation is first brought to light whether it’s true or not. People remember it and seem to cede the first accuser the moral high ground. Second, it puts the innocent party on the defensive. Before you can have any credibility accusing the real guilty party, you must clear yourself. Third, the first accusation dilutes all similar accusations that follow. The second to accuse looks like a copycat or worse, spiteful. His or her motivation is immediately suspect. In short, a preemptive strike accusation takes impact away from any later accusation against the original accuser.
In the past, this would have all backfired on the first accuser when the truth came out. Far better to be just guilty than be a guilty, lying hypocrite and false accuser. At least, that’s the way it used to be (though at least Glenn Beck got some pushback for saying Obama hated white people).
Lately, our hypocrisy meter seems to have broken. We’ve moved away from ‘an eye for an eye,’ which is great, but that doesn’t mean we have to turn the other cheek every time, nor do we have to remove every speck from our own eyes to see that giant wooden park bench sticking out of the eye of that lying, smiling, corrupt hypocrite over there. These are Christian metaphors—not ones I’ve heard used by any politician—but you don’t have to have religion to have a good head of righteous indignation steam over this.
I’ve always been a fan of turning bad actions back on the wrongdoer whenever possible—let him shoot himself in the foot, so to speak. So here’s what I propose. We have learned that when Republicans accuse Democrats of something, it’s often a tactic to protect themselves while doing or supporting the same thing. Republicans will always know what they’re up to before anyone else, so they have the advantage in first strike capability. But let’s use that. Consider that first accusation a clue telling investigators where to start turning over rocks on the Republican side.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Fair warning: If you're sick of hearing about the health care debate, skip this post.
So like most everyone else, I want health care reform and I'm not seeing the public discussion covering the issues I think need to be aired. I have been a business consultant among other things, and I believe that the origin of our health care problem is that we don't have a system that rewards the right results.
HEALTH CARE INCENTIVES, PART 1 Health Insurance Companies 8/16/09
We are watching the PGA golf tournament, and I just saw a commercial in IBM's "Let's Build a Smarter Planet" campaign about their work to link up medical data. This would allow a person’s entire medical history to be accessed by an emergency medical provider. It would reduce the cost of lawsuits involving medical records, which is a ton of lawsuits. (It would also eliminate suits by plaintiffs who currently try to hide aspects of their medical history).
At a higher level, it would allow people who study public health to draw conclusions about large and small populations by slicing and dicing health profiles based on any measured variable. Certainly some cause-and-effect relationships are known, but some are just conjectures. This kind of deep study could replace supposition with real facts about who is at risk for what long before symptoms manifest.
How can this information be used? Under the current system, insurance companies are rewarded for using diagnostic tools to deny coverage to people for the things they are most likely to get. And I’m not the only one who realizes this. Cancer runs strong in the women in my husband’s family. Young relatives in his family are afraid to get tested for cancer susceptibility not because they are afraid to find out they have the gene but because they are afraid they will become uninsurable.
Earlier this morning, on Meet the Press, Sen. Tom Coburn MD (R-OK) said we don’t need a public option, we need to open up competition among insurance companies. The above is just one reason why that would not work. I’m not sure that profit incentive is even appropriate in a health care environment, but I am sure that it’s not working in its current form.
In addition to denying coverage, insurance companies also make money by dragging out disability benefit payments hoping that claimants will recover, give up, or miss a deadline and forfeit benefits. You don’t have to go far to find stories of people who waited two and three years (people I know) to start collecting benefits.
And why shouldn’t insurance companies delay? Once payments begin, companies pay back benefits with no interest, which means they earn interest on payments for as long as they can keep from paying. They do not risk punitive damages for denying benefits. There is no downside to the company for delaying; it would practically amount to corporate irresponsibility not to delay.
It's not too much to ask that everyone in the health care chain of care have the same incentive: to improve our health, now and in the future.
HEALTH CARE INCENTIVES, PART 2 Costs 8/22/09
The most rational of the people who object to a public health care option agree that the current health care system is broken but argue that the government can’t afford to pay for an alternative. Under the private insurance option, the parties are the doctor, patient, and insurance company. The fundamental flaw in the cost argument is assuming that the government’s overhead will be as much as the insurance company’s. The government can operate with far less overhead, plus it is not looking to make profits. The health insurance industry makes over 30 cents profit on every dollar of premium. That’s a huge cost that the government doesn’t have. How could it not do more for less?
Doctors: People perceive that doctors make too much money and that reducing reimbursements is the way to cut costs. I am not a doctor, but I research statistics about doctors’ finances and post to a doctor chat board. Here’s what I learned:
· Doctors today come out of school with over $200,000 in debt –more if they specialize. Before they see one patient or get a roof over their heads, they have the equivalent of a mortgage to pay off.
· They graduate at a later age, so they have fewer years to build a nest egg.
· If they buy into a private practice, they add around $400,000 to $500,000 in debt—again, some more, some less.
· Even among dentists, who don’t have the reimbursement problems physicians do, more than 90% see their lifestyle drop in retirement. This suggests that they didn’t save enough and invest well before retirement. In fairness, they’re not poor. However, the corollary is that they spent too much before retirement. So yes, you may see doctors living the good life, but many of them can’t afford it.
· The doctors I know that are doing very well have active practices during the week plus they are giving continuing education seminars on weekends. They work hard.
Personally, I want doctors to earn a lot of money. I want clinical medicine to attract the best practitioners available, and I want public health care that is competitive with the private sector. Do you think if we take some of that 30+ cents on the dollar and use it to boost paltry public reimbursements that we can achieve that? I think we can.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
See all summer releases here!
New volume reader discount plan HERE.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Next giveaway is your choice of Bengal's Heart by Lora Leigh (Feline Breeds series) or Underground by Kat Richardson, both of which will be released on August 4. To enter, click on the Buy the BOOK Club link at the bottom of any store page. That opens up an email to me. Just fill it out, and you will be entered in all future contests.
Second, the very cool author Shiloh Walker is having a twitter contest to rewrite the blurb from The Redeeming in tweet form (up to two tweets). The winner gets a gift certficate to www.buythebookcv.com. Tweet your entry either @shilohwalker or use #theredeeming in your tweet.
Finally Author Michelle Rowen has announced that her 1000th follower on Twitter will receive her whole backlist (6) signed. She's still below 800 followers.
Follow me on Twitter
See all summer releases here!
New volume reader discount plan HERE.
After taking the kids to the beach last week, the tops of my legs got very sunburned. So I've been staying inside listing books.
NEW RELEASES 6/30 and 7/7:
Darkness Calls - Marjorie Liu
Hidden Currents - Christine Feehan
Burning Wild - Christine Feehan
Witch Fury - Anya Bast
Summer Knight - Jim Butcher (hardcover)
Poltergeist - Kat Richardson
Breaking Midnight - Emma Holly
Bengal's Heart - Lora Leigh
Underground - Kat Richardson
Vanished - Kat Richardson
Greywalker - Kat Richardson
Ghostwalker series by Christine Feehan
Susan Sizemore's Primes and Laws of the Blood series
Magical Seduction (Ellora's Cave) - Anya Bast, Cathryn Fox, Mandy Roth (TSP)
4 Immortal Witches series by Maggie Shayne
Eternal Highlander - Hannah Howell and Lynsay Sands (TSP)
Dead End Dating - Kimberly Raye
The Lunatic Cafe - Laurell K Hamilton (hardcover)
Taken by Surprise - Susan Johnson, Thea Devine, Katherine O'Neal
Sinful - Maggie Shayne, Lori Foster, Suzanne Forster (hardcover)
Entire Boscastle set by Jillian Hunter in paperback and hardcover
Knight of Darkness-Kinley MacGregor (Lords of Avalon)
Master of Desire - Kinley MacGregor) MacAllister #1
In the Garden trilogy by Nora Roberts - both hardcover and paperback
Purity in Death - JD Robb (hardcover)
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I also updated my author links page significantly. I thnk I had about a dozen before; 64 author web sites and a ten-author blog now await the click of your mouse.
Tomorrow I'm taking three teenagers to the beach, then it's back to listing.
NEW THIS WEEK:
An Enchanted Season -new trade size paranormal holiday anthology
On a Wild Night/On A Wicked Dawn - 2 in 1 hardcover by Stephanie Laurens
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
The Dragon Chronicles-new oversize hardcover illustrated "journal"
The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart - 3 in 1 hardcover
Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series in new hardcover:
The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos SIGNED
Crown of Swords SIGNED
The Path of Daggers
Crossroads of Twilight (Knife of Dreams will be up this week)
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I had been planning a vacation for the week of July 4th, and I was quite in need of one. So rather than stress, I decided to make this week a vacation week and not worry about job hunting. I went to the beach, the pool at the Y, took lots of naps, took walks, and all that relaxing stuff. And I was able to list a LOT of books, which was very satisfying. I expect to be able to list many more books than I could before even with job hunting, and I'm excited about that even if I'm not thrilled at the reason.
I've been listing only new books lately because of a 6/30/09 change for sellers uploading to Google. We will have to code all of our items as new or used. I'm hoping we will be able to edit en masse, in which case it will be easier if most everything is one or the other, and I picked new.
I also set up a Twitter account this week to send tweets as books are listed: http://twitter.com/buythebookcvcom
NEW THIS WEEK AT http://www.buythebook.com/
Cheyenne McCray Magic series in paperback
Jacquelyn Frank's Nightwalker series in paperback
The Love Potion by Sandra Hill
Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas, first hardcover edition signed (I also have unsigned)
The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop - 3 in 1
Monday, June 15, 2009
My daughter belongs to a choir that got to perform at Disneyland, and I took her and a friend down. We left home at 6am, got to the park around 8am, they sang at 930, they got changed and reunited with parents around 11, and then we had the rest of the day to play. She's done this for several years now; most years it's very hot, but this year it was perfectly, pleasantly cool.
She and her friend went on 15 different rides (yes, they counted), and I went on 11 or 12 of those, some multiple times. I am not averse to roller coasters (I LOVE Splash Mountain), but I am averse to standing in lines, plus I did mom stuff like get food and fast passes while they were on some rides.
They changed the FastPass system since I was last there. A fast pass is a free ticket to go right on the ride--no line; the catch is that you have to come back about two hours later. You used to be able to go around the park and collect fast passes, have a snack, then go around the park using your fast passes on one ride after another without waiting in lines. Now the deal is you can only get one at a time, so if it's noon and your fast pass says to come back after 2:15, you can't get another fast pass on any other ride until 2:15. And some rides, like the Matterhorn and Pirates, don't have fast passes at all anymore. Matterhorn has long lines all day and night, but Pirates has short lines later in the day and no lines after dinner. If you get there early, go to Space Mountain first, as it is the hardest ride to get on. It does give fast passes but the return time will be later than for other rides--and there are still long lines late at night.
Speaking of which, my two charges decided to wait in line for Space Mountain at 9:45 at night. I saw them again around 11pm. In the meantime, and a few other times while I was waiting for them, I pulled out The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning. I have read this series over a long stretch and woefully out of order (the first one I picked up was Dark Highlander) but it hasn't made a big difference. The Immortal Highlander takes place just after The Dark Highlander. Adam is an arrogant fae. His offer to substitute himself to spare a mortal's life was altruistic but also grounded in the certainty that his queen would never punish him. Surprise! She sends him to earth without his fae powers. He can't see other fae, and mortals can't see him--except for one sidhe-seer (pronounced she-seer) named Gabrielle. Once he realizes she can see him, he determines to charm her with his mad fae charm skillz so she will help him. Another surprise: since she was raised to believe that the fae only want to harm her, she fights back. But Adam has an enemy who thinks that Adam's defenseless gives him an ideal opportunity to get rid of Adam--and Gabrielle, once he learns about her. So the two of them are forced to work together.
I brought along a paperback to read (I have the whole series available in paperback) but I also have this book in new hardcover. This is a good one to read before the Fever books because it gives you some background in sidhe-seers.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
by Motoko Rich, NYT May 19, 2009
MAGNOLIA, Ark. — Charlaine Harris was sitting in the small dining nook of her suburban cedar-and-stone home one afternoon last week when she took the call from her editor in New York. After she hung up, she yanked both fists down and let out a triumphant, “Yes!”
Ms. Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire mystery romance novels, had just heard that the latest book in the series, “Dead and Gone,” would make its debut on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list this Sunday in the No. 1 spot. It was a first for Ms. Harris, who has published 26 novels in nearly three decades and sold the original book in the Sookie series, “Dead Until Dark,” for just $5,000 nine years ago.
When her husband, Harold Schulz, arrived home from work later, he stepped into Ms. Harris’s office in a converted mother-in-law apartment next to the house. “No. 1, huh?” he calmly noted with a smile.
But with their daughter Julia’s high school graduation looming this week, he wanted to know whether all six acres of the lawn on their property had been mowed, and when certain family members would be arriving.
It was the kind of juggle that might be familiar to Sookie, the telepathic human barmaid who narrates the novels and lives in the fictional small town of Bon Temps, La., amid an ever-expanding cast of vampires, shape-shifters, fairies and witches.
The formula of small-town life regularly disrupted by the supernatural world — and some mind-blowing sex with vampires — has propelled Ms. Harris through nine Sookie novels. For her latest three-book contract, of which “Dead and Gone” is the second, Ms. Harris was paid a seven-figure advance.
The books have also spawned “True Blood,” the HBO adaptation created by Alan Ball, the maestro of “Six Feet Under.” The first season of the series, which roughly followed “Dead Until Dark,” concluded last fall as the cable network’s most popular show since “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” The new season, based on the second novel in the series, “Living Dead in Dallas,” begins on June 14.
This heady brew of success has allowed Ms. Harris, 57, some luxuries: earlier this year she hired her longtime best friend as her personal assistant. She bought a diamond ring. And this year, because of Julia’s graduation, she could afford the ultimate indulgence: she refused to go on a book tour.
“It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher,” said Ms. Harris, who had previously written two mystery series that never quite took off. Or, as she put it more succinctly, with a cackle that evoked a paranormal creature: “I had this real neener-neener-neener moment.”
Born and raised in Tunica, Miss., the daughter of a schoolteacher and a homemaker turned librarian, Ms. Harris, an avid reader of mysteries, always wanted to be an author. She published two stand-alone mysteries in the early 1980s, and a few years later began the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, featuring a Southern librarian turned amateur sleuth. Despite promising reviews, sales were modest.
In the mid-1990s she plunged into a more violent and sexually explicit story line about Lily Bard, a cleaning woman who investigates murders. Ms. Harris believed she had hit her stride, but sales did not meet her expectations.
So she decided to try something new. She had always wanted to write about vampires. From the outset, she wanted to set the story in the prosaic trailer-park and strip-mall landscape of northern Louisiana, to distinguish it from the gothic opulence of Anne Rice’s New Orleans.
Nominally a murder mystery, “Dead Until Dark” was filled with inventive details, like the synthetic blood that allows vampires to live openly among humans, and a vampire bar called Fangtasia, where humans who like to have sex with the undead hang out.
Despite her track record, it took two years to find a home for Sookie. Although writers like Laurell K. Hamilton had staked a niche in the paranormal genre, it was not the booming category that Stephenie Meyer has made it today.
Finally, Ace Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Penguin Group USA, bought the manuscript in 2000. “The voice is terrific,” said Ginjer Buchanan, editor in chief of Ace. “And I liked the setting. I think it’s an interesting and different milieu, and she portrays it in a way that’s fresh and understandable, but not stereotypical.”
Driving last week along a tree-lined country road dotted by an occasional horse farm or a row of abandoned chicken coops, Ms. Harris said it was how she imagined the road to Sookie’s house. Ideas for characters come from all over the place.
“Every trip to Wal-Mart is an inspiration,” she said. But don’t try to find a model for Merlotte’s, the bar and restaurant where Sookie works. Magnolia, in southern Arkansas near the Louisiana border, is the seat of a dry county.
Ms. Harris gave Sookie the power to read the most unpleasant thoughts of others as a way of reflecting on the veneer of courtesy that permeates small-town Southern living.
“I think that must be the worst thing, not to have that buffer zone between how people really think and feel and how they present themselves to you,” Ms. Harris said. “That’s one of the reasons I love living here, because people are so polite.” For Sookie, consorting with vampires comes as a relief because she cannot actually read their thoughts.
Ms. Harris works most mornings in her office, a cozy room with a lumpy purple loveseat and a shelf of knickknacks sent by fans. Like many a commercial writer, Ms. Harris wishes the literary establishment would pay more attention. “I think there is a place for what I do,” she said. “And I think it’s honorable.”
With their message of accepting diversity, Ms. Harris said she wrote the Sookie novels in part as “a metaphor for gays in America.” But, she added: “I am not a crusader. If you need a good adventure or a vacation from your problems, then I am your woman.”
It was that escapist side that attracted Mr. Ball of “Six Feet Under” when he discovered “Dead Until Dark” in a Barnes & Noble four years ago. He went on to buy all the remaining books in the series. “I just went through them like popcorn,” he said.
For “True Blood” Mr. Ball added scenes shot from the point of view of other characters; gave Tara, a high school friend of Sookie’s, a more prominent role and converted her from white to African-American; and amped the sex scenes way up.
Ms. Harris, who rarely outlines a plot, knows how the series will end. Don’t ask: she’s not telling. In the meantime she’s always ready for inspiration. “I think about the books while I am showering or doing the dishes,” she said. “Then all of a sudden I’ll think, ‘What if?’ ”
Saturday, May 23, 2009
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Last week I was out of town on a business trip at the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a large resort kind of off by itself. The Fairmont shrewdly bought a bunch of land around the hotel and is selling it to businesses that will support the hotel. There is a high-end retirement community being built next door. Down the road is the Scottsdale Center for Dentistry, where dentists come from across the country for continuing education and golf, and that (not the golf part) is where I spent my days.
The hotel is one of those that seems like a maze when you first get there. It has buildings winding every which way, cottages, three pools, a lagoon, a hot tub, numerous restaurants, stores, etc. My first night there, I wandered by the lagoon near sunset and saw bunnies nibbling grass, ducks wandering around, etc. If you're in a rural area, that won't mean much to you, but in suburban California, we don't get that.
The second night there, we had the evening free, so I went out for a swim. I went to the less-crowded East Pool rather than the centrally located South Pool. When I got to the far end of the East Pool, I saw there was another pool farther on. I got out to investigate, and saw that the second pool was hiding a treat: a two-story waterslide. With a lifeguard at each end. Not your typical plastic pool slide. That sucker was fast, and I was surprised to find it tucked in a nook in this resort where the restaurants start running out of food around 8pm (in other words, a mostly older crowd comes here).
I mentioned it to my mother because she has been looking for a place to take my two daughters. One loves to be active, so the waterslide, pools, kids club and game room is for her. The other one needs her internet roleplaying fix, so her basic requirement is wifi.
Of course I needed a book for the waiting around times, and I took Double Dare by Saskia Walker, an extra-hot romance book. I give it an A+ for heat. My only issue is the one I usually have with these books--the people fall in love too fast. But the characters were unusually astute and not silly--people you'd really like to know.
And I just got my new promos--bookmarks with my website url. I took some along to hand out, and we had a delay in the Phoenix airport, so I passed some out to people reading fiction books.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I just read that Santa Barbara has had four major fires in the last 14 months, far above average. They have burned 300 homes, which is more than fires of the previous 20 years combined burned.
For the most part, they take place in the wooded hills, most of which are wild growth. The topography of the area is such that there is flatland near the ocean, then hills climb suddenly to a ridge. Beyond the ridge are more valleys and ridges all the way to highway 5 that bisects the state. It's not quite that neat, but only the lower parts of the first hill face have been developed into neighborhoods. So a lot of this fire is burning beyond the populated area.
But what has made this fire stand out is the breadth of the evacuation area, which covered the (unwooded) flatlands almost to the ocean. The wind blew the fire both east and west along the face of the hills from its origin. There are mandatory evac areas and evac warning areas. The last fire's warning area was just a couple of miles from us, which was unprecedented. For this fire, the warning area came right up to us (the office closed Friday morning).
This is more remarkable when you see the wind patterns. The ocean air currents were pushing cool, moist air against the face of the hills. When we left Friday morning, it wasn't smoky, but we could see the smoke against the hills. Driving home south on 101, the hills come out to meet the road, and then it was smokier. Still, it was a good time to leave since the routes away from the office were already under fire warning.
Like most locals, I know of people who were evacuated. I won't find out tomorrow if anyone I know sustained damage.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Last year, I wrote to Kelley through her website (linked on the Fun Links page) to ask if she gave out promotional items to booksellers as many authors do. In my email, I mentioned that my teenage daughter also loves Kelley's newer YA series. I got a reply from Kelley's sister, Alison, who manages the marketing end of things. She asked for my daughter's name and said Kelley wanted to send something special to her. When I got my Otherworld goodies, included was a bookplate for my daughter's copy of The Summoning inscribed to her and signed by Kelley.
She's a savvy kid, so it's hard to elicit innocent wonderment from her, but that did it. She was so thrilled that a Real Author would personalize something to her. I wish I had taken a picture of her face. She just stared at it as if she didn't believe what she was seeing. The only other time I have seen that look on her face was when she received a Hogwarts letter (I made) when she turned eleven. The bookplate is now one of her prized possessions.
So Kelley (and Alison), if you ever need a favor, I owe you one.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I also freely acknowledge that I am a bit suspicious of Important Books as so many turn out to be boring, disturbing, depressing, or some combination thereof, and that's the kind of adult fiction that's been featured at the LATFB. I mean, how can you have a panel called "Fiction: Exiles and Outsiders" and not have any urban fantasy authors?
The pull was strongest to go to this annual event when my girls were smaller and we lived closer. They do have cool children's authors, and I thought the girls would get a kick out of meeting real authors (not counting Mommy, who writes "boring stuff with other people's names on it"). We never did make the trek over, but my oldest, 15, has decided to become a fantasy writer anyway.
I used to wonder why they didn't have book festivals for books people read the most. I still do wonder that, but now I suppose if they did, it would be an even bigger madhouse to get to, and it would be somewhere like NYC, the other end of the continent from me.
NYC is where they have big conventions for retailers, and that's where I currently drool over going. Yes, it would be a madhouse too, I'm sure, but there would be no parking problem. There is no parking. Take the subway to midtown and walk west. And authors are there wandering around loose, not scheduled for viewing at certain times.
Spring and summer are the big times for other public book festivals, many of which sound like a lot of fun.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was a teenager, I tried to start businesses doing custom calligraphy, embroidery, even selling hand-typed lists of the Billboard top 40 (in the days before computers). None of these really went anywhere. As an adult, I've been successful with day jobs in both selling and marketing (though I far prefer marketing) but always for someone else.
I launched my ebay bookstore on May 7, 2005, when both sun and moon were in the sign of Taurus (today, April 25, is also a Taurus/Taurus day). Yes, I know a little about astrology, just enough to be dangerous. Moon in Taurus is supposed to start a business out on the right foot, and I figured sun in Taurus couldn't hurt. Little did I know that summer is slow in the book business. But that's ok. If I had started during a busier time, I would have been disappointed when business fell off. This way, I was pleasantly surprised when it picked up.
I started out selling duplicates from paperback book lots I bought on ebay to read. As I learned more about the book business, I started investing in better books--collectible hardcovers, signed books, and new releases straight from the publishers. I started out with the philosophy to buy books I would want to read so that if no one else bought them, at least I could enjoy them. But I still stock things I like because it seems to attract people I enjoy, and how great is that? If you're reading this, it's probably because we have similar taste in books.
I think most people are aware that ebay has implemented a lot of changes lately. The painful one was doubling selling fees for books to 15%. In addition though, they are marginalizing elements of branding and individuality in favor of giving buyers a uniform and neutral buying experience. That's not what I want to do.
Do you remember the scene in My Fair Lady when Henry Higgins is up on the ladder to reach the tallest shelves in his library? Or the dance in the library in the Music Man? Since I was a kid, I wanted a library with polished wood shelves to the high ceilings, ladders on wheels and comfy leather chairs to read in. I can tell you what the room smells like and describe the view out the window. Books and reading are full-sensory things to me, and I try to provide as much of that as possible in my store.
I have always received high marks for describing my books in detail because that's important to me as a book lover. I've learned to avoid certain sources for books because there's just no telling what you're going to get--and yes, you can send it back, but what a hassle!
I never quite got the movie-set library, but I do have my grandmother's old rocking chair and over a hundred linear feet of bookshelf space spread around the house. My husband and my two teenage daughters and I live in a big Spanish style house with lots of storage for my inventory, so in a way I did get the library I always wanted--it just doesn't look quite like I imagined it.