Archive for January, 2009

Saturday Quote of the Night

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”

-Orson Scott Card

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Saturday Evening Book Reviews

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The New York Times loads their online preview with three reviews that the newsprint edition won’t get until tomorrow.  Eat that!

Give John Rubino a little of your money and he’ll show you how to recoup it many times over, all while keeping your conscience fresh and green – CLEAN MONEY: PICKING WINNERS IN THE GREEN-TECH BOOM.

Eeeep!  Duran Duran second fiddle, Andy Taylor, tells all in WILD BOY: MY LIFE IN DURAN DURAN.  It had to be done, and you know it.

If walls could talk… well, why not?  A room as more-or-less protagonist is an interesting point of view in Simon Mawer’s, THE GLASS ROOM.

5 Minutes Alone… With R.N. Morris

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

R.N. Morris‘ crime suspense series features Detective Porfiry Petrovich, first revealed to readers over 140 years ago by the pen of Fyodor Dostoevsky.  A secondary character in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, Porfiry sparked a curiosity in Morris that hasn’t yet let go, so far yielding two successful and acclaimed books – THE GENTLE AXE and A VENGEFUL LONGING.  A little bird told me, it doesn’t end there…

Oh, and for a giggle, don’t miss out on the link about the cat.

We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

Roger: The first place that published me was a magazine aimed at teenage girls, called Look Now. I doubt it’s still going. I was a college student at the time. In other words, it was a long time ago. They paid me £75 I seem to remember, for a short story about a girl who was nervous about bringing her boyfriend home to meet her parents because he had dyed green hair (this was in the first punk era) and her mum was very conservative. I followed that up with a story in another teenage girls’ mag, called 19. Then I had a third, sold again to Look Now. I don’t know how I managed to crack the teenage girl market, perhaps because I was a teenage-ish guy. But I was basically writing stories from the girl’s point of view, which was fun. It amazed me that I got away with it. And taught me that writing really is a leap of faith. Women’s magazines were the only places in the UK I knew of where you could sell short stories for money. I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to make money from my writing, so I had to learn how to write for the women’s market. The fact that I aimed my stories at the younger end of that market is really more to do with my age at the time. I did try and write some things for older readership mags, but I think being a callow youth played against me there!

AuthorScoop:
Tell us about your latest release.

Roger: My most recent book is a historical crime novel called A Vengeful Longing. It’s the second in a series of books I’m writing featuring the detective Porfiry Petrovich. You may recognise the name. I’ve shamelessly purloined him from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. I thought he was such an intriguing character. But he’s really a secondary character in C&P, Raskolnikov’s nemesis of course. He only features directly in a couple of chapters. I wanted more of him. So, I thought the best way to get that would be to write a novel with him as the main character. That was how I came to write A Gentle Axe, my first Porfiry Petrovich novel. The publishers wanted me to turn it into a series. So I did! The books are set in St Petersburg, Russia, in the 1860s. I find it a fascinating time. There are so many tensions at play. For me, Porfiry is essentially a decent man. Solving the crime is the first step in saving the criminal. What makes that
especially interesting is that he is working within the tsarist state, enforcing the tsar’s laws – so you could say he is a just man in the service of an unjust regime. In A Vengeful Longing the crimes of the state are represented by a cholera epidemic that’s out of control at the height of a stifling summer. A series of apparently unconnected murders take place against this background. Even Porfiry is too hot and bothered to find the connections at first.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who else do you feel has contributed to your success?

Roger: My wife Rachel has been an incredible support. Basically, she never nagged me to go out and get a proper job. She’s put up with me being a precarious freelancer, working as few days as I can get away with, so that I can steal as much time as possible for my writing. We could have been a lot better off if I’d given up on my writing dreams several decades ago. She never tried to change me, in other words. You can’t ask for more than that. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been less lucky with my cat. My cat has done nothing but prevent me from working.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

Roger: I think I’m a morning person. I wrote my first published novel, Taking Comfort, largely in the early hours of the morning, setting my alarm for 6 a.m. – sometimes earlier – then going straight to work, just stepping out of my dreams up to the PC. It gave the work a slightly hallucinatory feel, I think. Getting up early really kick-started my day. I would get a solid hour of writing done before anyone else was up. Then the kids would start to stir, and I would go down to get them breakfast, and a cup of tea for Rachel. She is not a morning person. Having that base of words in hand for the day gave me something to build on when I came back to it later. I don’t do that any more, but I do like to start working as soon as possible, and the morning hours are always the most productive. Having said that, I am slightly obsessive. I lose track of time when I’m working, and find it hard to stop when things are going well. These days, I have to remember to go and get the kids in the afternoon. Sometimes I have to set an alarm to make sure I remember.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

Roger: Stick at it. I’ve heard it said that the only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is perseverance. That’s certainly true in my case. I know it does happen that fantastically clever people sit down to write a book, and get published straight away with their first effort. But it wasn’t like that for me. I was an unpublished writer for a lot longer than I’ve been a published one. So I know how it feels. I really do. We’re talking decades of rejection and disappointment. I have a slight disagreement with my wife about exactly how many unpublished novels I have. Let’s just say I lost count at seven. My reaction to rejection has always been, ‘OK, you didn’t like that one, I’ll write something better.’ I did reach the point where it looked like I would never get published. I remember having a conversation with my agent over coffee where he told me that my name was ‘starting to meet with resistance’. In other words, editors were saying to him, ‘Yeah, yeah, we know him. Haven’t you got anybody else?’ That was a depressing moment. But actually it galvanised me more than anything. I decided to stake everything on one final, mad throw of the dice. It was time to write the idea that had been obsessing me for years – a detective novel drawn from Dostoevsky. I knew it would be difficult, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to pull it off. And I also knew that if I did do it, it was bound to get some attention, if only for the hubris. I was very scared that Dostoevsky-purists would tear me apart. But I realised that I wanted to write it very much. Also, I knew that I had to play for high stakes. I had to take the most ambitious idea I had, and go for it.

Actually, it was a double roll of the dice, because at the same time, almost, I wrote, very quickly, another book that had been obsessing me – Taking Comfort. And I wrote it in exactly the way I wanted. I thought, Sod the bastards. I didn’t give up, but I did let go, if you see what I mean. There’s no point double-guessing what editors might or might not be looking for. You’ve got to write out the stories that won’t let you go – that are important to you. I think the conviction that arises from that comes through in the writing and editors react to it. So, don’t give up, let go. That’s my advice.

Afternoon Viewing: Stephanie Kallos

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Author magazine interviews Stephanie Kallos, author of Broken for You and Sing Them Home:

Saturday Morning LitLinks

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The Little Professor digs a little deeper into the zombie literary mashup of Pride and Prejudice.

The Telegraph’s Tim Martin looks back at the early novels of Nobel Laureate JMG le Clézio.

Norwegian literary hero-turned-villain Knut Hamsun now featured on a commerative coin.

The secret life of Irvine Welsh.

William Morris shopping a Diane Keaton memoir.

Friday Quote of the Night

Friday, January 30th, 2009

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

-Vladimir Nabokov

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Friday Evening Book Reviews

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Joe Torres and Tom Verducci write about THE YANKEE YEARS.

Sherry Turkle explores THE INNER HISTORY OF DEVICES,from cell phones to prosthetic eyes.

A memoir of Alaska and a novel of ‘POSSESSION’ fill a page of The International Herlad Tribune‘s reviews section.

Neil DiGrassi Tyson holds our hand through the loss of one of our own in THE PLUTO FILES: THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE PLANET.

Afternoon Viewing: Liu Xiaobo

Friday, January 30th, 2009

From the YouTube description:

Imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo talks about freedom of expression in China:

Friday Morning LitLinks

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Jane Austen is probably rolling in her grave… as the undead rise from theirs to invade her classic work.

Vietnamese writers turn to concerns of love, sex and a changing urban landscape as they move away from politics and war.

Reflections on John Updike’s days as a newspaper copy boy.

With only a month or so before the announcement of Britain’s next Poet Laureate, frontrunner Wendy Cope resurrects calls to abolish the post.

Amazon had a big year, in part thanks to strong demand for the Kindle.

The L.A. Times profiles Mike the Poet.

Literary alter egos

Midnight Poetry: “To Himself”

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

To Himself
(Aaron Kramer)

Finally it will not matter
how many kicked, how many kissed him—
how many rooms there were, how many rumors—
how many poisons were offered, or prizes—
how many salvos, how many silences.

It will mean nothing, nothing at all
whether anthologies nested his poems—
whether a critic called them bright birds—
whether they soared across heaven-smooth pages—
whether slumberers leapt at the tune.

Nothing will matter, nothing at all
except that his heart maintained its own beat,
his face its own hue, his foot its own thud,
his night its own vision, his soul its won heat,
his hand its own touch, his tongue its own word.

This will be all, on the day of days.
But meanwhile, what is a man to do—
a man, like everyone, flesh and blood?
How many times can he say to himself:
Hush, fool, hush! it will not matter,
not matter at all, not matter at all….

(Read more of Aaron Kramer’s poetry here)

Editor’s note: ‘Midnight Poetry’ is a showcase for work by poets across the spectrum—from the pantheon of literary giants to contemporary, underground and new voices.

If you would like to submit your work for consideration, please see our Submission Guidelines.

Thursday Quote of the Night

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.  But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can.”

- Samuel Lover

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Thursday Evening Book Reviews

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I guess this will do in lieu of a real, honest-to-goodness snowfall – ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN, by Alice Schertle and Barbara Lavallee, from the Salt Lake City Parenting Examiner.  I’ll bet they have proper snow.

Rochel Sofer delivers a Young Adult novel that tackles eating disorders in a yeshiva high school in, WE NEED TO TALK: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LOOKING THIN BECOMES AN OBSESSION.

Formula One fans get a treat with a photo-heavy biography of Britain’s first ever World Champion, MIKE HAWTHORN – GOLDEN BOY.

And The Washingtonian asked a few swinging singles to review THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO DATING.

Afternoon Viewing: Jonathan Evison

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Author magazine interviews Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu:

Thursday Morning LitLinks

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

The Washington Post’s Book World section is being discontinued as a standalone, with literary views being sucked into the two other sections of the paper.

The Village Voice has an interesting interview with “Alien Vs. Predator” poet Michael Robbins.

Levi Asher, over at LitKicks, sees some satisfying Beat Generation-related works on the 2009 horizon.

In the afterglow of his Newbery Medal, Neil Gaiman announced that the film version of The Graveyard Book will be written and directed by Neil Jordan.

Historian Douglas Brinkley posits a federal subsidy for book reviews to “keep the intellectual life in America alive”.

Quote of the Night

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

“I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

-Peter De Vries

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Wednesday Evening Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Dave Wood is back with another lineup of fiction and children’s book reviews.

They’re writing about him like he’s already gone and if I was the man himself, the title alone would put me in mind of a goose traipsing all over my grave – LAST LION: THE RISE AND FALL OF TED KENNEDY, by Peter S. Canellos.

Print, paintings, and music (on a companion cd) celebrate the Cree Nation in THE DRUM CALLS SOFTLY.

A dose of optimism will get you through, if it doesn’t piss you off.  Dacher Keltner of Berkeley College tell us how to use it or lose it in BORN TO BE GOOD.

5 Minutes Alone… With John Levitt

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

John Levitt is an author and musician who splits his time between Alta, Utah and San Francisco. His latest Urban Fantasy, New Tricks, was released in late 2008. You can check out an excerpt of it here.

We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?

John: My very first?  I wrote a chapter on local bird identification for a small pamphlet about the  history and natural fauna of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Alta, Utah back in  the 1970s.  All proceeds went to the Alta Historical Society, and it was still selling twenty years later.  My first “real” publication was in 1989, a mystery/thriller novel titled Carnivores, published by St. Martin’s Press.

AuthorScoop:
Tell us about your latest release.

John: My latest is New Tricks, an urban fantasy set in San Francisco.  It’s the second in a series about Mason, a jazz musician and reluctant magical practitioner who runs into all kinds of trouble while he’s trying to live a quiet life.  His friends and acquaintances keep dying, and he has to figure out what’s going on, and why, and who’s responsible.  Lots of magic, a few supernatural creatures, but no werewolves, vampires, fey, or traditional fantasy tropes in this book.

Mason is  aided by his magical companion, Lou, who is a small dog like a mini pinscher.  Only, he’s not really a dog.  Just sort of.   He can’t talk, or do magic, but he’s a great help and everyone’s favorite character, hands down.

AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who else do you feel has contributed to your success?

John: I always thought I didn’t need any help – I use no crit groups or beta readers, and no one sees any of the ms until it’s done.  But it turns out I do occasionally need help, and I was lucky enough to find an agent, Caitlin Blasdell, who is also a very fine editor, which she used to be.  Her editorial advice has been invaluable in pinpointing problems and steering me back on course when I start flailing and don’t know how to fix the book.  Not to mention that she managed to sell the series to Ace.

AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?

John: That’s totally dependent on the rest of my life.  I used to be a night person, and worked swing shift and nights for years.  I wrote my first novel between midnight and two every night after getting off work.  These days, I futz around in the morning, and finally get to work around noon, so afternoons are now my writing time.

AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?

John: Honestly, there’s nothing I can say about writing that hasn’t been said a hundred times before, and by better writers than I.  But as far as getting published goes, I do think that luck, or timing if you don’t believe in luck, has a lot more to do with it than we like to admit.  And the longer you persist, the better chance you have of getting that break.  So don’t give up, don’t let rejection get you down, and grow a thick skin – you’re going to need it.

Afternoon Viewing: John Updike

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

We originally posted this last July, but in memory of Mr. Updike, we’d like to present it again.

The renowned author discusses his famous short story “A&P”:

An Interview with John Updike | Movies & TV | SPIKE.com

Wednesday Morning LitLinks

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

John Updike remembered (more coverage here).

In the era of layoffs and sales slumps, self-publishers flourishing.

The childhood home of Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy lost to fire.

A look back at the lost chapter of Catch-22.

Happy birthday, José Marti.

R.I.P. James Brady

Midnight Poetry: “Burning Trash”

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Burning Trash
(John Updike)

At night—the light turned off, the filament
Unburdened of its atom-eating charge,
His wife asleep, her breathing dipping low
To touch a swampy source—he thought of death.
Her father’s hilltop home allowed him time
To sense the nothing standing like a sheet
Of speckless glass behind his human future.
He had two comforts he could see, just two.

One was the cheerful fullness of most things:
Plump stones and clouds, expectant pods, the soil
Offering up pressure to his knees and hands.
The other was burning the trash each day.
He liked the heat, the imitation danger,
And the way, as he tossed in used-up news,
String, napkins, envelopes, and paper cups,
Hypnotic tongues of order intervened.
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(Read more of John Updike’s poetry here)

Editor’s note: ‘Midnight Poetry’ is a showcase for work by poets across the spectrum—from the pantheon of literary giants to contemporary, underground and new voices.

If you would like to submit your work for consideration, please see our Submission Guidelines.