Book Bits: book tariffs, ‘Sorcery of Thorns,’ horror novels, Joy Harjo, Smoky Zeidel, Good Omens

This column of books, authors, and publishing links used to run frequently on this blog until I began shifting most of the links to my author’s page on Facebook. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. So, for old time’s sake and/or a change of pace, here (after a long absence) is a page of links for readers, writers, and publishers.

Tariffs have been in the news lately, so I’ve included a link to one that affects books (item 1). Readers of this blog probably know that Joy Harjo is one of my favorite poets. I’m pleased to see her new recognition of her talents. (item 4).

  1. News: The Book Industry Speaks Out Against China Tariffs, by Jim Milliot – “Five members of the book publishing and bookselling industry appeared Tuesday at hearings being conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative over the Trump administration’s proposal to impose a 25% tariff on $300 billion of goods imported from China, including books. The representatives at the public hearing emphasized a number of reasons why books should be excluded from the tariffs, arguing that because publishers and booksellers operate on thin margins, the imposition of tariffs would almost certainly lead to higher book prices for consumers and could force some bookstores and publishers out of business.” (Publishers Weekly)
  2. Review: Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson, June 2019, fantasy 14 and up – “An apprentice librarian faces a magical threat against a Great Library…An enthralling adventure replete with spellbinding characters, a slow-burning love story, and a world worth staying lost in.” (Kirkus)
  3. Lists: Terrify Yourself with These Ten Horror Novels, by Brian Evenson – “Short stories tend to be scarier than novels: their tightness of focus allows them to do away with pesky things like backstory and character development and elaborate setting and offer a blazing unity of effect. A novel’s scare is more a creeping dread, a tension that builds slowly and inexorably and leaves you deeply unsettled even after the book is finished. For me, the most frightening books are not about scary clowns or demons or witchcraft, but those that show the awful things humans are capable of doing to one another.” (The Millions)
  4. Harjo – Wikipedia Photo

    News: Joy Harjo Becomes The First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, by Lynn Heary and Patrick Jarenwattananon – “Poet, writer and musician Joy Harjo — a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation — often draws on Native American stories, languages and myths. But she says that she’s not self-consciously trying to bring that material into her work. If anything, it’s the other way around.” (NPR) See Harjo’s website here.

  5. How To: 7 Things to Look Out for While Proofreading, by Lauren M. Bailey – “Each stage in the editing process improves a manuscript and requires an acute attention to detail. But even if you’ve written the most brilliant prose and meticulously researched your book, readers will dismiss the work as sloppy, amateur, and unprofessional if it’s riddled with typos. Frustratingly, these types of mistakes are often the hardest to catch in our own work. Our brains are so busy with the higher-order tasks in writing that our eyes literally see what they want to see. Though proofreading errors are difficult to spot, once you know what to look for—and have some handy tricks for uncovering them—you’ll be amazed (and probably slightly horrified) at what you can catch.” (Kirkus)
  6. New EditionsSmoky Zeidel’s poetry collections (Garden Metamorphosis and Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water) are now available in hardcover editions. (Thomas-Jacob Publishing)
  7. Film: Bestselling Novel by French-Moroccan Leila Slimani To Hit the Big Screen, by Teresa Kerr – “Rabat – The Perfect Nanny, a bestselling novel by French-Moroccan Leila Slimani is making its way to the big screen, thanks to three production companies: Legendary, Why Not Productions, and Pan-Européenne.” (Morocco World News)
  8. Quotation: “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” –  Ray Bradbury
  9. News: Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens, by Alison Flood – “More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel – unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime.” (The Guardian)
  10. Obituary: Uighur author dies following detention in Chinese ‘re-education’ camp, by Alison Flood – “The death of the prominent Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti after being held in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps has been condemned as a tragic loss by human rights organisations.” (The Guardian)

Book Bits is compiled sooner or later by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of Conjure Woman’s Cat.

Too much logic might kill your best work

“The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.” – Ray Bradbury

If there’s a place for logic, perhaps it’s in your research. Facts matter, even in fiction, so it’s a bad sign getting those wrong, worse yet finding out from other people that you got them wrong. A long-time journalism professor and author of textbooks, my father often said that one of the worst things a journalist could do was misspell a person’s name. For one thing, it made him or her look sloppy. For another, it called into question everything else in the new story. If your research is flawed, small inaccuracies may kill your best work.

Otherwise–logic, as Bradbury suggests–gets in the way of our stories and even ourselves. Logic often leads to doubt, even self-doubt, and the frame of mind that arises out of that can easily become a barrier to the story you wish to tell. If you don’t think you can write it, you won’t. If you think you’re not the person to tell the story, you won’t be able to tell it. Our stories lead us down strange roads where it’s best to just keep going rather than thinking, “Holy crap, I’m lost.”

In some cases, being lost is a good thing because how you find your way out makes a good story, or at least provides the confidence you need to continue. Goodness knows, there’s not a lot of validation for aspiring writings and emerging authors, so allowing yourself the time and excitement of being lost from time to time is much better than fighting being lost. And besides, it’s easy to become prey for the doubters in your life who think you’ll never write anything, much less anything that gets published and sells a few copies, maybe a lot of copies.

Plus, it seems that when we use logic to try and puzzle our stories out of one misstep or another or one troublesome scene or another, we’re not likely to tell a story that’s true within itself and resonates with readers. I know one writing expert who says the stories we write are already “out there” in some kind of limbo area waiting for us to find them and tell them. I’m not sure I want to go that far. I do see, though, that stories appear to have an innate intelligence that wants to go in a particular direction for one reason or another. So, as we said years ago, the author has to go with the flow rather than thinking up logical rationale for swimming against the story’s current. If you’re swimming against the story’s current, you’re thinking. Stop it!

Down the road, you can do your thinking during the editing process. Then you’ll find inconsistencies, holes in the plot, and possibly other things that don’t add up. Or, maybe you won’t.

This is going to sound strange, but when I find a bunch of prospective characters who are doing one thing or another, I find it best not to judge them or find some logical yardstick that proves they’re messed up. Better to write down what they’re doing and discover the story in it. Just don’t think too much about what you’re doing.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series, “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena.”