All The World’s A Stage – #Shakespeare400

Lots of Shakespeare events happening at the Globe & around the globe. All the world’s a stage, indeed.

I’ll be putting together a page of relevant links but check out the hashtag #Shakespeare400 on Twitter for a ton of links to info, online exhibits, schedules of performances, etc. Here are a few quick highlights I’ve made a note of:


  • Shakespeare’s Globe is throwing themselves into the 1616-2016 of it all  with great abandon – as one would expect. They have a year long series of events and performances to mark the occasion.
  • For cinema lovers, there is a partnership between the British Film Institute and the British Council called “Shakespeare on Film” that takes 18 major film adaptations of Shakespeare on a tour of over 100 countries around the world. There will also be extesive screenings at BFI Southbank in London (fabulous to visit in any case)and in cinemas across the UK. If you like geographical context with your movie going, there is also film festival in Stratford-on-Avon.
  • If you are in the Chicago area, you are in luck! Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebrates everything Shakespeare with a yearlong arts festival in 2016.
  • If you feel like staying home and doing your Bardish celebrating in your PJs and slippers, there’s The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, Henry VI part 1 & 2 with Hugh Bonneville, Sophie Okonedo, Michael Gambon, Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch and is due to be broadcast on BBC Two in April.

Continue reading “All The World’s A Stage – #Shakespeare400”

Spacelore: Storytelling Among the Stars

I am thrilled to announce that Spacelore, the latest title in the Modern Parlance Press imprint, is now available. JB Zimmerman (author of the very popular urban fantasy novel, New York Magician) has set his sights on the stars, spinning tales of adventures, horrors and surprises across space. I’ve been hugely excited about this one. Some stories will make you laugh, some make you cry – and I don’t mind admitting that a couple of the scary ones kept me up at night.

spacelore_coverWherever you find people, you will find stories. Stories of triumph and loss, of pain and joy, of caution and adventure. To find them, you must seek out the places where tales are told. These are the tales you might hear if you found yourself in a space traveler’s bar.

With settings ranging from the early spaceflight era to the distant future, from Earth to unknown star systems, this collection of short stories can be yours without having to travel the spaceways and buy disreputable characters disreputable drinks in disreputable dives!

by JB Zimmerman
Available from: Amazon | Amazon UK

Also available by JB Zimmerman:  THE NEW YORK MAGICIAN

From the reviews:

“… a great mix of action, noir, and the supernatural that will have you smiling to yourself every time you catch one of the many references to mythology, magic, and both contemporary and historical New York City.”

“… the wit of a detective novel, the firepower of a good action movie, and a hell of a lovingly detailed city for the plot, protagonist, and characters. What’s not to love?”

nymMichel Wibert knows New York City better than most. He knows about the magic that crackles above the rooftops and beneath the streets. He knows about the creatures and beings – considered mythical to most and gods to some – playing their long and complicated game across the city. Until recently, he’s kept to the sidelines – watching their moves, keeping their secrets. But now things have shifted and it’s not clear whether he’s player or pawn. If he wants to survive, he’ll need to decide which is his true role.

Available from: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple

Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays

This ebook edition of William Hazlitt’s classic of 19th-century literary criticism – Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays – is part of Modern Parlance’s effort to shine a light on outstanding but often forgotten writing and criticism of the past.


The book features not only the original text but also paintings, engravings and photographs of Shakespearean characters portrayed by leading artists of the mid-18th to early 20th century, including some Hazlitt himself may well have seen.

Additional notes on specific images used are intended not only for clarification but we hope will serve as a helpful and interesting guide to the treasure trove of imagery we have of these remarkable characters that Hazlitt examines in such detail.

William Hazlitt (1778 – 1830) was an English essayist, artist, literary critic, and journalist. His work is often put on a par with that of Samuel Johnson and Charles Lamb. Indeed he was very much part of the “literary scene” that included Lambs (Samuel and Mary), Coleridge, Wordsworth and Keats.

Though well-known in his time, his work fell out of favor and was subsequently forgotten or overlooked in favor of more high-profile writers. While sporadically available in academic editions and now in electronic form, his works haven’t been widely known to the general public in many years.

Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays by William Hazlitt
Pub Date: Feb 2013
Available from: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

Drowning the Silence: Now Available

As promised, more information on Dan Geoghan (who kindly agreed to be Modern Parlance’s eBook guinea pig) and about his book, Drowning the Silence.

Drowning the Silence by Dan GeoghanEvery break up has a soundtrack – bits of songs, that voice in your head, advice from others and all sorts of other sounds.

In Dan’s case, the soundtrack features Johnny Mathis, family and friends and – underneath it all, The Silence.

About the Author: Dan Geoghan used to wonder if he’d ever figure women out. He also used to live in Sussex. He then got married, had kids, and moved to Oxfordshire. He can be found on Twitter and elsewhere talking about watches, rugby and food. He’s still wondering if he’ll ever figure out women.

  • Pub Date: Jan 2013
  • Price: $2.99 (US) and £1.95 (UK)
  • Drowning the Silence is available on Amazon & Amazon UK.

Go and grab it – and most of all enjoy.

Modern Parlance Presents…

In 2012, I got married (twice but before you ask – to the same guy both times), moved across the ocean (my stuff went months before I did and I went via the QM2 which I highly recommend) and bought a house (my first and nervous does NOT begin to cover how I felt). I was thinking that 2013 might be a more – well, settled. On a personal front it may be but on a business front – it’s full steam ahead toward change. We’re now operating globally and in more areas than ever.

Yes, Modern Parlance is jumping feet first into electronic publishing!

We’re excited and nervous (buying a house has NOTHING on this) but mostly thrilled. There’s a little something for everyone one in our long term plan we’re starting off 2013 the way we meant carry on with:

  • a reference series for curious kids ages 8-12 that will introduce them to new places, people, concepts and events in history;
  • cookbooks that will help you make an impression and save some time as well as some cash;
  • biographical fiction bound to strike a chord with anyone who’s had a bewildering breakup.

First up is Drowning the Silence by Dan Geoghan.

Every break up has a soundtrack – bits of songs, that voice in your head, advice from others and all sorts of other sounds. In Dan’s case, the soundtrack features Johnny Mathis, family and friends and – underneath it all, The Silence.

We’ll be telling you more about the book and where to get it, not to mention a bit more about Dan (who you can find on Twitter holding forth on many topics quite apart from the book) soon but here’s a few quick preview bits:

  • I’ve never really disliked Johnny Mathis. Sure, “When A Child is Born” is a bit heavy on the saccharine, but other than that he’s really a bit of a nonentity as far as I’m concerned. But right now – right now I really hate Johnny Mathis.
  • I’ve met several women over the years who believe that men don’t feel emotion or hurt. This is wrong. Totally wrong. We just do it differently. We do cry when you hurt us. We aren’t impervious to pain. We just internalise it, suppress it, staunch it with a bandage of macho bullshit until we’re alone. Then we unpack our pain and let it bleed in The Silence.

Meanwhile, the indexing, writing, social media and all things parlance continue. Hang on tight, my friends – 2013 is gonna get BUSY!

The 2012 Personal Parlance Wrap Up

Yes, I know – the End of Year wrap up post is SUCH a cliche. But it’s cliche for a reason. People read them. I know I do. If only because during the year there is a lot to keep up with and I know I’ve likely missed something. Wrap ups are a great way to just ensure I didn’t miss something everyone else managed to read. I hate being left out.

So, the year that was (and technically still is for a few days) 2012:

  • Publishers and Librarians continued to rub along like nails on a chalkboard when it came to eBooks, pricing and what owning an eBook really means. This question of ownership is something that really ‘sticks in my teeth’ as they used to say back home. Well, not my home – we were from New York originally. But our neighbors, who were from down south – in their home.
  • Even more people who know very little about what is involved in producing books weighed in on how much they should cost, accusations of price fixing abounded (via – if I may be frank – incredibly twisted and convoluted arguments presented as heavily laden with legalese as possible) and yet the catastrophic plunge into a dirt cheap ebook price war largely made a noise like a hoop and rolled away. Can you get eBooks for next to nothing. Sure you can. Do you want those books? Probably not.
  • Random House-Penguin merger – my FAVORITE story of the year and not because of the business implications of the merger. I reserve judgment on that. No, I love this story because of all the fabulous “merged logo” ideas and hilarious name combinations. I desperately wanted them to go with Random Penguin but did they? No. They lack the sense of humor and cojones. But it all reminded me how funny publishing folks can be. I love you guys.
  • People continued to declare publishing was dead and it continued to refuse to die. Too many articles and op-eds to link to on this topic. I’m sure you saw them. The thing is – when they say publishing, I think a lot of people mean “the big six” and while they are big (tremendous), they are not everything. Publishing won’t die until the last reader is dead and buried.
  • The New York Times paywall actually started producing revenue for them. Amazing. It didn’t help during contract negotiations but it made them happy for a bit. The thing is this – I don’t know how much they PAID to have this paywall put into place but however much they did pay was too much. Why? Because there are more ways around it then there are fingers on both my hands and one of them is so simple and so direct I don’t even have to leave their site to do it. I’m not trying to make life difficult for them (hence my not spreading the hack – though it’s so simple it’s not even a hack). Just pointing out that they should probably have spent more carefully and wisely.
  • The Copyright Act of 1976. OK, this is actually GOING to be a 2013 story but people started frothing about it in 2012 and it’s not just publishing but music as well. I for one will be watching with popcorn at the ready!

There were many other stories – far too many for one post so I made my call. Other folks have done wrap ups and made their own call so between us, I’m sure we’ve covered the gamut. Bring on 2013! Who knows what lies ahead.

November: An Artistic and Literary Look Back

It’s too cold to go out and it’s too early to decorate for Chanukah/Christmas/New Year – so I take this moment to look back at some of the November literary and artistic highlights on the historical landscape. And as the Nobel prize is awarded around this time of year (it shifted to a slight earlier date in later years), it is – as you might expect full of notable names and moments

November Nobels for Literarure:

  • Nov 4, 1948: awarded to TS Eliot
  • Nov 5, 1930: awarded to Sinclair Lewis
  • Nov 10, 1938: awarded to Pearl Buck
  • Nov 10, 1949: awarded to William Faulkner
  • Nov 12, 1936: awarded to Eugene O’Neill

Elsewhere and elsewhen (a word I think I may have just made up):

  • Nov 1, 1604 – William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello is presented for the first time, at Whitehall Palace in London. In the same way that I summarize Hamlet as “Don’t bother me, I’m brooding” I like to think of Othello as “Don’t bother me, I’m DRAMA QUEENING!”
  • Nov 1, 1611 – William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Tempest is presented for the first time, at Whitehall Palace in London. I have no quirky summary for The Tempest. I’d like to come up with one involving a tea-pot but thus far, I’m drawing a blank.
  • Nov 2, 1960 – Penguin Books is found not guilty of obscenity in the trial R v Penguin Books Ltd., the Lady Chatterley’s Lover case.
  • Nov b, 1602: The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford is opened to the public. I went on the tour there last year. It was awesome and surreal and I can’t recommend this highly enough.
  • Nov 14, 1851: Moby-Dick is published (and generations of children continue to curse the name of Herman Melville to this day. I was one of them. And no, I didn’t think it improved upon re-reading as an adult.)
  • Nov 14, 1889: Nellie Bly, investigative journalist and adventurer, sets off on her trip around the world. Makes it in 72 days, beating the expected 80 by over a week. I’d like to her try it now with all these flight delays.
  • Nov 23, 1963: The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, now the world’s longest running science fiction drama.
  • On November 23, 1936: the first issue of Life magazine is published.
  • Nov 24, 1859: Origin of Species is published. And it’s not going away. No matter how hard some folks might want it to. Evolution. Darwin. Deal with it, people.
  • Nov 25, 1952: Mousetrap opens in London. I saw it in 1986. At the end of the show, the cast asks the audience NOT to reveal to others “who done it” so that the ending isn’t spoiled for future audiences. Even after all that time – and all this time since – apparently it works since even I (an avid Christie reader from way back) hadn’t heard the identity of the killer until I guessed at the beginning of the second act. Guessed slightly later than my brother, which irks me to this day.
  • Nov 28, 1582: In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway pay a £40 bond for their marriage license. And honestly I saw no evidence on my recent trip to Stratford that he was there for much else. Disappointing.
  • Nov 30, 1886: The Folies Bergère stages its first revue. Can you can-can?

News Peruse: Near and Far

Near: A look across the Modern Parlance blogosphere, including the latest posts from the Fabulous Foodie and Greater Gotham: Going Global.

Far: Even with so much happening at Modern Parlance these days (eBook projects, blogging and critical decisions about paint colors) eating into a lot of time, I’ve always got time for a some site seeing for your reading pleasure. So here are some of the links from across the media landscape that I’ve been pondering and discussing.


Is Content King Or Isn’t It?

When you work in marketing (or if you work with marketers) these days, you hear the phrase “Content is King” all the time. You also hear that it isn’t or that is due to be deposed any second by something else. But do you know where that phrase comes from and what it actually means? Does it still mean what it originally meant? Finally, is it true or isn’t it?

The phrase “Content is King” was coined by Sumner Redstone in the mid-90s and if anyone knows content, it’s the man who’s been sitting on a MOUNTAIN of content for decades. The phrase then crops up in 1996, used by Bill Gates as both the title and topic of an essay he wrote describing how he saw the internet and the monetization of the internet evolving. Both men were making the point that the way people engage with content changes and that drives change in the content itself but the need for content itself is a constant. Movie studios and theatres, DVD players, streaming video, publishers, newspapers, magazine, bookstores, television programs, broadcasting companies – they come, they go, they change, but the appetite for the content they put out remains high.

Well, 16 years later, looks like they were right about that whole ‘plus ça change plus c’est la même chose‘ thing.

Is print dying? I don’t know. Frankly neither does anyone else, not really. But what I do know is that books and newspapers used to be the primary vehicles for delivering reading material to the masses and now they are just one of many methods. These days people get reading materials from books, newspapers, on their e-readers, on their phones, through their headphones, on their computer. Has the amount of reading material produced gone down? Are you kidding? We’re DROWNING in the stuff. Has the demand for reading material gone down? No, again.  Thanks to the greater number of access points and the tidal wave of content being produced to fill that ever expanding space, people can pick and choose like never before.

Let’s look at this by segment.

News: In regards to news consumption, the increased choice of delivery vehicle and amount of content being delivered is undeniable. We’ve got:

  • newspapers (not dead yet),
  • news magazines (also not dead and showing signs of evolving),
  • 24 hour news channels,
  • niche channels,
  • the expansion of what is defined as news,
  • the explosion of the news-fed blogosphere.

I can’t say that I feel the explosion in availability of information has done a lot for the quality of that information or the discourse around it but it’s certainly ratcheted up the quantity. So, regardless of whether newspapers are dying or not, news production and news consumption are alive, more than well and kicking.

Books: Books used to be the only long form game in town and the path from author to reader was pretty well defined. A book was written, picked up by an agent and sold to a publisher (usually one of a limited number of publishers). The publisher produced the book and sold it to the distributors who then sold it to the bookseller and the bookseller sold it to the reader. Yes, there were smaller publishers but back in the day they had real problems getting access to bookshelf space in retail outlets or even catching the distributor’s eye.

These days, you might:

  • curl up with a book, turning actual paper pages as you go.
  • curl up with your Kindle, NOOK or iPad, clicking your way through the story
  • don headphones to listen to the works of Charles Dickens during commute to work.
  • have bought your reading material at a bricks & mortar store or from an online retailer.
  • get your book “serialized” into your inbox once a week or downloaded from the library.
  • be enjoying a read produced by a mainstream publishers, a small publisher, an established author or your next door neighbor’s teenage daughter.

As for the amount of content itself – well, with so many more options for producing and delivering this content, the scope of that content has gone similarly through the roof. An argument is often made that all this easier production process and multiplicity of delivery platforms hasn’t done much for the standards of consumer fiction (or non-fiction come to that) but I don’t think the it’s the only thing at play here.

Yes, the ever-simplified path to production and the rush to cash in means there is quite a lot of slap-dash stuff out there and stuff that wouldn’t, in earlier eras, would have never seen the light of day. But you know, publishers de-prioritized proofreading LONG before the internet and I’ve got the typo-filled books to prove it. Not to mention, quality standards when it came to deciding what to publish were always – let’s say – flexible and usually driven by the bottom line more than anything else. You can’t lay the whole history of dodgy topics, poor writing and crap story-telling at the door of self-publishing. Publishing needs to take a big girl pill and face their questionable output as well.

Music: Let me ask you a question – when was the last time you went into a record store? Do they even call them record stores anymore? Of all areas of content, the market for music has undergone the most comprehensive change of all.

Film: Movies have gone through a similar evolution to books as far as production process and access points. Back in the day it went like this: Movie studios made movies (based on some economically proven story structures) and distributed them to the movie theatres who then showed the movies to the audience. It was a single, stream-lined path from movie makers to the mainstream movie-going audience. Today? Movies and movie-watching has become a many-headed hydra.

Anyone can make a movie.

  • The Big Studios: who make only a few types because movie making on their scale is expensive and they are answerable to stockholders these days.
  • The Independents: Still banging on a certain number of doors but finding it much easier to be seen and heard than ever before.
  • You: Though whether the world is ready for your three part documentary on traditional thanksgiving turkey recipes is another question.
  • The Barista at the Coffee Shop on the Corner: who wrote a screenplay but doesn’t know any of the right people and instead knows a lot of folks willing to pitch in and help out.

Considering how much content is being produced by all these channels (few of them with output dictated by economics to the same extent as the big studios), we may never run out of things to watch despite having so many options of where, when and how to watch – in the theatre, at home, on the phone, via YouTube, streamed from Netflix, etc.

So – now we know where the phrase “Content Is King” came from, what was meant by it and how it has apparently played out. Is it still true?  Is Content King? I don’t think so. And what’s more, I don’t think it ever was.

Content is important, no doubt about it. It is absolutely key. It is the content that people want and will pay for pay for. Is the vast array of delivery mechanisms now more important than what is being delivered? I don’t think that either. Delivery is as important at the content itself. Why produce product if you can’t distribute it? How will you reap the rewards of your content efforts if you can’t get that content to those who want or need it.

So, content and delivery of that content are both central. But let’s face facts – you can produce all the content you want, have all the delivery systems you can dream up, delivering as much product as they can all hold – and none of it means anything without the consumer.

  • If you want to sell – you must have something the consumer wants.
  • If you want them to buy, you have to make it available when and where they want.

There was a lot that people got right when they predicted how the internet would change commerce and content consumption. But the empowerment of the consumer, the increasing importance of the audience in the equation seems to have snuck past and taken people by surprise.

Content and platform are now mere consorts to the real power on the throne – the consumer.

The King is dead. Long live the king.