Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Rich Get Richer

Anyone else have a problem with these numbers? Time for Washington to stop stacking the deck against the middle-class. See below....

The richest Americans' share of national income has hit a postwar record, surpassing the highs reached in the 1990s bull market, and underlining the divergence of economic fortunes blamed for fueling anxiety among American workers.

The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.

The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

The IRS data, based on a large sample of tax returns, are for "adjusted gross income," which is income after some deductions, such as for alimony and contributions to individual retirement accounts. While dated, many scholars prefer it to timelier data from other agencies because it provides details of the very richest -- for example, the top 0.1% and the top 1%, not just the top 10% -- and includes capital gains, an important, though volatile, source of income for the affluent.

The IRS data go back only to 1986, but academic research suggests the rich last had this high a share of total income in the 1920s.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Scandal by Carolyn Jewel

Nothing is quite as fun as a really good romance and Carolyn Jewel has a new one out this week; Scandal. Carolyn stopped by to answer some questions about her writing life and her book, Scandal.

Since becoming a writer, what's the most glamorous thing you've done?

HAHAHAHAHA! The dishes?

What's the main thing you hope people take away from your book?

A burning and insatiable desire to buy my backlist and everything else I ever write for the rest of my life. And to tell everyone they know to do the same thing. OK, seriously, I just hope they enjoy the heck out of the story.

What is your process of getting out a first whole draft? How long might it take?

I print out drafts from time to time because the words look different on paper. I rarely have a complete draft. I just have more and more words that make up a mess that needs constant and massive fixing which I do constantly until somehow the story isn't a mess any more. And then it's done.

If you could only own and read 5 books for the rest of your life, (excluding your own) what five books would you choose?

Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Some edition of O'Henry Best Short Stories, A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh.

Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?

Paolo Nutini, James Blunt, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters. Scandal does not include any musical references, but if it had, it would not have been any of these four. Lord Banallt would probably prefer John Lee Hooker while Sophie would actually prefer Vampire Weekend for having written Oxford Comma.

What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.?

Hmm. My fantasies typically involve Adrian Paul or Jet Li. But I could live with 40 weeks on the NYT bestseller list. If I had to.

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication?

Dorothea Brande's section of Tapping the Unconscious in "Becoming A Writer” which included this warning; "If you fail repeatedly at this exercise, give up writing. Your resistance is actually greater than your desire to write and you may as well find some other outlet for your energy early as late." (79). Alas, I failed miserably and repeatedly at her freewriting exercise. It seems I am a no-talent amateur with delusions of grandeur. I can't explain my ten (counting through the end of 2009) published novels, given this failure. I think I must be a freak of some sort.

Brande's book taught me that writing advice can, and possibly should, be ignored. Writers follow different paths to success and one path is never more valid than another. What works for me may not work for you and there's nothing wrong with that. The point is to actually go out and find what works for you.

Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

My editor at Berkley, Kate Seaver, sent me some cover art by someone she was thinking of using to see what I thought of his style. She also asked me for my ideas and for samples of covers I liked. As it happens, I am completely clueless about what makes a good cover (aside from knowing a good one when I see it attached to somebody else's book). My samples were all fairly dreadful. They were great for books that were not mine, though. The people whose business it is to create covers that sell books ignored me, thank goodness, and came up with a very passionate cover that conveys the emotion between my hero and heroine. I love my cover and I am really, truly grateful for the talented people who worked to make it come together so wonderfully.

Tell me a little about what inspired your book?

Terror. I'm only partly kidding. Just about all my books are inspired by the terror of believing it isn't working and that, working or not, I won't be able to finish on time. More seriously, Scandal is set during the English Regency period (which was 1811-1820) and I very deliberately drew on my grad school research on a woman who wrote during this time period. Women of the English upper classes had few resources if the men in their lives did not, for whatever reason, fulfill their cultural obligation to take care of their female relatives. Writing novels was one of the few things a woman could do, openly or secretly, to make money. I was astonished to discover that the money a novelist could expect to make in 1815 isn't much different than it is today. The chief difference between then and now lies in the copyright. In 1815, publishers bought the copyright outright. The author was paid once and that was it. Today, authors typically retain the copyright to their work.

Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!

Since my son plays on a traveling soccer team, I am often writing in the car during practice or before games. The backseat of my car is minimalist and I typically get a lot done since there isn't much else to do. During crunch times, I also write in the car during my lunch break. My room, where I do most of my writing (when not in the car) is a cluttered mess. My dog sleeps on the chair tucked behind my back while the cats take turns on my lap.

What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

In June, 2009, Grand Central Publishing will release My Forbidden Desire, the second of an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance set in a world that includes mages and demons. Indiscreet will be an October 2009 historical from Berkley Sensation.