Coronavirus: Update

Earlier today we posted “Corona Virus suggestions from Stanford Hospital Board,” which has now been exposed by Stanford Health Care and Mother Jones as a fake press release. Stanford’s actual coronavirus info site is here.

We still want you to keep healthy and happy and reading, so here are the “suggestions” that have been confirmed (or not) by real medical experts.

Tips from us for our readers: When you bring home a book, clean its cover with a disinfectant wipe. Wear gloves to (and inside) the library and on public transit. And turn social isolation into a vacation with our outstanding mysteries, romances, and nonfiction!

1. This coronavirus attaches specifically in the lungs. However, the New York Times reports it also can affect other mucous membranes, starting with the back of the throat.

2. While the CDC still emphasizes fever, cough, and shortness of breath as the main symptoms, Mother Jones cites a not-yet-published study by a group of German researchers suggesting that upper respiratory tract symptoms like runny nose may be more common than previously thought.

3. “If you can breathe fine, do not go to the doctor. Only go if you cannot breathe or are very ill.” — Epidemiologist Loren Rauch, quoted in Mother Jones. If you do go to the doctor, call ahead: they’re swamped!

4. Direct intense heat, such as strong sunlight or a clothes dryer, may kill the virus. By all means, cook your food thoroughly; wash clothes more often than usual; when you’re sequestered at home, relax in the sunshine with a pot of tea. But don’t count on that to keep you safe.

4. If someone sneezes with it, it takes 6+ feet before it drops to the ground and is no longer airborne. If you sneeze with it, sneeze into a tissue and then throw it in the compost bin.

5. How long the virus can survive on any particular kind of surface is not yet known for sure. Wear gloves when you’re out in public. Wash cloth gloves regularly; discard plastic ones. Wash your hands as soon as you get home.

6. Don’t touch your face — your eyes, nose, and mouth are portals for the virus to enter your body.

7. Overall good health is one of the best defenses. Keep your immune system strong: eat judiciously, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and avoid stress as best you can.

8. Drinking water and/or hot liquids will not per se protect you from the virus.

9. Zinc lozenges were indeed recommended by expert James Robb, but not as a “silver bullet.” He writes: “In my experience as a virologist and pathologist, zinc will inhibit the replication of many viruses, including coronaviruses. I expect COVID-19 [the disease caused by the novel coronavirus] will be inhibited similarly, but I have no direct experimental support for this claim.”

A Study in Scarlet by A.C. Doyle; Clara & Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland: Reviews by CJ Verburg

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Dr. John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time: 2 young men just starting out, each looking for a flat-mate, little suspect that Holmes’s lab experiments & Watson’s budding medical practice will soon be overshadowed by their shared adventures. I very much enjoyed that part of the book. But once the detecting gets under way, Doyle shifts to an American back story which felt peripheral as well as unrealistically lurid.

Clara and Mr. TiffanyClara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

One of those books I was very curious & hopeful about, but which didn’t get 3-dimensional enough for me to keep reading. Historical novels are hard to write! Although this one is full of plausible, interesting information about the characters, setting, & period, it felt more like a cross between a dissertation & a second draft than a believable story.

View all my reviews

Killers of the Flower Moon: a Real-Live Mystery (Review)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Reviewed by CJ Verburg

Writing about a real-life mystery is tricky. In contrast to fiction, the author can’t step into a participant’s narrative voice to help readers feel they’re watching events unfurl in real time. There are too many characters tromping in and out of the story, some central and some not, most of them without enough distinguishing features for a reader to keep them straight. And the plot can take years, even decades, to reach a conclusion — with or without the satisfaction of a climax.

The murderous scheme David Grann describes in Killers of the Flower Moon is shocking and horrifying, but not riveting. Like War and Peace, this is a book I’d have enjoyed more if I’d seen the movie, so as to connect faces and voices with the dozens of characters, and to visualize the parched, inhospitable land whither the Osage were relegated by whites until oil was discovered there. Black-and-white photos help, but not enough.

Just when the first round of slaughter is starting to be recognized and traced to its perpetrators (though in most cases, never avenged), Grann himself steps in. As he describes his own research, we become a Watson to his Holmes. His skills at digging out the truth are awesome; still, I wish he were a stronger storyteller.

Yet the systematic murder of so many people, and the role this case played in the creation of a Federal Bureau of Investigation to expand the reach of policing organizations like the Texas Rangers, is an important piece of American history. I’m glad there is a film in the works. I’ll hang onto the book to read again after I’ve seen it.

View all my reviews

Warning: our email address was temporarily hijacked

We regret to announce that on Tuesday and/or Wednesday Sept. 4-5, nefarious miscreants hijacked our email address to send out a highly sophisticated Spam mailing, with attachments.

Security was re-established by midday Wednesday. However, because the recipients were not on any list of ours, and we have no way to identify either the recipients or the sender(s), we are unable to issue any warning other than this one.

IF YOU’VE RECEIVE AN EMAIL THIS WEEK WHICH PURPORTS TO BE FROM BOOM-BOOKS, PLEASE DELETE IT UNOPENED.

We’re deeply sorry for the intrusion.

Heart of Darkness: A Voyage through Paradigms & Metaphors – Review by C J Verburg

Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This is a difficult book to appreciate if you care more about racism, sexism, and colonization than intricately crafted metaphors. Conrad seems aware of the layers upon layers of contradictions that envelop his characters, yet insofar as he confronts them, he does it by observing and reporting rather than judging. For instance, the condescension of Brits to Africans is blatant and grating. Yet the narrator Marlow doesn’t remark on it, either when these events took place or now, as he recalls them: he simply describes it, and leaves any judgment to us.

Marlow is a sailor, privileged by his race and gender but not by his social position, which presumably in the Britain of Conrad’s day counted just as heavily. This short book is a story he’s telling to a crew of old sailing comrades about a voyage up an unfriendly river in a wild land that was being exploited by his shipping-company employers. His task was to find Kurtz, the company’s most effective ivory collector, who’d evidently “gone native” (= turned traitor to his race, class, etc.). Before he could take command of his assigned boat, Marlow had to dredge it up from where it sank when the previous captain beat a local chief and was killed. So, as in Melville’s Moby-Dick, we’re traveling among misfits and renegades obliged to obey an arbitrary leader.

However, unlike Ishmael et al., Marlow and his listeners are old friends (not a motley crew of strangers) waiting on a yacht (not a working boat), in the safe comfort of London’s Thames River mouth, for the tide to change so they can set sail. The prose is suitably languid for men who are in no hurry. And the multifaceted paradox of Kurtz makes a neat paradigm for the larger paradoxes Conrad describes, or delicately alludes to.

It’s a book so full of arrogance that I had a hard time with it.

View all my reviews

C J Verburg’s Mystery Review of A House of Her Own by Patricia Dusenbury

A House of Her Own: A Claire Marshall NovelA House of Her Own: A Claire Marshall Novel by Patricia Dusenbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This multilayered New Orleans mystery weaves together suspense, romance, and superstition in a colorful setting filled with diverse characters, including a possible ghost. When Claire Marshall buys a bargain house to restore, she doesn’t know what a Pandora’s Box she’s opening. Embarking on a practical project, she finds herself responsible for decisions that will change the people around her, as well as her own future. I enjoyed every twist in both the action and the love story, and was happily surprised that all my guesses turned out wrong. A House of Her Own is a book worth reading not just for the fast-paced plot, but for its insights into the powerful struggle that each of us confronts over trust vs. betrayal. The evil here doesn’t come from villains, just ordinary people whose bad experiences and fears scare them into deadly choices.

View all my reviews

Edward Gorey On Stage now available from Ingram

Good news! CJ Verburg’s newly revised Edward Gorey On Stage: A Multimedia Memoir is now available from Ingram.

Praised by reviewers as “delightful,” “a joy to read,” and “a must have…[for] all Gorey enthusiasts,” Edward Gorey On Stage follows this legendary artist and author through half a century of theatrical adventures, from the Poets Theatre he helped co-found at Harvard University to the numerous “entertainments” he wrote, designed, and directed on Cape Cod. It’s a treasure trove of original drawings and script notes, rare color photos, even film clips and music.

If you’re a reader, your favorite bookstore can now get this “thoroughly enjoyable” mini-biography for you faster than you can get it online.

If you’re a bookshop proprietor, you can skip right over Amazon and order returnable copies from Ingram at 55% booksellers’ discount.

Enjoy this fascinating peek behind the scenes at a unique artist at work, narrated by Edward Gorey’s close friend and collaborator CJ Verburg.

“All you could ever want from a murder mystery” – Review of Another Number for the Road

Thanks to writer Leigh Verrill-Rhys for this generous review of Boom-Books author CJ Verburg’s new Cory Goodwin mystery!

Featured Book: Review

CJ Verburg’s Another Number for the Road  has all you could ever want from a murder mystery set in two iconic periods of American history: the 1960s: Free Speech, Free Love, Stop the War, Civil Rights and sex, drugs, rock and roll; and 1980s: Reaganomics, Cold War Collapse, Punk Rock, big hair and bigger shoulders.

Rock journo cum detective, Cory Goodwin (who has as many names as identities) goes on a “Magical Mystery Tour,” and then some, to recover her true inner self which has been consumed and subsumed by the demands of her multimillionaire son-of-the-founder-of-a-cosmetics-conglomerate husband’s boardroom betrayal of all they meant to each other as writing romantics who eloped in creative Paris and crashed in corporate necessity in Boston.

Cordelia Goodwin Thorne had many years of protest activism and rock star groupie antics to keep her from sinking into the paradox of her journo daydreams and her cosmetic charity dinner reality.

She joins the “Magical Mystery Tour” when she learns that The Rind is the mystery band—a group she interviewed for a magazine as a teenager. She aims to rekindle her past admiration for the much-maligned strongman of the band, the appropriately named, Dan Quasi, who, after the brutal murder of his friend and co-band member, Mickey Ascher, takes a runner and hides out for the twenty year hiatus, having lost his wife and his French bit to aforementioned co-band member.

Did this Quasi musician kill his best friend? Or was it the French bit? Or possibly her jilted lover and third band member, also appropriately named, Roach? Or has the mild-mannered Terry, fourth band member, been hiding a violent temper all these years?

The process of discovery is further energized by the author’s experience as a playwright and director. CJ Verburg makes use of the theatrical technique of juxtaposing two scenes on stage at once: flashbacks, backstory, supposition and real time, one upon the other, while skillfully  juggling a cast of characters that would daunt Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffiths.

Another Number for the Road  will satisfy all fans of complex, convoluted whodunits who remember the Sixties with longing and survived the Eighties, Nineties and are in deep with the Twentieth Century.

Up Sides of the Digital Revolution: #1: The Lazarus Back-List (from DBW)

Digital Book World (an indispensable resource for 21st-century publishers) posted this succinct advice in April 2014. Still valuable today.

Three Tips for Monetizing Your Back-List

By: |

Back-lists offer a potential “pool of resources…to mined based on movements and trends in [the] mercurial marketplace” of digital publishing. That’s how Ed Nawotka, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, put it in his introductory remarks at the “Monetizing the Backlist” conference in New York City yesterday. The trick for publishers — and the focus of the day’s talks and panel discussions — is turning those resources into revenue.

Experts from across the digital publishing community suggested a number of methods for doing that successfully. Here are three that stood out.

Related: Selling Back-List Titles? Think Audience and Metadata

1. Free samples: “The way to make money off of your back-list titles is giving people free samples,” said Amanda Mecke, ebook rights and contracts specialist at unglue.it. “You used to be able to sample an entire book in a bookstore when you stood there and flipped through it.”

Not only can replicating that experience for digital content keep readers engaged, it can help them discover things they otherwise might not. According to Mecke, that’s especially true when it comes to back-list titles.

2. Look at the numbers: Publishers eagerly devour all the metrics they can get on best-selling and front-list titles–more often than not, they’re still left hungry for more. The same data-based approach can be taken with back-list books. Neil Baptista, CEO of the discovery platform Riffle, suggests looking closely at the available information to identify “latent demand for a title, then [to] unlock that demand with a price incentive.”

The results of such investigations can sometimes be unexpected. Baptista admitted he was startled to learn that there was an apparently disproportionate demand within the thriller and crime fiction category for Mario Puzo’s The Sicilian long after its original publication. But, given a special price promotion, the book sold briskly all over again.

3. Keep it in perspective: Corey Pressman, president of Exprima Media, put it this way: the front-list is the portion of the human population consisting of celebrities, and the back-list is everyone else. That tiny sliver gets a lot more attention and always will, but it’s still a tiny sliver.

Much the way the digital technologies made it possible for regular folks to raise their profiles and attract an audience, digital publishing–through many of those same technologies–can lift back-list content out of obscurity. And since there’s just so much of it out there, a little boost in a lot of places can make a big difference.

In support of that point of view, Sherisse Hawkins, co-founder and CEO of Beneath the Ink, remarked, “There’s a magical aspect [to] rediscovering something…an emotional connection” that’s absent from the first-time encounter publishers strive to create for readers with their front-list titles. The term “back-list” doesn’t do justice to that special feeling, but it’s one publishers should promote with equal enthusiasm.

A New Way to Publish E-Books: Pronoun

In our six years as an indie publisher, Boom-Books has experimented with a variety of ways to create and distribute e-books.

Whether you love or hate Amazon, we all know it dominates 21st-century book publishing. Amazon created Kindle, the top vehicle for buying, reading, and publishing e-books. Most e-publishers start there, and many end there, too. Boom-Books currently distributes Charisse Howard’s spicy “Regency Rakes & Rebels” romances only through KDP Select, which offers them free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and for $2.99 on Amazon.

In contrast, Boom-Books author C J Verburg’s mystery novels and theater memoir originally were published on Kindle, Nook (Barnes & Noble), Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, and the diverse smaller outlets available through Smashwords. Smashwords is a both a distributor (selling e-books from its own website) and an aggregator (distributing e-books to other sellers). It’s less aggressively commercial than Amazon, but it too can be a one-stop shop for an indie publisher. You upload your book files, Smashwords runs them through its Meatgrinder, and out pops an e-book, which the publisher can choose to sell through any or all distributors from Amazon to Apple.

The up side of one-stop publishing with Smashwords is not having to set up and monitor each individual book with each individual distributor. The down side is that Smashwords’  Meatgrinder treats all books alike. We found that if a book wasn’t formatted very simply, or if it failed to follow Smashwords’ long instructions exactly, it might come out looking different on different sites and devices (for instance, on Nook vs. iTunes), or develop a weird glitch, such as random indents on Kindle. Although Smashwords has continually improved its manufacturing and distribution, we concluded over time that it works better for some genres than others, and wasn’t a go-to site for most of our mystery or memoir customers.

So we were intrigued to discover Pronoun, an e-publisher and aggregator launched in 2015. We’d investigated its innovative parents: Vook, a digital book publisher that combined text, video, and links to the internet and social media, and Byliner (now an imprint of Pronoun), home of yellow-covered “long-form journalism for a short-form world.” They developed such impressive analytics — which they plowed into Pronoun — that the new company was immediately acquired by Macmillan.

This was the e-publisher we chose for Zapped, C J Verburg’s second Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod mystery. Here’s the book’s Pronoun page:

Publishing on Pronoun is free, as it is on most reputable sites. Books are sold through the five major e-retailers: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Unlike most aggregators, Pronoun pays the author 100% of royalties after the retailer’s cut.

In the 21st-century spirit, Pronoun’s website encourages potential users to sign up first and ask questions later. The tone is on the twee side: customer service comes from an Author Happiness Advocate. Instead of a Smashwords Meatgrinder turning diverse manuscript formats into one, Pronoun offers its authors six format templates: Shelley, Didion, Austen, Lamott, Rowling, and Sandberg. During the upload process, it provides useful data feedback on the popularity of sales categories and keyword options. We were particularly pleased to be e-mailed a link upon publication for free review copies — not available from Amazon, where even the author has to pay for the book.

Another Pronoun feature is its often helpful blog, The Verbs:

How to Use a Rafflecopter Giveaway to Promote Your Book

Sales since Zapped‘s November 29 e-launch have been modest, but we’re cautiously optimistic. If you’ve tried Pronoun, we’d love to hear about your experience.