Sunday, December 06, 2009

The new book cover has arrived


The cover for the new book (in German) has arrived - and I like it. The Fischer-Taschenbuch Catalogue just came out and the new book has four pages in it. Thus it's official: The book is entitled "Nörgeln!" (Nagging - the Art of the Nag"), and if you can;t understand how anyone can write an entire book about the art of nagging, then you're not German. It will be published mid-August 2010. No all I have to do it write it. You can pre-order it from Amazon.de here: Nörgeln!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hooray Part 2

I just sold the right to my second book "Planet Germany" to China!

That means specifically: I sold the Chinese-language rights to the University of Taiwan.

The money I think in the end will be about 200 Euros. But the pride of having a book of my own in Chinese characters that I can't even say for sure that it is my book because I can't identify a single word will be immense.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hooray!

I sold an option to the film rights to my first book Nibelungenreise / Driving through the Dark Ages!

First time that's happened. The money is not much, but it's good to know that my rights have begun to work for me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Time Management for Writers or: Ben Frankin vs. Goethe

In Maira Kalman's wonderful picture-blog for the New York Times she does a nice little thing on Benjamin Franklin and mentions also how Franklin scheduled his working day:

5am - 8am: Wash, get dressed, breakfast, plan the day - "address 'Powerful Goodness' and take the resolution of the day."

8am - 12am: Work

12am - 2 pm: Lunch

2pm - 6pm: Work

6pm - 10 pm: Clean up desk, dinner, diversions and "examination of the day"

10pm - 5am: Sleep.

The schedule is strikingly similar to Goethe's schedule. According to Gero von Wilpert in "Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen: Goethe", it went like this:

5/6am - 10am: "Early coffee" and work

10am - 1pm: "Second breakfast" and administration work like letters

1/2pm: Lunch and nap

After that - about 5pm: Work

Early evening to sundown: Diversions, theater, maybe work

9/10pm - 5am: Sleep.

Benjamin Franklin doesn't say anything about a nap in the afternoon, but it's known that he liked to nap and it's also known that the body has a slump around 2, so I bet he did a bit of power-napping to round off his lunch, though it's not on the schedule. Gothe did, and admitted it.

Here's Franklin's schedule:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Secrets of Jodi Picoult


Good New York Times article about bestseller Jodi Picoult, who writes gut-wrenching weepies about families and child-rearing and whose "My Sister's Keeper" has been filmed: here.

Runaway Brides on TV

My favorite country band - The Runaway Brides - featuring my beautiful niece April - just did a segment for ZDF: You can watch it here (enable pop-ups):

The report here.

The interview/song here.

MySpace with songs here.

(I love these titles - "You only like me when you're drunk"!)

Laura Bean, another band member, also has her own MySpace site with excellent country songs of her own here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Great Jack Vance


Good story about the great Jack Vance, now 92, living in San Francisco, here. I love Vance for his persistant cynicism and his sweet, mysterious language. And it's a tragedy that he is so underrated.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Secret of Success

"I write happy books about good people."

- Janet Evanovich in an interview in the New York Times.

I love that quote and I suspect it's a quote to live up to as a writer.

There was something else in her interview that intrigued me: She said her murder mysteries are about family. Her heroine, Stephanie Plum, is not a genius, but she relies on a group of friends, family and associates (and a little luck).

It is probably true of any kind of story but it is certainly true of murder mysteries that the story is really always about something else. It’s not about the murder – those are a dime a dozen – it’s about the way the character finds a way through life, or about right and wrong, or about friendship or about family. (Lonesome Dove, for example, was not about the West, it was about friendship.) These are the things that truly interest us, that we understand and want to understand. The horror of murder, the details of the crime and the puzzle that has to be solved are all trappings. They interest us too, but in the end they are arbitrary. What touches our hearts and minds is something else.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why I Love My Country #571



Photo taken in a strip mall parking lot in Salem, Oregon in July, 2009. Astrid's comment: "That's one of the great things about your country. If you give the people the right to say anything they want long enough, eventually they will say everything you need to know about them."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rediscovering Safsten Road

Safsten Road from Front:Mysterious mortar brick shack on Safsten Road, swallowed up on blackberry brambles:Safsten Road from End:

Goodbye, Dad

Kipling & Holmes

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Die Book Party in Berlin!


Alle sind eingeladen!

Feiert mit uns unseren neuen Roman "Nibelungenfieber".

Astrid und ich lesen vor, dann spielen unsere Freunde
Dr. Hank und die wilden Kamehamehas!

Eintritt: 3 Euro (für die Band)

Wir werden ein paar Bücher verschenken, tanzen, vielleicht mit dem einen oder anderenbrutal armdrucken, etc. Es wird eine Menge Spass machen, wir freuen uns, wenn ihr kommt!

Samstag, den 23. Mai ab 20:30 in Tapas-Restaurant La Luz
Oudenarder Str. 16-20, Wedding
5 Minuten von U-Bahn Seestr.
Tel. 030 / 450 89 230
www.laluz.de

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nibelungenfieber ist da!

Unser neuer Roman Nibelungenfieber steht endlich im Laden und auf Amazon.de!

Wir haben es zusammen geschrieben - Astrid Ule und ich - und es handelt von einer kleinen Stadt im Odenwald, die auf die abwegige Idee kommt, der historische Schatz der Nibelungen liege unter ihrem Boden begraben.

Der Spass ist, was dann passiert:

- der größenwahnsinnige Bürgermeister dreht durch;
- der Stadtrat auch, aber in der anderen Richtung;
- der Kleinstadtintellektueller kriegt die Krise;
- und die nächste Großstadt, Worms, der das alles nicht gern sieht, entschließt sich, durchzugreifen.

Es macht eine Menge Spass - wir haben versucht, ganz Deutschland in den kleinen Kaff zu quetschen.

Wir hoffen, es gefällt!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Learning from India


It's time for us to admit it: India is a world power. Smaller still than the US, but bigger than Germany, and people are getting more and more familiar with its culture(s).

So it's time to start learning Indian. My suggestion is to start with "Jugaad." It's a good word. I read it for the first time in an interview with Vikas Swarup, the Indian diplomat and author of "Q&A", the novel on which "Slumdog Millionaire" is based. He describes the word thus:

"Jugaad means to get the job done, somehow or other. It’s really the spirit of India. My phone recently had water damage and I gave it to the Nokia dealer. He said, “No can do. Can’t be fixed. Just buy a new phone.” If that had happened in India, some local guy in a little shop would have cloned an old Samsung or Motorola or whatever, and five minutes later, “Here you are Mr. Swarup, it works!” They would never say it cannot be done. Jugaad is the spirit of whatever-it-takes. That’s India. And that’s the spirit of those kids."

(Complete interview here.)

Learn this word and use it. You need it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Warum ich kein Intellektuelle bin


Es gab eine Zeit, als ich Intellektuelle noch mochte. Diese Zeit endete schnell, als ich nach Europa kam und welche kennenlernte.

Es dauerte eine Weile, bis ich ihre Sprache verstand,doch als ich endlich dahinter kam, was sie sagten, war ich enttaeuscht: Da war nicht viel. Ihre Themen waren kleinlich, gruppenspeziell und insgesamt irrelevant; ihre Meinungen waren klischee - es gibt heute kaum eine Meinung, die ich nicht schon in den 80ern hoerte, und auch damals waren sie nicht neu. Ich fand sie formverliebt und inhaltsleer, gesellschaftlich anbiedernd und erfindungsarm, und noch was:

Es waren die gleichen Intellektuellen, die in der ersten Hälfte des letzten Jahrhunderts die beiden Zwillingskatastrophen Faschismus und Kommunismus foerderten - zum Teil durch aktive Hilfe, zum Teil durch Nichtstun, immer durch eine Parteilichkeit, die von Trends bestimmt war und nicht vom unabhängigem Nachdenken und Hinterfragen.

Ich sage das alles, weil es diese Woche ein schoener Essay in der NYT erschienen ist ueber C.P. Snow und seine alte Theorie von der Spaltung der "zwei Kulturen" - Wissenschaft und Literatur (Artikel hier). Man kann auch sagen, zwischen Wissenschaft und Kultur insgesamt. Und er hatte recht. Während Wissenschaft relevant und modern bleibt und fuer unsere Gesellschaft lebenswichtig, bleibt die Kultur heute genauso, wie sie im 18. Jahrhundert war, als sie erfunden wurde: ein Statussymbol fuer die gebildeten Schichten. Das gilt für Kunst, die nur Reiche kaufen und Museen kaufen (und verstehen) und das gilt für Literatr, die keine Relevanz zum Leben hat und nichts Neues sagt, aber das in einer schönen Sprache (die nur den gebildeten und reichen Schichten zugaenglich ist).

Vor einigen Monaten ist Michael Crichton gestorben, und ich habe mich sehr ueber den eingebildeten Nachruf von Charles McGrath in der NYT geargert: Dort wurde immer wieder hervorgehoben, dass Crichton nicht gerade ein Literat war. Das wussten wir ale schon, aber was nicht gesagt wurde, ist seine Verdienste:

Er hatte den Mut und das harterworbene Wissen, einem normalen Publikum wissenschaftliche und politische Neuentwicklungen beizubringen, an die sich sonst kein Literat sich traute. Während die grossen Schöngeistigen Autoren sich immer noch mit ihrer Kindheit in "dysfunctional families" beschaeftigten und sich über den Zerfall der Werte (des 18. Jahrhunderts) aufregten, kam einer daher, erforschte die wirkliche Welt, und brachte sie uns bei.

Das ist Literatur wie sie heute sein soll: Relevant, modern und zugänglich. Alles andere ist eingebildet, faul und feige.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Deutsche Sprache Verwirrende Sprache


Die Deutschen sind irgendwie stolz darauf, dass sie eine klare, logische Sprache haben. Sie sind immer verwirrt über die Vielzahl von Möglichen im Englischen, ein Wort auszusprechen und meinen, "Das ist auf Deutsch anders."

Ich finde aber Deutsch unnötig verwirrend.

Letztens ging ich mit einem Freund spazieren und er sprach vom "nächsten Samstag."

Ich dachte, ich wusste was er mit "nächsten Samstag" meinte, doch dann fragte ich mich: "Warum sagt er 'nächsten' Samstag und nicht einfach 'Samstag'? Gibt es ein Unterschied?"

"Das ist genau das gleiche", sagte er. "Mit 'nächsten Samstag' meine ich 'kommenden Samstag.'"

Das machte mich kirre. "Meinst du mit 'kommenden Samstag' einfach 'Samstag' oder ein anderer 'Samstag'?"

Das war ihm zu viel. "Wenn ich 'kommenden Samstag' sage, dann meine ich 'kommenden Samstag', und wenn ich 'nächsten Samstag' sage, dann meine ich nächsten Samstag', und wenn ich 'Samstag ' sage, dann meine ich 'Samstag.'"

Ich versprach, beim nächsten Mal genauer auf seinen Wortlaut hinzuhören. Aber bevor wir uns am darauf folgenden Samstag trafen, rief ich ihn an und erkündigte mich diskret, ob ich auf den richtigen Tag hatte.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Finally, Germany is doing something

Finally, Germany is doing what it's supposed to be doing.

Merkel has joined Sarkozy at the G20 in an effort to force the US and everyone else into accepting stricter regulations of the international monetary market.

The Germans know how to regulate markets - they are very conservative and generally afraid of everything that moves, so they make good regulators. Americans are too enamored by the promise of riches to regulate anything, with the argument that regulations hinder growth.

Both sides are right, or course, but up to now Merkel has been so passive internationally (Germany, the biggest economic power in Europe, has been passive since Kohl left office), but the whole point of opposing point of views is for them to meet halfway and for each side to keep the other side from going too far.

It's the American system of checks and balances on an international level, but it only works if a country like Germany does it's checking and balancing part.

It surprised me that Merkel is really standing up to Obama - or to anyone. In the end, a compromise will be reached, I just hope she sticks to her guns enough so that it's a good compromise.

(Maybe she will have to give into the Americans on the stimulus issue a little bit, but I see no problem with Merkel coming down off her high horse and spending a little more on stimulus packages - Germany has the money to burn, she is just worried about the next election. She is afraid of doing what Kohl had the guts to do - he just went in, swallowed up East Germany and was willing to take a lot of crap when the Germans finally figured out it wasn't going to be for free. But he had the guts to take the crap in the first place, and now Germany is a unified country. Now it's Merkel's turn to make a tough decision and take some crap, including maybe losing the next election.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The German State And How It Makes Money

Again and again I am impressed with the Germans. They know how to make money. Take the German government, for example. One of the big issues in Germany now, with the financial crisis and all, is high income and bonuses of managers. Everyone is worried about it, more than anyone the politicians, who know an opportunity when they see one. In fact, you could say that the politicians almost seem convinced that they way to solve the financial crisis is not to actually solve the financial crisis, but to limit managers from making so much money.

Theoretically, if managers make less money, that money can staying the company and either go to higher employee salaries or to reinvestment. Lucky for the German government, however, the constitution will not allow you to tell a company how to invest its money or even how much you can make a year. To you and mean, that would seem to say that the government has no business telling a company what to pay its managers, no matter how unfair. But German politicians see this constitutional limitation as an opportunity – an opportunity to make more money for the government.

The current plan, put forth by the liberal SPD and being opposed by the conservative CDU, is to tax high manager salaries and bonuses. It’s a brilliant plan. It won’t discourage companies from paying high salaries –they have to do something to get those managers, after all, or the competition will get them – and it won’t put that money into the hands of the non-management employees or even force companies to reinvest it.

But it will put more money into the pockets of the government. And of course they have popular support for it, because somehow the people think that the important thing is not whether that manager-money goes back into the company or into the pockets of normal people, but only that companies are punished for throwing out the window.

You have to hand it to these guys. They really know what they’re doing. Already, sales tax is near 20% and the German takes in more money compared with its GNP than most other states in the world, and if this plan works, they’ll take in even more. It’s something they really know how to do. I wish I knew how to do that.