Friday Buzz - Habitual Reader web site

Here is yet another way the Internet is changing the face of books and publishing. Check out Habitual Reader, a site from Komenar Publishing.

As a marketing tool, it’s inexpensive, interactive – a good way to start buzz about your line. But one potential pitfall is that readers find the reviews and comments limiting and too actuated from self-interest.

Looks like Habitual Reader sidesteps the issue by allowing readers to review any books – including those not in Komenar’s line.

My question is: Will the site allow critical reviews of any books, particularly its own? Will the owners censor (without readers knowing what is censored and why)?

All will be revealed in time. For now, I will visit this site now and again to see how it’s faring.

Thanks to Lisa at Breaking the Fourth Wall for tipping me off on this one.


Thoughts for Thursday - Celebrate Molly

Columnist Molly Ivins died yesterday. I think Paul Harral, vice president and editorial director of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has it right when he says: "It's a great loss to American journalism because she's such a strong voice; she stirred strong likes and dislikes in readers."

Here is a sample of Ms. Ivins' magic. This essay still is pertinent, and to me, ends on a good message for further reflection. Thank you, Molly!

Mourning in America
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate
11.04.04 - AUSTIN, Texas -- Do you know how to cure a chicken-killin' dog? Now, you know you cannot keep a dog that kills chickens, no matter how fine a dog it is otherwise.

Some people think you cannot break a dog that has got in the habit of killin' chickens, but my friend John Henry always claimed you could. He said the way to do it is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad that no other dog or person will even go near that poor beast. Thing'll smell so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.

The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

And at least Democrats won't have to clean up after him until it is real clear to everyone who made the mess.

In some circles, that will be seen as sour grapes. But in Texas, we've been losing elections to the demagogic triad of God, gays and guns long enough to be pretty cynical about how it works out.

I'm sure millions of Americans voted for George W. under the honest impression that he stands for moral values -- family, patriotism, faith in God. I'm sure it's the Democrats' fault that such a silly ruse is allowed to stand. What Bush actually does stand for is nicely summed up by a rather common news story that got stuck on the business pages lately.

In September, Merck & Co., the huge drug manufacturer, pulled Vioxx off the market. Vioxx was a popular pain-killing, anti-arthritis drug, but Merck said it was putting patients' safety first. A new study from the Federal Drug Administration showed high doses of Vioxx triple the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

From there, the story bifurcates -- it takes two directions. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa revealed that the FDA had tried to silence the author of the study, Dr. David Graham, associate director of science in the Office of Drug Safety. Grassley said the FDA first sat on Graham's study and that then he was "ostracized" and "subjected to veiled threats and intimidation."

The Wall Street Journal followed the other fork, finding internal memos from Merck showing that company officials may have been aware of the dangers of Vioxx as long ago as 1996, including a memo apparently instructing its sales reps to "dodge" the question when doctors asked about the cardiac record of Vioxx.

In short, we have a toothless regulatory agency in the pocket of the industry it is supposed to patrol. We have an administration-wide contempt for science and plain facts. And the allegation against the folks at Merck is that they were making such enormous profits on a drug that killed people that when they knew or suspected it was killing people, they kept right on selling it. When the information that Merck had known for a long time about Vioxx and heart attacks became public, the company's stock fell by 9.6 percent.

That's the system George W. Bush stands for: where a corporation can knowingly kill people for profit and, when it finally comes out, everyone knows the penalties will be so light the company doesn't even lose a tenth of its worth. Hey, just a little bump in the road.

We sure don't want any of that terrible, burdensome government regulation to control that kind of behavior, do we? We sure don't want an FDA that listens to its own scientists and acts promptly, do we? We sure don't want anyone to sue these monster corporations, do we? I bet if it were possible to compare the odds of an American getting killed by a negligent regulatory agency and rapacious corporate behavior versus an American getting killed by a terrorist, it would turn out we need to be a lot more scared of rank greed and its enablers than we do of terrorists. And that's not counting what the corps. (pronounced corpse) steal and mess up.
So, fellow progressives, stop thinking about suicide or moving abroad. Want to feel better? Eat a sour grape, then do something immediately, now, today. Figure out what you can do to help rescue the country -- join something, send a little money to some group, call somewhere and offer to volunteer, find a politician you like at the local level and start helping him or her to move up.

Think about how you can lend a hand to the amazing myriad efforts that will promptly break out to help the country recover from what it has done to itself. Now is the time. Don't mourn, organize.


New Author Month - Quote from Atwood

It's the end of January, but I'm not quite finished with Cat's Eye and Negotiating with the Dead. Enjoying them immensely, however, and should finish up over the weekend. February -- and romance -- is at hand!

Until then, I thought I'd share a quote from Atwood's writing essays in Negotiating with the Dead:

What is the relationship between the two entities we lump under one name, that of "the writer"? The particular writer. By two, I mean the person who exists when no writing is going forward -- the one who walks the dog, eats bran for regularity, takes the car in to be washed, and so forth -- and that other, more shadowy and altogether more equivocal personage who shares the same body, and who, when no one is looking, takes it over and uses it to commit the actual writing.

Isn't that true? Oh, by the way: I received another piece of fan mail from someone who read several of my short stories. Very nice. Fan mail makes both my entities feel more like "writers".


Letter meme

This is a meme from BookGirl. She gave me the letter “H,” and then I post 10 things I like that begin with that letter. Here’s my take:

“Hello.” This greeting is almost always a positive. Same with “hugs,” “happiness” and “hope.”

Hummingbirds. My favorite bird. They’re like feathered hearts, flying around.

Hammett and Hellman. Writing mentors. Long-time lovers. Independent lives. My idea of a match made in heaven.

Hemingway. Forget his novels (except for The Sun Also Rises) and forget his macho shtick. His short stories and By-Lines (journalism) are marvelous.

Habeas corpus. It was nice while it lasted.

Hot fudge sundaes. Anyone who doesn’t like a hot fudge sundae probably hates puppies and butterflies, too.

Billie Holiday. One of the best vocalists, ever. If you don’t believe me, listen to “God Bless the Child.”

Halloween. Speaking of holidays, this is a fun one. I love reading gothic novels and ghost stories, watching spooky movies, eating candy and breathing in the crisp autumn air. The holiday you can't take seriously. Halloween rocks!

Hiking. My favorite “back to nature” activity.

Humor. Can’t have enough sense of it. Can't get enough of it.

Want to do this meme? Leave me a comment below and I’ll pick a letter for you.