Category Archives: Foreign Sales/Editions

They Get It

In an off moment I decided to do a little experimentation and figured out how to surf Google Russia using (what else?) Russian. I went to one of the Russian web sites that mentions my books, copied my name to the clipboard, and since I installed Cyrillic on my Mac as a system font, it was able to paste the right characters into the search pane at

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, or even if I was expecting anything at all. I’m a realist at heart, and I frequently recall Wesley’s admonition from The Princess Bride: “Get used to disappointment.”

So I clicked the Russian equivalent of Search and got a whole bunch of hits. Clicked on the first one, expecting a book store listing.

Instead I got a review of Boddekker’s Demons. One I’d never seen. And it was quite enthusiastic, once I’d run it through Babelfish or Paralink.

Well, this is interesting, I thought. So I tried another one. Another review. And another. Before long, I’d collected half a dozen reviews for one or the other Pembroke Hall books, all from news or literature web sites. This was, I should note, more than I saw ten years ago when the books were coming out in my native tongue (and while I’m at it, let me add to that – I’ve also gotten more response from Russian readers about these books than from English-speaking readers).

Not all of the reviews were positive – at least from what I could tell given the torturous translations that Babelfish and/or Paralink put them through (the former seemed to be the most understandable, but crashed more – the latter was more reliable, but missed more words).

Here’s some of what I found, with highlights:

And No Happy Ending!” Critic Anna Andersen delights in Boddekker’s Demons, and in the comments section a fake Joe Clifford Faust writes in and offers to write a new novel for her. So I put in a comment saying that I was much nicer than the impostor made me out to be. This one came out the clearest in all of the translations, which speaks volumes for Anna’s writing ability.

Their urine, reptiles!” The Bookshop Window, which previously gave a nice nod to Ferman, tackles Boddekker, saying it was as if the two books were part of the same story (!). The strange headline (“Their urine, reptiles!”) is repeated at the end of the review along with some words that didn’t make the trip into English. I suspect it was a Russian idiomatic version of one of the parodistic catch phrases in the novel.

The given novel is a fertile field” is a reader’s review that concludes that Ferman is a “desirable read” with something for everyone.

one calorie for the mind” This was the most difficult to understand of all the articles, again, probably because of the original source. It isn’t a positive review, but it didn’t seem to be blisteringly negative, either. I don’t think. I’m not sure.

Who is Guilty?” This is a scholarly article about two recently published books with similar themes: Ferman and a British novel called Popcorn by Ben Elton. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Mr. Elton is a writer best known (in my frame of reference, anyway), for his work with Rowan Atkinson on Mr. Bean and the Blackadder series. Which thrills me to death.

What’s fascinating about this is that every review digs down into the book. The English language reviews I got talked about superficial things in the books, but these dig down into themes and influences and meanings. Since the Devils live in a demolished church building, they are in essence fallen angels. People flock to buy the products they advertise, but the irony is that they’re not an authentic street gang, not really – only Ferman could be considered a true street kid. As an author I applied the “pamphlets of my religion” to ad culture… the list goes on.

This whole thing thrilled my daughter. She’s fresh into literary novel awareness after being forced to endure Beloved by Toni Morrison, so she was grilling me about some of this last night: “Did you put that meaning into the book?” “No” “See! It’s a literary novel!” She couldn’t wait to get to school this morning so she could tell her English teacher that her Father was a literary figure in Russia (and she’s ready to pack her bags and go over).

My wife and I discussed this a bit last night. Part of it might be the whole “prophet without honor” thing, wherein I had to find an audience outside of my native tongue to be appreciated. That it happened in Russia is delicious. They’re new to the whole concept of capitalism, and from what we’ve gathered from talking to some natives we know, they admittedly have a streak in them that celebrates, or perhaps is simply fascinated by, suffering (for example, in Moscow On The Hudson, Robin Williams gives a brilliant little speech about how they embrace their misery and keep it as their own).

Whatever the reason, I’m still trying to keep this all in proper perspective. It’s nice to have the books appreciated and what I was understood – it’s like finally, someone “gets it.” Yeah, I know that no doubt there are people here who “got it.” But these folks are writing about it.

My wife said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Russians ended up being the ones who make the books into a movie?”

Funny, yes. Ironic, yes. And fitting somehow, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it has something to do with the reptile urine.

And to Anna Andersen, who responded to my impostor-debunking comment, I say: I love you as a cat sour cream, too.

Listening: Ben Folds Five, “Don’t Change Your Plans” (via iTunes shuffle play)



I love this cover.

The toilet paper on the first volume was a lark. But man, oh man, does this one ever capture the tenor of the book.

I feel like writing to AST to see if, perhaps, perchance, they have made posters out of this one for bookstores, and if so, could I please have a couple?

Couldn’t you just see a version of this hanging at the local cineplex, plastered up next to all of the posters for sequels and comic book movies and old TV series films? Or maybe outside of the arthouse theater where you’re going to see it – in Russian, with subtitles?


Did I mention that I love this cover?

Performance Art Eat

The holidays continue, but this interruption was worth it. I spent the evening painting Christmas cookies with my wife and daughter. We haven’t done a lot of that… our big painting project is usually doing Easter Eggs. But I carried my tradition of doing oddball artistic things with the eggs over to the cookies (for example, I painted one Santa figure in Superman colors, complete with the red “S” and painted a reindeer to look like Madonna… don’t ask). I figure it’s as close to performance art as I’ll ever get; the cookie or egg gets looked at for a short time and then is eaten.

My wife has a whole theory about cooking as performance art, by the way, and she is a real artist in this area. She’s great at improvising recipes and she never writes anything down. Sometimes she recreates a recipe, but many times it’s, “Enjoy this, it’s the only time you’ll ever get it.”

I got my Russian contract for the PH novels notarized and mailed off from work, and came home to find a package from my agent. This contained my three author’s copies of the Russian translation of Desperate Measures. They’re hardcovers that are bigger than our paperbacks, but are a little smaller than trade paperbacks.

The foreign language versions of my books fascinate me. The Japanese translations looked properly foreign, but this Cyrillic alphabet is a strange thing. It looks as though I ought to be able to read it… but I can’t. What is really interesting is that I am familiar enough with the books that I could pick out some character names and figure out what sounds some of the Cyrillic characters made. For example, what looks like BOHH is the character name Vonn.

Okay, maybe I spent more time than I should have looking at the pages of this thing instead of writing. Permit me this day that weakness. The novelty will wear off soon, or at least until something I’ve written is picked up in yet another language. Or the next Russian edition comes in.

Meantime, tomorrow I’ll scan and upload the cover so it can be seen through the Desperate Measures page of the main site.

What Comes Next

By the time I got to the computer to write I was absolutely dead tired and didn’t want to start because What Comes Next is on the heels of writing that I originally Wasn’t Happy With, and I thought I was too weary to give it the strength it needed.

I don’t know what the deal is. Is it that I’m having trouble adjusting to winter this year? Perhaps I’m still dead tired after my stint as Santa Claus yesterday, over 600 visitors in four hours. Also, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been visiting the chiropractor because I messed my arm up while cementing the wall on the goat pen.

Maybe it’s just the cumulative effects of that, of the really bizarre dreams I was plagued with over the weekend, of the Holiday madness, and of visiting a sick friend in the hospital (I don’t do hospital visits well at all; I tend to get sick out of sympathy; I’m just not good at dealing with infirmity).

Aside from that, writing things are going well. More notes found their way into the Palm. At this rate, all I’ll have to do is write connecting sentences because everything else will be in place. I also received a double dose of good writing fortune.

First, I got the contracts that I need to sign and return to my agent for the Russian version of the Pembroke Hall novels. They’re interesting because they take up two columns of a page; the left is in the Roman alphabet (ours) and the right is Cyrillic.

Second, I received what may be my best fan e-mail ever, which said: I love this book, ‘Handling It’. I have to say, I have never read a book other than a book I needed to read for school or something. This book has inspired me to start reading other books, but none have ever been as good as this one.

I always enjoy the fan mail I’ve gotten in the past, where people say they were late for work or stayed up late because they wanted to finish one of my books. But to be told that I actually influenced someone to take reading more seriously? Not only is that flattering… it’s also a little scary. My new fan also asked for suggestions on more things to read, and Mark Twain was on the list, along with some contemporary stuff that was thematically similar to the PH novels.

There’s another new addition to the Relevant section off to the left: OneWord. It forces you to take a cue from Sean Connery’s character in Finding Forrester: “Don’t think… WRITE!” It does this by prompting you with one word and then giving you sixty seconds to write about it. When the clock runs out, your keyboard freezes and you go to another screen, where you can post your results for all to see, plus view what others have done.

Naturally, I tried it out. But I didn’t feel like posting it at OneWord. Instead, I thought I’d share what I did here.

Today’s prompt was Champion.

I wrote:

He raised his hands, listening to the roar of the crowd. it was his time, his moment. but wait, what was this? who was that coming? someone, he wasn’t sure? a woman? and what was that in her hand. And the look on her face. Why did it look so familiar? he didn’t know. he q

Okay, Shakespeare it ain’t. But you try writing and making a logical decision (not to capitalize the beginnings of sentences because using the caps key took too much time) in a mere 60 seconds. Seriously, try it. It’s quite a rush.

NP – Nothing; I just realized that I forgot to put on a CD. I must be tired.