Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LA Times Book Fest

GalleyCat provides a cool report and photos from the LA Times Festival of Books (including a shot of one of my very favorite writers, Walter Mosley).

All that plus not just one, but two reports from the festival by Sarah Weinman in her blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, and you almost feel like you're there.

Speaking of events, I'm off to another one this weekend. This one is the Association of Independent Information Professionals' annual conference.

So, even though it's only Wednesday, I shall wish you all a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bookstores Beware!

In a development that can only be described as bizarre, the LA Times reports that several local bookstore owners are being targeted by scam artists who call them up, pretend to be an author and try to get the store owners to send them money after relating some made-up tale of woe.

In an age of rampant identity theft and hoax emails, it's not too surprising that other cons are being attempted. But of all businesses to pick on--they choose bookstores?

But then, I suppose it is easier to call a bookstore and try to convince the owner you're Walter Mosley than it is to call a Hollywood producer and convince him or her that you're Brad Pitt. Or the San Francisco Giants' front office, pretending to be Barry Bonds. And who would believe those guys needed money wired to them, anyhow?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review: The Hitchhikers Guide to Holistic Detecting

I've been wanting to read DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, as a big fan of detective novels and author Douglas Adams' HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE series, for some time. Having finally gotten 'round to reading it, I will say this.

The novel starts a bit shakily, but soon draws you in as you see Richard, the hapless computer geek protagonist, end up being sought by police in connection with a murder. Through a series of odd events, Richard is led to the offices of Dirk Gently (aka Svlad Cjelli, but let's not get into all that, shall we?), who helps get to the bottom of things (which are far stranger and darker than Richard can imagine them to be) by, among other things, questioning Richard's eccentric old university professor. Gently then goes on to save the human race from extinction.

How does the murder connect with the professor and the extinction of humankind? To say more would be to say way too much. Just know that the story has the usual mix of Adams' surreal situations, satire and absurd humor, only with a dark edge that creates tension toward the end, but resolves in rather a muddle. It also includes quite a bit of computer-oriented and math/science speak that may put off some readers.

I liked it, but I'm an Adams fan. And would recommend the book for other fans.

It's a bit of fun, really. And mostly harmless.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You saw the yellow butterfly, didn't you? , Singleton 2008 outsider hippie art

You saw the yellow butterfly, didn't you?(c) Singleton 2008"I've never noticed them before"you said....Sunday walking,drenched in daybeerslooking at your feet,stumbling on your words,counting cracks that mightbreak your Mother's back....."They're everywhere"you whispered....on borrowed minutes,sneak peeking backwards,crawling in betweenthe sheets ofthen,long arms andlegsstretchingreaching"Peace~

Out of Office, In the Money

Who couldn't see this one coming? But $350,000 for a tell-all book . . . are that many people really that interested in hearing it all?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Three Days at the London Book Fair

the carnival of Book Expo America; more like an accountancy seminar."

And speaking of things literary, I'll be taking some time off from blogging duties to attend Malice Domestic, a mystery writers' convention. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sex and Literary Fiction

Descriptions of kinky sex and lurid covers aren't just for romance novels and erotica anymore.

First-time author Melanie Abrams' recently published novel PLAYING is described as "[p]art erotica, part chick or mommy lit, part memoir-mimicking confession of childhood sexuality and trauma," and has a cover featuring a tied-up blonde laying on "sensually rumpled burgundy satin sheets."

Abrams is not alone, either. The article notes, "Tom Wolfe indulgently explored coed hookup culture in 'I Am Charlotte Simmons.' Walter Mosley's 'sexistential novel,' 'Killing Johnny Fry,' starts with sodomy and gets dirtier and darker from there. Later this year, Chuck Palahniuk will publish 'Snuff,' about a female porn star's attempt at a record for most sex partners in one day, partially told from the perspective of participant No. 600."

Even the romance genre is getting edgier, they say. (Though don't tell that to the Christian romance writers, in whose work "bodices remain resolutely un-ripped and couples politely shake hands on the ladies' doorsteps after a night on the town.")

But, of course, controversial sex in literature isn't really all that new, is it? Remember LOLITA or LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER. It's pretty much a question of degree.

The Last Tattoo, Singleton Hippie Art, 2008

The Last Tattoo(c) Singleton 2008Peace,a tattered Kite,wiltedmildewed,lost in the wind,dancingfreeandgoing low...dipping undertree limbspower lines"Do not Enter"signsand laughing...A sudden butterfly....Peace,a broken window,panes shattered,splintered,laced in cobwebart,etch~a~sketchedby "come~hither~to"widows in mourning,mouth wide open forthe sunshinestreamingpouring,a long necked bottle

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top 50 Greatest Crime Writers

The Times Online gives its selection of the 50 best crime writers ever. Such lists always provoke argument about proper order, who should or shouldn't have been included, etc. (And I'll admit, I'm sad to see that Sue Grafton didn't make the cut.) But it's a formidable compilation of the crime genre's heavyweights.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Review: Exploring 'The Places That Scare You'

No, THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU (Shambhala 2007) is not a Stephen King novel. It's author, Pema Chodron, is a Buddhist nun, and the book is a concise explanation of how Buddhist principles can help one cope with life's difficulties.

I've grown interested in Buddhism for various reasons and have read other books about it, but this one has brought me as close as I've ever come (so far) to actually understanding it. It still leaves me with questions (and Buddhism encourages you to question everything), some of them paradoxical.

For instance, under Buddhist principles, being human means "being part of the whole called by us 'the universe'" (quoting Einstein) and finding ways to connect with that whole and accepting others (even Hitler or Charles Manson) for what they are. At the same time, although you're supposed to practice compassion, it should not be "idiot compassion" or simply "being kind when we should say a definite 'no'." "When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship," Chodron writes, "we need to set clear boundaries."

This raises the question of where you draw the lines and how. When are you raising needed defenses versus building unnecessary walls based on fear or anger? Is war inevitable under some circumstances, even from a Buddhist perspective? Of course, Buddhism does encourage one to examine one's own feelings carefully, so maybe you can eventually distinguish between the two situations. And maybe our response to global aggression can be something less than war but more than allowing ourselves to be walked upon. And, since uncertainty and becoming comfortable with it are also part of Buddhism, maybe such a paradox is part and parcel of the whole practice. (Maybe I've just answered my own question. Maybe I actually "get" this after all.)

In any case, Buddhism encourages us to release our bodhichitta, or (roughly speaking) our capacity to love and feel compassion for others, as well as to be in touch with our own vulnerabilities, so that our response to difficult situations and people is based on that, rather than fear and anger. And how bad can that be?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Contemplative Life in Li-tra-cha

Is the so-called literary life dead? Does a world in which blogs and magazine articles are being adapted into books have no place for the thoughtful novelist?

Three new novelists are about to find out. Each of them co-edits a journal (i.e., they are making a living in the literary field, as opposed to being lawyers, doctors or financial advisors who can also write) and they're coming out with first novels that range from autobiographical to literary with genre influences.

Literary novels get, um, dumped on a bit by genre authors. Frankly, I find the attitude unreasonably defensive, as distasteful in its own way as the most snooty put-down of genre writing from a so-called "real author."

For those who think "serious literature" (whatever that may be) is an antiquated concept, one of the three authors, Nathaniel Rich, has this to say, "I think there are more people engaged with literature than there ever have been. When people think about the golden age of the novel in the 19th century, literacy rates were absurdly low. There wasn't electricity to read by: People weren't just sitting around reading all day then either."

It'll be interesting to see how their books do on the market. And where their careers go from here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Praise for the Library and a Few Thoughts on Librarians

The authors at Writers Plot have each weighed in with a contribution to the celebration of National Library Week. Leann Sweeney, Sheila Connolly, Kate Flora, Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett, aka Lorna Barrett and Jeanne Munn Bracken have all posted their thoughts on what libraries mean to them, as readers, writers and book lovers.

Though some people (even librarians) claim librarianship is a dying profession, I'd prefer to think of it as a changing profession. With all the information available on the Internet, we still need librarians to help us find the best information, as quickly as possible. Doing research on the Internet can be (as the saying goes) like drinking water from a firehose. You can end up drowning in too much of it and Google doesn't distinguish between crappy information and sound information.

So, as long as we need to find reliable information expediently, there will be a role for the librarian or independent information professional. There isn't a search engine yet that can provide the human element of good judgment.

Say the words, Feel the love, Singleton Outsider Hippie Art

Say the words,Feel The Love(C) Singleton 2008Bamboo wind chimesclunking,bunkingdrumming in aFriday night breeze,bohemian musicfor peace....And I'mgiddyfromthe accidental high,hungover in the morningfromlightheaded laughingand twirling in the dark,from chasing firefliesand barflies,playing hide-n-go seek,peek~a~boo, baby,and"Name that song".....Friday's are for dancin'.....And feelin' the love....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: Oh, Boy, Here Comes 'Trouble'

Review by guest blogger Star Lawrence.
TROUBLE (audiobook), author Jesse Kellerman and read by Scott Brick.

You’re a medical student who sets out in the middle of the night to replace your gore-slathered shoes and you stab a guy in order to save a screaming woman crawling away from her assailant. What do you have to lose by starting a twisted affair with her?

The author Jesse Kellerman is the son of Jonathan and Faye, the beloved crime novelists. Yes, the spawn is rising. At least Jesse kept the family last name. Stephen King’s son is named Joe Hill. (John Doe was in use, I guess.)

Anyhow, this whiny, smarty-pants med student, Jonah Stem, soon runs into the woman he saved. Her name is Eve Gones, although she informs him this is pronounced “Jones.” OK, now, guy? Now, are you seeing any flags on the play?


OK, things progress and our Eve turns out to…well, wouldn’t want to introduce any spoilers. Let’s just say, she has unusual tastes between the sheets, if she even is between actual sheets at any point, I can’t remember. Jonah is quite overwhelmed between these disturbing romps, cracking Gray’s Anatomy, dueling with crabby residents, coping with being a famous superhero who saves winsome masochists from harm, and hanging out with his former girl friend who is almost catatonic from some past trauma or other.

Books on CD are such a different art form from books on dead trees. The reader, in this case, Scott Brick, one of my favorites, has to fit the story—and he does. Brick has a slow paced, patient-sounding, slightly nasal voice that drops at the end of every sentence. It’s kind of an East Coast accent, deliberate, letting the words line up neatly. He does the various voices in an understated way, no falsettos for the women or comical rasps for the men. Yet, you can always tell who’s who and who’s back.

While I notice some grumpy reviews on Amazon, and of course, I am as ever, your Snark Woman, I listened to the bloody end. I rather liked this book and recommended it to my sister.

I doubt I will be doing any midnight shoe shopping soon, though.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bad, Bad Author

GalleyCat reports that author Deborah MacGillivray "is evidently harassing an Amazon reviewer that goes by the handle Reba." Apparently, MacGillivray was quite upset with Reba's three-star review of her book. So upset that she's reportedly been bad-mouthing Reba in various online author groups and even hired a private detective to hunt down personal information about Reba.

Damn--who knew reviewing could be such a hazardous pursuit? MacGillivray should understand that it's just someone's opinion. And remember that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Except the kind you bring upon yourself with stunts like she's pulling.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Review: Spenser Finds LA to Be 'A Savage Place'

As I make my way through the Robert B. Parker backlist (slowly--it's a big backlist), I find it interesting how he deviates from the PI story formula in some of his later (or, perhaps, middle period at this point--he's done so many) Spenser novels.

In A SAVAGE PLACE, Spenser is hired as a bodyguard for Candy Sloan, a beautiful blonde Los Angeles TV reporter. Sloan's onto a hot scoop about Mob connections in the film industry (I'm sorry--this is news?) and is determined to prove herself as more than just a pretty face and break the story. But her investigative reporting places her in harm's way. When someone beats her up badly to persuade her to stop, things look seriously dangerous for her.

On the plus side, this is a different sort of Spenser novel. He is hired as a bodyguard, not an investigator (though he manages to chime in with a question here and there, when he's on interviews with Sloan). The story has an unusual noir element to it. Spenser gets his customary one-liners in and has a particularly stunning fight scene at the end. And we are blissfully free of Susan Silverman's presence, other than in Spenser's thoughts and a few conversations.

However, the down side is that much of the dialogue descends into Sloan's nattering about how she can do her job as well as any guy, and how Spenser just doesn't understand being a woman in the man's world of television journalism, blah blah. Spenser and Sloan end up engaging in a lot of chit-chat about this man-woman stuff that gets old fast. Sloan strikes me at times as less tough than reckless. Plus Spenser (without going into spoiler detail) does something that underscores the whole double standard applied to men and women, only to reverse himself later and try to justify his contradictory behavior with the flimsiest of rationales. And, to my sorrow, Hawk makes no appearance.

If you like Spenser, it's worth a read. If you've never read the series, don't start with this one--try THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT or another of his early books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Library Week!

In celebration of National Library Week (April 13-19), Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett, aka Lorna Barrett, has posted an item on the blog Writers Plot about her early library experiences and the crucial role libraries have played in developing a readership for her books.

I'll never forget the library where I grew up in Queens, NY. Old and wooden, with a ceiling that seemed as high as the sky and a second-level tier of stacks that ran above the first floor stacks around the central reading area, I felt like I was entering a cathedral every time I went inside. I fell in love with the place and wanted to read every book I could get my hands on.

By the time I got to high school, I could get so lost in a book, I'd completely tune out my surroundings. One time, I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn while waiting to see my guidance counselor. I was so absorbed in the story by the time he called me, he had to repeat my name several times and was almost shouting before I heard him.

I still think of libraries as wondrous places--repositories of knowledge, as well as a place where you can escape to a variety of fictional worlds created by a multitude of authors--for free. And they are a great place for new and mid-list authors to have their books, given the difficulty most of us have getting them into stores. Libraries help attract readers. And to paraphrase the line from Field of Dreams, if you build a readership, perhaps one day the stores will come.

So let us all celebrate and support our local libraries. We would all be the poorer without them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Just give me Peace" she said, Singleton, Hippie Art

"Just Give Me Peace" she said....(c) Singleton 2008Over and over again,a mantra,a record grooving, grindinggrating,on the same old wordsmakin' musicoutavinyl dreams.She dances in the dark,in the early mornin'peace,makin' love to thenew day,gifted,free.....scribblin' love letters to the past,stone washed,torn,and raveled.....but,it's all the same....a mantra,a record,grooving, grinding, gratingon

J.K. Rowling, Now Appearing--In Court

Today, author J.K. Rowling was supposed to testify in the trial of her suit against a small press, RDR Books, that was planning to publish a book based on a popular fan Web site called "The Harry Potter Lexicon".

Rowling and Warner Brothers, the studio that's adapted her books to film, argue against the book's issuance because they claim it repackages Rowling's work in order to make money for the publisher, while the fan site is done for free.

Roger Rapoport, publisher of RDR Books, says he thinks the print and Web versions of the lexicon can co-exist without harming Rowling. "We don't think we're a threat to J. K. Rowling," Rapoport said in an interview, adding that the book's author received a "tiny advance" last August and that the publisher planned to print about 10,000 copies.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Review: 'Songs of Innocence' Hits the Right Notes

Richard Aleas' latest book, SONGS OF INNOCENCE (Hard Case Crime, 2007), is a great hardboiled crime novel with a basic good-guy protagonist, John Blake. Retreating from the tough world of private investigation to the realm of academia, after suffering some traumatic events in connection with a case (which I presume was the subject of the preceding novel, LITTLE GIRL LOST), Blake nonetheless gets drawn back into danger when a vulnerable young girl he's befriended is found dead in her bathtub of an apparent suicide.

Convinced that she didn't kill herself, Blake starts investigating her death, and in doing so, attracts the attention of a dangerous criminal element and, eventually, the police. Richard Aleas (the nom de plume of Charles Ardai, founder of Hard Case Crime) ratchets up the pace and suspense in this dark, disturbing tale that ends on a noir twist that will leave readers gasping with surprise.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Review: Faust's 'Money Shot' Hits the Spot

Christa Faust wastes no time getting into her story in MONEY SHOT (Hard Case Crime, 2008), another stellar bit of pulp fiction from the folks at Hard Case Crime. When we meet porn star-turned-adult modeling agent Angel Dare, she's tied up in the trunk of a car after being beaten and raped. How she gets that way and what happens afterward make for riveting reading. Angel finds herself on the run, being chased by thugs who think she knows more than she does and hunted by police who think she killed one of her friends. With help from her agency's security man, ex-cop Lalo Malloy, Angel must stay hidden, while investigating how she ended up in her predicament and trying to clear her name.

Faust gives Angel a sharp, no-nonsense, and wise-cracking 'tude, yet manages to reveal her vulnerabilities without making her look weak. Written in the terse but vivid style of the genre, MONEY SHOT is a fast-paced ride through the dark side of the porn industry, and Christa Faust is a wonderful new addition to the growing sorority of female noir writers.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Amazon Gears Up For the Digital Revolution

Amazon is making serious moves toward promoting the digital revolution in entertainment. ZDNet reports that the online sales giant, which has been so successful in moving physical copies of books, music and movies, is taking serious steps toward selling digital entertainment products.

In the realm of books, Amazon has already released the Kindle electronic book reader. Since the device hit the market last December, demand for the Kindle has outstripped the company's supply. And with sales across the book publishing industry flat, Amazon no doubt hopes that e-books will enjoy the same growth in popularity as digital music and movies. (Interestingly, Amazon is also trying to corner the print-on-demand market by making publishers use its BookSurge division if they want the sell their titles on Amazon, a move that has raised some author hackles.)

A lot of it, I think, will depend on how user-friendly
the Kindle ends up being. I've never used it, but I've heard good buzz about it. It's supposed to be a convenient size, and the view screen is reputed to be easy on the eyes. So who knows? Maybe even an old fogey like me can be weaned off paper books someday.

But not today.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pixies for Peace, Singleton Hippie Art

Pixies for Peace(c) Singleton 2008Featured here nowI twirl my hair...fingertips twyning,macrame'ingbraidingtwistinga cobweb ofyellow,golden,peace ~love for free,castingshadows on your tinselscattered everywhere...the tell-tale signs I've been here....I fold tin foil,roll it,coil itinto sudden snakes,1000 peace signs,and suspend theminmid~air flight,on broken branches,

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