Monday, December 31, 2012
The list, care of Lit Reactor.
From said list...
2. I will start writing at X o’clock every day
Here’s the thing about developing a habit: While you’re trying to cement it into your life, there’s no room for flexibility or for giving yourself a break just this once. This resolution is good for that reason. After a month of writing at the same time every day, your muse will start to understand when to show up. Sometimes she'll be out posing for art students, trying to make some extra cash, and you've still got to work on those days. But most of the time she'll be there. Create a trigger to remind yourself that it’s time to put pen to paper: set an alarm, train your dog to attack your crotch, put the coffee pot on a timer, whatever it takes. Experts in habit-forming swear by triggers.
3. I will finish a chapter in my novel
Look, you could go balls to the wall and resolve to finish your novel, but breaking that down into smaller goals is much more likely to result in high fives and celebratory toasts. A shopaholic should resolve to put $20 in the piggy bank, not $2,000. A couch potato should resolve to run around the block, not to run a marathon. The same goes for writers. Tiny steps are better than no steps. Add up enough chapters, and you’ll end up with a novel anyway. It’s just a less terrifying approach.
MTV previews movies that have their origins on our bookshelves.
From the story...
The young-adult demographic has been of particular interest to producers of late. Thanks to the wild successes of "Harry Potter" and "The Twilight Saga," studios are scrambling to fill the void with fledgling franchises like "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Mortal Instruments."
"In terms of 'Beautiful Creatures' and 'Mortal Instruments,' it couldn't be more obvious they're going for the 'Twilight' crowd," Contrino said. " 'Hunger Games,' to me, is closer to 'Harry Potter' to how big it is. If you compare the first 'Hunger Games' to the first 'Harry Potter,' it's bigger. I think 'Mortal Instruments' and 'Beautiful Creatures' would fit the 'Twilight' mold."
Fairy tale re-imaginings comprise another family-friendly category that has seen a lot of action recently. You'll recall the dueling Snow Whites of 2012 ("Mirror Mirror" and "Snow White and the Huntsman"), and thankfully, 2013 promises a bit more diversity in its re-tellings, with "Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters," "Jack and the Giant Slayer" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" set to lead the imports from a land far, far away.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Despite the endless cooking, sewing and childrearing, Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories of family life in the American wilderness strike a blow for female emancipation, discovers Lucy Ellmann in the Guardian.
From the piece...
They should have all stayed in Europe. Still, it's nice to believe, even wrongly, that the world is your oyster. Charles Ingalls, the father depicted in his daughter's novels, has a gift for keeping cheerful. Here's the deal: you kill, you cook, you eat, you sing songs, and you do it with a positive attitude or you're probably going to die. Optimism is not a sign of imbecility in such a situation, it's a necessity. Cynicism's a luxury. The poverty and deprivation are at times severe: Pa has to walk for hundreds of miles in worn-out boots, just to find enough work to keep the family alive. At one point, he more or less hibernates for three days in a snow hole, unable to find the house in a blizzard. Ever thought about a desk job? But during the Depression, when Wilder embarked on the series, a lot of people were in similar trouble.
Which is why we need these books now. In an era when the individual is dishonoured for failings in beauty, health, wealth and technological know-how, Wilder's worldview (reinforced by Garth Williams' memorable illustrations from the 1950s) seems strikingly humane, even socialist at times. America could not have come into being without collective effort. The Ingallses are tirelessly charitable towards everyone they meet (even tiresomely so – was it really necessary to make Laura give her rag doll to a spoiled brat?).
NPR takes a look at the ever-changing publishing landscape, here.
From the story...
Digital platforms are another big trend right now — websites where authors can publish their work and connect with their readers. Shatzkin says children's publishers have been making good use of platforms. "For example, Scholastic, which has fabulous reach into schools, through teachers, is creating an e-book reading platform called Storia," he says.
Storia will be a complete environment, providing services for the purchase and reading of e-books and tools for parents and teachers to oversee their kids' reading. "So if a parent or teacher get a kid reading on Storia, you're not going to be able to get a book to that kid except through Storia. And Storia's not the only platform of its kind ... and what that means is that power transfers to the platform owner from the individual title or author."
Saturday, December 29, 2012
From a story in the Guardian about the Amazing Spider-Man, Issue #700...
To mark the end of the 50-year-old Amazing Spider-Man series, the mind behind the webbed red mask will change from underdog Peter Parker to one of his most vilified opponents.
The dying, aging super villain Dr Otto Octavius switched bodies with the young researcher a couple issues prior and in a surprise move, Peter Parker won't make it out of the switch alive. That means Peter Parker is no more.
Amazing Spider-Man author Dan Slott said he has been building up to this moment since the return of Doc Ock in issue #600, where the villain would be facing the end of his life and facing his "super-villain bucket list".
"The coolest thing we could do would be to switch brains with your enemy and let him die in your withered, diseased, dying, battered body," Slott told the Guardian. "That would be awesome."
Salon takes a look at The Jolly Barnyard.
From the piece...
They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A sandwich with inhumane treatment of chickens in crowded factory farms — they want kids to equate that sandwich with the page in the “Jolly Barnyard” where Farmer Brown feeds his chickens a treat while they roam free. They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A meal with the unsustainable and often unsafe monoculture practices of corporate agribusiness — they want kids to equate that meal with the agriculturally diverse operations of individuals like Farmer Brown.
In short, they don’t want my son and his fellow two-year-olds to equate Chick-fil-A with what Chick-fil-A really is — they want them to equate it with the very Jolly Barnyard it and its fellow fast-food behemoths have helped destroy. And so the company has re-published the 1950 classic under its name, and with its logo stamped right on the front cover. The message to tykes is clear: When you think Chick-fil-A, think “Jolly Barnyard.”
Of course, Chick-fil-A’s “Jolly Barnyard” is hardly the most egregious advertising ploy from the fast-food industry.
Friday, December 28, 2012
You can follow in his footsteps, here.
From the piece on the Smithsonian website...
Church of Saint Paul - Saint Louis
Located in the Marais neighborhood, this Baroque church serves as the setting for Cosette and Marius’s nuptials in Les Mis. After the wedding, Hugo writes, “People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul, to gaze through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers quivering on Cosette’s head.” The Jesuits constructed Saint Paul-Saint Louis from 1627 to 1641, and the church’s 180-foot dome, intricate carvings and shadowy corners appear much as they did 200 years ago. Hugo was a parishioner of the church and donated the shell-shaped holy water fonts on either side of the entrance. Like Cosette, Hugo’s daughter Léopoldine was married in Saint-Paul in 1843.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Besides the Gospels, what’s the best literary treatment of the life of the Messiah? David Masciotra, for the Daily Beast, looks at the many efforts, from Anne Rice to Norman Mailer.
From the piece...
In addition to inspiring an entire religion, Jesus also inspired many works of fiction. Some are loyal to the account of Jesus’s life told in the Synoptic Gospels, and some take poetic, dramatic, and speculative license. The Jesus novel is a small and largely unrecognized genre of literature that often gives Christians new insight into the story of their savior, and provides non-believers with an artistic means of accessing a tale containing all of the most effective tools of drama—pity, terror, sadness, heroism, tragedy, and redemption.
The list, care of io9.
From said list...
9) Lex Luthor from Superman
There have been many different versions of the scourge of Metropolis: the mad scientist who's mad at Superman because Superboy zapped his hair off, the business mogul who just wants Superman out of the way, the shadowy politician... but they're all kind of clueless when it comes down to it. Lex Luthor usually has everything you could possibly want — power, prestige, hot babes in chauffeur outfits, even the White House — but he still blows it all going after Superman. His battlesuit is emblematic of the problem: For one thing, it's a hideous green-and-purple color scheme. But also, it often goes wrong in the worst possible way. At one point, Lex gets his own whole planet of people who love him, Lexor, marries an alien princess. But then his battlesuit goes off during a battle and accidentally overloads the "Neutrarod," a spire he'd built to counter the planet's geological instability. And as a result, all of Lex's subjects die, including his wife and kid. He blames Superman, of course.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The list, care of the Huffington Post.
From said list...
3. The current glut of books will become even more pronounced
Even before the indie ebook revolution, there was a glut of books. There are simply too many great books worth reading, and not enough eyeballs or hours in a lifetime to read them all. 2013 will remind us we haven't seen anything yet. Thanks to the increased awareness and street cred of indie ebook publishing, and free online tools like Smashwords that make ebook publishing fast, free and easy, the next generation of writers is realizing they need not bow subservient before the altars of publishing gatekeepers ever again.
Smashwords authors are publishing direct to their readers and achieving global distribution. This is leading to a surge of new titles that never stop coming, and never go out of print. In 2013, self-published ebooks will swamp the titles put out by traditional publishers. This is good for the future of authors, readers and publishing. We're in the early stages of a full scale publishing renaissance. Readers now have access to an amazing diversity of high quality books.
Some industry participants - some authors included - fear this glut, because they think it'll either increase competition or decrease discoverability. Yes and no. More high-quality titles than ever will be released, because the barriers to publication have been eliminated. Readers will discover the best books and propel them forward through word of mouth. More poor-quality books than ever will also be released, and these books will be summarily ignored by readers, reviewed poorly, and will fail to spark word of mouth. Yes, competition will increase, but so will author opportunity, because more readers than ever will be reading ebooks.
4. It'll get tougher to sell books
The easy days are behind us. In the next few years, I expect millions of out of print books will come back to life as ebooks. Millions of writers will self-publish new titles. The virtual shelves of online ebook retailers will expand to accommodate a limitless supply of ebooks.
In the early days of self-published ebooks when there were fewer books to choose from, the act of making your book available in the ebook format helped you reach a lot of readers. In 2013, authors will face more competition for reader eyeshare. Most of that competition will come from fellow indie authors.
Indies, as a collective organism, are become more knowledgeable, professional and sophisticated in their publishing. They're pioneering the best practices of tomorrow. All authors will need to up their game. That means more professional editing, more professional cover design, broader distribution, smart pricing, and more books. Unlike their static print counterparts of yesteryear, ebooks are living, dynamic and immortal creatures. You can upgrade your ebook to make it more available, accessible and enjoyable to readers at any time.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
Mental Floss has the details, here.
From the piece...
The commercial Christmas card as we know it originated in London in 1843. That winter, Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant who helped organize the Great Exhibition and develop the Victoria and Albert Museum, decided he was too busy to write individual Christmas greetings to his family, friends and business colleagues. He asked his friend, the painter John Callcott Horsley, to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead.
Horsley designed a triptych, with the two side panels depicting good deeds (clothing the naked and feeding the hungry) and the center panel showing a family Christmas party. The inclusion of booze at this party got Cole and Horsley an earful from the British Temperance Movement. At the bottom of the center panel was the inscription “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
Sunday, December 23, 2012
The first gay Bible?
From a piece on Juicy Ecumenism...
Homosexuality was first mentioned in the Bible in 1946 in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this – only interpretations have been made. Anti-LGBT Bible interpretations commonly cite only eight verses in the Bible that they interpret to mean homosexuality is a sin; Eight verses in a book of thousands!
The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality: We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.
The son of the creator of Babar the Elephant discusses him.
From a piece in the Huffington Post...
Babar was born in 1931 when I was 6 and my brother Mathieu was 5. We were living just outside Paris. One night our mother told us a bed time story about a little elephant whose mother is killed by a hunter and who runs away from the jungle where he was born until he reaches a city very much like Paris. There he meets a kind old lady who gives him money to buy nice clothes. He becomes quite sophisticated in the city but eventually goes back home to the jungle, where he is crowned king of the elephants.
Mathieu and I told this story to our father, Jean de Brunhoff, who was an artist. He did a book for us based on the story, with large pages of illustrations, and he named the little elephant Babar. (In our mother's story he was only "baby elephant"). My brother and I loved this book and so did other members of my father's family, who happened to be in the publishing business. They published the book in the same large format as the original work, and it was a great success. The year after it was published in Paris, it was translated into English and published in New York.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
NPR takes up the case.
From the piece...
Most romance arcs follow Elizabeth and Darcy's lead — they start with conflict and lead to mutual understanding. Yes, generally, the initial attraction is physical, but still, by the end, you understand that these people love each other because of who they are, and that they bring out the best in one another. Also, to deserve that HEA, those characters have to change, to grow. They have to develop into people who are worthy of each other, who are ready and willing to risk everything to earn the love, respect and admiration of this person they love.
Why is our devotion to this lovely, affirming storytelling something we should hide, or apologize for? Why this intellectual idea that romance is something to look down on? We know that many intelligent, educated women read it. They must: Romance continues to dominate the publishing industry, accounting for nearly $1.4 billion in sales in 2011, a full 14.3 percent of all consumer book sales.
Romance may not interest you. I get that — though I highly recommend that you at least give it a try.
Friday, December 21, 2012
As popular as ever.
From a piece in Forbes...
The current television show Sons of Anarchy, now in its sixth season on F/X, has long been thought to draw its inspiration from Hamlet.
Tempestuous co-author Kim Askew believes the pop culture interest in Shakespeare is driven by his plays ubiquitous themes which translate well to today’s audience.'
“The heightened drama and emotions in Shakespeare’s plays feel very true to the experience of being a teenager,” Askew said. “Many of his characters are young people facing the same issues teens and – and adults – will always face: the drama of falling in (and out of) love, dysfunctional families, the question of where you rank in the social sphere…it’s very easy to take his universal themes and make them relatable to the modern era. His plays are very ‘of the now’ in whatever time period they’re read.”
There’s even a new Shakespeare app series available in Apple’s App Store, to take advantage of the interactive capabilities of the Apple iPad. In November UK publisher, Cambridge University Press, released the first of its Explore Shakespeare series of apps which pair the text of Shakespeare’s plays with audio performances, commentary and other interactive content, in effect transforming the classic plays for the digital age.
If pseuodoscience proponents can be criticized for distorting complex science for their own ends, then the same argument could be applied to science fiction writers.
From a piece in the Guardian...
Isn't that what alt.med and pseudo-science do all the time?
They take a vague, science sounding idea, and bolt it onto their product in order to give it some validation. Or they ignore the science altogether. Or they cast science as the bogeyman.
Fiction writers do this all the time.
Think of all the technobabble spouted on Star Trek to help the characters overcome their latest plot hurdle. For every Heisenberg compensator, there's a dozen polarity reversals and a sprinkling of field dampening plasma vents.
At least they make some effort I suppose. Back To The Future has a scientist in a white coat and mad hair say Flux Capacitor and One Point Twenty One Gigawatts whilst falling off a toilet. But it works. In fact, it works much better than the technobabble. And if it works, writers will do it.
Bookforum takes a look at the life of the A Wrinkle in Time author.
From the piece...
This is no tell-all: Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, L’Engle’s longtime home, and featuring several of her editors and publicists, the book has the feel of a Festschrift—a celebratory volume in honor of one of the house’s most beloved writers. (There is also a sense that certain scores are being settled: A number of the interviewees disparage a profile of L’Engle by Cynthia Zarin published in the New Yorker several years ago, which repeated rumors that L’Engle’s husband had been unfaithful.) The L’Engle depicted here is stern but mostly loving, with a thousand endearing quirks and a bold and unorthodox creativity. Her writing studio at one point contained a desk and an electric keyboard, set up with her chair in between them, so that when she got stuck on a book she could swivel around and practice piano to loosen herself up. (She believed that the fingers, like the brain, can think.) Her early modesty—when she and her husband, Hugh Franklin, decided to give up their acting careers and move to Goshen, Connecticut, they bought the local general store and she was known to all as “the grocer’s wife”—ultimately turned into a confidence bordering on arrogance. She was given to dramatic gestures, once threatening to cancel a tour when a bookstore belonging to a beloved friend was left out. Unable to attend a play in which her adult granddaughter was performing, she sent a fur coat as a gift instead.
She also was passionately religious, a practicing Episcopalian who served for several decades as the house librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. One of Marcus’s interviewees recalls glancing at L’Engle’s notebook during a meeting to discover that she was writing a prayer. Another person calls her the greatest preacher he had ever heard. Her piety should not come as a surprise: A Wrinkle in Time is a fairly obvious allegory of the struggle between good and evil, and the Austin chronicles allude often to the family’s Christianity. One of L’Engle’s editors muses that her books always reflected “her very deep faith . . . embedded in a great story with great characters,” but the reverse can also be true: L’Engle’s characters are embedded in her faith, which is the real raison d’être of her novels. She liked to speak of her writing as an “incarnational act,” an inseparable part of her religious life.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Marvel writer Dan Slott is getting death threats for the leaked ending of Spider-Man #700.
From a story on io9...
"I'm going into hiding after issue #700 comes out. I'm not looking at message boards. I'm not poking my head up out of that hole, because what happens in issue #700 is big!" Unfortunately, now that the ending of #700 has leaked online - it's not due to come out until December 26 - it's no longer a joke. The writer is getting actual death threats for what happens in the comic book, and it's reached the point where he's been forced to call the authorities.
From a brief piece in the New York Times...
The digitization project, the result of two years of scanning using technology developed by NASA, allows users to zoom in on details of the often highly fragmentary scrolls, which contain versions of every book of the Hebrew Bible (except the Book of Esther), including one of the oldest known copies of Genesis and a copy of Psalms containing one of the oldest known references to King David.
The scrolls, believed to have been written or collected by an ascetic Jewish sect that settled in the desert at Qumran in the Judean desert after fleeing Jerusalem sometime around the second and first centuries B.C., also include a number of non-biblical books that provide insight into the origins of Christianity. Five scrolls were previously digitized, and posted online by the Israel Museum last year.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
That's the question posed by Slate.
From the piece...
Kids still read Andersen's oeuvre, but very few pre-Andersen children's stories remain popular. What did children read before the era of Hans Christian Andersen?
Epic poems, religious literature, romances, and Aesop. Scholars argue over when children's literature—that is, books written exclusively for and read exclusively by children—came into existence. But it's largely a debate over definitions. Even in ancient times, certain types of stories were considered appropriate for children. Archaeologists have unearthed a children's version of the labors of Hercules from the third century written in simple language with large, spaced-out text and color pictures of the lions and the mythical hero. Greek and Roman teachers selected passages from Homer or Virgil that were learner-friendly. And there was always Aesop, the (possibly fictitious) freed slave who supposedly composed fables to illustrate a moral or ethical message. He didn't write his works down, and we'll never know whether children were his intended audience. We do know, however, that Aesop's fables were a crucial part of the education of a Greek or Roman child. Such eminent writers as Plato and Aristophanes referenced Aesop, obviously expecting that their audiences would have come across the fables during their formative years.
The Huffington Post discusses it, here.
From the piece...
We have been aware for a long time that landscape, the natural world, deeply affects many individual writers and artists. Very often it is the landscape of childhood that imprints itself indelibly on the creative imagination, although there are exceptions.
A newer question though is whether landscape shapes, or more modestly perhaps becomes one of the things that shapes, whole cultures, their languages, their religion and their mythology; and of course therefore their responses to their artists and artistic forms. Is it by chance that the great monotheisms emerged from the desert? That perhaps the most pessimistic theology I know of, that of the Norse gods, developed in the place of the longest darkest winters? That, in the wildly diverse broken landscapes of the Mediterranean islands, Greek mythology has characters constantly metamorphosing into something else -- animals, stars or Gods? Or that, in Northern European fairy stories (like the Grimm Brothers' collections), forests are the place of both peril and triumph over adversity?
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
The Tallow Candle, thought to have been written by schoolboy Andersen, has been discovered in private archives by a Danish historian.
From a story in the Guardian...
The Tallow Candle was discovered by local historian Esben Brage in the dense private archives of the Plum family, revealed Danish paper Politiken, which printed the story in its entirety today. Brage was in the reading room at the National Archive for Funen in Odense when he stumbled across a small, yellowing piece of paper at the bottom of a box and realised it might be important. Two months later, experts have now confirmed that the story was written by Andersen.
"This is a sensational discovery. Partly because it must be seen as Andersen's first fairytale, and partly because it shows that he was interested in the fairytale as a young man, before his authorship began."
Friday, December 14, 2012
She discusses it with the Daily Beast, here.
From the post...
What draws you to setting several of your works in the Dakotas, among Native Americans?
I grew up in North Dakota around Dakota and Ojibwe people, and also small town people in Wahpeton. Writers make few choices, really, about their material. We have to write about what comes naturally and what interests us—so I do. I also write about Germans in Minnesota and have set The Antelope Wife in Minneapolis. Nothing I force myself to write about ever turns out well and so I’ve learned to wait for the voice, the incident, the image that reverberates.
You are one of the rare authors who own independent bookstores (Birchbark Books). What prompted you to do so and what have you learned from running it?
Here are the lessons: get a business plan. Get a book person as a partner. Have a philosophy. Specialize to some degree. Make sure the rent won’t kill your enterprise. Stay meticulously true to your own design principles—since mine are all about visual promiscuity it was easy. The place is composed of salvage wood and some distressed easy chairs. There is a confessional in the bookstore and the main table was made out of a sailboat by a friend. A handmade wooden canoe is suspended above it. The front door is the perfect shade of blue. Our online presence is strong. Our dogs recommend our books. We have a wonderful buyer who manages and created our web site. Check out Nathan Pederson’s work.
Salon discusses it, here.
From the piece...
The only problem is that “The Hobbit” isn’t like those other properties; it’s a literary adaptation. You don’t expect to see “Anna Karenina” parceled out into three giant chunks, each one filling out the narrative gaps with new sequences involving secondary and tertiary characters — and maybe a few cameos from players in “War and Peace” while they’re at it — even though “Anna Karenina” is much, much longer than “The Hobbit.”
But my guess is that the suits at New Line don’t see “The Hobbit” as a literary property; they see it as a typical genre confection — something that can be marketed as video games and action figures and smartphone apps and meals at Denny’s (the mind reels at the thought of J.R.R. Tolkien perusing a Denny’s menu).