sneak peek at “Rizzoli & Isles”

Here’s a video clip from the upcoming TV show “Rizzoli & Isles.” Angie Harmon plays Jane and Sasha Alexander plays Maura.

Enjoy! (But first you have to sit through an ad.)

galley blindness

I am in my second read-through of the ICE COLD page proofs, otherwise known as the galley. For those unfamiliar with the publishing process, this is the last chance I’ll have to correct any typos and errors. If I don’t catch them this time, they will end up in the final book. This book has already been proofread multiple times.

First, when I turned in the manuscript.
Second, by the line editor.
Third, by me after I made the editor’s suggested revisions.
Fourth, by the copyeditor.
Fifth, by me when I read and approved the copyeditor’s changes.

Now I’ve got the final version, and by golly, I’m still finding typos. Nothing major, mind you — just a period that should be a comma. Or a word left out here and there. Or a word repeated twice in the same paragraph. Or a paragraph accidentally split into two. Still, it boggles my mind that I could have missed these errors on all my previous read-throughs.

Reading galleys is a tedious process that requires complete focus and lots of coffee breaks. And you can’t let yourself get caught up in the plot, because you’ll miss those typos.

Real authors, real stories of publication

This is an absolutely fascinating survey of published authors — how they sold their first books, how long it took them, and how they chose their paths to publication. It’s a must-read for any aspiring authors. Kudos to fantasy author Jim C. Hines for compiling it!

As for the results, I am absolutely average in my own path to publication. I fit right in with the other authors he surveyed.

“Rizzoli & Isles” now up on the TNT website

TNT now has a page for the upcoming TV series. Just a little information there so far, but I’m looking forward to seeing more features as the premiere date gets closer. The gals look fabulous, don’t they?

New interview posted

Where I talk with blogger Raila Soares.

Charles Pellegrino and the myth of the author

Recently I’ve been following, with a sense of dismay, the news coverage of Charles Pellegrino and what may — or may not — be the myth behind the man. Pellegrino is a well-known author of both fiction and nonfiction books, many of them centered on scientific topics. HIs recent book, Last Train from Hiroshima< has become mired in controversy because a source quoted in the book (who claimed to be aboard one of the bombers) turned out to be a fraud. Since then, the book has been examined with a fine-tooth comb by critics searching for errors and fabrications. And now Charles Pellegrino himself has been scrutinized, and questions raised about whether he was truthful about his own scientific credentials.

I’m watching the whole sorry spectacle with great sadness, because I am a fan of Pellegrino’s. I have been ever since I read a novel of his called Dust, an apocalyptic story about how the world could end if all insect species died. Although there were novelistic exaggerations, he made me suspend my disbelief and I was totally swept up in the story. I loved the fact he made scientists the heroes, not the villains, and every page was an homage to scientific principles. Ever since, I’ve followed his work, and enjoyed his books on archaeology and his commentary on Jim Cameron’s TV show, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.”

I hope there’s a logical explanation for the discrepancies in Pellegrino’s biography. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But there have been too many authors who have padded their resumes or life stories, and I’m getting that sinking feeling that Pellegrino may be one of them.

I can understand how it happens to a writer. It starts when you pitch your first book, and maybe you tell the publisher a little white lie about your background, to make the story more sellable. Publisher buys the book, and suddenly that lie is part of your official bio. Then you go on book tour and the media interviews start, and you fudge a little bit more. Instead of being a PhD candidate, suddenly you say you’ve actually got the PhD. Or you claim that you were a principal investigator on a research project when really, you were just one of the grad students. Or, to make your own rather boring life more dramatic, you start to elaborate. The mother who got occasionally tipsy transforms into an abusive drunk. Or your little run-in with the police as a teenager becomes a harrowing weekend in jail. Writers are good at imagining drama on the page, so why not insert a little drama in your own bio?

Sometimes, you’re the unwitting victim of unreliable reporting. I remember a conversation I had with LaVyrle Spencer years ago, when she laughed about the rumors circulating among her readers that she was raising llamas. She had no idea how the rumor started, and it was most certainly untrue. But it became “common knowledge” that she was a llama farmer.

Then there was the time I was a guest (along with about 10 other romance authors and romance cover models) on the Sally Jesse Raphael show. Sally turned to me and said something along the lines of, “I understand you’re a graduate of Stanford medical school and you’re a cardiac pathologist and a mother of three.” None of that was true. But there I was on live national TV, and was I going to waste time correcting everything in the sentence by answering, “No, Sally, I graduated from UC San Francisco and I’m a specialist in internal medicine and the mother of two, and where the hell did you get your information?” So all I got out was, “I graduated from UCSF.” But I can see how the audience would conclude that I really must be a cardiac pathologist and the mother of three.

Novelists are held up to far less scrutiny than nonfiction authors. Everyone knows we just make up our stories. But if your professional background is precisely what makes your stories marketable — a former spy who writes spy novels, or a doctor who writes medical thrillers — then you damn well better be truthful about it.

What would Jane Rizzoli eat?

Check out my blog on Murderati, where I talk about the role of fictional food in defining characters.

ICE COLD now to be published on 6/29

Because of the anticipated publicity for TNT’s new TV show, “Rizzoli & Isles,” Ballantine has decided to move up my publication date a full month earlier, to June 29. Mark it on your calendars!

What’s your Lexile index?

While cruising through the Barnes and Noble site recently, I noticed something I’d never seen before on the page for my book, Gravity. There was something called a Lexile number, and mine was 730L. What the heck was that, I wondered. So I clicked on the link and found this explanation:

A child’s grade level and reading ability are two different things. That’s why a Lexile® measures the child’s ability based on reading comprehension, not grade level. A Lexile (for example, 850L) is the most widely adopted measure of reading ability and text difficulty. Lexile measures are valuable tools that help teachers, librarians, parents and children select books that will provide the right level of challenge for the child’s reading ability—not too difficult to be frustrating, but difficult enough to encourage reading growth. A child typically receives a Lexile measure by taking a test of reading comprehension, such as the Scholastic Reading Inventory, the Iowa Tests, and many end-of-grade state assessments. The Lexile measure of a book is based on word frequency and sentence length, and is displayed on Barnes & Noble.com product pages. The higher the Lexile measure, the more difficult the text is likely to comprehend.

To learn if Lexile measures are available in your area, contact your school district or state department of education. For more information on Lexile measures, visit www.Lexile.com.

Please note: A Lexile measures text difficulty only. It does not address the subject matter or quality of the text, age-appropriateness of the content, or the reader’s interests. Parents are encouraged to preview all reading materials.

So what did it mean, that Gravity had a Lexile number of 730? I hopped on over to the Lexile site, to compare where my book stood against others, and was surprised to find out that, according to Lexile, Gravity has a reading difficulty akin to an average book in the Nancy Drew series, making it appropriate for readers from age 8 to 12. Which astonished me, considering the fact that Gravity is so full of NASA and engineering terminology that it requires a glossary to explain the vocabulary. I then did a search of my other titles and found that my medical thriller Harvest was rated even less difficult to read, at 620. And that is chock full of complicated medical terms.

Then I noticed that Lexile numbers for mystery authors are all over the place. Robert Parker’s in the 500’s. Patricia Cornwell and Michael Crichton have similar Lexile numbers to mine, in the 700’s. Dean Koonts’s books have Lexile numbers over a thousand. Nathaniel Hawthorne beats us all with a Lexile of 1340. Astonishingly enough, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, a book written in the voice of a child, told in charmingly simplistic terms, rates a Lexile of 1180.

What does it all mean, anyway? Does a low score mean we’re simplistic writers? Or does it mean we write with more clarity, making our books easy to comprehend? Does it mean that a school kid who reads our books will get less credit because our books aren’t considered difficult enough?

Or does it mean our books are more likely to be assigned in schools because librarians feel our writing is appropriate to students?

ICheck the site and see if your own books are listed on the site. You can do a search by writing in the author’s name.

I found more information on Lexile here. It offers a grade-equivalent of the Lexile text difficulty scores. And yep, according to the chart, my books are for appropriate for kids from Grades 3 – 5! I had no idea that Harvest was a young adult book!

How much do books cost to produce?

A terrific article in today’s New York Times shows a cost analysis of producing paper books vs. e-books:

At a glance, it appears the e-book is more profitable. But publishers point out that e-books still represent a small sliver of total sales, from 3 to 5 percent. If e-book sales start to replace some hardcover sales, the publishers say, they will still have many of the fixed costs associated with print editions, like warehouse space, but they will be spread among fewer print copies.

Moreover, in the current print model, publishers can recoup many of their costs, and start to make higher profits, on paperback editions. If publishers start a new e-book’s life at a price similar to that of a paperback book, and reduce the price later, it may be more difficult to cover costs and support new authors.