Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

alt.cover: Authenticity

Here was a variation not chosen as a cover for Authenticity:

Interested in Authenticity? Just turn on your computer and read it for free!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The world by car

I will be meeting Jathar Salij for lunch today. We'll talk about his collection A Weekend in Bandung, and about some other writing he has been working on that he would like to have me read. I hope the other writing includes a novel based on the car trip he took more than 40 years ago from Holland to India, including Iran along the way. I suppose his experience would differ from Nicholas Kristof's:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Authenticity for a buck? Yes!

Here's a holiday gift-giving idea. Except it's not really a special deal, and it's not really a gift, and there is nothing about it that is especially holiday-themed. It's just the everyday deal we offer for our XPat Fiction books: Put a book on your e-reader for $1.

Today's featured book is Authenticity, a fast-paced mystery/thriller set in Saint Petersburg, where an exhibit at the Hermitage is set to feature paintings Stalin sold to the U.S. in the 1920s. Trouble is, these paintings seem to be nothing more than rather convincing forgeries, and somewhere throughout the history of the Soviet Union the originals went hiding.

This is the perfect airplane read—the story moves quickly, elevated by glimpses into the worlds of art, opera, theater, and ballet in Russia.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Travelbug Friday: Paris

I recently had correspondence from Paris. Made me think of being there, but how is it possible it has been more than 30 years ago?

Luckily, Woody Allen will show us around any time we like:

And Jonathan Richman provides the soundtrack:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Off-topic Thursday: What's ex-pat about Thanksgiving?

The answer to today's question is the same as the answer to "War? What is it good for?": Absolutely nothing. Today in the U.S. is Thanksgiving, the harbinger of holiday season, the time when nobody wants to be away from "home," whatever "home" may be for you. I always recommend reading Mark Liberman for this holiday, and for music, Thanksgiving has but one popular tune: "Over the River and Through the Woods." However, since Perry Como never specified which holidays there was no place like home for, I nominate "Home for the Holidays" as an honorary member of the "Songs about Thanksgiving" club.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Grand Tour

Why am I thinking about George Jones? First, he's on his farewell tour, which includes—typical of his career—some mixed reviews and at least one missed date.

But he has, according to Harrison Bacon in The Verse of the Sword, "more soul than any living white man." I assume he's thinking of "He Stopped Loving Her Today":

Thursday, November 15, 2012


By Matt Koenig, via Peter West Carey—comes this from Bandung: 

It's just a perfect image to accompany the title story of A Weekend in Bandung:

At last daylight broke. The sun climbed and heat enveloped the world. Through sunlit streets Alan and Ratih went in search of a restaurant. At the lowest levels of the sunlight were the vendors of fruits, vegetables, scrap metal, old and new clothes, and junk. Pedicab drivers and all sorts of people sat, stood, or crouched against buildings and away from them. Not far from the hotel, on the other side of the intersection, they found a Chinese restaurant. They went in and sat down near the window. Alan looked at the hundreds of people trying to sell their wares, some buying, always in motion, yet seemingly standing still. Traffic moved in all directions under the constantly and predictably changing traffic lights. A man with a kind, round face sold a yellow blouse to a small woman with oily blue hair after much gesturing and moving of lips. He turned excitedly to his neighbor, who was selling old shoes, and showed him the money he had just made.
 Here's another of Bandung by Matt Koenig:
Night Market in Bandung Indonesia

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

alt.cover - Authenticity 1

Speaking of Authenticity, and speaking of developing covers, here is one that was considered for Authenticity:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Where in the world is Uliana Lopatkina?

If you go read Authenticity online, which you can do any time you like, you'll find the version there has clickable links in the margins that take you to relevant web pages to explain or show something happening in the book. This was all part of David Siefkin's vision for making the story more interactive--sort of befitting someone who, before becoming a diplomat, was a writer for the great interactive game "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?"

One of my favorite links in the whole book is to this video of Uliana Lopatkina performing The Dying Swan, as the characters in the story discuss going to attend one of her performances:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Travelbug Friday: Istiklal Cadessi

Been there/not done with it yet. One of Istanbul's most famous boulevards (no automobiles!):

(Photo from here:
I think it likes to be in black-and-white:

(Photo from here:
Read about it here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cover talk: A Weekend in Bandung

You always know things are getting serious when the book gets to the cover-designing stage. Since I do everything here myself--read, acquire, develop, line-edit, design, and layout--I get a pretty good overall image of the book. Cover design is a collaborative effort that generally goes something like this: I work up roughs for my first ideas about what might work as a cover—usually with a few variations, and a conversation with the author moves forward from there.

For A Weekend in Bandung, I was lucky that the author, Jathar Salij, is also an accomplished painter willing to allow one of his paintings to be manipulated for representation on the cover. There ended up being much back and forth about what this cover might be, but it eventually came out as a photo collage using two images. One is the author's painting City of Greed:

. . . which the author describes this way:
 . . . an attempt at visually presenting, at least in part, the human problems that come with material progress.

The title refers to the imperviousness of those at the top vis-a-vis the dire needs of humanity at the lower levels of a developing Southeast Asian society. The twisting and turning corporate towers are overwhelmingly on the prowl to take over more of the world, and push the common man and woman back into invisibility. Every day, when I lived in Indonesia, I was confronted with the many for whom life offered little more than their persistent lack of a decent meal.
. . . all of which fits in perfectly with the stories in this amazing collection. You could read article after article about poverty in Southeast Asia that tell the same story about the wealth of the few and desperation of the many, about "progress" and its discontents. Or you could read this collection to give you a sense of all that, but with a personal connection to it through vivid characterization and rich sensory description.

But there's another prominent theme throughout: The Girl. The guy who wants the elusive girl, the girl who wants the elusive guy, the love that remains the most elusive of all, but always the interesting female character in the middle of things. I knew I had something when I came across this image (source:

. . . which is a scene from a food stand in Malaysia, where many of these stories are set. The most important part of the image, for me, was the girl in the foreground, who in this candid shot projects more character with her stance than many professional models do in profile or from the front. The dress, the balanced shift, the tilt of the head--it would be difficult to set up a photo shoot that worked as well as this. Many thanks to Daniel Cubillas for contributing this photo to Wikimedia Commons.

The final cover? It looks like this:

. . . where the photographed girl who looks like she stepped out of one of these stories stares into the eyes of the woman in the painting whose pregnancy and impoverishment represents the social conditions addressed throughout this collection. I can't imagine a different cover for this book, but I had gone through several ideas prior to this solution, which I will write about later.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Gallery of Authenticity

On the original XPat Fiction site I posted a gallery of all the paintings featured in the book. I finally got around to re-posting all those on the new site, including The House of Cards by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin.

All XPat Fiction books can be downloaded in EPUB format for one dollar and read on your favorite device. Find out more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RJ Huddy to the rescue

RJ Huddy's brand new book is Death to the Rescue. It's not an XPat Fiction title, but though it does not have the travelogue qualities of The Verse of the Sword and Learn Thai with Me, it does show off his amazing flair for character and story development, not to mention humor.

Can't get enough? Better check out No Senator's Son, too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fruit of the day: langsat

There's a scene in Learn Thai with Me where Jack travels to Thailand. A Kentucky native, he is transported to another world by the fruit:
. . . somewhere between Kabul and Bangkok, nature changed the menu. He hardly recognized any species of whatever they were. The market stretched for blocks. His dictionary said he was passing baskets of jackfruit, rambutans, litchis, soursops, custard apples, durians, roselles, pandanus leaf, brinjals, santols, rose-apples, tamarinds, wood-apples, nipa, langsats, bergamots, bullock’s hearts. There were five pages of such words. Even if you knew the name, how did you eat them? They looked forbidding. Most of them didn’t seem amenable to being picked up and eaten on the spot. There were little red hairy ones and big yellow pock-marked ones; purple things that looked so much more like an old prizefighter’s ear than a cauliflower did that Jack felt sure the English language would change that term, if he could only find out what it was called. He walked for a mile in search of an apple, but found none. He finally settled for a banana, and watched as the stall owner threw it on a grill.
If you're like me you want to know what some of those things look like. Today's fruit is langsat:

How is it eaten? Read all about it here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Soundtrack for A Weekend in Bandung . . .

. . . such an scene-driven collection of stories. Perhaps the soundtrack is a gamelan:

All XPat Fiction books can be downloaded in EPUB format for one dollar and read on your favorite device. Find out more.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Travelbug Friday: Estonia

Estonia--never been there:


All XPat Fiction books can be downloaded in EPUB format for one dollar and read on your favorite device. Find out more.