Archive for September, 2011

Amazon Unveils Its Tablet, The Kindle Fire: Can It Compete? : Monkey See : NPR

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Amazon Unveils Its Tablet, The Kindle Fire: Can It Compete? : Monkey See : NPR

NPR offers an extensive review of Amazon’s new Kindle offerings, including a direct comparison between the Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad:

A supercharged Kindle or an underpowered iPad? For the Fire to catch on, Amazon probably needs it to be compared in terms of functionality to the existing Kindle, and not to the far more expensive iPad. The Fire can’t stand toe-to-toe with the iPad for functionality, cool design, or size, but Amazon hopes to compensate with the much lower price. By selling the Fire for $199 (when rumors had suggested more like $250), they have a chance to position it as a tablet for people who haven’t felt like an iPad was essential enough to spend more than $500 to acquire.

In fact, NPR’s Laura Sydell told me she’s been speaking to analysts today who believe the price point can bring people into the tablet market who would never enter it at current Apple prices. One pointed out to her that a person could by a Kindle Fire for herself and an inexpensive Kindle for her kid and still get out of the deal for $300 — $200 less than an iPad.

What the Fire probably compares to most directly is Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, which also runs on Android

 

Amazon Unveils $199 Kindle Fire Tablet, Three New Kindle Models Starting at $79

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Amazon Unveils $199 Kindle Fire Tablet, Three New Kindle Models Starting at $79

At a packed press event in New York this morning, Amazon unveiled its long-expected tablet offering, called the Kindle Fire. The company also debuted three new Kindle devices, with the least expensive priced at $79.

Through a link in this short article, you can keep up with Publishers Weekly‘s live blog updating Amazon’s big announcement.

Glendale school board may block ‘In Cold Blood’ – latimes.com

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Glendale school board may block ‘In Cold Blood’ – latimes.com

The landmark 1966 literary nonfiction book “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote may not make it onto a high school honors reading list in Glendale after obections were raised by a committee made up of school principals. The school board must approve the book before it can be taught; “I think ‘chilling’ is far too benign a word to use,” school board member Mary Boger said of it.

An 11th grade teacher has requested permission to add In Cold Blood to her Advanced Placement class reading list.

Since this is such a pivotal work in literary history, students who have not read it will be at a decided disadvantage when they take the AP exam.

Support Banned Books Week.

Literature & Psychology | Scoop.it

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Literature & Psychology | Scoop.it.

Please check out my newest undertaking and let me know what you think.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 26th, 2011

2012 Stamp Preview: A Stamp a Day

The United States Postal Service will be issuing some new literature-related stamps in 2012. Click on the numbers to see more information about these:

  • #2 Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • #11 O. Henry
  • #31 Twentieth-Century Poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, Robert Hayden, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams

One in Six Americans Now Use e-Reader with One in Six Likely to Purchase in Next Six Months

Yet more evidence of the rapidly growing popularity of e-readers. This release announces the results of a Harris Poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011:

While some may lament the introduction of the e-Reader as a death knell for books, the opposite is probably true. First, those who have e-Readers do, in fact, read more. Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (20%). But, among those who have an e-Reader, one-third read 11-20 books a year (32%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (27%).

Overall, e-readers do not seem to be contributing to the downfall of reading, but they are a fact that publishers will have to adapt to in order to survive.

9 Things That Happen When You Read

Susan K. Perry, Ph. D., writes about creativity in her “Creating in Flow” blog for Psychology Today. In this entry she discusses The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. Here is her own paraphrased and adapted list, based on Pamuk’s book, of 9 things that happen when we read:

1. We observe the general scene and follow the narrative. Whether action-filled or more literary, we read all novels, Pamuk says, the same way: seeking out the meaning and main idea.

2. We transform words into images in our mind, completing the novel as our imaginations picture what the words are telling us.

3. Part of our mind wonders how much is real experience and how much is imagination. “A third dimension of reality slowly begins to emerge within us: the dimension of the complex world of the novel.”

4. We wonder if the novel depicts reality as we know it. Is this scene realistic, could this actually happen?

5. We enjoy the precision of analogies, the power of narrative, the way sentences build upon one another, the music of the prose.

6. We make moral judgments about the characters’ behavior, and about the novelist for his own moral judgments by way of the characters’ actions and their consequences.

7. We feel successful when we understand the text, and we come to feel as though it was written just for us.

8. Our memory works hard to keep track of all the details, and in a well-constructed novel, everything connects to everything.

9. We search for the secret center of the novel, convinced that there is one. We hunt for it like a hunter searches for meaningful signs in the forest.

Describing what happens when we read is difficult because, once we begin to think about what’s happening, whatever it is stops happening. However, these 9 points seem to describe what I later remember as going on during a period of intense, prolonged reading.

How about you?

Prize-Winning Female Authors Respond To Questions About Gender Gap

Merritt Tierce and Apricot Irving, two winners of the Rona Jaffee awards given to female writers who display both promise and excellence early in their careers, answer questions about how women writers fare in relation to their male counterparts.

5 Free College-Level Writing & Lit Videos

Recommendations of five videos relating to writing, reading, and publishing from YouTube’s education channel. Here’s your chance to learn for free from masters such as Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler, Maxine Hong Kingston, Penelope Lively, and David McCullough.

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Banned Books Week pin

 

 

Banned Books Week this year is from September 24 through October 1.

More information is available from the American Library Association: Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Harlan Coben in St. Louis: Part II

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Part I (in case you missed it)

The first question people always ask an author is “Where do you get your ideas?” Coben said that anything, such as a tabloid headline, can stimulate an idea. Then he just keeps asking “What if?” For example, the idea for Promise Me came when he overheard a couple of teenagers talking about their friends drinking and driving. He pulled them aside, gave them his card with his cell phone number, and said, “Call me any time. Just promise me you won’t get into the car with someone who’s been drinking.” In real life nothing else happened. But he thought “What if a teenaged girl called the hero at 3:00 A.M. He picks her up in the city and drops her at the house she points out to him. The next morning she’s missing and no one at that house even knows who she is.”

The idea for Hold Tight came when he was having dinner with some friends who told him that their 15-year-old son was giving them some trouble, so they decided to put spyware on his computer. At first, Coben said, he was a little put off by their action, but then he thought that it’s not that simple a question. Imagine if they found something on the computer that indicated their kid was in a lot deeper trouble than they ever imagined.

The idea for Just One Look came to him one day when he was looking through family photographs. For a split second he thought there was a photo in there that he didn’t take. It turns out that the picture was just upside down. But he started thinking, “What if there was a picture here that I didn’t take? What if that picture changed my whole life? What if the picture showed that everything I thought I knew about my loved ones was a lie?” Then the next question the writer asks is “Who’s going to tell that story?” Coben said that for that book he wanted to portray a female lead for the first time because he was tired of those “bad woman in jeopardy” novels and movies, in which the heroine is naïve to the extreme and goes out of her way to put herself in danger so that the male character can rescue her.

Coben then said that these examples make coming up with the idea for a book sound like an easy process that takes about 15 minutes, but in reality it’s a messy process that represents about three months of work. The idea for Tell No One first came to him when he was watching a romance movie on television about a man whose wife dies. He asked himself, “What about the man who has truly lost his soul mate?” The second part of the idea came to him because he lost my parents at a young age. He has four kids now, and he thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if my parents could have met their grandchildren?” At the time he was sitting in front of the computer screen with a webcam, and he wondered, “What if I suddenly saw my parents right now on the computer screen?” He put those two ideas together and came up with the beginning of the book: a man whose wife has been dead for eight years receives an email; he clicks on a link in the email and goes to a video in which he sees his dead wife walk by.

The next thing he’s often asked about is where characters come from. He said this is the hardest question for him to answer, “because I really don’t know where character comes from.” He said that every once in a while a character is based on a real person, but rarely.

And then there’s the question of how much research he does in preparing to write a book. He said he’s of the “hum a few bars and fake it” school of research. The main reason is that research is an excuse not to write. The second reason is that it’s tempting to show off all one’s research when writing, but the inclusion of too many facts can clog up a story and slow it down too much.

Finally, Coben addressed the question of what he would be if he weren’t a writer. His answer was that he wouldn’t be much of anything. The fear that if he weren’t a writer he’d have to get a real job drives him. There are three things that make a writer:

  • inspiration
  • perspiration
  • desperation

He said he feels guilty when he’s doing just about anything other than writing. “The muse isn’t some angelic voice; it’s a nag. The muse isn’t hard to find; it’s hard to like,” he said. “Amateurs wait for the muse to arrive. The rest of us just get to work.”

It’s always interesting to hear an author talk about his writing, and Harlan Coben is a particularly entertaining speaker. So let me repeat: If you ever have the opportunity to hear him in person, take advantage of it.

Harlan Coben in St. Louis: Part I

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you ever get a chance to see Harlan Coben in person, go for it. He was in St. Louis last weekend for Boucheron 2011.  As part of the book tour promoting his new book, Shelter, the introductory volume for his YA series featuring Mickey Bolitar, Coben spoke at St. Louis County Library.

He began by saying that the first question people always ask when they see him is, “How tall are you?” Answer: 6’ 4”.

With that issue out of the way, Coben turned to discussing his writing. He calls the kind of books he writes novels of immersion: the book you take on vacation, then stay in your hotel room to read; the book that you cannot put down. He doesn’t outline, but when he begins writing a book he knows the beginning and the end. He has two favorite quotations about writing:

  1. Elmore Leonard: I try to cut out all the parts you’d normally skip.
  2. E. L. Doctorow: Writing is like driving at night in the fog with your headlights on. You can only see a little bit ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.

His writing process involves a lot of rewriting. “I don’t know any writer who gets it right the first time,” he said. When he sits down to write, he goes over everything he wrote the day before and polishes it. Then, when he has about 50 pages done, he prints out those pages and revises them. He estimates that, by the time he’s finished the first draft of the whole book, he’s probably rewritten the first chapter 10 times. During his revisions he focuses on Elmore Leonard’s notion of cutting out all the parts a reader might skip. “Every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word, I ask myself, ‘Is this compelling? Is this gripping? Is this moving the story forward?’ And if it’s not, I have to get rid of it. I write as if there’s a knife at my throat and, if I bore you, I’m dead.”

Asked what writers he admires, he hesitated to answer for fear of leaving somebody’s name off the list. But he said that, on the Today show, he was recently asked to name four books or authors he likes that most people wouldn’t know about. He named these four:

  • Jeff Abbott’s Adrenaline
  • Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series
  • Tana French, especially Faithful Place
  • Ann Packer, whose new book [Swim Back to Me] is a series of inter-connected stories and novellas

Coben concluded his talk with his philosophy of writing. Writing is about communication. A writer without a reader is like a man who claps with one hand. “Shelter was not  a book when I finished it. It’s a book when you read it. When one of you reads this book, a whole new universe comes to life—different from everybody else’s.”

I was pleased to hear him articulate reader-response theory like this. (He’s such a down-to-earth guy that he’d probably laugh off the word theory, but that’s what it is.) And this philosophy about his work isn’t just something he says. He also acted on it in the book signing session that followed his talk. He greeted each person who presented a book for signing, shook hands, and then came out from behind his table to pose for a quick photo with everyone who had a camera. You gotta love a writer who genuinely appreciates his readers like this.

Stay tuned for Part II on more of his writing process.

Bouchercon 2011: Murder Under the Arch

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

This Publisher’s Weekly article summing up Boucheron 2011, held in St. Louis, includes the list of winners of the mystery genre’s various awards and prizes:

As is the tradition at Bouchercon, a conference steeped in awards ceremonies, Thursday’s festivities included the presentation of both the Macavity and Barry Awards. Voted on by the members of Mystery Readers International, the Macavity Awards went to Louise Penny’s Bury Your Dead Best Mystery Novel, Bruce DeSilva’s Rogue Island Best First Mystery Novel, John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks Best Mystery Nonfiction, Dana Cameron’s “Swing Shift” Best Mystery Short Story, from Crimes By Moonlight, and Kelli Stanley’s City of Dragons Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award. Authors who would eventually take home two statues or plaques by the end of the weekend would have to wait until Sunday’s Anthony Awards Brunch to repeat their victories, since the none of the Barry winners coincided with the Macavity list. Steve Hamilton’s Edgar-winning The Lock Artist won Best Novel, while Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son earned Best First Novel. Reginald Hill’s stand-alone tale of suspense, The Woodcutter, won Best British Crime Novel, and South African Deon Meyer picked up Best Thriller for his Thirteen Hours. International Guest of Honor McDermid’s latest Tony Hill installment, Fever of the Bone, won Best Paperback Original and Loren D. Estelman’s “The List,” published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won Best Short Story. The David Thompson Special Services Award, created last year after Thompson’s unexpected death, was also presented to Ali Karim, one of the crime fiction community’s most dedicated and ardent contributors with his work as Assistant Editor at Shots eZine, as well as regular pieces in Crimespree, The Rap Sheet, and Deadly Pleasures.

The Shamus Awards, presented by the Private Eye Writers of America during an off-site ceremony, added to the celebratory atmosphere, especially when writers were spotted later with their awards at the hotel bar. Lifetime Achievement winner Paretsky also picked up the Hammer Award for Best P.I. Series Character for her Chicago-based attorney-turned-private eye V.I. Warshawski, while Ed Gorman picked up the Shamus version of the Lifetime Achievement Award, known as The Eye for his prolific work in the P.I. genre. Lori Armstrong’s No Mercy won Best P.I. Novel, with Christopher G. Moore’s Asia Hand winning Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel and Michael Ayoob’s In Search of Mercy winning Best First P.I. Novel. Gar Anthony Haywood’s “The Lamb Was Sure To Go,” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine won Best P.I. Short Story.

The weekend wrapped up with the closing ceremonies and the Anthony Awards brunch. Named in honor of the convention’s founder Anthony Boucher, the awards are voted on by Bouchercon attendees. To shake things up, the order of the winners was drawn at random, making for a more entertaining show. Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich’s reference site “Stop, You’re Killing Me” won for Best Website/Blog for the second year in a row, while Louise Penny won her third straight Best Novel Anthony Award—and second award of the convention—for Bury Your Dead. Hilary Davidson took home Best First Novel for The Damage Done and Duane Swierczynski won Best Paperback Original for Expiration Date. Like Penny, Dana Cameron and John Curran also picked up their second awards of the convention with Cameron winning Best Short Story for “Swing Shift” and Curran winning Best Critical/Nonfiction for Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. In the category’s inaugural year, Jason Starr collected Best Graphic Novel for The Chill, an honor he shared during his speech with illustrator Mick Bertilorenzi.

via Bouchercon 2011: Murder Under the Arch.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Ikea is changing its long-lived Billy bookshelf. Is print dead?

Ikea will make changes to its low-cost, high-volume Billy bookshelf this fall. And to some, that means books are dying.

Ten Crime Books You Have to Read Before You Die

This title is way misleading, since there are two lists of 10 plus numerous alternates. And there’s also some basic information about best-selling crime novelists John Connolly and Declan Hughes.

National SAT reading scores fall to record low

SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.

Writers on writing

The Washington Post asked a few writers to complete the following sentences:

  • THE THING I’M HAPPIEST ABOUT IN MY WRITING CAREER IS . . .
  • I WOULD LIKE READERS TO REACT TO MY WORK BY . . .
  • WRITING IS A SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY BECAUSE . . .
  • THE BOOK THAT HAS HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON ME IS . . .
  • THE BEST SENTENCE I’VE EVER READ IS . . .
  • THE COOLEST THING I’VE EVER DONE AS A RESULT OF MY WRITING IS . . .

Read answers by writers including Russell Banks, Jim Lehrer, Gregory Maguire, Jennifer Egan, Sara Paretsky, and Terry McMillan.

Novelist ditches publisher at book launch for ‘condescending’ treatment 

Novelist Polly Courtney has dropped her publisher HarperCollins for giving her books “condescending and fluffy” covers aimed at the chick lit market.

At the launch of It’s a Man’s World, her third novel published by HarperCollins, Courtney announced that she will be returning to the world of self-publishing.

Five free crime fiction classics – the best!

The Crime Fiction Lover site is making it easy for readers to download free ebook versions of “five of our favourite classic detective fiction reads that are often overlooked but are freely available.” Offerings are these five “gems hidden in the rough”:

  • The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
  • The Murders in Rue Morgue – Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Great Impersonation – E Phillips Oppenheim
  • The Secret Adversary – Agatha Christie
  • The Red House Mystery - AA Milne