Friday, January 29, 2010

J.D. Salinger Obit

In keeping with his life style of privacy and reclusiveness, this obit will be kept short.  J.D. Salinger died on January 27th at his home in Cornish, N.H. at the age of 91.   He is best known for writing Catcher in the Rye.   He also wrote two short story collections Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

James W. Hall

James W. Hall recently presented his new book, Silencer, at Inkwood Books in Tampa. Hall started his career by writing poetry.  Luckily for his many fans he switched to writing mystery/suspense stories set in the messed up state of Florida. He won a Shamus Award for best novel from the Private Eye Writers of America for Blackwater Sound.  He won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his short story, “The Catch” which was published in Greatest Hits: Original Stories of Assassins, Hitmen, and Hired Guns.

During his presentation Hall shared with the audience his like for John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries, and the influence these stories have on his own writing.  My friends and I also enjoyed the Travis McGee novels.  This could explain the popularity of Hall among my contemporaries, and the large percentage of males in the audience.

Hall admits his main protagonist, Thorn, differs from McGee on a couple of points.  McGee tends to be outgoing, and he does salvage jobs for people.  He assists people in regaining assets through various means that may or may not be legal, and he keeps a percentage of whatever he recovers.   Thorn on the other hand, tends to be a loner, and trouble finds him.  One thing the two protagonists share is the likelihood their female companions will experience untimely deaths.

Hall also made the point concerning the importance of character growth.  He follows the traditional literary approach that the character should grow/change from the beginning to the end of the book.  “The character ends in a different psychological place than where he begins.” I agree with the importance for the character to change or evolve in a story.  I have quit reading a couple of mystery series because the character does not grow.  The character becomes predictable, and makes the same mistakes in every book.

I enjoyed the author discussion today. He managed his time well, and entertained questions from the audience.  During the signing he shook hands, and had time to chat with the attendees. Inkwood Books provided a comfortable location for the discussion and had plenty of books on hand for the signing.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robert B. Parker Obit

Boston has lost an author; Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) died this week.  He lived in the New England area, and cheered for the Red Sox.  In his career, he wrote over sixty-five books, and four series.  His best-known series, Spenser takes place in the Boston area, and was made into a television series, Spenser for Hire, in the mid-nineteen eighties.   He also wrote the Jesse Stone series and the Sunny Randall series.   His western series portrays the characters, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nicholas A. Basbanes - Master of Books About Books

Alfie Cat, a.k.a. the Book Snob, requested a blog about Nicholas A. Basbanes.  I was working on my M.S.  in Library and Information Science, when Nicholas A. Basbanes published A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, 1995.  I realized then that my love of books was actually common enough to warrant a name, have a book written about it, and I was not the only bibliophile.  He has since written a number of books about books, book culture, and book lovers.   He serves as an inspiration, that one can make a living not only writing books, but can make a living writing books about books.  What a novel concept!

Alfie Cat has just collapsed on the keyboard to remind me this is a blog about Basbanes and bibliophiles, not about careers, so I will save the career chatter for another day.  Basbanes writes about the history of the book, book hunting, and the antiquarian book trade.  He has published at least five other books Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture (2001); Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book-Hunter of the 21st Century (2002); Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World (2005); Editions & Impressions: My Twenty Years on the Book Beat (2008); and A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-2008 (2008). He has a new book coming out in May, About the Author: Inside the Creative Process.

If you are a bibliophile or want to know more about the history of the book and book collecting, then Nicholas A. Basbanes is the author for you.   I will sit back with my copy of A Gentle Madness, and reminisce about book hunting prior to the Internet.  Cruising through an independent bookstore hunting for a rare copy, and looking for a bargain.  Unfortunately due to the Internet and monster Book Stores, the likelihood of finding a rare book, underpriced in an independent bookstore is a thing of the past.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tips for Aspiring Authors

I reviewed Carolyn See’s book, Making a Literary Life, for in 2008.   I found the book so beneficial that I decided to do a new post for it.   Carolyn has three pieces of advice in the book that I have followed, and incorporated into my writing life – write a thousand words a day, five days a week; communicate with successful authors; and communicate with other aspiring writers.

Because I maintain a job in my non-writing life, I do not manage the thousand words a day five days a week.  I do make myself write a minimum of four hundred words a day, five days a week.   On the days I only have time the energy for four hundred words, I do blogs and book reviews.  On the weekends, I do a thousand words a day – working on book chapters, technical reports, or short stories.  I have submitted a few short stories, none published yet.  I have published numerous non-fiction works.

I have found authors surprisingly approachable.  At least once a month a local bookstore or organization sponsors an author talk/book signing.  Conferences are another good opportunity to meet authors.  I have met several authors at Florida Library Association, Florida Writers Association, and the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference.  The ALA annual conference occurs in late June/early July, and hosts an amazing line up of authors.  An additional alternative for communicating with authors is through online organizations.  For example sponsors author chats.  I have even had success with good old snail mail author correspondence.  I have corresponded with Carolyn Say via snail mail and at the ALA annual conference in Anaheim.  

Lastly, meeting with fellow aspiring authors can be extremely helpful.  Family members and friends may not be totally truthful in critiquing your work.  If your spouse says your story sucks, it could make for bad cohabitation.   On the other hand fellow authors can be nice, but brutally honest with their critiques.   State writing associations generally have local chapters that sponsor monthly meetings.  My prose is generally acceptable and I have published non-fiction, but my dialogue stinks.  So I have joined the Florida Writers Association to seek help with this weakness.

So keep writing, and follow Carolyn See’s tips, and good luck with your writing career.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Deborah LeBlanc's Water Witch

I received Deborah LeBlanc’s, Water Witch (2008) while visiting St. Pete Beach last fall.  Book exchanges on the beach and poolside are a common occurrence, and a good way to find new reading material.

Leblanc writes paranormal mysteries. (You may find her with friends doing some ghost hunting in Louisiana.)  Readers will find Water Witch an easy but entertaining read.  The protagonist Dunny Pollock has a special talent for finding missing things.  When two kids go missing in the Louisiana swamps, Dunny’s sister, Angella calls her for help.   Only thing is Angella has more problems than just the missing kids; in fact the whole town seems to be going crazy.  Pawnee demons seem to be at work, and Dunny maybe in deeper water than she can handle.

LeBlanc was born in New Orleans, raised in Arizona, and now spends a good deal of her time in New Orleans.  She has not written a book since Water Witch, but instead spends her time helping new authors via conferences and the Pen and Press writers’ retreat.  She also works with Literacy Inc, an organization dedicated to improving literacy among high school students. Her other works include – Morbid Curiosity; A House Divided; Grave Intent; and Family Inheritance.

Pen to Press Writer's Retreat