Archive for the ‘Random Cool Things’ Category

Evil Men, by James Dawes

Monday, July 15th, 2013

(reprinted from ‘Because I Love To Hear Myself Type’)

I’ve just closed the back cover on possibly the most important book I’ve ever read. I’m tempted to go buy a carton of copies to give out. It easily evil menand immediately takes a place in my top five favorite books. Although, “favorite” doesn’t quite fit. It’s a hard book.

In the interest of full disclosure, James Dawes, the author of EVIL MEN, was the valedictorian of my high school class. But make no mistake; this isn’t a pal hawking a cohort’s book. Jim and I aren’t friends. Not to say that we’re enemies. We just don’t really know each other. I saw notice of the book on our school’s alumni Facebook page and, being curious, thought I’d have a look.

Jim Dawes and I didn’t have overlapping social circles in school. I do remember him, but I imagine that most of the class of 1987 remembers him. He was like that. Brilliant, kind, and athletic, he rather had all of his ducks in a row back then, which is remarkable for any kid that age. But there was more gravity to Jim than there was to other socially and academically successful teenagers. He was prominent in an unusual way, even if that way is still difficult to articulate all these years later. It left an impression that has lasted decades and definitely had something to do with being able to relate comfortably to a gaggle of peers while thinking quite a bit beyond us.

Apparently that has carried over into a life of valuable research and singular eloquence.
And that’s probably all I’ll say about James Dawes, the person, because a) I still don’t know him personally and b) this isn’t really about James Dawes, it’s about the book, EVIL MEN, just out from Harvard University Press.

EVIL MEN is a dissection of atrocity and conceptual evil, inspired by a series of interviews with Japanese war criminals. These very old men recounted, through a translator, the horrors they had meted out in uniform during the Sino-Japanese wars. It broadens from there into a display of theory, ethics, scientific study, history, philosophy, and human rights advocacy, all tethered in a coherence that I would have to be incoherent to adequately express my admiration of. Let’s just say that you will be quite a bit smarter by ‘The End’ than you were on page one, but you’ll need to pay for the education in careful reading. This is by no means a one sit read. It demands (and rewards) deliberation.

There is no making sense of the things we do to each other, especially under the banner of military duty, but the value in this book is discovering that maybe there is a way to make sense of it not making sense. And if that sounds like a bit of intellectual tail-chasing, it isn’t. This is not an entertaining book. But having just written that, I have to say that, one step removed, it is vastly entertaining to unfold the map of our collective conscience and see the red dot proclaiming that YOU ARE HERE.

The most remarkable feat of EVIL MEN is in its balance. The moral paradoxes of relating these traumas are thoroughly addressed. Doing justice to the victims with mere words while evoking the necessary vividness to adequately represent the crimes is no easy task. Then avoiding catapulting the whole works into gratuitous carnival takes the utmost heartfelt precision, which he exhibits without faltering. James Dawes is exacting of himself as a researcher, as a writer, and as a moral human being. Following his lead through the nautilus of self-examination is effortless and, somehow, not terrifying. It’s not safe to go there, for certain, but it’s not safe not go there either, as he explains on the page.

Most importantly, for me, EVIL MEN left me with a notion. If the model of morality is in any way analogous to the model of physics, then this book inspires the hope that perhaps it all works in the same way quantum mechanics plays under the screen of our observable, Newtonian world. Maybe in the act of just examining our malleability and by measuring our own frailty, perhaps we change it.

Go get this challenging, wonderful book. Read it and discover what evil is (or isn’t) made of.

THE BOOKSELLER, by Mark Pryor

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Some things never go out of fashion. You’ve got martinis, little black dresses, Paris – or solidly-plotted, old school, murder mysteries set in Paris, for that matter. Author, Mark Pryor, has struck a sweet spot in the genre; achieved a black-tie comfort food, if you will, with the first Hugo Martson novel, THE BOOKSELLER. This whodunit and whydunit is staple locale mystery fare and all the expected boxes are ticked, but with one of those really smooth, gel-ink, fancypants pens.

Hugo Marston is our hub. With his US embassy connections, FBI training, and ever-ready smirk, his life is, more or less, the one we’d The Booksellerlike to have if only we were slightly fitter. When a friendly acquaintance is kidnapped right before his eyes, we follow Hugo into the world of the bouquinistes, the booksellers whose stalls ride the hem of Seine to the delight of tourists and also the book lovers who call Paris home. When the history of the bouquinistes collides with the agendas of some criminals with more contemporary to-do lists, the fate of a Nazi-hunter becomes the fulcrum for the US Embassy to team up, not always comfortably, with the French police to discover why booksellers are vanishing from their treasured posts.

There’s a beautiful journalist and a rumpled, foul-mouthed sidekick and, of course, there is Paris to round out the cast and fill in the action, of which there is plenty. THE BOOKSELLER is an excellent choice for someone who has been hankering for a good old-fashioned read – the hero is smart and bold, the heroine sparks attraction and some trouble, and the crime has tendrils that draw the past into the present.

THE BOOKSELLER earned a favorable nod over at OPRAH.com and was Library Journal’s Debut of the Month in November, so you don’t have to take only my word for it.

Just do it. You know you want to. And you’re welcome.

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A Tweet Worth Its Chirp

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I’ve yet to become one with the Twitterverse. I mostly don’t get it, although I say that after having found quite a number of cool things via the binary warbler. I can’t take credit for today’s discovery, though. Friend to AuthorScoop, Kim Michele Richardson, pointed me towards @TweetsofOld, a very cool Tweetcast of antique news-clippings and headlines. For example:

Thaddeus Hall,whose long brown and gray whiskers were mistaken for a groundhog, was shot at in the thicket yesterday. PA1903

and

In Ohio there lives a girl, 5 years old, who charms wild birds at will. All day long they hover about her. AL1879

… charming for anyone, Muse’s coin if you’re a writer.

Love on it here, tweetsofold, or I guess they call it ‘following’.

If you’re there, of course, you can also follow us – @AuthorScoop and Kim Michele Richardson – @writernwaiting, because you can never have too much  1s and 0s pouring over your eyeballs.

Hot Stuff Coming Through…

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

The blogosphere found out yesterday what more adventurous English majors have known for decades—that Edith Wharton wrote some pretty hot erotica.

After Lapham’s Quarterly posted Wharton’s fragment from Beatrice Palmato, Jezebel got wind of it and got all lathered up—at least until they discovered that it was, in fact, a tale of incest.

Read Wharton’s fragment here, but be sure to enjoy both the commentary and comments at Jezebel.

The Writer Behind The Canvas

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I’m always thrilled to find that someone well-known for something other than writing is (or was) also elegant at framing insight with piercing, nuanced words.  To discover a writer-facet to a scientist, a statesman, an actor, or in this case, a painter, is an unexpected gift.  But it’s never caught me quite as off guard, or as heart-breakingly so, as this excerpt from a letter to Theo van Gogh from his posthumously successful brother, Vincent.

(And a thank you to my mother, Jeanne Miller-Mason, a wonderful painter herself, for finding this and knowing it would spear me straight through.)

Sometimes… a person’s right to exist has a justification that is not always immediately obvious to you… Someone who has been wandering about for a very long time, tossed to and fro on a stormy sea, will in the end reach his destination.  Someone who has seemed to be good for nothing; unable to fill any job, any appointment, will find one in the end and, energetic and capable, will prove himself quite different from what he seemed at first…

I should be very happy if you could see in me something more than a kind of… an idler.  For there is a great difference between one idler and another.  There is someone who is an idler out of laziness and lack of character, owing to the baseness of his nature.  If you like, you may take me for one of those.  Then there is the other kind of idler, the idler despite himself, who is inwardly consumed by a great longing for action who does nothing because his hands are tied, because he is, so to speak, imprisoned somewhere, because he lacks what he needs to be productive, because disastrous circunstances have brought him forcibly to this end.  Such a one does not always know what he can do, but he nevertheless instinctively feels, “I am good for something!  My existence is not without reason!  I know that I could be quite a different person! How can I be of use, how can I be of service?  There is something inside me, but what can it be?”  He is quite another idler.  If you like you may take me for one of those.

A caged bird in spring knows perfectly well that there is some way in which he should be able to serve.  He is well aware that there is something to be done, but he is unable to do it…  “What an idler!” says another bird passing by – what an idler… but then the season of the great migration arrives, an attack of melancholy.  “He has everything he needs,” say the children who tend him in his cage — but he looks out, at the heavy thundery sky, and in his heart of hearts he rebels against his fate. “I am caged, I am caged and you say I need nothing, you idiots!  I have everything I need, indeed!  Oh!  Please give me the freedom to be a bird like other birds!”

A kind of idler of a person resembles that kind of idler of a bird.  And people are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don’t know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such a terrible cage…

A justly or unjustly ruined reputation, poverty, disastrous circumstances, misfortune, they all turn you into a prisoner.  You cannot always tell what keeps you confined, what immures you, what seems to bury you, and yet you can feel those elusive bars, railings, walls…

Do you know what makes the prison disappear?  Every deep, genuine affection.  Being friends, being brothers, loving, that is what opens the prison, with supreme power, by some magic force.  Without these one stays dead.  But whenever affection is revived, there life revives.  Moreover, the prison is sometimes called prejudice, misunderstanding, fatal ignorance of one thing or another, suspicion…

If you could see me as something other than an idler of the bad sort, I should be very happy.

Paintings: [top] Starry Night; [center left] Old Man In Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity); [bottom right] Almond Blossom – on the occasion of his nephew’s birth. Theo had named him Vincent Willem.

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Random Cool Things: Do The Write Thing For Nashville

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

As most of our US readership has learned by now, last week’s storms were utterly devastating to Nashville and the whole of central Tennessee.  While Nashville is often automatically linked to the Country Music scene, it also has a rich literary history and a thriving current Arts’ community.

AuthorScoop has quite a few Nashville-based friends and it’s home to my favorite annual Literary Conference, Killer Nashville.   So our thoughts and hopes go out to everyone suffering the lingering effects of this disaster.

But we can do one better.

Victoria Schwab, Amanda Morgan, and Myra McEntire have mobilized and established, DO THE WRITE THING FOR NASHVILLE, a online auction by, for, and with authors all over the country to benefit The Community Foundation for Middle Tennessee.

The bidding has begun on exclusive signed ARCs of upcoming releases, author-signed books, collector’s items, handmade goods, and writerly advice from experts in the form of phone calls, critiques, query letter reviews, and peptalks.

Get yours today!  And spare a thought for Nashville’s speedy recovery.

I’ll see you in August, my friends.

How To Sell A Book And Have Fun In The Process

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

In the recent past, book promotion was all about print reviews, multi-city signing tours, and bookstore readings orchestrated by the publishing houses.  It’s still about that, but these days, with the industry bending this way and that in the breezes of change, new writers are raised on the expectation that they’ll be required to home-grow much of their own publicity opportunities.

At literary conferences and in bookstores, you’ll see theme-printed bookmarks, pens, mousepads, and all sorts of giveaways featuring cover artwork, book blurbs, and the occasional photograph of the author mugging his best-look-in-the-mirror face.  Hired independent literary publicists, once rare-ish creatures, toil away to steer writers to an audience, but the venue for the most diverse prospects in PR (and the least expensive) is the internet.

Social-network fan pages, Amazon ratings and reviews, blog tours and contests, podcast interviews, book trailers, virtual book launches… the list mutates with each pulse of bandwidth through the server farms.

And just today, I’ve found an internet promo of a sort that I haven’t seen before.

Debut author, Scarlett Parrish, celebrated the release of her novel by staging a blog interview.  That’s not so unusual in and of itself, but the interview-er was Cole Fenton, a featured character from Marie Sexton‘s pending release, THE LETTER Z, and the interview-ee was Leo Carson, one of the two main characters from Ms. Parrish’s book, LONG TIME COMING.

The interview was a clever tongue-in-cheek workaround to the endless rehashing of jacket copy that can plague a book launch.

Of course, not all books and characters would lend themselves to this type of featurette, but it never hurt a soul to stretch the concept of what passes for advertising, especially in such a fun and creative display.

So, do enjoy the volley between Cole and Leo, and join with AuthorScoop in wishing Ms. Parrish and Ms. Sexton the best of luck in their efforts.  Oh, and do also take away the object lesson – never hesitate to point out a good idea when you see one.

(In the interest of disclosure, the linked interview is not entirely ‘Safe for Work’ in that both LONG TIME COMING and THE LETTER Z are works of erotic fiction.  The content is a smirky, R-lite rating.)

My Barnes & Noble Nook Adventure – Update

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

For the review & saga of my most prized possession, you can find Part I, Part II, and Part III at the simple click of a link.

Hmmm.  So they’ve gone and done it.

Today I received a software update for my Nook.  I’ve bought six books in the last two and a half months and for me, that’s a score.  I’ve read five of the six.  Or, if I’m playing it honest, I actually abandoned the last two novels I started for being insufferable, and I’m a third of the way into PRODIGAL SUMMER, by Barbara Kingsolver.  I’m not worried, as it’s practically guaranteed to be brilliant.  David Foster Wallace‘s, INFINITE JEST, is sitting patiently in queue, waiting for me to find out if my crush on him is deep or shallow.  I can’t wait.

I’m loving the reading I’m doing (even when I’m hating it) and loving the ease and convenience of the device.  It’s terrific.  But like I said way back in Part II of my review, I really liked the fact that my Nook was for reading books – full stop.  It wasn’t for emailing.  It wasn’t for games.  It wasn’t for me to see if anyone has responded to my comment on a thread over at the forums of Absolute Write.

But hell’s bells, now it is.

This new upgrade sped up the Nook’s book-loading and page-turning capabilities, which is groovy gilding on the techno-lily.  I approve, although I really didn’t have any complaint before an hour ago over how fast it clipped along.  Also, I can now read any ebook for free from inside a Barnes & Noble store (for up to an hour a day.)  That’s a cool, crafty way to keep their brick and mortar shops relevant and full of coffee drinkers and their wallets.  Nice.

All of this is fine, but now I’ve a cramp in the wry dimple in my right cheek from scowling at my Nook while fiddling with the new Chess and Sudoku games.  Worst of all, I’ve loaded my favorite websites into the new wi-fi internet browser –  just to see how it works, you understand.  Of course I won’t pull myself out of a story to check the weather forecast on my Nook, or sneek just a quick peeksie at my email for a note from my agent after I get to the end of this chapter… or maybe here at the paragraph break, just to get it off my mind.  No really, I won’t.

Dammit.

Another Year Already?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

This week marks the second anniversary of AuthorScoop, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank our contributors, interview subjects and our readers—who visit us daily by the hundreds and, on a good day, by the thousands.

Most of all, of course, I would like to thank Jamie Mason, my partner and right hand, for a lot of hard work and a lot of patience, most of which is consumed in putting up with me.

Thanks everyone.

My Barnes & Noble Nook Adventure – Part III

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

(Part I and Part II of my initiation into the world of eReading were posted in January, 2010)

So a month with the Nook and here I am – sold on the concept, but with a few caveats and a cautious patience in this rare instance of my turning out as an “early adopter”.  I’ll say it loud and proud from the first, I love my Nook.  And I stand by my assessment of its general (if subtle) superiority to Amazon’s Kindle.

I’ll move straight to the negatives just to get them out of the way so that I’m able to end on a high note (which I could – and seriously should – only attempt in attitude and in writing; never in singing.)

First, there was the bookmark issue.  The Nook didn’t hold your place, and in an eight-hundred-and-some page eBook, this was not a clever thing.  It was such a fundamental flaw that I could only imagine that the function had worked properly at some point and then a software tweak trailed a wake of disaster through the parts that had already been tested.  I know a couple of IT developers; these things happen.  On February 9th, B&N released a software update, sideloadable or drifting into your Nook’s ear on the 3G network, that not only seems to have solved the bookmark issue, but it livened up the already decently responsive touchpad, as well.

The battery life is reasonable, although to hear some, it’s an outrage.  I’ve only had mine a few weeks and find, now that my Nook’s been charged and depleted a few times, that I can reliably expect eight or so days of reading to a full tank.  If this is a problem, I would remind the disgruntled and the inconvenienced that they probably sleep at least once every two weeks and could probably simply charge it then.

The bigger trouble surfaced just this morning.  The case cracked at one of the page-turn buttons.  This is especially troublesome considering how careful I’ve been with my new prized toy.  (The fact that you will never be able to hurl an eBook in a fit of literary letdown like you can a paper-and-binding volume is just a something that will have to be accepted – like death and taxes.)  A quick scan of B&N’s message boards revealed that this was a known issue.  So I called Customer Service and after a dismally long (though fully warned) wait, I was treated excellently by a young man named Mike who, without quibbling, set me up for a replacement that is due to ship out on Monday.

I asked Mike about the likelihood of it happening again, speculating that my new Nook might very well be made from the same batch of plastic as my old Nook.  He was honest, if resigned, and admitted that it could happen again, but that they’re changing materials.  So with my warranty, I’ll eventually have a Nook that can stand up to my oh-so-gentle buffing and polishing and cooing at it.  (Yes, I love it that much.)

Beyond that, the convenience of the Nook, its shape and heft, the pleasant font settings in the eye-easy eInk, the fact that it stays open to the page when I’m on the elliptical trainer, have all made me a believer.  It’s a sleek gadget and I’m not usually all that swayed by sleekness or gadgetiness.  I love the instant gratification of purchasing a book as soon as I’m reminded that I want it.  I can put hundreds of books (they say fifteen of those hundreds) in my purse and be off.

And I am not immune to the sidelong glances of curiosity and (dare I say it?) envy of those stuck in line at the Post Office with a heavy hardbound – or worse, nothing at all – to read.

There is another thing, though, that has spurred me to a pause of the not-so-gleeful variety.  It’s is not a Nook-specific issue, but a point of industry knowledge that I didn’t understand.  I had blithely bought into the idea that eBooks, because of their lack of paper, binding, glue, cartons, storage space, shipping costs, and whatnot, were substantially cheaper to produce than their traditional counterparts.  I’ve been convinced, by people who know more than I do, that this simply isn’t the case.  The estimates are that an eBook may be, at best, $2 to $3 cheaper than its hardback fraternal twin.  So, if I just paid $9.99 for Stephen King’s, Under The Dome, instead of its $35 cover price, am I doing harm to the very industry I hope to sustain and have sustain me?

Ultimately, I have high hopes that eReaders and eBooks can be a shot in the arm to modern publishing.  So far, I’ve found it a terrific way to buy and read what I want, when I want – all in a slick little Nook that makes me feel “with it”.  (No small feat.  I’m sadly most often far afield of “it”.)  But I do have to examine my reaction to a $25 sticker price on an item that will provide eight to ten hours of insight and entertainment, when I barely grumble anymore at a $10 movie ticket.  Priorities, Jamie Mason.  Priorities.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Love is in the Air and We’re at Writer in Waiting

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Friend of AuthorScoop and memoirist-poet-writer-blogger, Kim Michele Richardson, asked us back for her annual invitational Valentine-athon.

Editor-in-Chief, William Haskins, breaks ground on this year’s festivities with a great piece on why you shouldn’t punt on the one day we set aside to make our feelings known.

Jamie Mason will be along later in the week with some commentary on the hues of St. Valentine’s Day.

Don’t miss it!

My Barnes & Noble Nook Adventure – Part II

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

(Part I of my initiation into the world of eReading was posted January 19th.)

Before I even slit open the box (mostly because it’s not here yet – UPS has had it listed as ‘out for delivery’ since 6:45 this morning) I will say that the very best thing about the Nook is that it doesn’t do anything other than display book text.  I think it has a built-in dictionary, which is cool enough.  And I could maybe even get on board with the Kindle’s offering free Wikipedia access for – ahem – fact-checking, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Much to the disdain of people salivating for Apple’s Tablet, which will, by the sound of it, darn your socks for you while you’re wearing them, I know my Achilles’ heel.  It’s multi-tasking.  I’m so proud of being able to do ten things at once that my ability to enjoy one thing at a time has suffered greatly.  So when tech experts sneer that you can’t even check your email on the Nook, I applaud.  Maybe I’ll finally get some reading done.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the convenience of multi-use devices.  My sister-in-law’s iPhone is the niftiest thing ever.  But reading is different.  It’s an immersive experience that I have not honored, too often lately, by keeping one eye on my inbox display. I’ve even checked FaceBook between chapters, I’m ashamed to admit.  I need to stop doing that.  My reverence isn’t for the paper, or the smell, or the heft of the book (although I do not begrudge these tactile rewards for the people who cherish them.)  I don’t collect books and I rarely reread them, but I do keep them with me.

Their stories and their knowledge become part of who I am.  Their words erode my ignorant edges and cut channels for sense and sensibilities to flow.  All I want from my Nook is a sleek new way to get out of my own head so I can get back into it.

The other things can–  Eeep!  There’s the UPS guy.  I’ll be right back…

Okay, first impressions:

Well, it’s beautiful and it works.  I helped my mother-in-law set up her new Kindle and it’s very nice, but I actually find the Nook’s organization more intuitive.  (Do not even try to get it out of its packaging without reading the directions, though, or you’ll think I started off with a lie.)  The touchpad works very nicely.  I was skeptical of the virtual keypad, but typed in my info with no trouble.

I’ve set up the Nook and ordered Stephen King’s, UNDER THE DOME, as a celebratory treat.  (It downloaded in about half a minute, if that.) Barnes & Noble set me up with three freebies – DRACULA, by Bram Stoker, LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen’s,  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (blessedly minus the zombies.)

The complaint over the page turn speed has, as far as I can tell, been resolved by the firmware upgrade.  Honestly, if that page turn speed overly frustrates you, I may have to suggest decaf.  Life’s short, but it’s not that short.  Ease up.

Anyway, I’ve finished chapter one of UNDER THE DOME.  Two people and a groundhog have already died. This could be epic.

Merry Christmas to me and we’ll see how long my glee lasts.

ETA –

Well, I guess it does a few more things than just display book text, but it’s primarily cosmetic, so I’ve also now added my own wallpaper and screensaver pics, an MP3 of John Gorka’s, Jack’s Crows, and William Haskins’ book of poetry, SIXTY-SIX.  Easy peasy.  Excellent.

My Barnes & Noble Nook Adventure – Part I

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

So, there’s me.  Come Christmastime, I was still hard to buy for.

My husband caught a break this past holiday season, though, because while I’m hardly gadget-happy, (I resisted having a camera in my phone for as long as I could) I have been intrigued by the eReader revolution.

There are legitimate concerns over piracy and document integrity, but those essentially boil down to issues of people-being-jackasses, and I fear that if that sort of problem ever stops innovation, we’re all in trouble.  It’s no small thing, to be sure, and I mean to stay vigilant.  (I’m trying to recall if my vigilance has ever done anyone or anything a lick of good. Stand by.)

I’m piqued at the notion of books as impulse buys, bringing them current with other things that can be ours at the touch of a few buttons and a credit card on file.  We seem to be all about the nifty and the cool.  Stories have always been cool.  I see no reason why reading can’t be.  And while the price of electronic books is the subject of some debate, I’m hoping that I buy more books with less fear of throwing good money after bad prose.

I’ve heard warnings of not being able to read in the bathtub (that’s okay, I don’t bathe) and the demoralizing absence of “book smell” (also okay, I have a muddled sense of smell, anyway) but I’m willing to risk it.

To that end, my husband ordered the Barnes & Noble Nook on December 21st.  B&N sold out of their initial manufacturing run and the reviews were decidedly mixed.  A software update has since zapped all the Nooks out there and, by reports, seems to have addressed many of the issues.  More updates are promised.

My Nook was slated to go out by February 1st, but I received my shipping notice this morning, so I should have it by this time tomorrow, Thursday at the latest.  I approve of this effort to underpromise and overdeliver on at least the shipping.  Beyond that, I’ll let you know…

PS – It’s okay, I shower.

Random Cool Things: John Gall’s Nabokovs

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

From the Vintage Books blog:

Perhaps the most creative and ambitious backlist promotion in the history of Vintage International, John Gall’s individually commissioned Nabokov backlist covers have become collector’s items in themselves. As an homage to the author’s love for collecting butterflies, each cover was created using pins, paper, and butterfly boxes.

Below, see them in all their glory. Click through for larger images. And just for fun, tell us which is your favorite! Then leave a comment with your reasons why– the most original argument will win a copy of the book they’ve chosen.

My personal favorite:

Random Cool Things: Letters of Note

Monday, September 28th, 2009

A fun and illuminating site… From the creator’s tersely-worded description:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and even emails. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated weekdays.

As one would suspect, the site features a beautifully-schizophrenic array of letters. Here’s one of my favorite examples:

Visit the site for more.

Site of the Night: 60 Second Recap

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Though only launched today in its Alpha form, 60 Second Recap has the potential to be a highly enjoyable and informative community for students and book lovers in general.

Hosted by the mysterious and quite likable Jenny, the site offers short videos on the plots, characters, themes, motifs and other assorted lightning rods for commentary of a growing collection of books.

Wisely, in my view, the site kicked off with a solid selection of classics: Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. But Jenny’s more than just a classic lit fan; new releases like The Carbon Diaries also get the recap treatment in the “Pick of the Week”.

If Jenny and the crew keep adding content and can build a vibrant community of commenters and uploaders, 60 Second Recap could be huge.

Give em a click.

(Thanks, Michael!)

Hurwitz Gives Away His Shorts at Borders.com

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

He does.  Alls he gave AuthorScoop was an interview.  But the slight is quickly forgiven, if you’re a fan of zinging thriller fiction, once you get to read Gregg Hurwitz’s THE AWAKENING for free at Borders.com.  It does clever double-duty as a pleasing stand alone short story and as an exclusive sidecar to his latest novel, TRUST NO ONE.

Call me canny, but I think they’re baiting.  Once you can see what he can do, you might be tempted to buy the book.

Tricky devils.

Random Cool Things: Ask the Agent

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

(Hat tip to Tattered Cover, via Twitter)

Andy Ross’ Ask the Agent is not only a site that’s useful in educating writers about the business we’re in; it’s also a repository of fascinating nuggets about the careers of heavyweight publishing figures and the writers with whom they’ve worked.

Today’s entry, an interview with legendary editor Alan Rinzler, is no exception:

Andy: Can you tell us some memorable stories about some of the great writers you discovered and edited?

Alan: Working with Hunter Thompson, the Prince of Gonzo, nearly killed me, and did leave permanent scars that I hope are not life-shortening. For three of his books (Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, The Great Shark Hunt, and the Curse of Lono), we stayed up all night for weeks doing terrible stuff and taping our interviews, which we then transcribed and edited into book form. Discovering Toni Morrison was really something. Claude Brown had just written Manchild, which was hugely successful and still sells 43 years later. He had a big crush on his English teacher at Howard, Toni Morrison, then a cute divorcee with two small sons who were working as face models in the advertising business. She lived in a tiny house on the landing flight pattern at JFK Airport so when the jets thundered over us a few hundred feet up, the cups and glasses would all rattle. Claude wanted to marry her but she kept him at arm’s length, until finally admitting she had “this novel” she’d been working on for years that turned out to be The Bluest Eye and the rest was history. Toni has become such a diva now, however, that I have to admit she stopped returning my calls a few years ago. Oh well. Dylan was impossible to edit, going on and on, but Andy Warhol was a peach. Every idea I had was “fabulous” and we’d put it in his “Index Book”, including pop-ups, early plastic recording of group grope interviews, “terrific art”, photos, spin-out balloons, a 3-D cover and other mixed media bells and whistles we’d brainstormed and slapped together at his silver-foil “factory”, while dodging 24 hour film crews and the first generation Velvet Underground.

Check out Ask the Agent here.

Random Cool Things: Where Writers Write

Monday, July 27th, 2009

(via Twitter… thanks Christopher Hennessy and Nicole Peeler)

Check out this collection of beautiful photographs by Kyle Cassidy, showing off the writing spaces of twenty prominent Fantasy and Science Fiction authors.

Random Cool Things: BBC’s Dylan Thomas Tribute

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The Welsh bard isn’t for everyone, it’s true. But I’ve always had a soft spot for him and this site by the BBC is a wonderful resource for fans old and new, with biographical information and bibliography, a timeline of his life and the ever-popular random poem generator.

Oh, and if Dylan’s not enough Welsh for you, there are plenty of other authors at the Wales Arts Books and Literature page.

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