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Posts from the ‘authors’ Category

John le Carré is publishing his twenty-fifth novel

I have always admired John le Carré. Not always without envy – so many bestsellers! – but in wonderment at the fact that the work of an artist of such high literary accomplishment should have achieved such wide appeal among readers. That le Carré, otherwise David Cornwell, has chosen to set his novels almost exclusively in the world of espionage has allowed certain critics to dismiss him as essentially unserious, a mere entertainer. But with at least two of his books, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) and A Perfect Spy (1986), he has written masterpieces that will endure.

Source: ‘My ties to England have loosened’: John le Carré on Britain, Boris and Brexit | Books | The Guardian

I admire any author who can endure. I haven’t read all of le Carré’s novels, but a fair few. And, at 87, I think we can say he has endured.

I was in college when I read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. I wished that had been one of the novels that we discussed in class, but we were busy talking about novels written a hundred years earlier.

When the cold war with the Soviet Union ended, I wondered what he would do. As it turns out, he had more stories to tell. Since I am not prolific, I admire writers who are prolific and turn out good stuff.

Malcolm

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Book Bits: ‘Ninth House,’ Mordicai Gerstein, Leslie Jamison, Quentin Tarantino, Margaret Atwood

Many of my sources for books and authors links for this occasional feature have become politicized and/or issues-oriented. By that I mean, the links support authors and books speaking out about U.S. politics and/or the primary issues of the day. They’re not “bad,” they’re simply more commentary than literature.

In general, I try to avoid those links because I don’t want to appear to have an agenda, nor do I want to get away from the purpose of this blog: in part, providing books and authors readers might find interesting.

  1. Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – “Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story…With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.” Kirkus Reviews.
  2. Obituary: “Mordicai Gerstein, author and illustrator of dozens of works for young readers, among them The Night World, Sleeping Gypsy, and I Am Pan, died September 24. Gerstein provided the artwork for numerous works by other writers, and was awarded the 2004 Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.” Shelf Awareness
  3. Jamison

    Interview: A Conversation Between Leslie Jamison and Kaveh Akbar – “Leslie Jamison makes her life more difficult than it needs to be. In her most recent essay collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn, the subjects she chooses—the world’s loneliest whale, Second Life devotees, the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia—could carry the pieces with their propulsive novelty alone. Certainly, Jamison is brilliant enough as a sculptor of language that we’d happily oblige her. But what makes Jamison one of the essential essayists of our generation is her rigor. She renders her subjects, the world that made them, and her own gaze all within the same frame.” Paris Review

  4. Quotation: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ― J.D. Salinger
  5. Books to Film: Tarantino’s Next Big Project Is… a Book About a Guy Who Loves Movies – “Quentin Tarantino may follow through with his plan to stop making movies after his Star Trek one or his horror movie one or Kill Bill 3, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop making other things. The filmmaker will probably shift over to directing plays or extremely long movies that Netflix will awkwardly chop up and pretend are miniseries, or maybe, he’ll just reinvent himself as a novelist—since the guy has already started on a book, apparently.” Vice
  6. Lists: The 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade – “Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.” Literary Hub
  7. Feature: Book Gallery: Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler – “Few authors get our pulses racing like Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler, and luckily enough, our friends at The Folio Society have just released gorgeous new editions of important works by both.” Flavorwire
  8. Lists: Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Winterson, Lerner, Díaz, Walbert, and More – “Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeanette WintersonBen LernerJaquira Díaz, Kate Walbert, and more—that are publishing this week.” The Millions.

Book Bits is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the comedy/satire Special Invetigative Reporter.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap  

Sixteen years after readers were introduced to the magical world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke is to publish her second novel.

Out in September next year, Clarke’s Piranesi will follow the story of its eponymous hero, who lives in the House, a building with “hundreds if not thousands of rooms and corridors, imprisoning an ocean. A watery labyrinth.” Occasionally, he sees his friend, The Other, who is doing scientific research into “A Great and Secret Knowledge”.

Source: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap | Books | The Guardian

I liked  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell along with a related ser of short stories. Now, finally, Clarke is releasing a new novel. But it’s a year away. How cruel. Get everyone excited and then make them wait.

She writes slower than Donna Tartt who’s released three novels since 1992. Both of them seem to be following the old-style approach to writing, taking a while to write each book rather than churning out Two or three novels a year like many novelists do these days.

I’ll be looking forward to this one.

Malcolm

My Glacier National Park novel “Mountain Song” is free on Kindle through October 1.

Military Fiction: it teaches of a lot we didn’t learn in school

I first met bestselling military history novelist Jeff Shaara when he was a teenager, though there’s no reason he would remember it. His father, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Killer Angels (made into the movie Gettysburg) was my creative writing teacher at Florida State University. We met at Mike’s house once a week. His wife, Helen, prepared a smorgasbord for us to consume during the class break. Jeff spent the evening (or so it seemed) hovering around the dining room table.

Inasmuch as I am a pacifist, people find it odd that I often read military history novels. I do this because they teach me more history than I learned in high school and college history classes. Authors such as Shaara (both Mike and Jeff) and Philip Lee Williams whose outstanding Civil War novel A Distant Flame was the winner of the 2004 Michael Shaara Prize, do a tremenous amount of research and then wrap their findings into compelling stories, and readers benefit from it.

Williams told me that while creating A Distant Flame, he created an hourly timeline of the battle of Atlanta to keep his facts straight. I’m sure Jeff Shaara does the same thing because his works are flawless. And, suffice it to say, Jeff is prolific:

Publication Order of World War II Books
The Rising Tide (2006)
The Steel Wave (2008)
No Less Than Victory (2009)
The Final Storm (2011)
Publication Order of Civil War Trilogy Books
A Blaze of Glory (2012)
A Chain of Thunder (2013)
The Smoke at Dawn (2014)
The Fateful Lightning (2015)
Publication Order of Standalone Novels
Gods and Generals (1996)
The Last Full Measure (1998)
Gone For Soldiers (2000)
Rise to Rebellion (2001)
The Glorious Cause (2002)
To the Last Man (2004)
The Frozen Hours (2017)

His next novel is about Pearl Harbor. I will definitely be reading it after buying The Frozen Hours about the Korean War, a war that was ongoing when I was in grade school and often in the headlines then.

I appreciate these novels because I learn so much about our history from each one of them.

Malcolm

Malcolm R, Campbell is the author of the Vietnam war novel “At Sea.” The novel is a personal story of one man’s service in the navy during the war and not military fiction.

 

Why can’t bars have poet laureates and writers in residence?

The phrase “scattered, smothered, and covered” has a certain poetic ring, so it’s fitting that Waffle House has its own poet laureate. Georgia Tech poetry professor Karen Head is the first to lay claim to that title. – Atlanta

Followers of this blog know I like Waffle House food, especially their coffee. Yet “the elites” tend to turn up their noses up at Waffle House while supporting White Castle, Krystal, and Burger King. Yeah, those are the best places for health nuts.

At any rate, if Waffle House can have a poet laureate, why can’t Publix, Taco Bell, and Sears? Maybe Sears could save itself by embracing the arts. A poet, perhaps. A writer in residence. Soon, these poets and authors would become famous and people would flock to Sears for book signings, bedding, and a new dishwasher. You heard it here first.

Michael Shaara, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Killer Angels, taught my college creative writing class. He had a theory–one that we could never test in a university environment–that if people who were too introverted to write good stuff got drunk, they might write good stuff. Drink a shot, write a line, slam down another shot, slam down another line.

Let’s say the theory works and we learn that drinking really does lead to bestselling novels.

Look at this. Nothing happening. It’s deadsville. A writer would fill the place.

Authors could sit at the end of the bar with a laptop or legal pad and pencil and write. All they’d need from the bar would be a bottle of Scotch or a pitcher of the region’s best microbrew. Every 30 minutes or so, the author would write one of his/her latest lines on a bar napkin and sail it into the crowd. The bar would get more business and maybe a cut of the action from the next bestseller.

This is win-win for everybody. The bar sells more booze. The authors get drunk for free. And creativity goes off the scale. What could possibly go wrong? Today’s bestseller is brought to you by Alfred Knopf and Joe’s Biker Bar and Brothel.

If you own a bar and think the idea has promise, please contact me by private message on Facebook. To prove you’re sincere, send me a bottle of Talisker single malt Scotch.

Seriously, what better way to support the arts?

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Special Investigative Reporter.”

 

 

Spent the day working on my author’s website

Supposedly, professional book publicists can look at an author’s platform (website, blog, Facebook) and say. “No wonder you’re not selling many books” and/or “If people aren’t buying your books, they’re nuts.”

Short of paying a professional $25,000 to provide us with that information, most of us (authors) are blindly wandering in the dark with no clue what helps us and what hurts us. With that in mind, I spent the afternoon updating my website with no idea whatsoever whether the changes will increase sales, decrease sales, or put me on the “no-fly list.”

Much to my horror, I’ve discovered that if an author is crazy and broke, s/he tends to draw crazy and broke people to his/her website, blog, and Facebook author’s page. So, what this means is lots of people are stopping by, but few of them are going out to Amazon (or wherever) and buying any books. This isn’t good.

Gurus say, “Be yourself.” Well, who else the hell can I be? The thing is, I wonder if I ought to stop being myself and put up a website that looks like I’m Dan Brown or Jo Rowling. Prospective readers would look at the site for a nanosecond and buy everything they see there. There might be some negative repercussions, but I wouldn’t care because I’d be rich.

As authors, we’re never sure what exactly will draw people to our books, to consider buying them and seeing if they like them instead of automatically purchasing the latest novel from one of the BIG NEW YOUR PUBLISHERS. Heck, I buy from the big publishers because most of the reviews, lists of the best of the best, interviews, and feature stories ignore authors from small-press publishers.  Why? That’s all I hear about in literary sites. Even sites that focus on helping aspiring authors don’t interview or feature aspiring authors.

So, what to do? I thought about using malware to automatically sell a copy of one of my books to everyone who logged onto my website. Somehow, that seemed wrong.  So, I didn’t do it.

I thought about putting a hex on everyone who logged onto my website so that they would buy copies of all of my books. Yes, that would help my Amazon ranking and maybe even get me on the New York Times bestseller list. Yet, it also seemed wrong.

So, when promoting my books I’m pretty much stuck being me. All of us are. And who knows what will come of it?

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical mystery/thriller “Special Investigative Reporter.”

 

Do most writers want to be Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson?

No.

It’s fair to say that most writers want to sell more copies of their books than they do, that they wish small press books were noticed by the media and by those handing out awards, and that they had the resources to do on-location research anywhere in the world.

However, I doubt that most of us want to be in the public eye 24/7. Writers don’t attract paparazzi like movie stars do, but those who are famous can’t really hide. Frankly, who wants a tour bus pulling up in their driveway with people wanting to see their houses, their cats, their writing desks, and even their sock drawers? I don’t.

In the FAQ of a blog written by a lady who adopted a coyote, one question is: “When can we see Charlie?” The answer is: “Charlie doesn’t want to see you.” I feel like Charlie. I don’t want people showing up and taking selfies of themselves (with me in them) to post on their Facebook pages.

Suffice it to say, there are consequences to being famous that many of us don’t want to cope with. Perhaps many of us want to be successful and anonymous. A lot of writers are successful without attracting the attention of Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson. That sounds good because we’re sort of under the RADAR.

Plus, if you’re a really famous writer, you’re “forced” to blurb people’s books, serve on panels discussing the use of adverbs, appearing at conventions, and doing readings in places you’ve never heard of. Not my thing. When I read the newsletters of so-called mid-list authors, I see that they’re juggling time between writing, personal time, and events. I don’t like events. I don’t want to be there, much less to give a speech. That’s not me. I have a feeling it’s not a lot of people.

Past a point, fame and success both have their prices. I’m not willing to pay them. I would love being the successful enigmatic writer who sells 100000000000 books a year that nobody can find due to an unlisted telephone number and an unpublished address. I’d post a fake picture on my Facebook page and website that looks like one of those criminals that used to be displayed on the most-wanted lists in post offices.

People would say, “Hell, he looks like he’s guilty of something. Let’s not go looking for him.” Good. I can live with that persona.

Malcolm

 

Book Bits: Catherine Chung, Sharon Heath, ‘Cygnet,’ Amazon, Linda Holmes, Mueller report

At my age, a vigorous, bone-crushing, muscle twisting workout comes from spending several hours on the riding mower. While recuperating, I found a few links you might enjoy. Or you might not. Long-time readers of this blog know that ever since high school, I’ve been fascinated by writings about Carl Jung, alchemy, and quantum mechanics (the many worlds interpretation), so I’m happy to see a review of a very readable book that has uncovered multiple levels and/or universes of meaning (Item 2) since we’re all entangled one way or another.

Have fun exploring the books and authors links this week.

  1. Essay: On Being a Woman Who Loves Math, by Catherine Chung – “All my life I’ve been aware of the disheartening fact that as a society, we generally find intellect off-putting in women, and do our best to squash it.” (Lit Hub)
  2. Review: Tizita (2017) By Sharon Heath, Deltona, FL: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, by Frances Hatfield
    “Tizita, like the first novel before it in The Fleur Trilogy, The History of My Body, is as utterly original as its chief protagonist, and in some of the same, brilliant, moving, and laugh-out-loud hilarious ways.” (Psychological Perspectives)
  3. Excerpt: ‘Cygnet’: Featured Fiction from Season Butler – “Publishers Weekly called the book poignant, adding that ‘Butler has created an appealingly rich world with quirky, flawed characters and a dramatic landscape determined by the constant action of wind and water. Butler delivers a potent and finely calibrated novel.’” (The Millions)
  4. Opinion: Amazon Says It is Not a ‘Lawless’ Retail Platform As Charged by ‘NYT’ – “The New York Times’ recent feature on Amazon, which focuses on how much control the tech giant exerts over the book business and how detrimental that control might be for the sector’s health, has provoked a response from the company. Specifically, Amazon responded to claims in the article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post, that it ‘strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products’ and ‘takes proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero.” (Publishers Weekly)
  5. Interview: Linda Holmes with Stephenie Harrison – “I have wanted to write a novel . . . always. I can’t remember when I didn’t think that would be the absolute greatest thing I could do. But I would start things, write a few pages and just get intimidated that I couldn’t keep going. I played around with writing fiction for many years and got a little more serious in 2012 when I decided to devote some time to this story. But again, I worked on it for a while, then left it alone. I didn’t pick it up again until sometime in the fall of 2016.” (Book Page)
  6. Quotation: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” ― WC Fields
  7. Wikipedia photo

    Feature: How Jenna Bush Hager became the new book club queen, by David Canfield – “Around 10 minutes into my interview with Jenna Bush Hager, I make a careless mistake: I assume her new Today show book club isn’t merely a one-woman band. ‘You say ‘You guys,’ but you really are just talking about one person — me!’ she responds, laughing. ‘Reese Witherspoon was on the show the other day, and we were talking about it. She’s like, ‘I have a whole team, Jenna!’ The problem is, I definitely need to read the whole book before I recommend it — and I’m a pretty picky reader.’ (Entertainment)

  8. Wikipedia Graphic

    New Title: A Mueller Report graphic novel will be released by San Diego publisher, by Michael Schaub – “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has become something of a publishing phenomenon, with several book versions of the report flying off bookstore shelves. Now a San Diego publisher is planning to release a version of the report for those who might find the original a little too dry. IDW will publish a graphic-novel adaptation of the report next year, the press said in a news release.” (Los Angeles Times)

Book Bits is compiled randomly by malcolm R. Campbell, author of the “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”

 

Dear readers, your reviews really do help

Reader reviews on Amazon not only help spread the word to prospective readers, but they attract those readers’ attention in the first place. These reviews also impact how Amazon displays a book in a reader’s search results. Needless to say, more people review the books of widely known writers than the books of so-called “midlist” and small-press authors. As many emerging writers have said, the authors who don’t need the reviews or the interviews are the ones who get them.

Some authors try to make placing a reader review sound easy, suggesting that all you have to say is “I liked it.” I don’t agree with that. “I liked it” isn’t a review. If a prospective reader reads such a review, they learn nothing about the book and might even think the reviewer knows the author and potentially didn’t even read the novel.

Suffice it to say, honest reviews with a few details explaining why a reader liked or didn’t like a book are better than reviews with nothing more than “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” For readers who review multiple books, it’s disconcerting that they’ll take the time to review a well-known author’s book that has, say–3,000 reviews already–but don’t spend the time to review an emerging author’s books. I seldom review major books on Amazon because I don’t think there’s much I can possibly add to the conversation that already involves a thousand or more reviews. I’m more likely to review these books on my blog.

In social media, it’s quite common to hear that dozens of people liked an author’s latest book. These opinions are treasured and very nice to hear. A lot of those people wish the author well, and yet, most of them don’t go out to Amazon and leave a review. They probably have no idea how vital their reviews are to the book’s success. Amazon’s book-display algorithms count reviews; so do various blogs and newsletters where books can be advertised. (It’s hard to get your book into one of those book newsletters if it has few reviews.)

Basically, it comes down to this insofar as midlist and small-press authors are concerned: if readers don’t help support the book, it isn’t going to sell.  Yet, authors really can’t say this to readers on Facebook or Twitter because it’s unseemly and probably turns readers off who really don’t know anything about leaving an Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N review. Plus, it’s generally considered bad form to beg for reviews. Authors are rather stuck. When a reader tells them on Facebook that their latest novel was the best book they ever read, it’s a bit crass to say, “have you posted that viewpoint on Amazon yet?”

Readers certainly have no obligation to post reviews. Most readers don’t. They read a book and move on to the next book. So, I think it’s an imposition for an author to “lean on” readers in the social media by asking them directly for an online review even though many of the books will fail without those reviews. Authors often feel stuck. They need the reviews but it’s bad form to ask for them or to keep posting little generic notices on their Facebook authors’ pages to the effect that reviews help spread the word.

Frankly, I wish professional book reviewers, critics, and bloggers would do better keeping up with small-press books since those are the books that need the exposure. Nobody is really served well when a critic/reviewer posts review number 5,000 for a well-known author’s book. But, for an emerging or small-press author, even a three-star review helps bring a book some much-needed online attention.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,’ “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena,” all of which are available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook editions.

 

 

 

 

Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang from Poets & Writers

“What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?

“I would have to say the loneliness of falling out of step with society. When I’m out celebrating a friend who has just made a huge stride in their career, someone would ask me, “Hey how’s that book coming along?” Then having to tell them that I have a desk in an ex-FBI warehouse and I’ll be sitting there in the foreseeable future, occasionally looking out the window, trying to make imaginary people behave themselves.” 

Source: Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang | Poets & Writers

Many writers and aspiring writers might easily share Wang’s answer to the challenges of writing books. You have to be able to accept a lot of prospective loneliness that comes with being out of sync with everyone else.

Personally, I don’t like the question “Hey how’s your book coming along” because most people want a quick answer. They don’t want to hear about the plot or your trials and tribulations and doubts. Chances are, they would be impressed if you told them you’d just signed a $100,000 deal with HarperCollins and that your agent is already in negotiations with Hollywood. Otherwise, the best answer is “slowly, but surely.”

Anything other than that, and people’s eyes glaze over and they find excuses to go to the bathroom, head over to the bar for another drink, or simply disappear. You have to be crazy or filled with a lot of passion to sign up for this.

If you’re a writer, do you feel that you’re not part of the hustle and bustle of “real life”?

Malcolm