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Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Book Bits: Shakespeare in DNA, ‘Fuse,’ Pippa Middleton, ‘The Famine Plot,’ Nook woes

shakespearephotoI’m fascinated by the concept of storing data in DNA, a process that—if it works—could make our best mega-storage devices seem like ancient floppy disks in terms of data capacity (item 14). Let’s hope the DNA, in such harmless-looking sequences as this sonnet opening TAGAT GTGTA CAGAC TACGC GCAGC GAGAT CGACT CGCAG TGCTG AGTGA CAGAC TAGTC ACGTC don’t morph into the organic world as, say, a frankenauthor or a fleshing-eating series of mass market paperbacks.

Meanwhile, we celebrate the anniversary today of the 1943 publication of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, one of the books listed in the article (item 4) about books that rewrite history.

Here are today’s links:

  1. waitroseNews: Pippa Middleton to write cookery column for UK supermarket – “Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, is to give cooking tips to the masses in a new column for British supermarket chain Waitrose. Middleton, 29, will write a column for the upmarket chain’s monthly magazine, Waitrose Kitchen, called ‘Pippa’s Friday Night Feasts.'” Reuters
  2. News: Barnes & Noble’s Nook, ebook sales fall 25.9 percent in quarter – “Barnes & Noble Inc reported a quarterly net loss on Thursday, hurt by a sharp decline in sales in its Nook device and e-books business, as well as lower sales at its bookstores and college bookstore chain.” Reuters
  3. famineReview: “The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy,” by Tim Pat Coogan, reviewed by Eamon Loingsigh – “Coogan’s intent here is not to say that England caused the blight of the potato. That was a matter of nature, of course. Instead he points directly to allowing its people for which it was responsible within the terms of the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain, to be so vulnerable as to be completely dependent on one crop. Furthermore, the deliberate attempt to utilize a natural disaster to ‘inflict conditions that bring about its physical destruction’ is another powerful and ringing interpretation of the United Nations charter.” Bookslut
  4. belovedcoverFeature: 10 Books That Rewrite History, by Peter Dimock – “Peter Dimock’s ‘George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time’ defies simple description. It is a novel where history meets method, and where narrative approaches madness. It’s also a treasure trove of poetic prose that rewards careful attention. We asked Dimock, whose own novel challenges what we think we know as ‘history,’ to pick 10 books that do the same. These are the books to read when you want to jolt yourself out of your shell.”  Beloved, shown here, is among the books on the list. Publishers Weekly
  5. How To: The Oxford Comma, in Pictures, by Mignon Forgarty – “The Oxford comma—also called the serial comma and the Harvard comma—is a regular source of confusion and angst. Whether you use the comma is a matter of style, meaning that some style guides call for it and some don’t.” Grammar Girl
  6. edisonReview: “The Age of Edison,” by Ernest Freeberg, reviewed by David A Price – “Mr. Freeberg’s wide-ranging social history tells the story of the transition to the era of electric light and its complex reception by American society.” The Wall Street Journal
  7. Essay: On the In Between – “I forget every time the feeling that hits me when I have finished one book but have not yet begun another.  This between-books limbo is, for me, like a long, slow leaching of color from the world.  A steady decline of mood and connection to the universe until one day I wake up and hardly know who I am.” Dani Shapiro
  8. foylesNews: ‘Bookshop of the future’ one step closer to realization, by Felicity Capon and Fiona Baird – “Individuals from across the industry meet at Foyles to discuss what bookshops of the future will look like. . .future bookshops will be very much a social experience.” The Telegraph
  9. glassmanInterview: Bernie Glassman (“The Dude and the Zenmaster” co-written with Jeff Bridges) with Brad Listi – “Bernie Glassman is the guest. He is a pioneer in the American Zen Movement, an accomplished academic and businessman, and the founder of the Zen Peacemakers…Monologue topics: Zen, meditation, discipline and lack thereof, losing my shit, my daughter, guilt, the Oscars. ” Other People
  10. Viewpoint: Did Amazon Just Kill a Golden Goose? by George Burke – “Why would Amazon want to penalize the big traffic makers that generate brand loyalty and purchase revenue?” Publishing Perspectives
  11. How To: How to Feel Confident Charging More for Your Freelance Work, by Kristen Hicks – “Like many people, I’m timid when it comes to talking about money – even when that talk determines how much I’ll be making.” Make a Living Writing
  12. fuseReview: “Fuse,” by Julianna Baggott, reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman – “In FUSE, Baggott hits her stride with a pace and cohesiveness that was lacking a bit in PURE. With much of the backstory firmly in place but still a few mysteries unsolved, the characters’ personalities come through and their actions begin to come to fruition. They are more nuanced and compelling here than they were in the first book, and their relationships to each other and to the past, as well as their possible roles in conclusion of the story, have come into focus.” Book Reporter
  13. Feature: Seven Tips From F. Scott Fitzgerald on How to Write Fiction – “We’ve selected seven quotations from F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing, which was edited by Larry W. Phillips and published in 1985 as a companion to the Hemingway book. As in the previous post, we’ve organized the advice under our own headings and added some brief commentary.” Open Culture
  14. sonnetsFeature: Translating Shakespeare Into DNA, by David Ewing Duncan – “In an unexpected confluence of furtive love, lust, and nucleotides, researchers have proposed a new method for storing data: transforming information, including poetry, into DNA. Only William Shakespeare could truly appreciate the scientists’ choice of his own Sonnets to demonstrate their high tech prowess. It’s a moment where some of the finest couplets and rhymes ever written literally merge with the basic chemistry of life, and 400-year-old lines of verse are translated into As, Cs, Gs and Ts.” The Atlantic
  15. News: Authors face change as Amazon tightens affiliate policy on free Kindle books, by Laura Hazard Owen – “Amazon is cracking down on a policy that allows blogs and websites to earn money when users download free ebooks through their affiliate links. That means big changes in the ways that some self-published ebooks are promoted online.” Paid Content
  16. News: 2013 Finalists for Prestigious Sami Rohr Literary Prize Announced – “The Jewish Book Council today announced the finalists for the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. The prize distinguishes the important role of emerging writers in examining the Jewish experience. The award of $100,000—one of the largest literary prizes in the world—honors a specific work as well as the author’s potential to make significant contributions to Jewish literature. A runner-up is awarded $25,000. ” Jewish Book Council

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week or more by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy novels. Why not subscribe so you can find these links in your in-basket?

Coming in March

Coming in March

Book Bits: ‘The Year Without Summer,’ Digital Freedom, Julianna Baggott, Great reading places

hugowikiHappy birthday, figuratively speaking, to Victor Hugo. Writing in January Magazine, Linda L. Richards says, “We wonder what Victor Hugo would have thought of what Hollywood has done with his best-known work, Les Misérables. The novel was published in 1865 and in 2012 was, of course, made into a long and popular movie starring Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman and which helped Anne Hathaway tuck away an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a brief but riveting role.”

Here are today’s links:

  1. News: Barnes & Noble chairman may bid for company’s bookstores – “Barnes & Noble Inc Chairman Leonard Riggio is considering a bid for the company’s bookstore business, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the situation. Riggio is the company’s largest shareholder with a nearly 30 percent stake. He pioneered the book superstore format in the 1980s and 1990s.” Reuters
  2. News: Report: New Media No Better Than Old media When it Comes to Women’s Bylines, by Andrew Beaujon – “The Women’s Media Center announced the release of its 2013 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report Friday; it finds that the news media ‘remains staggeringly limited to a single demographic.’”  Editor & Publisher
  3. yearwithoutsummerReview: “The Year Without Summer: 1816, and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History,” by William and Nicholas Klingaman, reviewed by Chuck Leddy – “The authors of this history-and-meteorology-blending narrative describe how a massive Indonesian volcano named Tambora erupted in April 1815, killing about 90,000 people and spewing tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, profoundly altering global weather patterns.”  Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  4. Feature: Combination of Big and Small Ideas Wows Wi8 Booksellers, by Claire Kirch – “Despite a winter storm that paralyzed much of the Great Plains region Thursday, almost 500 booksellers from all over the country succeeded in getting to the Westin Hotel Crown Center in downtown Kansas City for Winter Institute 8. ” Publishers Weekly
  5. Commentary: PEN Case Studies in Digital Freedom – Surveillance, by Deji Olukotun – “In 2008, Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted in 1978 after revelations that the government had been spying on innocent Americans, including leading writers and cultural figures. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 significantly weakened the protections in the original act.” PEN America
  6. ivanReview: “The One and Only Ivan,” by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, fiction, ages 8-12 – “How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage…Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates.” Kirkus Reviews
  7. Essay: Detroit Fiction: On Rightsizing American Literature, by Alexander Nazaryan – “Fiction is the next Detroit. Have you been there? I haven’t, but I’ve read plenty about it, which surely counts for something. Most of it is pretty grim stuff. For that matter, so is most of what you read about the state of contemporary American fiction, what with the demise of publishing and our whole world pixelated and digitized, not to mention Thursday night football and Sunday morning brunch, and just who the hell has the time to read a whole book anyway?”  The Millions
  8. poynterHow To: How reporters can become better self editors, by Meena Thiruvengadam – “The accelerated pace of journalism means many reporters have to write, edit and quickly publish their work online, sometimes without the benefit of an extra set of eyes. Given this reality — and the fact that there are fewer copy editors these days –  it’s more important than ever for reporters to become their own self-editors.” Poynter Institute
  9. chaixInterview: Marie Chaix (“The Laurels of Lake Constance” “Silences, or a Woman’s Life”) with Sarah Gerard – “In general I discovered that, even if you have characters that you know very well—even if you write about yourself, about your “life,” your memories—the result is exactly the same as if it was fiction. I think that readers know that it’s autobiographical because writers care when it’s autobiographical, but they read it and think about themselves, which is what happened to me.”  The Paris Review Daily
  10. Feature: The ‘sexiest meal’: what a character’s breakfast reveals about them, by Seb Emina – “From James Bond’s boiled eggs to Queequeg’s beefsteak, the first bite of the day is one of literature’s less celebrated themes.” The Guardian
  11. How To: Deflate Confusion and Cast Off Frustration, by Beth Hill – “A writer recently left a comment about the amount of information available for writers, saying that it’s overwhelming and implying that it’s difficult and both frustrating and confusing to figure out what a writer needs, determine which information is relevant and even what information is valid and true.”  The Editor’s Blog
  12. farewellReview: “Farewell, Dorothy Parker,” by Ellen Meister, reviewed by Karen Cullotta – “it is with immense courage that in her latest novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker, author Ellen Meister has resurrected the ghost of Mrs. Parker as the acerbic, supernatural alter ego to the novel’s neurotic, albeit loveable, heroine, Violet Epps. Never mind that her poison-pen film reviews and razor-sharp wit are both feared and revered by Hollywood insiders.” Book Page . . .For an interview with Ellen Meister see Literary Idol Comes To Life on NPR.
  13. Quotation: “I think one of the things that’s a hallmark of our tradecraft is that we pay a lot of attention to the editors, whether it’s a large house or an independent house. We pay attention to what they do because it’s so difficult for someone in a bookstore today to actually read all the texts before you make a decision on whether you’re going to stock the book in the store or not. So having the idea of what the tradition of the house is, what the curatorial taste of a particular editor is, that means so much to us.” – Paul Yamazaki, book buyer at City Lights Books in San Francisco, in “Brick”
  14. BaggottInterview: Julianna Baggott (“Pure,” “Fuse”) – “Q: If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle? … A: Oh, poor biographer, weedy and pale. I wish you’d latched onto someone greater, who heaved around more literary weight, drank too much, caused scenes in restaurants, and slept with movie stars. Alas, sweetheart, lowest-ranking PhD candidate in your tidal pool, you’ve chosen me.” Powell’s Books Blog
  15. News: Children’s & YA Hardcover Revenues Up Nearly 22%, by Jason Boog – “According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) StatShot report for October 2012, year-to-date hardcover sales in the children’s and young adult category rose nearly 22 percent compared to the same period last year–rising to $675.6 million.” GalleyCat
  16. Lists: The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books, by Tanner Ringerud – “Mark Twain said, “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” Mark Twain would have lost his mind if he saw these places. ” BuzzFeed

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week my Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “Sarabande” and the upcoming “The Seeker.” Why not follow this blog and receive the latest news and reviews in your in-basket?


Book Bits: ‘Used’ e-books, Twilight Razzies, Karen Russell, ‘Invisible Armies’

BookBitsThe February/March issue of AARP magazine brings us a tip that all writers and many readers can support: “Putting the Zen in ZZZs – By tiring your eyes naturally–say, by reading until your eyelids droop–you call asleep more peacefully, says Joseph Emet, author of ‘Buddha’s Book of Sleep.'” No doubt, those stirring mystery/thrillers that “force” us to stay awake long after our eyes are tired are excluded from this advice.

  1. Caro


    News: American History Book Prize Awarded To Robert Caro – “Robert Caro has won yet another literary prize, this one worth $50,000.” The Huffington Post

  2. News: Tea cozies and pencil sharpening vie for oddest book title award – “A guide to sharpening pencils and a craft manual about how tea cozies changed the world are among a shortlist of books released on Friday that are competing for the Oddest Book Title of the Year award. The shortlist in the 35th annual Diagram Prize also includes a study of Adolf Hitler’s health by Henrik Eberle and Hans-Joachim Neumann titled ‘Was Hitler Ill?’ and ‘Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts’ by Jerry Gagne.” Reuters
  3. eightydaysReview: ‘Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World,‘ by Matthew Goodman, reviewed by Laurie Herzel – “Matthew Goodman brings to life the two women, the complicated, fast-changing times and the way the whole country was swept up in their parallel adventures. This is fully documented history, drawing on contemporary accounts, letters and the women’s own writing, but Goodman crafts it into a page-turner, emphasizing the thrill of the race and the differences between the women.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  4. Feature: Edward Gorey’s strange, curious world, by Jillian Steinhauer – “The author’s books tended toward the macabre, but there’s an element of redemption in his ghoulish worldview ” Salon
  5. How To: Deepening Your Fiction Writing, by MaryAnn Diorio – “So you’ve finished your novel, but you find that you are several thousand words short of the publisher’s required minimum word count. What do you do? You go back and deepen your writing.” The Write Power
  6. Zeidel


    Event: Fiction Writing Workshop, with Pushcart nominated Author Smoky Zeidel (“The Storyteller’s Bracelet”), Saturday, March 9, 1013, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Whittier Public Library, Whittier, 13230 Penn Street, CA. Pre-registration required at the library’s information desk or by calling 562-567-9900.

  7. Viewpoint: Should Consumers Be Able to Buy and Sell Used E-books? – “A debate has ignited in the bookosphere after news surfaced that Amazon had applied for a patent on technology that would let people sell “used” e-books through Amazon.” Nathan Bransford
  8. Feature: For Publicist Marvin Levy, It’s All About Eyeballs, by Susan Stamberg – “Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln has earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director. Another Spielberg film — the multi-Oscar winning Schindler’s List — will be celebrating 20 years since its release. These films have at least two important things in common: Spielberg and publicist Marvin Levy.” NPR
  9. Conklin


    Interview: Tara Conklin (“The House Girl”) with Amy Scribner – Speaking about her new book. . .”“I didn’t think I was writing a novel,” she says. “It was just another story but it kept getting longer and longer. There were many times I set it aside. I had two young kids. I didn’t have time to be spending on this pie-in-the-sky dream of writing a novel.””  Book Page

  10. Essay: Working Girl, by Kate Bolick – “Edna St. Vincent Millay’s most enduring muse was her heart, but her brains and strong work ethic transformed her into a literary sensation.” Poetry Foundation
  11. Contest: The Pinch Literary Awards in Fiction, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction, prize $1,000, deadline March 15, 2013, entry fee $20, Fiction to 5,000 words; poetry entry is one to three poems. Pinch Journal
  12.  Feature: Why the Plural of “Die” Is “Dice,” not “Douse” by Neal Whitman – “I read an interesting post recently, on a blog called Arrant Pedantry. In this post, titled “No Dice,” Jonathon Owen traced the history of the English word “dice,” and how, in his words, it “slipped through the cracks of language change.” Today, we’re going to talk about “dice” and other examples of language that got left behind.” Grammar Girl
  13. armiesReview: “Invisible Armies,” by Max Boot, reviewed by Gerard DeGroot – “A common misconception among great powers is that guerrilla warfare is unusual, thus explaining the woeful lack of preparation for it. Boot, however, shows that the guerrilla is as old as warfare itself. Forces that cannot hope to win on the conventional battlefield choose instead an indirect approach, wearing down their enemies through stealth, cleverness and patience.”  The Denver Post
  14. News: Associated Press style book widens definitions of “husband” and “wife” to include individuals in a legal marriage regardless of sexual orientation. Associated Press
  15. Quotation: “To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.” ― Alan Moore
  16. lemongroveReview: “Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories,” by Karen Russell – “The stories of Karen Russell are one vigorous response to that criticism. They vibrate with originality and life, and most have the imaginative reach and moral weight of works of much greater length. As long as she keeps producing work of this quality, the future of the short story, digital or otherwise, is bright.” Book Reporter
  17. Feature: Buying your way onto the bestseller lists, by Soren Kaplan – “Trachtenberg asked me about my experience with a company called ResultSource, the firm I had hired to help me hit the bestseller list from day one.” The Passive Voice
  18. Commentary: Academy Awards behind-the-scenes chatter: Will ‘Argo’ or ‘Lincoln’ win? by Gloria Goodale – “The talk in Hollywood has gone beyond the single efforts of ‘Argo’ and ‘Lincoln’ to an evaluation of the careers of their directors, Ben Affleck and Steven Spielberg.” The Christian Science Monitor
  19. breakingdawnNews: ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2′ takes 7 Razzie Awards including Worst Picture, by Matt McDaniel – “The 33rd Annual Razzie Awards saluting the worst Hollywood had to offer in 2012 were handed out Saturday, the night before the Oscars. And in a surprise move that’s sure to raise the hackles of its legion of fans, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ was given seven awards, including Worst Picture. ” Yahoo Movies
  20. Obituary: NY songwriter Diane Lampert dies at age 88, wrote for movies starring Bob Hope, Cary Grant – “Diane Charlotte Lampert, an accomplished songwriter of the 1950s and 1960s who wrote lyrics to title songs for more than 20 movies, has died. Lampert’s husband, Fred Stuart, said she died of heart failure Friday at a Manhattan hospital. She was 88.” The Washington Post

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by contemporary fantasy author Malcolm R. Campbell

Coming in March 2013

Coming in March 2013

The magic he used to save her life was the same magic that threatened to take her away from him.

Getting in Touch with the Place Where I Grew Up

Tallahassee's College Avenue as it was

Tallahassee’s College Avenue as it was

I grew up in the Florida Panhandle and have used that setting for several short stories and for scenes in my upcoming novels in the Garden of Heaven Trilogy starting with The Seeker next month. While I’ve visited family in Orlando and Gainesville in the last several years, I haven’t been in the panhandle since the 1980s. For my novels and short stories, that’s fine. They’re set in the 1960s and 1970s.

But now as I talk about the locations I used and all the years that have passed since I’ve seen them, I feel that while I’m getting in touch with the places I knew so well when I was in high school, I’m really out of date when it comes to Tallahassee, St. Marks, Panacea and Carrabelle as they are now. If time and money were more plentiful, I’d go back to Tallahassee for a month and drive around with a camera catching up on what’s happened there as well as everywhere else within 50 miles of my old house.

I have been asking people who still live there what happened to this place and that place, and I’m hearing that “they closed ten years ago” and that “everything that didn’t burn down on another property, got wrecked by a hurricane or has otherwise fallen into ruin.”

Do you have trouble with getting used to the vast differences between the oh-so-clear memories of your home town when you were growing up as compared to the “I don’t have a clue” knowledge you have of that place now?

I look at Google’s maps and accompanying pictures of my favorite roads and streets and think I’m looking at a town I never lived in, When people go back home for high school reunions, this kind of disconnect must happen more often than not.

Life carried me away from Tallahassee and the swamps, piney woods and swamps of the Florida Panhandle, but now I miss it. I suppose I miss it as it was, If I moved  back or drove down from Atlanta for a visit, perhaps the nostalgia would wear off quickly.

I may never go back. But I like my memories, so that’s one of the reasons I set some of my short stories there as well as scenes from my books.

It might take winning the lottery to bring in enough cash to afford a visit. Until then, I’m living in and remembering north Florida as it was a long time ago.


MoonLightandGhostsMy Kindle/Nook short story “Moonlight and Ghosts” is set in Tallahassee. My Kindle/Nook short story “Cora’s Crossing” is set in nearby Marianna. Parts of the upcoming fantasy “The Seeker” are set in Tallahassee, Panacea, and Carrabelle.

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Book Bits: Amazon sued over DRM restraints, ‘War and Peace’ on BBC, ‘Moon Over Edisto,’ Short story boom?

BookBitsDo you ever worry about what happens to your e-books if the company making your e-reader goes out of business or upgrades the software over time making our model so out of date it’s no longer supported? What if you get tired of one e-reader and buy another? Well, you can say your Kindle library isn’t going to work on Nook is it? Several bookstores have filed a law suit against Amazon and large publishers based on these kinds of concerns (item 13) while Cory Doctorow suggests (item 15) the plaintiffs should have begun with a better understanding of Digital Rights Management.

I don’t own an e-reader, but I’ve always figured that the minute I buy one it will become the Beta-Max of e-readers. Plus, I never felt comfortable with the fact that most of the books in my e-reader library are maintained on the seller’s site and not on a device in my house.

  1. cornwellNews: Crime writer wins lawsuit against money advisers, by Denise Lavoie – “A federal jury awarded crime writer Patricia Cornwell nearly $51 million Tuesday in her lawsuit against her former financial management company and a former principal in the firm. The author best known for her series of novels featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta claimed that Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP was negligent in handling her finances and cost her millions in losses or unaccounted for revenue. ” Associated Press
  2. News: War and Peace comes to the BBC in ‘epic’ Andrew Davies drama, by Hannah Furness – “Now Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is to be turned into an “epic” six-part television series, written by the award-winning Andrew Davies and broadcast by BBC One. The ambitious programme will be the first adaptation of the novel on British television for 40 years, and promises all the drama of Britain’s best-loved soaps.” The Telegraph
  3. moonoveredistoReview: “Moon Over Edisto,” by Beth Webb Hart, reviewed by Jackie K. Cooper – “There is a superbly talented young woman living in Charleston, South Carolina who spends much of her time writing novels. She weaves stories from the land that surrounds her and the people who populate her special portion of the world. Her name is Beth Webb Hart and her latest novel is Moon Over Edisto.” The Huffington Post
  4. Lists: 7 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Book Sales Without Even Realizing It, By Jonathan Gunson – “Okay, be honest – did you experience a pang of anxiety when you read the headline above? Don’t worry, nobody’s perfect, and we all make mistakes.   (Trust me, I’ve made plenty of them in the course of my writing career…)   But some mistakes can prove more costly than others, and you can easily end up sabotaging your book sales without even realizing it.” Bestseller Labs
  5. Commentary: Sorry, the short story boom is bogus, by Laura Miller – “The New York Times touts the Internet’s role in reviving interest in short fiction. Too bad it’s not true ” Salon
  6. tinhorseReview: “The Tin Horse,” by Janice Steinberg, reviewed by Karen Cullotta – “hough more than six decades have passed since Elaine Greenstein’s twin sister, Barbara, disappeared without a trace, the octogenarian heroine of author Janice Steinberg’s new novel, The Tin Horse, is still reeling from the heartbreak endured by her fractured family circa 1939. Steinberg, the author of five mysteries, has transcended genre to weave a rich story that will appeal to readers who appreciate multigenerational immigrant family sagas as well as those who simply enjoy psychological suspense.”  Book Page
  7. Feature: ABA President Becky Anderson on Winter Institute 8 – “KANSAS CITY, KANSAS CITY, HERE WE COME! I know that for me, as well as for many of you, Winter Institute is the highlight event on the calendar of bookselling gatherings every year! What I can’t believe is that we’re about to meet for the eighth time.” American Booksellers Association
  8. facebookHow To: Build a Social Media Platform: Your Facebook Page, by Janalyn Voigt – “As the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook is an essential plank in most authors’ platforms. However, its effectiveness depends on how it is used.” Word Serve Water Cooler
  9. karenlordInterview: Always a New World: A Conversation with Karen Lord (“Redemption in Indigo”), by Jeremy L. C. Jones — “As creator of this universe, I don’t have to be linear. I can create a culture with characteristics that will naturally lead to a particular kind of conflict, but I might also desire a particular kind of conflict to occur and go back and add a cultural quirk that will support those consequences. ” Clarkesworld
  10. Feature: How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter), by Jane Friedman – “It’s almost a running joke. Whenever my manager introduces me at an event, he always starts by saying how many Twitter followers I have, which is inevitably far more than anyone else in the room. Today, my follower number is a little over 175,000, and it grows by a few hundred every week.” Jane Friedman
  11. cloudatlasViewpoint: Cloud Atlas: how Hollywood failed to put it on the map – “The film’s release should have been a global event, but its studio’s reticence over its fragmented form has led to disappointing box office returns” The Guardian
  12. Commentary: The New Essayists, or the Decline of a Form? by Adam Kirsch – In his consideration of four new essay collections, Kirsch considers whether or not the essay as a literary form is extinct.  The New Republic
  13. News: DRM Lawsuit Filed By Independent Bookstores Against Amazon, ‘Big Six’ Publishers, by Andrew Losowsky – “Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the playing field for book retailers. If successful, the lawsuit could completely change how ebooks are sold. “ The Huffington Post
  14. doctorsReview: “When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests,” by Leana Wen, M.D. and Joshua Kosowsky, M.D., reviewed by Laura Landro – “When it comes to diagnosing illness, doctors may turn a deaf ear to some of the most critical information: what the patient has to say.” The Wall Street Journal
  15. Viewpoint: Indie booksellers sue Amazon and big publishers over DRM (but have no idea what “DRM” and “open source” mean), by Cory Doctorow – “For some reason, they’re using “open source” as a synonym for “standardized” or “interoperable.” Which is to say, these booksellers don’t really care if the books are DRM-free, they just want them locked up using a DRM that the booksellers can also use. ” Boing Boing
  16. Quotation: For a long time, I’ve collected the bits and pieces of bookstore memories. In a white box with folded flaps, I’ve stuffed the stuff of approximately 4,800 days of Inklings life so far. Yesterday, I pulled it out and sat down in a sunbeam at my dining table for an afternoon of wonder, embarrassment, laughter and memories. Susan Richmond in “The Bookstore Box” at NW Book Lovers
  17. browninfernoNews: Cover Reveal: New Dan Brown Novel, ‘Inferno’ by Craig Morgan Teicher – “Mega-seller Dan Brown’s next novel, which comes out May 14, features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon on another code-cracking quest, this one inspired by Dante’s seminal poem ‘The Inferno.’”  PWxyz on Publishers Weekly
  18. Essay: Dr. Doolittle Calling: Do nonhuman animals have grammar? by Jessoca Love – “But do nonhuman animals have grammar? Grammar dictates how linguistic elements can be combined. Grammatical rules bring structure—hierarchy—to a language. And no doubt about it, hierarchical structure can be found in the songs and calls of plenty of other species.” The American Scholar

Today’s edition of “Book Bits” is brought to you by “The Seeker,” an earthy new contemporary fantasy by Malcolm R.  Campbell coming in March from Vanilla Heart Publishing.


Book Bits: Reader’s Digest Bankruptcy, Debbie Ford, Week’s hot reads, Armstrong’s ‘Merciless’

underToday is the 66th anniversary of the publication of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. While the troubled author took ten years to write the novel, some critics said is as better than Hemingway and on the level of Thomas Wolfe’s work. The novel is ranked 11th on the Modern Library’s top-100 American novels list.

From the novel: “The Consul felt a pang. Ah, to have a horse, and gallop away, singing, to someone you loved perhaps, into the heart of all the simplicity and peace in the world; was that not like the opportunity afforded man by life itself? Of course not. Still, just for a moment, it had seemed that it was.”

Today’s links:

  1. readersNews: Reader’s Digest Is Bankrupt as Iconic Magazine Falters, by Dawn McCarty  – “RDA Holding Co., publisher of the 91-year-old Reader’s Digest magazine, filed for bankruptcy to cut $465 million in debt and focus on North American operations as consumers shift from print to electronic media. ” Bloomberg
  2. News: Debbie Ford Dies – “Debbie Ford, who authored several books in the self-help genre, has died of complications from cancer. She was 57 years old. Ford began her writing career with ‘The Dark Side Of The Light Chasers,’ which aimed to help heal people confront their “dark side” rather than block it out. ” WebProNews
  3. bombReview: Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” by Steve Sheinkin, ages 10-18 – “In late December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered that uranium atoms could be split, and just a few months later the race to build an atomic bomb was on….A superb tale of an era and an effort that forever changed our world. (source notes, quotation notes, acknowledgments, photo credits, index) ” Kirkus Reviews
  4. News: Amazon Fires German Security Firm After Claims Of Intimidation, by Annalisa Quinn – “Amazon announced Monday that it has fired a German security company amid accusations that seasonal warehouse workers had been intimidated and harassed. In a documentary aired last week by a German TV station, foreign temporary workers claimed that guards from Hensel European Security Services (HESS) would frisk them and search their rooms. ” NPR
  5. teleportationFeature: This Week’s Hot Reads: February 18, 2013, by Jim Gavin – “From a story collection of manhood in Southern California to some of the last books of Maeve Binchy and Vasily Grossman.” Ned Beauman’s “The Teleportation Accident,” shown here, made the list, with a story about “A Berlin set designer obsessed with teleportation follows his heart to Los Angeles.”  The Daily Beast
  6. Feature: Kate Middleton criticized by Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize winner, by Peter Griffiths – Kate Middleton was seemingly verbally attacked by Hilary Mantel, the first Briton to twice win the coveted Man Booker prize for fiction. In her attack, Hilary Mantel described Kate Middleton as ‘a shop-window mannequin, with no personality.'” Most stories omit the fact that Mantel said this characterization came from the public  and the press and wasn’t Mantel’s viewpoint.  The Christian Science Monitor
  7. Essay: In theory: the unread and the unreadable – “We measure our lives with unread books – and ‘difficult’ works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?”  The Guardian
  8. kazuoInterview: Kazuo Ishiguro (“The Remains of the Day”), with Susannah Hunnewell – “Q: Were you a hippie? A: I suppose I was, at least superficially. Long hair, mustache, guitar, rucksack. Ironically, we all thought we were very individual. I hitchhiked up the Pacific Coast Highway, through Los Angeles, San Francisco, and all over northern California…It more than fulfilled my expectations. Some of it was nerve-racking. I rode a freight train from Washington state across Idaho to Montana. ” The Paris Review
  9. Quotation: “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they’re ok, then it’s you.” ― Rita Mae Brown
  10. housewascalmResource: The Neglected Books Page – Covers, excerpts, reviews and authors who have been (and probably still are) neglected. I don’t think authors are allowed to ask that their books be added to the list.
  11. News: Nominees for the Women’s National Book Association’s Pannell Award are Avid Book Shop, Athens, Ga., Byrd’s Books, Bethel, Conn., Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, Mich., Newtonville Books, Newtonville, Mass., Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C., Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif and Park Road Books, Charlotte, N.C. The award rcognizes bookstores that bring creativity into their efforts to serve prospective readers. – ShelfAwareness
  12. mercilessReview: “Merciless” by Lori Armstrong – “As a former black-ops sniper and current FBI agent, [protagonist Mercy Gunderson] she kicks ass and takes no prisoners. She also supports her friends and family, and although having a committed relationship scares her (especially since it’s with the local sheriff, with whom she can’t share case information) she realizes she’s happy, maybe for the first time, and rather than engage in the typical self-sabotaging behavior so many heroines do, tries to grow and change.” Poisoned Pen Bookstore Blog
  13. News: Scholar Sues Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Over Sherlock Holmes Copyright, by Jason Boog – “Scholar Leslie S. Klinger has filed a civil suit in federal court against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, hoping to prove that ‘Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson are no longer protected by federal copyright laws.’” GalleyCat
  14. How To: 3 Cases of Extraneous Hyphens, by Mark Nichol – “Writers, even professionals, have a difficult time with hyphens, frequently perplexed about whether to use one — or, worse, blithely certain they’re inserting or omitting a hyphen correctly when doing so is wrong. “ Daily Writing Tips

MalcolmCampbellFL“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the upcoming dark and earthy fantasy adventure “The Seeker”

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Book Bits: Hatchet Job of the Year, ‘Time’ for sale? Alaya Dawn Johnson, Haruf’s ‘Benediction,’ ‘Zero Hour’

BookBitsWhile I was going to journalism school, we considered book reviews to be journalism, a mix between the editorial and the editorial column, with a focus on the worlds of fiction and nonfiction. Like any good opinion piece, reviews had to start with facts, use a standard of some kind for considering those facts, and then leave the reader with an opinion or criticism.

Now, as magazines and newspapers seek new identities in a digital worlds, we’re stuck with reader reviews which, more often than not, are opinion only without the facts or standards of judgement. Some, however, are very good. Among the good, are those which find flaws in books without becoming nasty.

hatchetGoodness knows, acerbic book/art/theater/fashion reviewers are part of the tradition. There used to be a reviewer on a broadcast network who delighted in tearing movies apart. I got the feeling as I listened that his reviews were written from an “all about me” perspective. That is to say, he wasn’t writing “A Review of Film XYZ,” he was writing a review of “Learned Me Reacting to the film.” In short, he was showing off at the expense of authors, directors, screen writers and stars.

When you read about the Hatchet Job of the Year winner (item 0), you can decide whether the review is about Aftermath or about Camilla Long reading Aftermath

  1. timeNews: Time Inc. Reportedly on the Block, by Bill Mickey – “Speculation about Time Warner selling off its publishing unit Time Inc. has been a favorite pastime of media watchers for years now. Partly because of the thrill of imagining the country’s largest publisher being spun off and partly because of revenue and operating income challenges that have nagged the unit when compared to TW’s other groups. ” Folio
  2. News: Indie Bookstores Holding the Fort – “Despite increased crumbling of the big chains and ever more encroachment from electronic fronts, book sales numbers from 2012 indicate that independent bookstores continue to be the cornerstone of the industry. From Christian Science Monitor.” – January Magazine
  3. amazonlogoNews: Sale of Used E-books Getting Closer, by Judith Rosen – “At a time when many independent booksellers both here and abroad are beginning to gain traction selling Kobo e-books, other retailers are eyeing the secondary market for e-books and other digital content. Boston-based ReDigi, which opened a used digital music storefront in late 2011, may have gotten there first, but megaretailer Amazon isn’t far behind. ” Publishers Weekly
  4. flavorFeature: 25 Writers on the Importance of Libraries, by Alison Nastasi – “We gathered a few passionate statements from 20 writers that emphasize why libraries aren’t “sentimental” institutions. See what Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, Ray Bradbury, and other writers have to contribute to the conversation.” Flavorwire
  5. ADJohnsonInterview: Alaya Dawn Johnson (“The Summer Prince”) with Petra Mayer – “Alaya Dawn Johnson has written a number of novels for adults (including the delightful Zephyr Hollis series), and now she’s venturing onto the young adult shelves with The Summer Prince, a complex science-fiction narrative set in post-apocalyptic Brazil.” NPR
  6. How To: How to Get Out of the Slush Pile – “If you want to get out of the slush pile, one of the worst things you can do is write a lackluster first paragraph. Don’t make the mistake of thinking: the really fine writing starts on page three of my story, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when they get there.  By page three, I’m frustrated. If you want out of the slush pile, you must prove it from the first paragraph, from the first line.” Ploughshares
  7. Quotation: “People don’t just come to you because you posted your story somewhere. You have to work the system and coax people to come to you. That means lots of social media, maybe even a newsletter. You have to act as if the book has been published and you are seeking readers to buy.” – Hope Clark
  8. benedicitionReview: “Benediction” by Kent Haruf (Alfred A. Knopf, 2/26/2013), reviewed by Tucker Shaw – “Colorado author Kent Haruf has an extraordinary grasp of quiet. You’ll find proof in his masterful new novel, “Benediction,” a gentle but forceful rendering of protagonist “Dad” Lewis’ last days in the high plains town of Holt.”  The Denver Post
  9. Viewpoint: Make a Call, Take a Meeting – “Most business is done by email these days. And why not? It’s convenient and it’s non-intrusive — you can write or respond to emails on your own schedule. I’ve noticed that many of us have even become phone-averse and actively avoid the phone in favor of email. But I think something has been lost when we do our business primarily through written, electronic communication.” Rachelle Gardner
  10. zerohourTV Review: “Zero Hour, starring Anthony Edwards and Jacinda Barrett, ABC, reviewed by Tim Goodman – “Lots of twists and turns involving Nazis, Rosicrucians and clocks make this crazy ABC drama starring Anthony Edwards worth the ride. ” Hollywood Reporter
  11. News: Survey Underway on LGBT Reading Habits and Book Discovery, by Dennis Abrams – “The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) and St. Cloud State University Collection Management Librarian Rachel Wexelbaum are conducting an international study on the book reading preferences of 21dt century LGBT people to determine what type of books LGBT people like to read and how and where do they find the book that they like to read.” Publishing Perspectives
  12. ghostmanReview: “Ghost Man,” by Roger Hobbs (Knopf, 02/12/2013), reviewed by Alden Mudge – “The enigmatic hero of Hobbs’ thriller has a distinctive voice, a passion for translating Latin and no fixed identity.” Book Page
  13. News: Hatchet Job of the Year goes to assault on Rachel Cusk, Alison Flood – “Camilla Long’s scathing review of Cusk’s memoir Aftermath draws most blood in contest for the best bad review.”  The Guardian See Also: The review itself for The Sunday Times
  14. Contests: Imaginary Friend Press Poetry Book Contest, prise, $250 plus publication and copies, deadline, March 15, 2013, entry fee $11, Imaginary Friend Press

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy adventures including “The Seeker” (coming in March)


Book Bits: Karen Russell interview, Randi Zuckerberg book deal, Binchy’s ‘A Week in Winter,’ Poor ‘Die Hard’

carnivalThe CNN story (item 7) reflects the current practice of some of the 24-hour news networks becoming fixated on one story and then keeping that story front and center until it finally (and mercifully) goes away. Before it goes away, other events are happening which (normally) might be considered actual breaking news or an event that might appear on a newspaper’s front page with a 48-point headline.

There are days when I watch these laborious attempts at “news coverage” thinking the cameras are poised around the event hoping to catch some big moment live, like the ill-fated cruise ship sinking just before it finally reaches the dock or the cop-killer’s cabin being demolished by a tactical nuclear strike. I don’t expect the “news” networks to stop doing this because, frankly, they left real journalism by the side of the road some years ago when they discovered showing one carnival after another was an easy way to fill up time..

Now, moving on to other matters. . .

  1. vaticanNews: Papal resignation a PR coup for Vatican journalist, by Tom Heneghan – “Few authors can boast that Pope Benedict helped sell their books, but the pontiff’s shock resignation has boosted interest in all things Catholic just as veteran Vatican journalist John Thavis is about to publish. ‘The Vatican Diaries,’ a behind-the-scenes look at the faith’s fabled nerve centre, goes on sale on February 21, just one week before the pope takes the nearly unprecedented step of quitting as the head of the world’s largest church.” Reuters
  2. News: Justice Department Approves Random House-Penguin Merger, by Leslie Kaufman – “The merger of Penguin and Random House cleared a big hurdle Thursday. The two companies said that the Department of Justice had closed its review of the proposed merger ‘without conditions.’” The New York Times
  3. ostermanInterview: Helen Osterman (“Notes in a Mirror”) with Morgen Bailey – “try to write every day, if possible. I am a morning person so the early hours find me at my desk. I always write the first draft in long hand. I can’t create on a machine. When I finish for the day, I leave a few words about the next scene or chapter so that I can pick up where I left off.” Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog
  4. Feature: “The New York Review of Books”: Where the literati find love, by By Katie Mcdonough – “Looking for a Mr. Darcy-type? The literary journal remains one way to find gentleman (and lady) callers ” Salon
  5. Obituary:  Alan Sharp, who began his writing career as a novelist before becoming a screenwriter “whose brand of dark, lyrical and densely plotted work, including the screenplay for Arthur Penn’s Night Moves, made him a critically admired if largely unknown figure in Hollywood,” died last Friday, the New York Times reported. He was 79. – ShelfAwareness
  6. yReview: “Y,” by Marjorie Celona, reviewed by Meganne Fabrega – “You don’t read much about foundlings these days; the word itself has an old-fashioned, vaguely romantic ring to it. The truth is that foundling is just another word for “abandoned child” and Shannon, the protagonist of Marjorie Celona’s haunting debut novel, “Y” (Free Press, 259 pages, $24.99), finds nothing romantic about having been left on the doorstop of the YMCA shortly after her birth.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  7. News: CNN’s Incredibly Extensive Cruise Ship Coverage Draws Scrutiny About Network’s New Direction, by Jack Mirkinson – “Media watchers took notice on Thursday when CNN sent out a press release detailing its incredibly extensive coverage plans for the final leg of the journey of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship, which has been struck with power failures and squalid conditions for five days.” The Huffington Post
  8. tapsFeature: In A North Vietnamese Prison, Sharing Poems With ‘Taps On The Walls’ – “Sarcastically called the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs, it was a place of torture, deprivation and often solitary confinement. Borling spent much of his time there just trying to survive. He also composed poetry — in his head, without benefit of pencil or paper.” NPR
  9. News: In lawsuit with publishers, open textbook startup Boundless hits back – “In its ongoing lawsuit with three of the biggest textbook publishers, open textbook startup Boundless is down, but by no means is it out. Last spring, the Boston-based startup said it had raised $8 million in venture funding just as Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan Higher Education slapped it with a lawsuit alleging several violations, including copyright infringement, unfair competition and false advertising. Boundless curates and packages free online content into open textbook alternatives tailored to students’ learning needs.” PaidContent
  10. turabianReview: “Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations,” Kate L. Turabian, reviewed by Mark Nichol – The book “has been overhauled to reflect the ubiquity of the Internet and other recent technological advances and, in addition to a reorganization, has acquired a major new section that transforms it from a dry abridgement of sister publication The Chicago Manual of Style to a friendly guide to the qualitative aspects of developing a research paper or similar document.”  Daily Writing Tips
  11. How To: Commas: Are There Firm Rules or Just Guidelines? by Mignon Fogarty – “Commas have a lot of different uses, and that’s part of what makes them confusing”  Grammar Girl
  12. Essay: Ye Olde Blogge Postte: An ironic phrase with an ironic past, by Jessica Love – “Consider the phrase ye olde. (And yes, it is most definitely a phrase. One does not encounter ye perpetual or ye longstanding; always ye sticks to olde like a barnacle to a whale.)”  The American Scholar
  13. karenInterview: Karen Russell (“Swamplandia”) with Jack Ruskin – “I love scary stories. I really loved them when I was younger and I still love them now.  I love the experience of being afraid. What it did for me when I was a kid is give me a way to contend with all kinds of unruly appetites like violence, discomforting tragedy, and questions that couldn’t be addressed in speech. ” The Millions
  14. News: Sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg signs book deal – “Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is writing a memoir about her years at the social network website where she was once director of marketing, publisher HarperCollins said on Thursday.” Reuters
  15. maeveReview: “A Week in Winter,” by Maeve Binchy – “The beloved, prolific Binchy’s posthumous last novel is classic Binchy, peeking into the lives of characters from various walks of life brought together at a newly opened inn on the West Coast of Ireland…While Binchy’s stories are sketchier than usual, perhaps understandably rushed, her fans will find solace as hearts mend and relationships sort themselves out one last time.” Kirkus Reviews
  16. Essay: Writing Doubts: Climbing Out of the Pit, by Bryan Hutchinson – “Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I don’t want to write anymore. And sometimes I do give up and stop writing. Have you been there? Stuck and filled with doubt.” Wordplay
  17. diehardViewpoint: Why It Matters That the New ‘Die Hard’ Movies Suck, by Jason Bailey – “It’s hard to remember now, but when 20th Century Fox began promoting Die Hard back in 1988, it was far from a guaranteed success. Bruce Willis had never headlined a hit movie — his two starring vehicles to date (Blind Date and Sunset) and the TV show that made him big (Moonlighting) were firmly in the light comedy mold. ” Flavorwire

Today’s edition of “Book Bits” is brought to you by the contemporary fantasy novel “Sarabande”


A Valentine’s Day Surprise



Author S. R. Claridge (“House of Lies,” “Death Trap”) says I’m her Funny Valentine. In fact, she’s been busy on her blog surprising her writer friends with Valentine posts. Everybody who knows me knows that I have an alter ego named Jock Stewart who writes sarcastic satire. Susan was thinking of this when she alleged that I’m funny.

Here’s her Funny Valentine post on Feeling the Fiction.

But there’s more:

Marilyn Morris (“My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale”) is a Brat’s Valentine, Chelle Cordero (“Bartlett’s Rule”) is a ‘Chelle’-ing Out Great Novels Valentine, Melinda Clayton (“Entangled Thorns”) is a Psychological Prowess Valentine, Charmaine Gordon (“To Be Continued”) is a Charming Charmaine Valentine, Smoky Zeidel (“The Storyteller’s Bracelet”) is a Smoky Valentine, L. E. Harvey (“Imperfect,” “Impeccable”)  is an Imperfect, Impeccable Valentine, Robert Hayes (“Blood on the Roses’) is a Blood on the Roses Valentine and Collin Kelley (“Conquering Venus,” “Remain in Light” is a Conquering Venus Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Susan, my What A Surprise Valentine. I was going to send you a virtual box of high-quality chocolate, but Jock said, “The heck with that, send her a Snickers bar because you’re laughing.”snickers


Book Bits: Digging up Neruda, Donna Tartt’s new novel, Frost Medal for Robert Bly, David Ferry’s ‘Bewilderment’

BookBitsAccording to ShelfAwareness, Queen Elizabeth tops the list of the “20 most powerful women in Britain.” However, two women from the world of books also made the list: Random House Group CEO Gail Rebuck (10th place) and author J.K. Rowling (13th place…according to a survey by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. I agree with a writer friend who said that while the Queen is as an institution, the other women had to pull themselves onto the list through hard work.

  1. News: Chile court orders remains of poet Pablo Neruda exhumed – “A CHILEAN judge has ordered the remains of poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda exhumed in a probe into whether he died of cancer as commonly believed or was killed by agents serving Augusto Pinochet.” The Australian
  2. News: Donna Tartt’s New Novel Gets Title, Release Date, by Jesse David Fox – “The long-anticipated third novel from Donna Tartt, the acclaimed author of The Secret History and The Little Friend, has finally gotten a title and release date. Coming out exactly eleven years from the release of The Little Friend, The Goldfinch: A Novel has been set for an October 22, 2013 release.” Vulture
  3. aloneReview: “Alone on the Ice,” by David Roberts, reviewed by Catherine Hollis – “his winter marks the 100th anniversary season of the “greatest survival story in the history of exploration” you’ve probably never heard of. Fans of Antarctic exploration know well the stories of Robert Scott’s tragic attainment of the South Pole in 1912, or Ernest Shackleton’s two ice-bound years on the Endurance. If we’ve overlooked Douglas Mawson’s 1912-1913 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, perhaps that’s because—as author David Roberts proposes—the expedition was Australian and scientific in purpose, not British and heroically single-minded.” Book Page
  4. Feature: Fiction prescription: why libraries make you happy, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – “The recent announcement that GPs may send patients with depression away with the suggestion that they read a “mood-enhancing” book will have entranced some but left others bristling. Is the NHS really so broken that they are sending people off to libraries? Or are the libraries so broken that the government is attempting to inject some energy from the already beleaguered service provided by our hard-working GPs?” The Guardian
  5. dwtHow To: Answers to Questions About Tense, by Mark Nichol – “A reader submitted three queries about which verb forms to use to indicate various tenses. Here are the questions and my responses.” Daily Writing Tips
  6. Viewpoint: Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work? – “Getting feedback from the wrong readers can be more than simply unhelpful — it can steer you in the wrong direction. Worse, you may not even realize the input you’re receiving is bad.” Rachelle Gardner
  7. joycejInterview: Joyce Johnson (“The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac”), with Brad Listi (In-depth, inappropriate interviews with authors) – According to Kirkus, Johnson’s book is “An exemplary biography of the Beat icon and his development as a writer…Johnson [turns] a laser-sharp focus on Kerouac’s evolving ideas about language, fiction vs. truth and the role of the writer in his time…there’s plenty of life in these pages to fascinate casual readers, and Johnson is a sensitive but admirably objective biographer.  A triumph of scholarship.” Other People
  8. Lists: Nine Reasons Authors Still Choose Traditional Publishing, by Melissa Donovan – “Historically, self-publishing was a last resort, an act of desperation by a writer whose work had been rejected countless times. Now, with the advent of the Internet and ebooks, writers are skipping the submission process entirely and actively choosing to self-publish their books. But for many (probably most), traditional publishing is still the most desired route to publication.” Writing Forward
  9. blyNews: Robert Bly Named 2013 Frost Medalist, by Laurie Hertzel – “The Poetry Society of America has bestowed its highest honor, the Frost Medal, on Minneapolis poet Robert Bly, it was announced today. The Frost Medal, which recognizes a lifetime devoted to poetry, has gone previously to Wallace Stevens, Lucille Clifton, Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others.” Minneapolis star-Tribune
  10. flimsyReview: “Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles,” by Ron Currie Jr. – “A postmodern love story, self-consciously playful in a Vonnegut-ian way…Free-wheeling—and at times both moving and hilarious.” Kirkus Reviews
  11. Viewpoint: Wintering: Moving within the Self as a Way of Conceiving One’s Own Writing, by Cassie Premo Steele – “Every mother has a winter season. We don’t talk about it much anymore. We hold up Sexton and Plath as counter-examples, we say, “Oh, how much has changed!” and we rush, in the course of one day,  to job, soccer, homework, yoga, PTA, shopping, and bed. We have more options now, in the outside world. But still, mothering is an inside job. It is emotional. It takes place in intimate spaces. It demands we go down into our inner worlds and then come up for air and light.” Literary Mama
  12. RosieSInterview: Rosie Schaap (“Drinking With Men”) with Scott Korb – “I think that both sites of worship and bars are, in a way, sanctified spaces. They are set apart, they are neither work nor home, and they serve a purpose, or several purposes.” Los Angeles Review of Books
  13. Feature: How Timbuktu Saved Its Books, by Tristan McConnell – “Timbuktu is thought to be home to perhaps 300,000 texts, divided among small heirloom collections, some two dozen private libraries like Haidara’s, and state-owned institutions. The oldest date back nearly a thousand years, the most recent a few hundred. Some are thick, bound volumes, others mere scraps; some are made of paper, others gazelle-skin parchment or tree bark. ” Harpers
  14. News: “Literary NAFTA” Begins This Week, by Linda L. Richards – “Writers and readers in cold climates wanting a blast of warm air with their literature might consider heading down to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in stunning San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.”  (Feb 13-18). January Magazine
  15. bewildermentReview: “Bewilderment,” by David Ferry, reviewed by Benjamin Moser – “If his book’s themes include loneliness, age, and death, Ferry also stresses continuity, harmony, and the mystic ability of people to speak to each other across time. And it may be this aspect that, despite Ferry’s insistent downplaying of his own originality, makes his one of the most original and moving books of the year.” Critical Mass
  16. vampireNews: The Weinstein Company takes its first young adult franchise: Vampire Academy, by Lucas Shaw – “The Weinstein Company has picked up domestic distribution rights to “Blood Sisters,” the first film adaption from the popular young adult novels, ‘Vampire Academy.’ ‘Mean Girls’ director Mark Waters will direct the film, which should begin shooting this summer. The Weinstein Company wants to release it on Valentine’s Day, 2014, which is also a long weekend due to President’s Day.” Reuters
  17. Bestsellers: (1) “Safe Haven,” by Nicholas Sparks, (2) “Until the End of Time,” by Daniel Steele, (3) “The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia,” by Shigeru, Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and Akira Himekawa, (4) “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn, (5) “Beautiful Creatures,”by by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – USA Today

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by contemporary fantasy author Malcolm R. Campbell

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