Monday, December 28, 2009

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

In The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (2004), recently widowed Penelope Thornton-McClure has returned to her hometown to help her Aunt Sadie run the independent bookstore – Buy the Book.  The ghost in this story is Jack Shepard, a 1950’s hard-nosed detective that likes Penelope’s gams.  It is rumored he was murdered in the bookshop, but his body has never been found nor has the crime been solved.

Penelope has convinced best selling author Timothy Brennan to do a book signing, but he dies in the middle of the presentation.   With the help of Jack Shepard, Pen must solve the murder.  The Ghost and Mrs. McClure is a fun book with gumshoe trivia and language.  It is an easy, fast read.  It is the first in the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. 

Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini, using the pseudonym Alice Kimberly, write this series. Marc and Alice also write using the pen name Cleo Coyle, author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries.   They currently reside in New York City.   Their real-life interests include ghost hunting and coffee – imagine.  They are currently doing a chat discussion at through December 30th.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

Carpebiblio wishes everyone a Happy Holiday

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Laredo Sans Bookstore

One place the book posse won’t be visiting is Laredo, Texas because they are losing their last traditional bookseller. Laredo with a population of 230,000 will be the largest U.S. city without a bookstore. The residents of Laredo will need to drive two hours to their closest bookstore in San Antonio.

Barnes & Noble has decided to close its B. Dalton bookstores across the nation. Like the independent bookstores, the mall stores that provided so much reading pleasure in my youth are folding under the pressure of online buying and super bookstores. While I am sad to see them go, I could not tell you the last time I purchased an item from a B. Dalton or Waldenbooks. I purchase most of my books online from Amazon and independent booksellers with an online presence.

During the non-holiday shopping season, I enjoy visiting the brick and mortar bookstores to hear author talks and attend book discussion groups. Of course I also need a coffee and a cookie while attending these events. Unfortunately, in general, the mall bookstores do not have space for a coffee shop, book discussion groups, or author book signings.

For the people of Laredo, I am hoping that Barnes & Noble decides to build a smaller superstore that provides the citizens an opportunity to purchase books and be exposed to the other benefits such as coffee and cookies, and maybe an author talk now and then. Offer your support for the people of Laredo by joining the Facebook page “Save Laredo’s Bookstore.”

Some of the material for this blog came from the wall street journal article, Stephanie Simon, “City Tries to Rewrite Lone Bookstore’s Last Chapter.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I originally intended to write an upbeat happy blog about the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas. Discussing some of my fond memories of growing-up in Pennsylvania. Sledding on the hillsides, ice skating on the little pond in the cornfield, cutting down Christmas trees, and enjoying the Holiday with my cousins. Then I realized that A Charlie Brown Christmas was released in 1965.

I was four years old. We were in a red Dodge station wagon traveling from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. My cousins weren’t born yet, and my Dad had received orders to go to Vietnam. Wow, 1965 was not such a good year. Here are a few more things from 1965.

A brief look on the web of 1965 produced the following results. A gallon of gas cost 31 cents and had lead. If we had bought the Dodge new it would have been about $2,600. Malcolm X had been assassinated. Two good things from 1965 – Washington enacted the Voting Right Act of 1965 and the Grateful Dead played their first concert in San Francisco.

Charles M. Schulz and Bill Melendez found themselves immersed in a society going through monumental changes when they did A Charlie Brown Christmas. They chose to point out the rampant commercialization of Christmas – a topic still pertinent today. I have to wonder if they had talked about civil rights and Viet Nam would people still be watching the cartoon over forty years later. Did they grasp the deeper significance of greed in our society and the problems deriving from it?

Or maybe I am just reading too much into a children’s cartoon. After all it is the Holiday season. Maybe I should add some rum to the eggnog, sit back and enjoy the show.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Shopping Tim Allen style

Today I swung by the outdoor Shops at Wiregrass in New Tampa for a little Christmas shopping. Instead I discovered a car show and the Midnight Bowlers League band playing rockabilly. Their routine included songs from Bill Halley, Eddie Cochrane, and even a little Warren Smith. The air was brisk limiting the size of the crowd, but the show was entertaining, and everyone was having fun. The car show included several muscle cars such as Corvettes, Mustangs, and Impalas. And did I mention a red Cadillac convertible? Oh Yeah! The cars had horses under their hoods. They rumbled down the street, and echoed off the buildings. No whiney four cylinders in this show. I did manage to get a few packages, but mostly I admired the cars and enjoyed the music.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Few Good Books

Hot of the press, our own Stephanie Maatta's text book has been published - A Few Good Books: Using Contemporary Reader's Advisory Strategies to Connect Readers with Books. It provides a comprehensive resource for readers' advisory services in public libraries or for anyone interested in learning more about genre fiction. It also provides information on how emerging technologies have changed almost every aspect of reading.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Book Loft

We traveled to Columbus, Ohio this past weekend for my niece’s wedding at the Darby House. In addition to the wedding, we spent time at the Easton shopping complex. But for us book lovers, our side trip to the Book Loft of German Village was memorable.

We cruised into German Village, and the book posse was living large in the rented Lincoln Navigator. We passed the bail bonds building with its half-dozen bike gang members clustered around the entrance. The roads were cobblestoned and narrow. The posse began to wonder about this excursion, and felt like they had stepped back in time – a time when independent bookstores reigned supreme. Soon we spotted the Book Loft and its thirty-two rooms of books. Although before we could start exploring for books, we had to find street parking that could accommodate the behemoth Navigator.

The Book Loft is not for the faint of heart; book lovers can enter this domain, and be lost forever. This is a converted house with many closets and nooks hiding special collections, and each room contains its own musical accompaniment. They sell new and used books. On this particular occasion we lost Bruce T., and had to send out a search party. Aunt Rita found him in the book labyrinth enchanted by a cookbook, but before she could rescue him, a wine book snared her. We could only lure them out with the enticement of actual food at Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus.

We enjoyed our visit to Columbus, and our tour of the Book Loft. If you visit Columbus, and are in the German Village area, I recommend visiting the Book Loft. I also recommend a smaller car than the Navigator, because parking is at a premium.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas is Murder by C.S. Challinor

As we approach the holiday season, and the stores are already displaying their Holiday trimmings and music, I think this is a good time for a blog about C.S. Challinor’s, Christmas is Murder, 2008. Challinor is a Florida author, and this was her first book. Her main protagonist is Rex Graves, a barrister. She has since published Murder in the Raw, and Phi Beta Murder is scheduled for publication in March. She is also contracted for yet a fourth book in the Rex Graves mysteries, Dark Side of the Moor.

Christmas is Murder takes place at Swanmere Manor, a Victorian Inn located in the English countryside. Rex Graves has been invited for the Holiday by the owner of the Inn, Dahlia Smithings, a long time friend of the Graves family. Because of the snow Rex barely makes it to the inn from the train station. Soon the Inn is isolated, and the guests begin to die. There is a murderer at the inn.

Occupants are secluded, one of them is a killer, and all of them have something to hide. The plot should sound familiar, Agatha Christies’ And Then There were None. The murder weapons include poison and a candlestick, some of Agatha’s favorite methods of death. Challinor has modernized the plot. Cell phones aren’t working because of the heavy Holiday phone traffic and the Swanmere's isolated location. She also includes a few jabs at George W. Bush.

Challinor keeps the plot light and supplies enough wit to keep the story appealing. With similarities to Agatha Christie whose stories I enjoy, this book made a pleasant diversion.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

J.C.Hutchins, 7th Son Descent Author Discussion

I attended a talk today sponsored by the Florida Book Writers Association, and the speaker was J.C. Hutchins, author of 7th Son: Descent. A four-year-old boy has assassinated the President of the United States. Surprise, the President was a clone, and his memories were implanted. He shared these memories and his genes with seven others, plus the psychopath that was the master template. After the author’s reading, I was hooked. I just purchased the book, and it has been placed at the top of my reading list.

While his book has just been published in print format, it has experienced an electronic life for a couple of years. Unable to find a publisher, Hutchins initially released his book as a series of podcasts on the Internet. As podcasts, the book developed a rabid fan base, and forced traditional publishers to take notice. St. Martin’s Griffin picked up the publishing rights. Because of his successful innovative marketing techniques, Hutchins has garnered other opportunities. The world will soon be hearing more from Mr. Hutchins.

In previous blogs, I have discussed the use of medium and structure in presenting the message. I have also discussed the electronic challenges that traditional book publishers are facing. Hutchins’ website exemplifies both these concepts. Unable to break into the traditional print media, Hutchins built a web site and provided his content for free. He used podcast, hyperlinking, blogging, and email to develop a fan base. According to his talk today, he gets about 50,000 hits a month, and his podcasts have been downloaded 5 million times. This popularity has occurred because of persistence, hard work, and electronic word of mouth – social networking such as Facebook and blogs.

I would like to emphasize two points from Hutchins’ success. Publishers need to be concerned by the changes and challenges of the print industry. Even though Hutchins success and popularity occurred via audio downloads – podcasts, he had a difficult time convincing the publisher of the necessity of publishing the book in audio format. Publishers need to recognize the changes in their industry and adapt. On the other hand writers need to recognize the opportunities that exist in the electronic format, and market their works accordingly. The book shelves, both brick and mortar and electronic, are packed with millions of volumes. The writer needs to catch the reader’s attention. Web sites, blogs, discussion groups, and book signings have to be done in order to become a successful author.

Now that his book has appeared in print, a few changes occurred in the text, and in his words – make the book better. As result of these changes, he will be redoing the podcasts to include the new material. These podcasts will then be released as an audio book.

I want to finish by saying I was impressed with the sincerity of Hutchins, and his respect for his audience.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wine Tasting at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We attended the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World this weekend. If you have never been to the festival, you are missing a good time. We sampled food, wine and beer from around the world. We hit Tokyo twice for the beef rolls. Yum! In addition to the food and beverages, the festival features numerous culinary and wine events. We participated in a wine tasting event sponsored by Penfolds Winery of South Australia.

Penfolds southeast regional manager, Jim Hicks presented the wine tasting. He discussed a brief history of Penfolds as well as a discussion of the wine aging process. He provided three flavors of wine for tasting – two Shiraz wines and a Riesling.

Of the Australian wines, my wife and I are most familiar with the Shiraz, a red wine. We tried the Bin128 Coonawarra Shiraz, 2006 and the Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, 2006. The Kalimna was aged in a barrel made of American Oak, while the Coonawarra was aged in a barrel made from French Oak. As a result of the differences in the barrel materials and the climate differences of the two regions where the grapes were grown, the Coonawarra had a peppery or spicy flavor. The Kalimna was smoother with a more fruity taste.

Thomas Hyland Adelaide Riesling was the third wine provided for tasting. It had a citrus, floral taste. It was a dryer Riesling than I prefer. My wife described it as a crisp summer wine. We will stay with the German and New York State Rieslings.

If you want to read more about Australian Wines, try James Halliday’s, Australian Wine Companion 2009.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Florida Writers Association Conference

This past weekend I attended the Florida Writer’s Association (FWA) Conference. To quote the president of the association, Dan Griffith, FWA is “where professional authors and aspiring writers come to learn, grow, network, and find the resources they need to improve their writing, learn to navigate the treacherous shoals of the publishing industry, and cultivate that inner muse.” The conference provided all of that and then some.

The conference presented opportunities to talk to agents, publishers and faculty who assisted new authors to hone their skills and sell their finished product. I attended sessions on developing your characters and improving written dialogue. I also attended sessions on bringing traffic to your website, and how to get that non-fiction book written. I picked up a few tidbits from all of the sessions.

A lot of the discussion at the conference focused on the changes occurring in the publishing industry. Such as, Barnes and Nobles move into the eBook industry and their new reader the Nook. Would it be able to compete with Amazon’s Kindle? And how would the Espresso Book Machine change the industry? The Espresso book machine has the ability to print books on demand from front cover to back cover, and look like a regular book. The process takes just a couple of minutes and can be set up anywhere. The thought is these machines will end up in supermarkets and Wal-Mart changing the retail book market. Could this possibly be why Barnes and Noble brought out the Nook?

I enjoyed the conference and I learned a few things in the process. The networking was great, and everyone was friendly. Definitely a worthwhile event, and I plan on attending next year’s conference.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hugh MacLeod, Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Message

My sister suggested a book to me, Hugh MacLeod's, Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. Being part of the blogging world you might recognize Hugh from his blog His other claim to fame is the drawing of cartoons on the back of business cards. I have posted a book review on my website, What I wish to discuss is the organization of his book and website design.

From the organization of his book, I would say that MacLeod could be a student of Marshall McLuhan’s – The Medium is the Message. In that the meaning conveyed on the page is so much more than the text alone. MacLeod has taken the dynamic material from his website blog and transferred it to a static medium, the book page. In the process though he did not loose the message, but instead used his drawings and spacing to maintain the meaning.

In early days of web design, hypertexting between and within a page added an extra dimension to the text that enhanced the message. But it soon became obvious to everyone that while hypertexting and linking enhanced the message, the web addresses changed quickly creating voids in the message. Links also pulled people away from the main site, which was bad for generating advertising revenue. In fact, my current employer frowns on links in the text altogether.

Anyhow, reading MacLeod's book made me think of McLuhan's famous line, "The medium is the message," and I think about how much the web has changed since the early days of web design. While the web seems to be using less hypertext, a tremendous number of new tools are on the scene and being utilized. Web builders now need to consider using podcasts, wikis, knowledge clouds, widgets, YouTube, Facebook, and Myspace to enhance their clients entertainment and knowledge enhancement, and of course to generate revenue from sales and advertising.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Florida Writers Association

This past week I joined the Florida Writers Association, and I attended my first meeting of the Wesley Chapel group. Dr. Richard Wilber, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communications, University of South Florida did the presentation. He teaches journalism, and magazine article writing. In addition to his academic publications, he has also published leisure reading. His popular culture works include Science Fiction short stories, baseball and mysteries. His next book, Rum Point, A Baseball Mystery is scheduled to come out in late October

His presentation focused on the tremendous amount of work associated with getting published. In addition to the writing, a large amount of research material needs to be gathered, and interviews conducted. Generally an author writes a lot more material than is included in the finished manuscript. Rick emphasized that the published work is only the "tip of the iceberg." For instance an author may only use about 10% of a two hour interview, but the rest of the information provides the author with background material that adds authenticity to the story. Rick may write 100,000 words to net an 80,000 word book. but he saves those extra 20,000 words. He may need them for a future project.

I enjoyed Rick's talk. That is a good thing, since this was my first Florida Writer's Association meeting, it encouraged me to attend another one. Their annual conference is coming up later this month, and I will probably attend.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) annually presents the Bram Stoker Award for outstanding horror writing. The Bram Stoker Award is given for superior achievement rather than for best of year. The awards have been presented since the association’s incorporation in 1987. Since 2005, the awards have been presented in eight categories – novel, first novel, short fiction, long fiction, fiction collection, poetry collection, anthology, and nonfiction. In 2008, Stephen King won the award for Duma Key.

The Horror Writers Association also occasionally presents a Lifetime Achievement Stoker for individuals whose entire body of work has substantially influenced Horror. Stephen King and Richard Matheson are two authors reviewed on the Carpebiblio website that have received a Lifetime Achievement Stoker.

In addition to the Bram Stoker Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, the Horror Writers Association also occasionally presents awards to fields other than writing that support the horror genre. These include the HWA Specialty Press Award; the HWA Librarian of the Year Award; and the HWA’s Volunteer Service Award.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

epistolary novel

I was working on a review of Dracula, and came across the term epistolary novel. Having a librarian for a wife can come in handy. She dug out her Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, and handed it to me. It turns out an epistolary novel is a novel written in the form of a series of letters exchanged among the characters of the story with extracts from their journals sometimes included.

So Dracula would be an epistolary novel since the entire story is told using journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings. Another epistolary novel would be The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. One advantage of this style of story telling is it allows the author to write the story using several different character voices without losing the reader. While in Dracula the style hindered the interaction of the characters and did not provide a lot of dialogue, this was not the case in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

American Library Association Literary Taste Breakfast

I am much chagrined that I have not added a posting since February, I will try to do better in the future.

I recently attended the American Library Association Conference in Chicago. While there I had the pleasure of enjoying the parks along Lake Michigan. I also enjoyed the Chicago Art Institute, the Field Museum, Soldiers Field, and Navy Pier. I highly recommend all of them.

As for the conference, I attended the Literary Taste Breakfast. Each year, the Reference and Users Services Association creates a list of Notable Book authors, and a list of recommended reads for adults. Four of these authors are invited to give a talk at the Literary Taste Breakfast. I have attended the breakfast for several years and always find it enjoyable.

The authors in attendance this year were Peter Manseau, Toby Barlow, Nick Taylor, and Mark Harris. Peter Manseau discussed his book, Songs for the Butcher's Daughter. Toby Barlow talked about his book Sharp Teeth. Nick Taylor and Mark Harris provided insight into their nonfiction books. Taylor wrote American-Made: the Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR put the Nation Back to Work, and Harris discussed his book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.

While the authors briefly describe their books, and possibly provide an excerpt, it is their discussion of the behind the scenes activities that makes the breakfast so enjoyable. The hours spent on the computer, and trying to pull the truth from interviews with historical figures that may not remember things accurately. Barlow, a first time author, discussed his character road blocks, and journey to publication.

If you are an aspiring writer, you should take advantage of opportunities that provide you the chance of listening to successful authors and their insights towards the act of creative writing, and getting published. Generally the Literary Taste Breakfast is a small enough venue that you have the opportunity to access the authors, ask them questions, and get an autograph. Also take not that getting published is only half the battle. You also have to market the book, and public appearance are a most for any new writer.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Florida Author - Ward Larsen

Ward Larsen, a Sarasota resident and former Air Force pilot recently published Stealing Trinity. It takes place in the United States towards the close of World War II. A Nazi spy makes a last ditch effort to steal information on the Manhattan Project. I found the character development excellent, and the story believable. Larsen provided the right number of plot bumps and twists to keep the story suspenseful and interesting. Stealing Trinity is Larsen's second book. His first book was The Perfect Assassin.