Saturday, December 17, 2005

Where to find Dog Culture now that people are looking

There seems to have been a run on copies of Dog Culture this week, thanks to the review in The Week. So if you are looking for a copy, here's what I can tell you:

Amazon: Sold out of new copies of both the paperback and the hardcover; a few used copies available, plenty of used paperbacks.

Barnes and Noble: Sold out of the hardcover; some new paperbacks still available.

Powells: three paperbacks left; sold out of all hardbacks and all used copies.

Strand: four used hardcovers available this morning.

If you live in New Orleans: copies are available at Beth's Books next to Sound Cafe.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Dog Culture" featured in The Week

Andrew Blauner, an agent (but not mine) and editor of a new anthology called Coach, was asked to pick his six favorite anthologies for The Week--a magazine that mostly reprints journalism from the past week. My first dog book--Dog Culture--made the list! Here's what he says:

"Dog Culture edited by Ken Foster (Lyons Press, $17). The writers showcased here are writing not just about their own dogs but on dogs as social lubricant, and other such themes. The collection kicks off with “What Coco Ate” by National Book Award finalist Rene Steinke, and also features excellent pieces by Nicholas Dawidoff, Annie Bruno, and Pearl Abraham. Made me miss my old collie, Drummer."

Amazon brands me illegitimate

In August Amazon began a new program in which authors can sell short works--essays and stories--exclusively on Amazon for 49 cents a piece, sharing the proceeds with a 40/60 split. This intrigued me. Just a few months earlier they were illegally offering a non-existant digital download of my entire story collection. Readers of this blog may recall the inane amount of communication required to get them to stop. So I figured why not give them something to sell. I have a stack of short stories that I wrote last year, and actually submitting them to magazines is an exhausting process that requires driving across New Orleans to find a functioning post office--or submitting online, paying a fee (to the Missouri Review for example, which charges $2) and getting no response.

So I contacted Amazon Shorts and got an automated response informing me that someone would contact me within three days. Weeks passed. Nothing. I contacted them again. This time, eventually, I got an email detailing all of the selling points of participating in the program. All I needed to do, according to this email, was send a story to the designated email, someone named John Hart. Shortly before sending this email, someone from Amazon came to my website to snoop around.

So I sent a story called "Feral Children," which Frederick Barthelme had liked last spring. In fact, he said "If this isn't published in two weeks..." Meanwhile, having submitted it to Amazon, I got the standard no response. Finally, I decided to email John Hart, and I got an immediate reply:

"Thank you for your submission and interest in Amazon Shorts. Unfortunately, we have decided not to include your work in our program at this time. We appreciate the time and effort you've taken to submit your writing. However, it does not fit the type of material we are currently adding to Amazon Shorts.
In the future we may extend the framework and criteria for the program. We will keep your name and contact information on file in the event that this changes. Good luck in your future writing pursuits. Please feel free to submit any other work you would like to be reviewed.
Sincerely,
johnhart@amazon.com"

Type of material? Framework and criteria? According a spokesperson quoted in Poets and Writers Magazine: "We're not judging quality. We're just looking at some very basic elements tomakesure that it's a legitimate piece of content for offering through the program." I decided to go back to the Shorts page and try to decipher what this meant. This is what I could gather: aside from a few isolated contributions from the legitimate Daniel Wallace, Terese Svoboda, and maybe Ann Beattie, they seem to prefer shorts by Danielle Steele and any number of contributers to mystery and chick lit anthologies. Ooops!

Note to aspiring writers: Danielle Steele is legitimate literature. Stories about children raised by animals: totally illegitimate.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ode (not old!) to a blue merle pit bull

Yesterday I went back to the Lousiana SPCA for the first time since Thanksgiving. For a few hours in the morning we sat out on folding chairs in the sun and received training on animal handling from the Nebraska Humane Society. What was most interesting to me was their demonstration of several dog catching tools that they make themselves, including a snare made of a metal pole, a car antenna and nylon rope. Why do they make them instead of buying manufactured tools? Because they want to ensure the safety of the animals. The other interesting fact was that they operate with hundreds of employees and volunteers. The Louisiana SPCA has a handful of each right now.

Other LA SPCA news: they plan to stay at their current, temporary location for two years, while building a new facility elsewhere.

Afterwards, we went into the kennels to practice evaluating the body language of the animals, and I met my latest dog crush, a blue merle pit bull. It was gorgeous, and seemed to appreciate being told so. But then the volunteer behind me looked down and said, "You're ugly!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

You get used to it after a while


Warehouse ruins
Originally uploaded by kfoz.
If you were watching the news in the days after the Hurricane, you might remember the wharf and warehouse fires that errupted and burned, unsupervised, as well as the repeated denials from the owner of the warehouse that there was anything dangerous in it.

This is that warehouse. It's about two blocks from my house. When we returned, the smell of propane and incinerated metal and cement lingered in the air. It smelled like 9/11.

Propane bombs


Propane bombs
Originally uploaded by kfoz.
In the rubble of the warehouse are piles of small propane tanks. Thousands of them, stacked four feet high. Some of them exploded and shot through the neighborhood like rockets. You could find them scattered all over. Yesterday I noticed a pair of them decorating a flower bed.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The latest on The Dogs Who Found Me

I'm starting to get some response on my new book, which will be out in March. It is always strange to hear what people think--even when they say good things, there's something quesy about it all, like someone is describing what I did when I was drunk. But so far, I really like what people are seeing in the work. Including this quote, which uses the word 'strange' in a wonderful way. Perhaps that is the real value of advance blurbs--good writers can describe the book much better than the publishers can.

"I read this at once,  and could hardly bear to put it down. This is a wonderful, strange book, beautiful and funny and moving. It's about the necessity of dogs, and about the necessity of the heart. It's for people who love dogs, and for people who don't yet know how to. It delivers something crucial about bravery, the human spirit, and the place that dogs occupy in our landscapes. It's about confronting need, vulnerability and love, and responding."--Roxana Robinson

And here is the tour so far:
March 11  Skylight Books, Los Angeles
March 12  Cody's, Berkeley
March 13  Book Passage, Corte Madera
March 14  ?  
March 15  Booksmith, San Francisco
March 16  Powells, Portland
March 17 or 18   Elliott Bay, Seattle
March 23  Shaman Drum, Ann Arbor
April 7-8  Southern Kentucky Book Festival
April 17,  Barnes and Noble Astor Place, New York
April 25  Prairie Lights, Iowa City

Remember when Apple actually had customer support?

In the old days--and by that I mean the 1990s--you could call Apple and actually speak with people who would help you solve whatever problem you might have with your computer. Now you call in and they won't answer questions unless you pay $49.00 for the service. That's bad enough, but the problem goes beyond that; I'm currently at one hour and fifteen minutes on hold with them.

My old (old meaning 2002) ibook has apparently had a logic board failure. I discovered on Saturday, when my internet was finally installed, that Apple issued a sort of "recall" of this model due to the installation of bad logic boards by the manufacturer. When I called in to the support line, I was told that their offer to repair the logic board had expired a week earlier. The guy on the other end suggested that since Katrina was responsible for my delay in reporting the problem, I could try calling customer relations on Monday. Support and relations are not the same thing,apparently. So today I called in, but the menu doesn't offer a customer relations option. So I waited on hold for another tech person. Explained the whole sequence to him, and sat listening to him fumble around looking for the proper extension. He then disconnected me. I called sales. Waited on hold again, explained the problem and was transfered to ONLINE sales. Explained the problem again and was transfered to another hold, with really awful music playing. And that is where we are now.

Will my next computer be an Apple?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Burning New Orleans down, one building at a time


Fire outside my door
Originally uploaded by kfoz.
This seems to be the plan now that it is clear that flooding didn't completely destroy the city or the spirit of its people. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to wake up at 3:30 with the odd sense that my street was on fire. Then I looked out my door to see this--but amplify the volume of flames, since they don't photograph well. At first I was worried it was the studio on the other side of the fence, and I immediately began to plot the evacuation of the two dogs who live in the yard.

Realizing it was merely the other side of the street didn't add any sense of relief.

Another great block goes down in flames

The amazing two story, frontier-style building next to Bud Rips is gone and it looks likely that the surrounding buildings may be damaged or destroyed as well. For anyone familiar with the block, this was a drycleaner before the storm. Across the street is a furniture studio--part of the complex I live on--and a really great commercial space turned residential property which is always decorated for the holidays.

Brando and I went out to check the damage, but the shower of lit embers was a little more than I could handle. Let's hope our roof doesn't catch fire.