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Archive for March, 2010

I just read on Publishing Perspectives that Dystopian and Undead stories are very popular at the Bologna Book Fair this year.

Well, that doesn’t really surprise me – it seems like half the books on the shelf are about these two subjects lately, though I do prefer zombies to vampires (vampires are too creepy).  Just for fun, though, here’s some of MY favorites:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by
Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Robin Hood & Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers by Paul A. Freeman

World War Z by Max Brooks

And the dystopian one I WANT to read:
The Dream of Perpetual Motion by
Dexter Clarence Palmer

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So I know there’s been a lot of talk about monsters and creepy fantasy creatures in publishing lately, but I’d like to give a nod to one of the best horror writers ever: H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft, among other things, wrote the The Call of Cthulhu, which has been made into a movie. Cthulhu is a monster/god/elemental creature that has spurred many adaptations since the 1920s that I’m surprised there aren’t more movies, honestly. The movie can be seen on Netflix, and was made in 2005.

Cthulhu cupcakes I made for a friend's birthday!

Anyway, because I think Cthulhu and Lovecraft are awesome, I was happy to see a suggestion that the movie be packaged with the e-book. I think this is a great idea – especially since so many movies lately have been adapted from books, this is just one more way to get people reading great books when they might originally have only seen the movie (which is rarely as good). I hope this idea catches on, and I hope that Lovecraft is one of the first authors to be so packaged.

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I was working at Borders when the fourth book of the Twilight saga was released. Only a couple people in the store had read the books, and we were expected to host a release party with trivia and contests, so it seemed a good idea to read them. Even the fourth one, since I’d read the rest.

Twilight Spoof image, with Obama and Palin 🙂

Well, loonngg review short, I didn’t like them. To be fair to Stephenie Meyer, I don’t really like Vampire books in general. But I really thought her writing was trite, her main character was whiny, and her love triangle was predictable (except for the creepy baby, didn’t see that coming).

So every time I talk to someone my age who read the books (if you’re in middle school, it’s more acceptable) and loved them, I’m honestly surprised.

I just read yesterday that Meyer is releasing another short book, titled The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. I guess I’m not surprised, everyone’s capitalizing on the series trend (something I’ll probably rant about in another post) but I honestly can’t understand the obsession. And they must be expecting quite a sales rush, with a first printing of 1.5 million copies.

Again, though, I have to give Meyer some credit: $1 dollar from the sale of each book, which is being released for free online, will be donated to the Red Cross for Haiti Relief. I guess there’s something to be said for using one’s power for good. 😛 But I hope she stops writing soon – the faster everyone gets over this vampire craze, the better – and then we can get back to the business of reading good fantasy books.

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On The New York Times website Monday, there was an article discussing whether blogs can be literature. The “article” was actually a blog post in the Times’ book blog, Paper Cuts, and the author, Gregory Cowles, suggested that blogs aren’t really literature  – they are “by their nature part journalism, part journal.”

I agree with this, in most cases. For myself, I’m using this blog to keep track of my own thoughts and sort of put a toe in the water of blogging, to which I’m very new – for me, it’s more of a journal and a composite of publishing industry news I find interesting. There is nothing literary here, let’s face it. And I think for most people it’s the same way. We are either using these blogs to spread news or to talk about ourselves, sometimes both. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But I guess an author could use a blog to write anything they wanted. One of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith, actually wrote several of his novels as short pieces in The Scotsman magazine – all of them are only several book pages long and blog posts can be just as short (or as long).

It might even be interesting for an author (and I think this would only really work if the author was already relatively well-know) to write a blog as one of their characters. For example, I just finished reading The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters. If Amelia Peabody kept a blog (diary), in which she wrote a little about her Egypt adventures every few days, I would follow that blog – and I would buy the book about the events she described.

But writing about those fiction characters and events would make the blog a literary venture. So maybe we should stop looking at blogs for what they are now – but instead look at them for their writing potential and recognize that, like almost all forums, blogs can be literature too!

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I just read this article about poetry, and the efficacy of poetry reviews – the point, tone, and sales potential of the reviews.

At Ooligan Press, even as an Acquisitions manager I rarely like to read poetry. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have the expertise to comment on other people’s poetry – and the mechanics of poetry feel so much more elusive and elitist to me that sometimes I feel self-conscious about even committing to “like” or “dislike”!

The Most Poetry I've Ever Done

So I was happy to read that the people who review poems are usually poets themselves. It’s like a club where only the members can critique the other members. I’m totally fine with that. And it doesn’t surprise me that there are few poetry reviews in popular publications with book reviews – fewer people appreciate and buy poetry. It seems to me that the increased use of the internet for poets’ work is a God send for the genre – people who might read a poetry book will stop to read a couple random verses online.

According to the article, there is some debate over whether reviews should be all good or whether bad reviews should also be published. I think, if a writer reads a book, good or bad, he should write exactly what he (or she) really thinks.

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I read a lot of banned books. It’s the contrary side of me, I think. So I was interested to see this page about The 11 Most Surprising Banned Books.

11 Most Surprising Banned Books:

1. The Dictionary
2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
3. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
4. Beloved and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle/Bill Martin Jr.
6. James and the Giant Peach and The Witches by Roald Dahl
7. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
9. For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
10. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The thing I really hate about people banning books is that often they haven’t read the book, or they don’t understand that at some point great writing and the education of children should supercede the minor subjects and words they are protesting. Personally, I have read 11 of the (technically) 14 books here.

Note: There is actually a Banned Books Week every year, at the end of September.

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I really like independent bookstores, but it is increasingly true that they need great hooks to get customers. I took a Bookselling class at PSU where we learned a lot about the history and traditions of selling books, but these methods aren’t cutting it any more. Patrons don’t just walk into bookstores and buy the books that catch their eye – they often find books they want and then go home and order them online from cheaper sellers.

But independent bookstores are far from dead, and many have great ideas about how to increase both foot traffic and revenue: Indie Bookstores of the Future.

Here’s some great ideas for indie stores:

1. Coffee shop (or even small café with breakfast and lunch items)
2. Event space for rent, not just for literary events, increases traffic
3. Special niche sections, perhaps about interests local to the area (like breweries for Portland)
4. Art displays, esp. book and literary arts
5. Events in general, but not just readings: poetry slams, releases, themed costume balls (people in the vampire and Steampunk interest groups, for example, usually have no problem shelling out a few bucks for a party!)
6. Espresso Book Machine/Microsoft Surface
7. Access to computers for downloading iBooks and e-books
8. Establishing partnerships/loyalties with small presses, writers, and even publishing professionals like editors and designers – also allows for combined marketing plans

These are all just simple ideas that I’m sure most bookstore owners have already had – but it makes me feel better about the possibilities for the future.

For locations and book recommendations from Independent bookstores, the best site is IndieBound.org. My favorite indie store in Portland is Annie Bloom’s Books in Multnomah Village.

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