Thursday, December 22, 2011

Books of 2011

Here is a list of the most overlooked books of 2011, from the Galley-Cat site of MediaBistro, which I don't think you can get to without being a member.  The links go to the Amazon page of each book. I've already found a few to put on my wish list (a little late, but you never know...)

You can also hear these discussed on NPR by going here.

Free Samples of the Most Overlooked Books of 2011
The Curfew by Jesse Ball
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
Say Her Name: A Novel by Francisco Goldman
Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson
Widow: Stories by Michelle Latiolais
The Farmer’s Cookbook: A Back to Basics Guide to Making Cheese, Curing Meat, Preserving Produce, Baking Bread, Fermenting, and More by Marie W. Lawrence
The Long Goodbye: A memoir by Meghan O’Rourke
The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis (no sample available)
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
Habibi by Craig Thompson (no sample available)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Signal Hill Library event

Wednesday, October 19, 6 pm- "Nite At The Library"
1770 E. Hill St., Signal Hill, CA 90755.
Posted by: "dianajamespublicity"

featuring Joel Fox, Tammy Kaehler and Molly Lewis
They'll address the topic of getting a publishing contract.
Kaehler and Fox both have debut novels in the market and Molly Lewis, the CEO at Zova Books will
interview them about their experiences in getting that first book deal.
Molly Lewis has spent many years in the business of selling books and publishing fiction.
Join us for an exciting evening of Q&A, and please, share this message with friends who are learning the ropes of the book world!

Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Tammy works as a
technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

Joel Fox is the author of Lincoln's Hand, a Zane Rigby novel. Fox has authored hundreds of opinion articles, which have been published in the national papers such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today; also in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and other papers across the country. Fox had an essay published in a Time Warner-Baseball Hall
of Fame sponsored book, What Baseball Means to Me.
Library Site: http://www.cityofsi gnalhill. org/index. aspx?NID= 325
Presented by Diana James Publicity and the Signal Hill
Librarywww.prmeinc. com

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Comma or no?

There are some amusing articles about the premature announcement of the death of the serial comma--you know, the one that precedes "and" in a list. The AP Stylebook (for journalists) says discard it. Oxford, Harvard, MLA, APA, Strunk & White, and the Chicago Manual of Style support it. Such a controversy.

Jacket Copy wants to insert a new comma style: the Shatner comma. As in, "I'm, still, the, captain, of, this, ship, mister!"

Wizzley says there is no controversy; every authority but one supports the serial comma, and even AP says to use it when clarity is needed..

To prove their point, supporters cite this Merle Haggard photo caption, which is even mentioned in Wikipedia: "The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall."

This pictures was on the Making Light blog, and on other blogs. Making light labeled this "via Bruce Baugh."

As Wizzley mentions, you can even buy tees and hats proclaiming your support for the serial comma--under the name of the Chicago comma (for Chicago Manual of Style, of course). Go to Zazzle and poke around. There are all styles of shirts, not just the first four you see.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aerial Archaeology and New Pyramids

The BBC says infrared imaging from satellites has located 17 new pyramids in Egypt, along with thousands of tomb/home/town sites. The Week has a concise summation and video here.

Two of the new pyramids are near Saqqara, and excavations are underway to prove/disprove their existance. (that's Giza--not Saqqara--in the pretty picture.)

Dr. Hawass is not happy and is very critical of the new documentary based on the satellite research. Here are quotes from him, along with more details about the discoveries.

It's all led to a 90-minute BBC special called "Egypt's Lost Cities." (Bummer! I don't get the BBC station anymore.)

Aerial archaeology is almost as interesting as underwater archaeology, huh?

All this seems a very natural outgrowth of aerial photography--the kind that discovered many ancient sites in the Picardie region of France, forty or fifty years ago.

Roger Agache plotted out hundreds of Roman and Celtic homes and farms by taking pictures from a plane. Those photos revealed the patterns of buried ruins. That's one of his photographs at left, showing a Bronze Age funerary site at Noyelles-sur-Mer.

Sometimes a dusting of snow made the outlines of old fences or walls clear; sometimes it was the patterns or color in the grain.

Just in the last couple of years, the research is available online and in English, describing not only the pictures, but the on-the-ground excavations. Here's the site.

Many other researchers carry on aerial archaeology, but I'm more into Gaul than Stonehenge. So Agache's work and the excavations it inspired interests me more.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

BBC List of Top 100 Books

This showed up on my FB page and crashed it. Supposedly, you can go through the list and check what you've read...didn't work too well. So I went looking for the original list and was surprised to find that it came out in 2004.

In April 2004, the BBC started a survey to find the top 100 best-loved books in "the nation" (presumably Britain). The list follows.

I am surprised how big a chunk is science fiction and fantasy. Twenty years ago the list would have a different character, doncha think? The movie LOTR and the Harry Potter series surely played a role in that.

Another surprise is how many classic American books are on the list: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, for instance. These stories can't be transplanted.

Anyway, here's the list, from the BBC's The Big Read. How many have you read?

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

I've read 43. That means I've got a list of 57 books to read that everyone else recommends. The BBC said (according to that blighted Facebook ap) that most people have read only six of these books. Makes me feel smart.

And here's something weird--other bloggers have put up this list, and slight variations occur. One blogger included The Time-Traveler's Wife. Huh? Anyway, there's actually another hundred list, according to Wiki. The public voted and a list of 200 was actually assembled. You can see the full 200 here.

Seth Myers on Huffington Post

Well, not just on HuffPo. I couldn't find a clip of just that, so here are the first ten minutes of Seth Myers at the White House Correspondents Dinner.  He was hilarious, but my favorite joke comes in the section about "After Parties," about half way through.

"Like everyone else, I'll probably just go to the Huffington Post party. The Huffington Post party is asking people to go to other parties first, and just steal food and drinks and bring it from there."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

You Gotta Pay Me!

Yeah! The title of this post is a quote from Harlan Ellison, btw, not simply my own frustrated outburst.

Visual Art Source, one of HuffPo's contributors has decided (belatedly) that they will no longer provide free content to that mega-website that now has AOL bankrolling it. They originally did because HuffPo gets 26 million visitors a month, but they're calling it quits now.

Visual Art Source, in the person of Bill Lasarow, lays down two conditions for contributing to Huffington Post again:

First, a pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers.

Second, paid promotional material must no longer be posted alongside editorial content; a press release or exhibition catalogue essay is fundamentally different from editorial content and must be either segregated and indicated as such, or not published at all.

Lasarow follows up with this gem:

I am also calling upon all others now contributing free content, particularly original content to the Huffington Post to also join us in this strike.

My heart is warmed.

I really, really like Ariana Huffington. I enjoy her books--which I have paid for--and her appearances on TV.

She's very smart. Somehow, she's figured out a way to run a rather liberal blog without paying any of the writers who contribute material. Except herself, of course.

Even smarter, she's managed to make all us hard-working folks not notice or complain about it.

How does she do that? Smoke and mirrors?

I can imagine what she'd say if someone tried stiffing her!

So here is my favorite video once again: Harlan Ellison ranting, "They always want the writer to work for nothing!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Desks of Brilliant Minds

A while back I did some posts on the writing sites of certain authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart. It was fun, till I discovered that my idea wasn't too unique and the best I could do was refer to other articles. How droll.

So here's another article on the topic. Desks of the rich and creative, from Flavorwire.

May I draw your attention to the work areas of Albert Einstein, Tina Fey, and Al Gore, for starters? Obviously, a clean desktop is the sign of a less-than-exemplary mind! Or maybe, as author Emily Temple states, sometimes a cluttered desk is just a cluttered desk.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Uprising and Archaeology in Egypt

A February 3 story in Science Insider reports looting by around 200 people in Saqqara. The tomb of Maya, King Tut's wet nurse, has been "completely destroyed." Things may get worse. According to the story, looting in the area is out of control.

Saqqara is just south of Cairo, and is the City of the Dead--a huge, ancient cemetary. Parts of it are 5,000 years old. Saqqara contains pyramids, most famously the Step Pyramid of Djoser, but is not the site of The Pyramids--that's Giza. That's the Step Pyramid at right, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In his blog, Secretary-General Zahi Hawass denies that this happened. He says he has phone contact with every museum and site in the country. Dr. Hawass acknowleges two incidents: a break-in at the Egyptian Museam and at a Sinai storage facility where six boxes were taken.

At the Museum, he says 70 objects were damaged but can be repaired. Hawass claims that media reports of two mummies being damaged are incorrect; actually two unidentified skulls were damaged. He even posts a picture of a mummified head.

His Feb. 7 post details some of the harm done, such as the gold being stripped from a walking stick, part of King Tutankhamun's collection.

As for the Sinai breakin, according to Hawass all 288 objects stolen have been returned.

This is apolitical. Looting tombs and museums does not support either side. I appreciate that news is confused during such chaotic times and that rumors sometime get reported as news. OTOH, anyone who's ever seen Dr. Hawass on TV knows he has a. . . um. . . very unique, take-charge type of personality. I hope he's not exaggerating and that indeed, there's been no looting at Saqqara and all stolen objects have been returned.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Book Covers

As a follow-up to a point in the previous post--that self-published or not, ebook or print, covers are very important and no writer should scrimp on them--here is a blog entry from The Book Designer with resources. It contains 8 tips for selecting a great cover.

I even found a Book Cover Archive. Wow.

And to the right is a re-imagining of the Harry Potter books, with covers designed by M. S. Corely to make them look like Penquin Classics. I love it. These show how attached we can get to one cover design (which anyone who fell in love with a particular edition of a classic will understand.) But how elegant and simple these are!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Future of Publishing

That was the name of the panel discussion on the Westside of Los Angeles that I attended: The Future of Publishing.

On the panel were a couple of literary agents, one conversant with technology and one who didn't speak, a book consultant specializing in self-published ebooks and print books, two entrepreneurs--one with a company combining ebooks and video, and the other running a small press and a book PR firm, and a successful author covering the film industry.

One of the entrepreneurs met most questions with an answer along the lines of, "I don't know what's going to happen, but it should be exciting." I'm not mocking him. I think all in all, he probably expressed the most truthiness.

While one woman proclaimed that "the time for self-publishing is here, definitely and without doubt," not all agreed. Rather than repeat their (very polite) arguements, here's what I learned:

  • In the last six months, the publishing industry has convulsed and changed more than any other industry.
  • Before 1976 (before Star WArs, iow) two of five published books made money. But that was OK; in publishing up till then, novels had years to make back their investments with slow, steady sales. Now, however, publishers are conglomerates who produce only the cream of the crop, as proffered by agents. The business is Hits-drven and celebrity-oriented.
  • OTOH, there are more opportunities than ever for those willing to venture into self-publishing and ebooks. Remember, though, you still must produce a superior product. Spare no expense on a great cover and editing.
  • The gatekeeper and many middlemen are being eliminated. Everyone can be published, and hopefully the best books will rise to the top. This all means more $$ for authors who get bigger shares of sales for their ebooks, and who don't have to wait months and years for publishers to send them checks for books sold.

All agreed on this: Authors must become marketers. One entrepreneur advised learning as much as possible about the way Itunes works and sells. Reviews and word of mouth will still be important.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Journalism Lingo 101: Source Equals Quote

Credit: Free images from

Here it is January 25 and I have not posted to this blog in 2011. Shame! Shame! I've been busy, and for a week, sick with a cold--not a nasty, painful cold but the kind that makes you want to curl up on the sofa with a thermos of hot chocolate and doze all day while a cable station loops the Lord of the Rings movies nonstop.

Meanwhile, the bills must be paid so I'm writing a lot for I'm getting used to throwing stories together quickly and not trying to make them perfect.

I've also learned that when journalists refer to sources, they mean quotes. I didn't know that; it cost me at least one story.

You see, when the word "source" is used to anyone who studied history or any discipline other than journalism, it conjures up images of bibliographic entries. It may refer to an interview, but many sources are articles from newspapers and magazines, or books that contain facts. You source facts to vet them.

So when an editor told me I needed more sources in my story on the Tea Party, I went to Fox News and the conservative pundits who are credited with starting the Tea Party. I used their data, giving credit ("as so-and-so reported in her weekly column for the Washington Post").

There! Now the information in my article was sourced. I wasn't happy because I thought it made the piece way too dry. But I figured the editor would be happy.

She wasn't. She killed the story (OK, the murder was mutual. I was unwilling to invest further effort in a story that had already taken more of my time than it was worth).

Weeks later, I meet with another Patch editor who talks about having 2 or 3 sources for every story. The same buzzword...this time I asked her exactly what she meant by source.

Quotes, I learned.

Not expert quotes, necessarily. A source could be a kid at a carnival, as long as they say something worth printing, like "I threw up on the Tilt-a-Whirl!"

That's all it is. I could talk to a crazy person and he could be a source. In fact, maybe I have.

End result is that articles are much easier to write. I quote my source; I don't have to vet their information as long as I've got the quote.

Presumably there's another level of reportage, better paid, where fact-checking plays a bigger role in evaluating what quotes to use to tell the story.

When I write for magazines, I double-check all information. I go to experts. I look up stuff. I like that better. But magazines aren't responding to my queries right this second, and I have bills to pay and promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, hee hee, ho ho.