Mad Housewife Monday: Kelly Reemtsen’s Flower Power

ReemtsenFlower_Power
One of my all-time favorite artists is Kelly Reemtsen. She so aptly captures the desperation of the ladies who lunch — especially when they get a bee under their bonnet about something.

Take this painting, called "Flower Power."  The way this wifey in the retro shift holds her hedge clippers implies self-emmolation. And yet, her cocked knee implies a dark streak for dangerous flirtation. Perhaps she's saying, "Approach at your own risk."

Truly a thorny situation.

Ms. Reemtsen's paintings can be found in the Skidmore ContemporaryArt (Los Angeles) and the David Klein Gallery (Birmingham, MI). If you're close by, they are worth the visit.

— Josie

 


HA-RSG-Final-V2
To celebrate the launch of 
The Housewife Assassin's
Relationship Survival Guide
 (Book 4), 
I'm giving away a $100 gift card
 
to the bookstore of your choice!

Click here for details…

 

 

 

 

HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012And click here to get a FREE COPY of

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook (Book 1)  

 

FREE!  AmazonKindleButton

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Couples Kissing Tuesday: Wet Kiss

Scrub-a-DubKiss

So, what exactly was his reaction when he felt her in the shower behind him?
He didn't turn around. Instead he murmured, "I'll scrub your back, if you scrub mine."
Done deal.
But first a little, a little foreplay. There is no bigger turn-on than your lover's gentle fingers shampooing your scalp.
Nothing is sexier than suds cascading down your lover's back.
The droplets rolling from the tip of your lover's nose and onto your lips leaves you thirsty for more.
Wet kisses are the best.
Shower power,



HA-RSG-Final-V2 


 

The Housewife Assassin's

Relationship Survival Guide
for a chance to win a $100 gift card
from your favorite bookstore! 

Free, I tellz ya! Free! FREE!

HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012
Yep, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook just went free on Amazon, and already it's #18 in the Amazon Kindle eBook Store under "Women Sleuths," and #39 under "Romantic Suspense."

You can read an excerpt, here below.

Enjoy, 

— Josie

 

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK

Murder. Suspense. Sex. 
And some handy household tips.

Signal Press – Digital eBook 

Buy it from

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Logo_kobo FREE!


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CHAPTER 1: Please Read and Follow Directions Carefully….

Any woman can be both the perfect housewife and an accomplished assassin, because both functions require the same qualities: creativity; a never-say-die attitude; and an attention to details, no matter how small . . .

***

All I really needed to know about being a freelance assassin I learned before my youngest daughter, Trisha, started kindergarten.

I’ve come to that realization as I lay naked and handcuffed to the bed of my target du jour, a sleazebag by the name of Yuri Petrovich.

 Yuri has just downed a couple of Viagra with the last of his Starbucks venti-sized non-fat decaf caramel macchiato. This is to ensure us both that his attempt to mount me will have all the gusto of a broncobuster breaking in the wildest filly in the corral before heading on into the sunset. (In truth, we are in a hillside suite at the Chateau Marmont. But considering Yuri’s attitude toward women, the cowboyspeak sums things up quite nicely.)

Believe it or not, everything is going just as I planned, and right on schedule.

ChateauMarmont.JPGAt least, that is what I tell myself as I watch him unzip his rock star-tight leather pants and squeeze out of them as quickly as he can because his erection, which seems to be growing by the nanosecond, has him wincing in pain. (And in Yuri’s fantasy if anyone is going to get hurt, it’s going to be me. The handcuffs are proof of that.)

Like, say, eighty-eight percent of all my targets, this Russian mafia boss, who came here to unload a cache of AK-103s on some Idaho Neo-Nazis, has an obsessive-compulsive personality. In Yuri’s case that means staying in the same suite at the Marmont every time he hits Los Angeles (although his Slavic accent and pockmarked greaser looks has hardly earned him an iota of the ass-kissing accorded aging rock stars, budding celebutantes, or out-of-town British actors); doing the down-and-dirty with some rent-a-whore, both before and after the arms sale; and drinking macchiatos nonstop, even during his favorite sex act, that Kama Sutra position euphemistically called “the ostrich’s tail.” (Don’t ask, because you really don’t want to know.)

Acme Industries, one of the many new post-9/11 CIA-sanctioned subcontractors that handles any and all dirty tricks that won’t pass a Congressional panel sniff test, contracted me to be the honeypot who takes Yuri down. My assignment is as follows: First, I was to stall on the sex until the skinheads showed up. Next, I was to plant a GPS system on one of them, so that ATF can track and apprehend them during the pick-up. And finally, as a show of tit-for-tat diplomacy with Uncle Sam’s publicly acknowledged new best friend Russia, I was to see to it that Yuri never left his hotel room alive.

Oh yeah, and one more very important point: All of this is supposed to be accomplished before three o’clock, the time in which I have to pick up my ten-year-old, Jeff, and a carload of his teammates for an after-school baseball game. Otherwise I’d have to face the wrath of two other mothers for having blown the team’s shot at taking the state title without a play-off game—

This is why I pray that the 405 isn’t a nightmarish backup by the time I head home.

From the moment he landed stateside, Yuri’s cell phone calls were monitored. The one to his favorite LA escort service was rerouted to an Acme phone operative, who scheduled Yuri a date with “Precious” (a suitable alias, seeing how I’m trussed up in a push-up bra, a low-cut tank top, and the tight denim micro miniskirt I’d raided from my twelve-year-old daughter Mary’s closet. My gut told me that Yuri would not have appreciated my own Lily Pulitzer twill.)

The fact that I showed up an hour after the appointed time put me just a few minutes ahead of the Neo-Nazis: perfect timing in my book, since it foiled his plan for a little pre-sale foreplay.

Needless to say, Yuri was miffed at me for ruining his timetable. To make that point, he pushed me up against the wall, kicked my legs apart, and frisked me roughly. Really, it was more of a test-the-merchandise fondle. Anticipating that maneuver, I’d left my trusty 9mm at home. That’s okay. In my hooker get-up there was no place to hide it anyway, which is why these kinds of close range hits are always tricky. But then again, that’s why I get paid the big bucks. For this job, my weapon of choice was a tiny, serrated dagger that is appropriately called the “street assassin.” However, I was willing to bet that Yuri and I wouldn’t be anywhere near asphalt when I struck, but between some very expensive 700-count Egyptian cotton sheets.

What a waste. I wonder if the hotel knows that little trick about using meat tenderizer on bloodstains . . .

Not that I planned on sticking around to find out.

I shrugged off his grope with a giggle. “Yeah, the service warned me how much youlove a little foreplay, so I brought these along.” Still spread-eagled, I unhooked pair of handcuffs from the metal belt slung low over my skirt, and jangled them tantalizingly in front of him, in case he needed additional proof that I was his fantasy fuck. That shut him up. It also kept him from noticing my dagger, which hangs as innocuously as any of the buckles on my belt: a great way to fool metal detectors, which, believe it or not, are sometimes used by the bad guys, too.

Then to make sure I had his undivided attention, I rubbed the all too obvious bulge in his jeans with one hand and nodded approvingly, while relieving him of his Starbucks cup with the other. As I took a swig from it, one of his two goons snickered out loud. Yuri’s eyes blazed at my impudence. He lifted his hand to slap me, but was stopped by a sharp knock on the door.

InterestingThe skinheads. Perfect timing. “Jeez, nobody said it was going to be a party! But hey, I’m open to anything – as long as you cleared it with the service.” I handed the cup back to him, sauntered over to the couch and flopped down as if I owned the place. While Yuri’s goons frisked the two Neo-Nazis, I crossed my legs seductively and leaned over so that my cleavage runneth over in plain view for all to enjoy. No doubt about it, the skinheads were appreciative. The fatter, uglier one even had the balls to ask me if my boobs were real.

“Wanna come over here and find out?” I crooked a finger at Ugly. As he slid me onto his lap, I copped my own feel: under the collar of his military fatigue jacket, where I planted a tiny GPS bug.

Seeing me all over Ugly made Yuri even hotter to be done with the business portion of his trip. He yanked me off his guest and shoved me in the direction of the bedroom. “No party. You wait in there,” he growled.

I pulled him in close for a deep kiss. Then, as a reminder of all the fun and games I had in store for us, I handed him the key to the handcuffs. That was all the incentive he needed to get rid of the skinheads tout sweet. He closed the door fast, which was fine with me. The tranquilizer I’d slipped into his macchiato before giving it back to him – a time-release version of Rohypnol – was to kick in sometime within fifteen minutes. I was estimating that he’d need about ten to get rid of the boys, which would leave me five to stall before he fell on his face, making it easy to slit his throat before hightailing it out of there.

The minute he shut the door, I set up for the kill. First I snapped on a pair of gloves – black lace from fingertips to the elbows. Sexy, for sure (in fact, they match my G-string) but because they are lined in a micro-thin flesh-toned latex, I won’t be leaving any telltale prints. As I expected, the sliding door to the terrace outside the bungalow was locked and the curtains were pulled, which allowed for complete privacy from the outside. After disabling the alarm with the tiny decoder I keep on my key ring, I went ahead and unlocked the sliding door so that when the time was right I could make a quick getaway.

I wasn’t worried about the handcuffs, since they were the kind used by magicians and I’d only need a strategic jerk of the wrist to break free. Even if the Roofie didn’t kick in before Yuri snapped them onto my wrists, I’d be able to get out of them in only a few seconds.

And finally, I slipped the knife under the mattress, near the right side of the headboard. I’d retrieve it when the time was right.

As minute eight slipped by, I heard a door close on the other side and guessed rightly that Yuri had said bye-bye to his new skinhead pals. During Minute Nine, Yuri instructed his homeboys not to disturb us no matter how much moaning I was doing – and he planned for me to be doing a lot of it.

Then, as predicted, Yuri opened the door ten minutes after he’d left me. Locking it behind him, he smilingly approvingly at my state of total undress: my only attire was my G-string, stilettos, and the lace gloves. 

I was somewhat surprised that he wasn’t at least yawning by now. Apparently he has the constitution of a rhino. I was hoping that I wouldn’t find out if he had the staying power of one as well. It was then that I noticed that the Starbucks cup was still in his hand….

Damn! Hadn’t he finished that thing yet? Okay, no big deal. So I’d have to stall for another minute or two…

To put that thought out of my mind, I envisioned the kill instead: watching his eyes grow drowsy from the drug – or if necessary, closed in the ecstatic throes of passion; yanking my hands free, then reaching under the mattress for the knife….

Yuri wrongly assumed that my sigh was in anticipation of what he pulled from his leather jacket’s pocket: my handcuffs. “Okay, bitch. On the bed.”

HandcuffedObediently I dropped onto it and grasped the middle finials on the vine-patterned headboard. As he slapped on the cuffs, he stifled a yawn. (Yes! Yes! Finally!) To keep alert, he took a long sip of his macchiato. Then, as if remembering something, Yuri pulled something out of an inner pocket of his jacket…

Ah, yes: the perfect pre-sex appetizer: Viagra.

Humph. I wondered what effect that might have on the Roofie . . . 

And now that Yuri’s striptease is over, it seems I have my answer: not only does the Rohypnol appear to have been neutralized by his little blue devil, it seems to have accelerated his hard-on –

 And from the look of things, acted as a growth hormone to boot.

Not good. At least, not while I’m in my current position – by that I mean naked, chained to his bed, and about to be mounted like a prize rodeo steer.

Not that Yuri seems in any hurry. Nonchalantly he ambles over to the built-in armoire and takes a two-foot-long velvet box from the top drawer, which he lays down beside me with a smirk. Then, opening it slowly, he pulls out –

 – A riding crop.

Ouch. Seems that the cowboy metaphor is becoming more appropriate by the moment.

Damn it! Acme had implied that Yuri was into bondage, not sadism. There had better be a bonus in this for me . . .

He runs the whip up my left leg until it catches on the thin silky thread that is my G-string. With one quick twitch of his wrist, it snaps right off.

Dammit, that hurt!

Very slowly he slaps precise little welts onto my belly as he works the whip over to my other thigh, but pauses when it reaches what is left of the G-string, so that I might agonize over the pain yet to come. My wince brings a sick smile to his face. Now I’m feeling a bit queasy, even if he isn’t.

Stall! Say anything . . . Do anything . . .

“What, you want the dessert before the main course?’ I taunt him. “Naughty boy…”

That only provokes him into slapping me all the harder. What is left of the G-string shreds into thin air. With a guffaw, he takes its little lace patch and holds it up like a trophy before flinging it across the room. It lands near the door with a skip.

Suddenly I notice that his eyes are crossing. He sits down on the bed – falls down, really –

 – Onto me. All 174 pounds of him.

And I don’t think he’s breathing. So, the combination of Rohypnol and Viagra was a toxic Trail Mix after all.

More like fatal. Still, a hit is a hit is a hit…

I jerk at the trick cuffs, but they won’t open. With Yuri on top of me, I’m angled all wrong to break their hold. With my chest, I shove him as hard as I can, but for some strange reason, he’s not budging. Then I realize why:

The only thing left standing is his erection, and it has him staked between my legs.

Great. Just great.

As I struggle under his limp-but-where-it-counts-most carcass, I hear muffled noises from the other side of the door. It sounds like a skirmish.

The two faint thumps I hear next tell me that something is terribly wrong.

Someone is trying to break down the door. It gives way, and I see Ugly the Skinhead standing there. As Ugly whips out a 9mm, I realize that the thumps were Yuri’s posse being taken out . . .

And now it is our turn.


Even from the doorway, Ugly’s aim is dead on. As the bullet enters the back of Yuri’s skull, the Russian jerks forward and we butt heads. As much as that hurts, it has also saves my life: as my head snaps back, the bullet that just left his frontal lobe whizzes by mine by mere millimeters. Still, that doesn’t stop a geyser of Yuri’s blood and gray matter from spurting onto my face. I freeze in horror.

“Fuckin’ Commie. And fuckin’ Commie fucker.”

Between my temporary paralysis and my Yuri-spattered countenance, Ugly assumes that I’m dead, too, and turns to leave –


Black-g-string-thongBut pauses at the sight of my G-string.

He lumbers over to where it’s fallen and squats down to pick it up. After sniffing it, he stuffs it into his pocket. Obviously he feels that is a fitting trophy for his kill – or, in his mind, two kills.

He stalks out, slamming the door behind him.

Silence.

Shit, I have to get out of here. Now.

But that’s almost impossible to do, what with Yuri still on top.

Granted, the Marmont is used to strange noises from behind its many closed doors. Still, it’s been a while since a dead body was found in one of its suites, let alone three. Of course, I imagine the worst:

That someone heard something, or maybe even saw Ugly the Skinhead leaving Yuri’s bungalow, and has called the hotel’s staff, which will soon come to investigate;

That, after tapping on the door and getting no response, they will burst in, see Yuri’s dead bodyguards and find Yuri on top of me, then call the police;    

That, to my children’s horror, I get arrested for prostitution;

That, to Acme’s dismay, I will be called as a witness at Yuri’s murder trial, which will force them to contract with another assassin to finish the job Ugly started on me.

Worse yet, I imagine my son Jeff’s face when he realizes that he’ll miss his chance to pitch in today’s County title game, which will move his baseball team, the Hilldale Wildcats, one step closer to being the Major League state champs –

And that once again it’s all my fault.

It’s that last vision that does the trick for me.

It has been documented that mothers involuntarily demonstrate incredible feats of strength when their children’s safety is threatened. I am living proof that this phenomenon also occurs when their kids’ championship games are at stake. Defying Yuri’s gravitational pull, I heave myself to a forty-five-degree angle, which finally gives me the leverage I need in order to jerk my wrists free from the cuffs. With my hands now free, I can shove Yuri to one side. 

At least, what is left of him.

I stumble to the bathroom. Leaving on my gloves, I shove my face under the faucet and wash Yuri’s brains and skull off my face and out of my hair before staggering back out into the bedroom, where I retrieve my handcuffs and my dagger from under the mattress. Then I jump back into my hooker attire, which I had dropped onto the plush chair by the bed. As planned, I leave from the terrace door, grabbing Yuri’s cuppa joe with me as I go.

In my now ruined spiked heels, I totter up Monteel, the road that meanders high above the hotel, sprinkling what’s left in Yuri’s coffee onto a thirsty bougainvillea and burying the cup deep inside a garbage can of a neighbor who has left it curbside for pickup. Besides the fact that a mommy mobile like my Toyota Highlander Hybrid minivan would surely stand out in that sea of Jags, Rolls, and Lamborghinis in the Marmont’s lot, in my line of work I can’t allow the hotel’s valet the opportunity to ID me.

Just my luck: my van is sporting a ticket that is not even ten minutes old. I do that math: that means that the job took a half-hour longer than I anticipated. Ah, hell, I’m going to be late picking up the boys for the ball game. The Highlander would have to be the only car on the road (a fantasy in mid-day, mid-week Los Angeles), run every traffic light, and break every speed record known to man in order for me to get to the boys the game in time . . .

I do have another option: call my carpool partner, Penelope Bing, and ask her to cover for me –

Hell no. That would hurt even more than Yuri’s whip. She’s bailed me out twice in less than a month: the time I was late getting back after taking out some hothead set on assassinating the Pope while he was here in LA.; then there was that hit I had in Seattle, when I’d booked United on the return flight. (On that one, I should have known better and flown Southwest.)

If I have to hear Penelope’s smug barbs again, I’ll cry. “Really, Donna, what is it this time? Another tennis lesson? My God, you’d think, after all that time on the court, you’dfinally find your backhand. Maybe you’re using from the wrong pro. It’s Fernando, right? . . .”

The inference being that I’m lying. Again.

And for the wrong reason: that reason perhaps being that I’m two-timing my husband, Carl, with the local country club’s tennis pro. Fernando, with his bulging biceps and swarthy grin, leaves many of the club’s female members panting, both on the court and in the bedroom.

GossipConsidering the number of times I’ve disappeared in the middle of the day, the assumption has merit to Penelope and her gossip-mongering clique. As if I would! As if I even could be unfaithful to Carl . . . 

To hell with her. I hit the road, tossing on a sweatshirt as I drive. At the longest turn-light on Sunset – the one at Beverly – I wrangle on my jeans under Mary’s miniskirt before yanking it off. The trucker to my left hoots his horn loudly to show his sincere appreciation.

Miracle of miracles, I pull up only four minutes late! Relief floods Jeff’s face. The Terrible Two – his buddies Morton Smith and Cheever Bing, Penelope’s little angel – have already had been giving him a rough time. My tardiness is infamous. But now it’s my turn to be smug.

Mary is standing there with them. Usually you would not catch her anywhere near her little brother and his friends, but Morton’s older brother, Scotty, is also hitching a ride to the game, and he’s a hottie, what with all that blond curly hair and those soulful eyes. To keep them peeled on her, Mary tosses her long flowing main whenever he glances in her direction. Watching her, my heart leaps into my throat. At twelve, she’s already a first-class flirt.

 Just like her mother.

The kids clamor into the back of the van and we’re off. Mary, who, on any given day would have taken the passenger seat up front, chooses the two-seat row in the middle instead, with Scotty.

I maneuver around a Porsche going too slow for my taste, and in the process get honked by a bus. The driver is miffed because we’ve killed any chance he has of making the light. “Cool driving, Mrs. Stone,” Scotty’s approval wins me a temporary reprieve.

Then he smiles shyly at Mary. “So, you and your dad will be at the Parent-Student dance this Friday, right?” This eighth grade rite of passage is one of the highlights of the school year. Two years from now, it will be my turn to go with Jeff. Although it’s Mary’s turn, without Carl there to take her, she will miss out.

But Jeff and Mary’s father is never there for them, no matter what the occasion.

 “No way! I wouldn’t be caught dead there! It’s for dorks! ” And certainly not for a girl who hasn’t seen her father in years.

But Scotty doesn’t know this. Seeing his crestfallen face, Mary falls silent. She is angry at herself.

No really, at Carl.

Kid2I run the last light between the baseball field and us. Yes! Yes! We’re only nine minutes late! I’ve won Jeff’s approval. I know this because he stops to give me a quick kiss on the cheek. Then he asks: “So Mom, you brought my athletic cup, like I asked, right?”

What? But I – I don’t remember–” I rummage through the athletic bag that was packed this morning: uniform, hat, glove, cleats . . . but no athletic cup.

 “I – I called and asked you to get it from my underwear drawer! Like, four times!” The caller ID on my cell confirms this.

Aw, heck.

League rules: no one plays without a cup. Not even if you’re the team’s star pitcher.Because of me, Jeff will be benched for this very important game which will decide the champions of the Orange County Major League division title.

 And there is no way I can make it to the house and back in time. We both know that.

Cheever pumps his fist in the air. He is the team’s  back-up pitcher.

A tear rolls down Jeff cheek as he staggers to the back of the van.

“Jeff, I’m so sorry—” I yell after him. But I know he can’t stand to hear my lame excuse.

Why should he? He’s heard them all before.

“Hey, Mom, what’s my denim skirt doing back here?” Mary holds it up to me, accusingly, before shrieking “Ewwwyuck!” I glance over and notice that it is sprayed with some sort of white goo. One of the larger chunks is covered in hair follicles.

Yuri’s.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the Terrible Two. Otherwise they wouldn’t be mimicking Mary’s high-pitched squeal as they toss her skirt back and forth like a hot potato.

Once again, I’m back in the doghouse with my kids.

At least, until I outrun a Ferrari or something.

————————————————-

HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012Copyright © 2011 by Josie Brown. Published in May 2011 by Signal Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

Signal Press – Digital eBook 

ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com


The Housewife Assassin’s Guide to Gracious Killing Contest Winner is…

Gift-card
THE WINNER OF THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING IS:

Holly C.

You can find a list of the rest of the contestants, here.

When I contacted Holly to tell her that she had won, I asked her to tell me something about herself. She is single, lives in Manhattan, and travels all over the world.

Those long, international trips were the validation she needed to become recent Kindle owner — and The Housewife Assassin's Handbook was one of the books she had downloaded first (I honored), which is how she found out about this contest, too.

Again, congratulations, Holly C!

I want to thank the following people, have also entered into my  THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest for a $100 giftcard to the bookstore of their choice. I'll let you know about my next contest too. If you enter it again, your participation in this contest will give you an automatic Bonus Point, fyi.

— Josie 

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-v7THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

 In Online Bookstores Now!

Signal Press / 978-0-9740214-4-7 / Digital eBook 

Buy it now, from

Amazon.com

Read an excerpt here…

A Must-Read for any author, novelist, or writer: Lloyd Shepherd’s dialogue with a book pirate.

JackSparrow
I love it when someone tells me they've read one of my books, and enjoyed it.

But let me tell you: I wince inside when they add: "My sister [daughter, girlfriend, whatever] lent it to me."

Admittedly, it also hurts a little when they tell me as much they took it out of a library. But because I too love libraries ( besides being a big user, I also support my library during their fundraising efforts, and by donating books I no longer use) I figure, "Okay, well then maybe they'll buy the next one…and the next one…"

I write because I have to. It's my life. It's in my blood.

And I'll do it for as long as others want to read what I write–and are willing to pay for it.

Aye, there's the rub…

I have to tell you: it kills me when I discover my books are being sold illegally on the Internet.

And no, I'm not fond of the fact that people are file-sharing them, too.

You see, not all pirates are Johnny Depp.

Let me explain something:  I spend months (and in some cases, years) research, plotting, and writing my books. I see only 8 – 12 percent royalties on books that are published via large publishers.That's only $1.14 per book, and that is after I pay back an advance–in which the publisher subtracts any (gulp) returns from bookstores.

On the books I've published myself and put up as digital files that are distributed by online bookstores, I net somewhere between 35- 70 percent of my reasonabe $4.99-$2.99 retail prices. That's only $3.50-$2.10 a book — and I see that, only after I pay a graphic designer, and editor. Let's not forget my taxes.

And I still have to make my rent. And pay for my own healthcare, like every self-employed person.

So, yeah: I'd prefer if you paid for my books.

As would every other author I know.

This isn't a rant. It's a plea. For the few hours of enjoyment you get, shell out what you would for a lunch. Or for that matter, a cuppa joe.

Call it your cuppa Josie.

In this article, which appeared in the UK Guardian, Lloyd Shepherd, who wrote the wonderful novel, The English Monster, put it quite succinctly to one book pirate.

Click onto the article to read the comments.

Guilt sucks. Here's hoping it also works.

— Josie

*Picture: Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

 

HAH Hanging Man V2
The Housewife Asassin's Handbook

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Lloyd Shepherd: My parley with ebook pirates

When the author of The English Monster found a request to pirate his novel circulating on discussion board Mobilism, he decided to respond himself – and was surprised by the results.

My novel The English Monster was published on 1 March. A week later, a Google alert dropped into my inbox with a link to a forum post on a site called Mobilism, on which a character called "Fe2" was offering a reward to anyone prepared to produce a free ebook version of The English Monster for him to use.

Most books these days are pirated in some form or another, and having worked on the web before I was a novelist I was anticipating that with a fair degree of sang-froid. But this was the first piratical move on my book, and it was also an oddity – more an incitement to piracy than piracy itself.

This, I discovered, is how Mobilism works. The site is essentially an enormous discussion board. It started, as far as I can make out, as a place where people made "mobile" versions of games and other stuff and offered them to each other. It now offers mobile (read: pirated) versions of movies and music as well as games. And books. Lots and lots of books.

However, I need to be careful about my terminology, because Mobilism is very, very careful about its own. It states, often, that it does NOT host any files of pirated material on its own servers; it only links to them. It also provides a kind of currency mechanism for people to reward each other for producing pirated material; you earn things called "WRZ$" by posting on the site, and you earn a great deal more by producing versions of content and making them available for other users.

But – and I am being careful to repeat this – these versions are NOT hosted by Mobilism. All that Mobilism requires is that you put your pirated material at a website address where other users can download it, for free, without registration. Mobilism is like a catalogue of links to other people's warehouses. It's an index, not a repository. It's exploiting a characteristic of the legal arrangements around the internet – that you should be able to link to something without becoming liable for it. This is an essential element of what makes the web work. It also allows Mobilism to create entire cathedrals to pirated content, without hosting any of that content itself.

(As an aside, this legal arrangement is now under some attack. Richard O'Dwyer is right now facing extradition to the US to feel the wrath of the Hollywood entertainment industry for building a site that contained thousands of links to pirated material. It's hard to understand why O'Dwyer is attracting this kind of legal firepower, while no one seems to be extraditing Mobilism's owners. Perhaps because, as far as I can see, no one knows who they are.)

Many writers in my position, I know, have gone into a rage when their books are pirated – particularly those with no experience of the legal ways of the internet. How can it be, they yell, that these clowns are stealing my livelihood? And I felt some irritation, of course. But blind anger wasn't getting us anywhere, and here was an opportunity to ask this guy (in my head, he's a guy, although she may well not be) what he thought he was doing. I went on to the forum to put it to him. This is what I said:

So, I'm the author of The English Monster. Can it be that you're offering to pay someone to create an ebook of the book I wrote? I'd be interested to hear your justification for this. For your interest, this book took me two years to write, and represents (on a rough estimate) perhaps 500 hours of work on my part, not to mention the time and effort put in by others to design, print, copy-edit and produce the final version. And you're proposing to pay someone else – someone who had no part in the making of the book – to produce a copy for you. Is there a good reason why you can't pay through normal channels for my book?

Please understand me – I am genuinely interested in what you've got to say about this. This is my first book, and this is my first experience of someone attempting to produce a pirate version of it (I do not use the word "pirate" pejoratively, mind). Is there any reason why I shouldn't expect to be compensated for the time I have put into this?

To my surprise, this attracted a response.

Mr Shepherd, I can tell by your measured reply that you are trying to be as fair and nonjudgmental as possible, so thank you. I am not sure how to answer you – and our messages will no doubt be deleted soon.

Bottom line is, there is no justification or reason that would or should ever satisfy the author of original content. Anyone that tries to make sense of this process (that publishing houses are greedy; that knowledge should be free … just two reasons that I have seen bandied about) is just fooling themselves. There is also a Robin Hood aspect to this, that perhaps you may understand. Either way, I don't think there is a way of putting this digital information era genie back into the bottle.

I wish you every luck in future.

This was the point at which I did, I confess, lose it for a moment. This was such a stupid collection of cliche and childishness. It's the kind of pseudo-anarchist garbage we've come to expect from the more militantly dumb wings of the anti-copyright campaign. I wrote a long reply (you can see the entire discussion here) which said, in summary, that if authors couldn't get compensation for their work there would be no authors, and didn't he know that Coleridge and Wordsworth only wrote Lyrical Ballads to fund a holiday in Germany, and why was he blaming this "digital information era genie" for his own bad behaviour. But, you know, friendly-like.

At this point, two things happened. First, the mysterious powers at Mobilism moved the forum thread from its original location under "ebook requests" to a new place called "fulfilled ebook requests". Meaning, I suppose, that they had recognised I had a problem with what was going on, but didn't want to delete the topic. For this I give them some credit (perhaps in the form of WRZ$).

The second thing was that "Fe2" sent another reply, which again I reproduce in its entirety.

Mr Shepherd, again I thank you for your considered, elegant reply. I felt replying to you was not only appropriate, but mandatory.

A small note in closing, as the thread has been moved (but not deleted – my thanks to the moderator who made that decision): it was not I who advanced those reasons that you read. I do not for one minute think that any author is being "greedy" for wanting payment for their labour, nor do I think all knowledge should be free. In fact, I cannot fathom anyone thinking that, but I wrote it because I have seen some people in other fora write those very reasons as to why they want ebooks without remuneration. Slavery, which is work without payment, was abolished in all civilised lands a long time ago, so I wish said people would read our thread and understand that.

Me, I have lived in Africa and Asia, in such remote locations that it is difficult to get internet, let alone ebooks, even if locals could afford that. Yet I've met some who try to reach for better things in life, such as current or helpful books to read, and find their options curtailed by circumstance. I know it is no excuse, but since you ask for elucidation, that is mine.

I veered from rage to puzzlement. I even wondered if this post was the product of some kind of bot. The reply did posit a reason for this guy's behaviour. There was a sort of psychology at work. But it was pretty thin: he says, for instance, that "I have lived in Africa and Asia", where presumably ebooks are hard to get hold of legitimately, but he says it in the past tense. He doesn't let on where he lives now. As a friend pointed out, he basically seemed to be saying, "Yeah, you're right, but, you know, what's a guy to do?"

I decided to go into the main Mobilism forums and start a new topic, called "Novelist seeking understanding". I asked people to explain how they justified to themselves what they were doing, or whether they even needed to. I also wondered whether they thought what they were doing would damage the culture in the long run, if authors became disincentivised to write. It's had some pretty interesting responses. The reasons and justifications given for pirating ebooks include:

• that sharing a book is great publicity for the author. Lots of quoting of Paolo Coelho and Neil Gaiman here, who've both said this sort of thing recently;

• that people who travel a lot like the convenience of ebooks, and if they already own the book in physical form they feel justified in getting a free copy;

• that this kind of "free sharing" allows people to sample books (again, it's great publicity, is the argument).

Now, two of these are not justifications for freeloading; they're after-effects. If I let people pirate my book, this argument goes, I get publicity and create a "debate" around myself which gets me noticed. Only one point (the second one) is an actual attempt to justify piracy itself.

But all of the people who replied to my original post denied being "freeloaders" – they claimed to still buy books, as many as they ever did, if not more. Their argument seemed to be that Mobilism provided a platform for discussion and, yes, sharing of books – and that this kept up a high level of appetite for, and interest in, new authors.

Obviously missing on the forum were the voices of those "pirates" I had demonised in my own head: the ones who pirate gleefully and indiscriminately, who host vast folders of free content, who give the finger to anyone in a suit and tie and believe they are changing the world one cracked DRM at a time. You know. Pirates.

I'm not naive. I do believe that in the long run I am damaged by piracy more than I am helped by it. I also know that my publisher, on whom I depend for income, support and promotion, is severely damaged by it. On that level, I want it to stop. This feeling is made even stronger by the realisation that Mobilism can sell advertising (and presumably generate a bit of revenue for someone, somewhere) on the back of well-organised and ongoing larceny. Somebody, somewhere is making money from my own labour.

But I see the sense of what the well-mannered people who responded to my question were saying, and I have some sympathy for what Gaiman and Coelho have been saying about piracy – that the more it happens, the more people find out about their books. Neil Gaiman's recent point – that no one buys their first book, they are given it by someone – is a strong one. But then, Gaiman and Coelho are established authors. Is this kind of free-for-all the best way to launch a new author? I simply do not know.

Whatever my own response, publishing as an industry could respond to this. Is there a mechanism that allows people to discuss and share books, sampling them and even giving them away, in such a way that encourages the social appetite for books and reading? Could there be a platform for people to access books in places where local deals have not made them available through traditional channels; a kind of global meta-copyright which stands where no local copyright licence has taken place? How we do either of those things is beyond me, and perhaps beyond anyone. What I can't deny is that my parley with the pirates was more fruitful than I expected it to be, and there's a lesson in that for all of us.

What drives authors crazy? Amazon rankings. Here’s why.

Reading-on-the-beach-007We should both be hitting the beach with a good book, just reading…taking it easy…

In other words LIVING — instead of locked up inside, making a living.

To get my mind out of the fantasy of sand and surf, I've been spending my breaks between writing by   gauging my ranking for TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES on Amazon.com, which thanks to my publisher Diversion Books, has hit the zeitgeist in that online bookstore.

Right now it's at #444 on the category called Amazon Bestsellers/Kindle. But when you consider that there are over 3 million books in Amazon, that ain't too shabby.

What is even more astounding is that in the subcategories, it's ranking is even lower: To wit:

-  #9 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Comic (where I'm bookended by Tina Fey and that guy who wrote "Go the F**K to Sleep")

– #14 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor

– #25 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Romance > Contemporary (Just behind a Nora Roberts book. How sweet is that?)

I feel honored and blessed that so many new readers are discovering it.

I've got to admit, it's a fun read: lots of sex, scandal, and celebrities gone wild. You know, the usual stuff.

If you haven't read it yet, you can read an excerpt here …

Aw hell, for $1.99, just go ahead and buy it, here!

Blatant self promotion,

: )

— Josie

TrueHollywood Lies

"…The tone is confessional, the writing laced with venomous humor…"
–The Wall Street Journal

"Brown captures the humor of working for a megalomaniac…[A] well-paced, entertaining story." –Publishers Weekly

"A fine piece of literary work." –New York Post, Page Six

"Josie Brown does an outstanding job capturing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood living yet illuminating the stark loneliness present beneath the façade.  Filled with good-natured humor and witty repartee…"
–Romance Reader's Connection

Books: must live with them, can’t live without them.

Lots o books 1 Emptying the nest is a bitch. Especially if it's filled with books.

First there is the emotional upheaval that comes with the decision to leave a house which holds so many family memories.

Then there's the physical exhaustion from sorting, packing, hauling, and perhaps dumping stuff you've acculumlated since that day you moved into your once pristine abode.

Add to that the boxing of the things that you simply cannot live without.

In my case, that includes books. And more books. And even more books.

Am I kidding myself when I insist that there are very few things in my life which I consider keepers?

My husband Martin and kids are a given. As to the physical and inanimate,there our family photos; an antique desk; two antique brass lamps, which an aunt brought over from Japan where her husband was stationed there; a few knotty pine pieces (my Georgia roots are showing); a 1930s Coca-Cola sign (again, my Georgia roots are deep and strong); a framed poster of Sausalito, painted by Neil Betts; an original Mid-Century Eames rocker; a few wrought iron pieces–

Oh yeah: and those boxes and boxes of books. 

Twelve years ago we moved in with 44 boxes of them, so I'd say have done a fairly good job of gutting my book collection, along with my psyche. Talk about a book lover's Sophie's Choice! (Don't worry, that was one of the keepers.)

Believe it oro not, I find it harder for my to give away books than to pack them up, yet again.

Boxes of books Before we bought this house, we'd moved five times in ten year, all the while renting. The moves were hellacious, and much more difficult because our kids were young and had their own issues over what to keep or toss. 

Back then I had the dilemma of moving a baby grand piano, too. It had been mine since I was thirteen, and my mother had allowed me to take it from her home when I "settled down," i.e., got married. Based on my pride over it, you'd think I played like Leonard Bernstein. In truth, it was more like Chico Marx, only with all ten fingers. But my meager repertoire of three memorized sonatas did not merit moving that poor piano yet again–

Besides, I needed room for my books. 

So many books, so few boxes. How did we end up with so many biographies about Lincoln? Martin collects books on religion, nutrition, Trollope, and dead presidents. I pride myself on my sets of hardcover novels from John Le Carre, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Martin Cruise Smith.

And there are no bad E.L. Doctorows.

But since we're downsizing, what is allowed to stay couldnt be a longer list than what should go.

This includes a stray Louis L'Amore or two, not to mention a . Son will take the Michael Crightons. Daughter grabs all the Christopher Buckleys. If I need a fix of either, I know where to find them.

Who knew I had a copy of Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse? El Stranger by Camus is in French. Since I don't read in that language, bon soire to it, and ooh la la to that lucky someone who comes across it, next month at my local library's book sale.

Some books got a reprieve because I like the cover as well as the story, (a trade paperback version of Kay Boyle's Year Before Last) or becuase the title intrigues me (Coming of Age in the Milky Way). 

Then there are my humongous research collections. Books on Hollywood filled five boxes, whereas those about my hometown of Atlanta during the turn of the last century fit in just one. And like stoic SS officers, tomes about Nazi Germany lined up dutifully in two of the boxes.  

These tomes are near and dear to me because I'll be writing novels based on all these topics. Besides some of these books are out of print, so it's not like I can buy them in digital form, even if I wanted to…

Okay, the truth now: would I want to?

"Just think how easy our move would be, without all these heavy boxes," Martin wheezed as he and Son lug box after box into two storage closets that, I pray, will be overlooked by the prospective buyers traipsing through our home. 

He didn't hear me gasp. If he had, he'd have called me silly and pointed out that eBooks allow for highlighting an bookmarking and searching — all of which make them comparable to paper books.

And an eReader is so much lighter: by, say, 28 boxes, even more.

But my books are me.

Eventually we'll be storing all our books in a cloud. Okay, I'll admit it: as a writer, that freaks me out. I love running my eyes over my shelves of books until a title, or great spine art, that stops me cold.  I leaf through it, read the opening line, get sucked into the story by an intriguing first paragraph, by an alluring first page…

Am I the only one who thinks books are eye candy?

Forget those twinkling glass chips in the fireplace, or all those tall vases overflowing with roses. To my mind, nothing warms up a home more than a library of books…

But try telling that to your realtor.

Books make a home. Without them, I'm just passing through.

— Josie

Baby Planner Low ResTHE BABY PLANNER – A Novel by Josie Brown

In Bookstores Now!

Chosen as one of the "Top 5 Must-Read Spring 2011 Paperbacks" by SheKnows.com

(Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books) 
ISBN#: 9781439197127 – Trade Paperback
ISBN# 9781439197134 – BN Nook Edition 
ASIN: B0043RSK8U – Kindle Edition

"Brown (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives) takes baby mania to its illogical, hysterical extreme in this bubbly romp. Thirty-seven-year-old Katie's biological clock is ticking like a time bomb, and she turns her baby obsession into a wildly successful consultant gig planning nurseries for pregnant women too rich, clueless, bedridden, or busy to do the task themselves.

Even grieving widower Seth, who works with Katie's child-shy husband, Alex, on a demanding new business venture, needs Katie's services to help him manage his perplexing new role as a single dad. But what begins as a light foray into Bugaboo country turns into something bigger than a satire of status-obsessed Bay Area yummy mummies as Brown takes a dark look at the fears of parenthood and family, with Katie's heartbreaking longing for a child unveiling a disturbing reality about her marriage and family. Still, the message from the somber realities is one full of hope: love makes a family, commitment keeps it together."
–Publishers Weekly

 

 

 

 

 

How the Publishing World Has Changed…or Not

Kirk-scotty While Googling myself (Hey, 'fess up! You do it, too!) I came up with this article, in LiveWires.com, dated April 3, 2009. In it, I was asked: "How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?"

 My answer is below.

Do I still feel it hits the mark? Hell yeah. In a nutshell, my two cents: as online distribution of digitial books grow, the roles of publishers, agents, and book retailers will have to change, in order for these functions to survive. I the article, I  give my suggestionsas to how these change will benefit authors.

Warp speed, Scotty: has anything changed in the year and a half that's passed, to validate my predictions?

Nah. But then again, we all know that the book publishing industry moves as slow as a Ferengi returning a lost wallet. I hope that doesn't get lost in translation.

I'm givin' it all I got, Cap'n,

–Josie


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

JOSIE BROWN ANSWERS OUR QUESTION

LiveWires.com

We are asking a few author friends a question: How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?

Here is Josie Brown’s answer –

“The literary world is beginning to look a lot like the music and entertainment industries, at least as it pertains to the future distribution of its products: online sales and downloads, as opposed to instore CDs and vinyl (music industry), DVDs (film/TV entertainment), or paper (book industry.)

As technology moves by leaps and bounds, all these media are struggling to establish a viable revenue model that fairly compensates those who create the product (writers, musicians, directors) and those who bring it to market.

That said, short of having your book written on Charmin toilet paper, I’m guessing most authors will welcome any and all new media that allows their stories to reach new and or loyal fans–

That is, if the fair compensation model can be upheld.

Aye, there’s the rub.

The advantage to technology is also its Achille’s Heel: pirating copywritten material is very easy to do when it’s put online. The Google lawsuit  and settlement opened up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that we all will be struggling with for quite some time,

The current compensation model used by the original eBook publishers is as follows:

(1) to attract readers, offer  books for a price cheaper than printed ones. This was something they’re able to do since they don’t have printing expenses. And because eBook publishers sell primarily online and promoted their books there as well, they have no shipping expenses, retail discounts, or returns: all of which gouge a publisher’s return on his investment .

(2) To entice authors, pay higher royalty rates: 40-50%,  as opposed to the print standard of 8-15%, depending on formats and formulas–albeit small or no advance. (“We’re all in this together, right? And besides, since New York won’t publish you, we’re your BFF….”)

(3) Pay authors on a monthly basis, as opposed to twice a year. (That’s the real advantage to the digital era.)

Now that eBooks are predicted to be the norm as opposed to the anomaly, traditional print publishers are seriously reconsidering the eBook’s role in their business model. However, this sea change change in product distribution will affect print publishers’ role in an even more profound way:

They will no longer serve as the gatekeepers of what is printed. Their role will shift to that of brand manager: that is build, promote, and manage the brands of their authors their books, both the front and the backlist.

Ideally, promotion will begin much earlier – perhaps even the minute the book’s contract has been signed – and continue much longer than 60 days beyond the launch date. This is a model used in both the music and entertainment industries (both of which have much more expensive production costs) – so why not for books?

(Oooooh…..sorry! I got tingles just THINKING about this!)

And much of this promotion will happen online as well – because much of the traditional media previously used to promote books  – newspaper reviews and magazine excerpts – is also disappearing.

Or going online.

An promotionally aggressive media-savvy author can use this to his/her advantage. Blogging daily and uploading content to your blog that entices daily visits from your fans, utilizing social networks to reach out to them, offering contests and excerpts, posting events  – all of these marketing endeavors define your voice and your brand.

And in partnership with a publishing house which see you as a viable brand and treats you as one, this brave new world will be a great place to sell our books.”

Great article in Fortune: “The Future of Reading”

Fortune
Magazine has done an insightful and well researched article on how we may be
reading in the future. The big question: How will it affect what we read, and
how we buy it . . .

Not to mention, at what price?

I agree with what they say about our loss of journalistic integrity. I see it in the cutbacks in my favorite news media, and in the professorial cutbacks and class furloughs in journalism schools all over the country.

However, having spent a part of my career in advertising, I find it hard to believe that the ads we see alongside the online articles we read are not effective. According to the article below, traditional print ad spending is dropping. But that's due to drops in readership. Some of these same media outlets also have online entities.

I just don't buy the fact that you have to click onto an ad to see it, read it, admire it, and otherwise take in its message. For centuries other media, both print and broadcast ads — newspapers, magazines, radio, television — got us to react and to buy.

Granted, it would be wonderful if advertisers could have the kind of quantifiable data and analysis that the digital age promised. Frankly I think that's the icing on the cake. What they're discounting is that which may not be quantifiable, but qualifiable.

It's dumb to sell consumers (or for that matter, good ad campaigns) short. If the message is clear, and delivered in a manner that provokes a response — either direct or subliminal — then awareness will be created, perceptions will be enhanced, and products will be bought.

Hopefully, many many books will be among them.

—Josie




BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Boswell Books

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

0:00 /4:31Extra! Extra! One newspaper prospers!

Top of Form

Bottom of
Form

Future_of_reading.top

The future of reading

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/09/technology/tablet_ebooks_media.fortune/index.htm


By Josh Quittner / February 11, 2010:
11:05 AM ET

(Fortune
Magazine) — A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden,
unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife's credit card), my
12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.


While
Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French
version of Vogue (inexplicably, she
is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.


Magazines,
books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying.
Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009
alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance.
If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still
craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there's a little new growth
left in old media.


This
tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each
month Clem was excited when Vogue
arrived. She'd rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm
to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear
with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages,
stegosaurus-like.


Over
time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet.
One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my
daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to
annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear,
and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she
tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she
doing it?


"Don't
you get it?" my wife observed. "She's trying to turn the magazine
into a computer."


Et voilà!
Of course she was.


The
more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the
evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is
that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going
all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year
Charles Darwin's grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want
it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.


Raised
to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the
information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow's magazine
subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation
that saves the publishing industry.


Gallery:
10 sages read the future of print


The
better news is that with the arrival of Apple's forthcoming iPad
and other tablet computers
— touch sensitive, full color, easy to watch
video on, network-connected to virtual newsstands and stores — the publishing
industry might once again have a remunerative way of giving it to them.


In
fact, for the past year I've been pushing the theory that the Age of Tablets
will give print media one last bite at the apple — and publishing companies
that are able to make the transition could one day thrive again. I'm so
convinced that it will happen that I've been working with other folks here at
Time Inc. (Fortune's publisher) to create prototypes of digital magazines that
will soon be delivered to tablets and smartphones. So consider this my
apologia.


This
isn't a case of excessive introspection on the part of a media insider: The
future of publishing is fast becoming topic A in business circles. Financiers
who make trades based on access to reliable information fret about the fate of
outlets like the Wall Street Journal
and the Financial Times. Urban
planners worry about what happens to communities if digital books make
libraries obsolete. Nonmedia billionaires, from Mexico's Carlos Slim to real
estate magnate Sam Zell, have invested their own money in newspapers.


No
one can accuse newspapers and magazines of failing to embrace the web. Shortly
after going to Time to write
full-time about the Internet in 1995, I abandoned print and did a stint on the
web. But I soon realized I couldn't do online the kind of long-form journalism
I wanted to do. The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically
spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called
a browser?


Worse,
it was hard to make a buck. While in those early days we were optimistic about
online advertising — the click-through rates were through the roof — it
turned out that users were actually clicking on ads by mistake. Call it poor
mouse control.


The
standardization of ad sizes and placements only worsened the problem,
relegating pitches to the periphery of content, where they are easily ignored.
Revenue growth rates quickly began to tank as it became apparent that no one
looks at ads online. (Name one you've seen in the past week.)


That's
why today online ads bring in junk CPMs — about 10% of the revenue per 1,000
views compared with print. The only new media life form that has managed to
live off those junk-ad rates is the blog, a medium that tends to favor breadth
over depth and cheap opinion over expensive, original reporting.


It's
no wonder that traditional publishing companies have been looking beyond the
"freeconomics" of the web to find new ways to turn a buck. (I'm not
even going to touch on broadcast media or movies here, which suffer from the
same problems.)


The
New York Times has said it will be erecting
a "paywall" on its website
next year and has been working with
Apple (AAPL,
Fortune
500
) to create a new (and, we can safely assume, paid) Times app for the tablet.

Rupert
Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, which
he initially wanted to give away online, is now in full-on pay mode. And
Murdoch is so pissed at Google (GOOG,
Fortune
500
) that he's reportedly been trying to get Microsoft's Bing to pay for
the exclusive right to search and index his publishing empire. As for the rest
of the newspaper business: Good luck, fellas!

Book
publishers, having been tortured by Amazon's attempts to cut them out, are now
running into Apple's embrace and will soon be hawking their e-books on the
iPad, which CEO Jobs unveiled in late January.

The
only media company that's in the money these days is Google, whose $23.6
billion in revenue last year dwarfed the entire magazine industry's. While
Google is paying lip service to how much it loves and respects professionally
produced media, its message is essentially: Adapt or die. Well, we've been
trying to, Schmidty.

Now
along come tablets. Apple's iPad was exactly what we all imagined it might be
— a giant, honking iPod Touch that does what we e-ink-stained wretches want it
to do: It browses the web superfast (thanks to Apple's new, homegrown A4 chip),
displays images and video in throbbing color, and runs downloadable apps that
we can sell.

Even
if consumers fail to stampede to the Apple Store, every major computer
manufacturer, from Hewlett- Packard (HPQ,
Fortune
500
) to Dell (DELL,
Fortune
500
) to Asus and a raft of others you've never heard of, is focusing on the
same form factor, which many people believe will replace not only the laptop
but the desktop too. (Just add wireless keyboard.) ABI Research predicts that
some 58 million tablets a year will be shipping by 2015.


Apple's
announcement — the product will be available in late March — already seems to
be helping the book business: Apple has said it will let publishers set the
price of electronic books for the iPad, something Amazon (AMZN,
Fortune
500
) has refused to do for Kindle books. Now Amazon appears to be
reconsidering its pricing policy.


While
old media can find much to cheer about with the arrival of the Tablet Age,
which promises to smooth old media's transition from paper to digital, the
publishing industry still faces considerable obstacles.


As
I zigzagged from the media capital of New York City to the tech wonderland of
Silicon Valley in my role as tablet evangelist, I sought answers to some of the
larger existential questions my bosses and their brethren will need to address.
Here are the fruits of my labor.


Question
1:
Will anyone
be willing to pay for content delivered to a tablet when they can get information
for free on the web?


Here,
let me quote my longtime sparring partner, Marc Andreessen, who happens to be
the father of the modern web, its greatest advocate, and one of the smartest
cookies in the jar. For years he's been (joylessly) predicting old media's
demise unless it figures out new business models. The tablet is a false
messiah, he argues.


"The
problem is that the successful tablet is also going to have a really good web
browser on it," he tells Fortune.

"So am I going to pay $5 for
something I download through the App Store when I could go on the web — using
the exact same device — to get it for free? Um, the answer to that is
no."


It's
an old argument. We heard the same thing about the music industry, back in the
days when the "music sharing" site Napster allowed people to
"swap" MP3s for free. I myself may have even sinned one or two times.


But
now? I pay $15 a month for a music subscription that lets me listen to
virtually anything, as often as I want. Why do I pay for it when I can still
get music for free from a dozen pirate sites? I'm lazy. My time is valuable.
And the price seems fair. Steve Jobs proved with that first iPod that people
would willingly pay for music when you made it easier to buy than to steal —
especially when the media is linked via a store to a cool, fetishistic device.


A
great device is actually the key here: When you've invested in a tablet (or an
iPhone or a Droid or a Kindle, etc.) and love it, you want to increase its
functionality — with media. That's why nearly half of the 75 million iPhone
and iTouch users download one paid app a month, by the way, when they could get
the same kind of stuff for free elsewhere.


Question
2:
But aren't
tablets just a better way to browse the web?

Almost
certainly, in a few years more people will be browsing the web via a tablet
than on laptops and desktops. Jobs pitched the iPad as a better way to access
the web, in fact. But with the tablet, there ought to be room for great,
downloaded apps that are usable offline too. Again, Andreessen takes issue.


In
fact, he says, there's a real danger if media companies waste precious time
trying to put the genie back in the bottle: "I think that's going to be
three to four years that are going to be really critical in terms of making the
jump to new models. And in this kind of transition, a three- to four-year delay
is really dangerous."


In
fact, he advises, apps aside, don't even put your websites behind paywalls
because you'll be losing your audience and "gutting your advertising
revenue and leaving your market wide open for a competitor." The
competitor, in this case, is a blogger who will simply read your stuff and
repost it in truncated form à la the Huffington Post and so many others.


It's
a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your
headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many
also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would
be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.


Downloadable
textbooks will be among the first paid-content to cross the chasm to the
tablet. A whole generation of readers will cut its teeth on that experience,
and, it stands to reason, they will grow up both browsing for quick hits and
surface understanding while buying the deeper reading experiences.


Question
3:
Reading?
Reading is dead.

Nearly
a decade ago Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired
and a great future-of-business thinker, was so sure that reading was dead that
he, er, pitched a book on the subject. (He never sold that one.) Still, I think
of that these days when I see my daughter Clem communicating with her friends
via video messages on Facebook.


So
I called Kelly recently and was happy to hear that he has revised his opinion
and now thinks reading will prevail — in a wholly different form. It will, he
told me, "become embedded into screens that are full of moving images …
like subtitles in a movie, where you're reading and watching at the same
time."


The
point is, Kelly says, media are changing. As they get mashed up with other
media, newer forms are born.

"Right now digital magazines are in the same
phase that cinema was when it started out just recording plays. They weren't
really movies." Reading will evolve. It's our job to make sure, however,
that magazines adapt along with it.

Isn't
the idea of a magazine irrelevant in the atomized, buy-the-single-not-the-album
world? If that were so, we'd expect to see fewer people reading magazines. But
according to the Magazine Publishers Association, 174.5 million people paid to
subscribe to magazines in 1970; that number has steadily and consistently risen
over the years, to 324.8 million as of 2008. (Paid circulation, another measure
of magazines' health, has seen modest declines recently.)


Okay,
I know how the sausage gets made in this business — you can get almost any
magazine in America for around 50¢ a copy when you subscribe, vs. a newsstand
price that is typically 10 times higher. Publishers, eager to fatten their rate
bases — which ad pricing is based on — have been known to add other
incentives ("a free radio alarm clock!") as well. But even
discounting those shenanigans, it's pretty clear that people still derive value
from curated, packaged collections of content delivered to them.


Magazines
are just vertical collections of content that feed our individual interests.
Like blogs. The trick for publishers will be to figure out how to be
compensated for individual articles as well.


Question
4:
How will
tablet-based ads work better than the web?


Three
words: full-screen ads. Expect to see them reemerge in digital magazines and
other publications — even blogs. These ads actually have the potential to
deliver the best of both the old world and the new: They can have as much
impact and be as relevant as the most compelling TV commercials, with the same
analytics as the web.

While
prototyping digital magazines during the past few months, I've seen new kinds
of interactive ads that are cool and arresting — like highly produced
videogames. While I think most publishers will allow you to skip an ad with a
swipe of your fingers, a 10-inch full-color touchscreen gives the advertiser a
rich enough canvas to grab you by the eyeballs and make its case.


In
fact, I suspect ads will work so well on tablets that even if subscription or
pay-per-read models don't work, many publishers will be able to thrive on
advertising revenue alone.


Question
5:
Can
traditional publishing companies reorganize and move fast enough to embrace and
serve new platforms?


"They've
had 15 years to do so since the commercial browser came out," says Jeff
Jarvis, a reconstructed old media guy (he worked for years here at Time Inc.)
who's now a professor and author of the book What Would Google Do?


"They haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves. The talk we're hearing now is not at all about reinvention and
reimagination — it's again about trying to shoehorn old models of content and
business into this new reality."


Jarvis
is right, of course. Publishing companies haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves so far. That's because the old way of doing business has been
blindingly successful.


Can
you imagine being the operating chief of a newspaper company in, say, 1995 and
having the bright idea to start giving away classified ads? Had you done it,
you would have immediately gone from being a fiercely profitable business to a
highly unprofitable one. Over the next decade, though, you might have been able
to repel Craigslist, which has, in large part, decimated newspapers' revenue stream
by giving away classified ads. But what kind of a nut would have made that call
in 1995?


No,
the people running these companies weren't stupid. It's just that the
"reimagination" called for in the switch to the everything-is-free
web model was untenable and involved gutting multimillion-dollar operations and
giving up millions more of today's revenue on the chance that something would
happen tomorrow. It was spreadsheet-defying logic that looked like the right
thing to do only in hindsight.


The
biggest mistake they made was in ignoring the people who might have been able
to solve their problems in the late 1990s when things went bad: their best
reporters. Instead they tapped consultants and strategists. Publishers of the
greatest newspapers and magazines should have gone to their very best reporters
and deployed them!


The
best reporters I've met thrive on chaos. When men, women, children, and
livestock are fleeing the scene of some unexpected horror, the best reporters
are the ones running in the opposite direction. They all suffer from certain
personality defects — pursuing truth over money, status, personal safety —
that would have served their industry well here.


But
the consultants didn't do any new reporting. They prescribed old, tired fixes
— cost cutting, outsourcing back-office operations — but failed to address
the core problem: Distribution no longer had value.


I
doubt that we'll see publishers dragging their feet as tablets take hold,
because the potential revenue model is clearer. Publishing companies, however,
will indeed need to do more than simply port their print products to the new
tablet-friendly format. And dragging all that baggage from the old world to the
new will almost certainly slow us down. The whole enterprise is focused on
print because that's still where the money comes from. So in some ways, we
continue to face the Craigslist problem.


"The
model of the magazine as we know it is just outmoded," says Kelly.
"It's doomed if we think of it as the magazine we think of now." Instead,
he says, the publishing industry — books, magazines, newspapers — ought to be
approaching the problem of content creation differently. We should be thinking
about selling attention. "Wherever attention flows, money will
follow," he explains. "What shape that takes doesn't really
matter."


In
other words, in the ever-burgeoning universe of media overload, content
creators are battling for a user's time. If a book is a 20-hour call on one's
attention, a magazine might be better defined as a bid for an hour or so of the
consumer's day. "If we think of magazines as an intermediate form — a
read that can last several hours — it has a tremendous future," Kelly
says. "We've just begun to explore what it can do."


I
hope the tablet buys us enough time to finally figure all this out, because
someday I'd like to visit Clem in her office at French Vogue.

Reporter associates: Beth Kowitt
and Christopher Tkaczyk