wes_craven_photoWes Craven, 1939-2015

Wes Craven, the man who gave us Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream and The Hills Have Eyes has died. He was 76.

I believe the cinema is one of our principal forms of art. It is an incredibly powerful way to tell uplifitng stories that can move people to cry with joy and inspire them to reach for the stars.

On horror movies:

It’s like boot camp for the psyche. In real life, human beings are packaged in the flimsiest of packages, threatened by real and sometimes horrifying dangers, events like Columbine. But the narrative form puts these fears into a manageable series of events. It gives us a way of thinking rationally about our fears.”

More quotes to remember Wes Craven by

Originally posted on G. Robert Frazier's Adventures in Writing:

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”

Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

UPDATE: Aug. 26, 2005: New Discworld book hits stores Sept. 1

Fans of the late Terry Pratchett will be happy to know his latest (and sadly last) Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, will hit bookshelves Sept. 1. Go here to read an excerpt from the book.

Terry Pratchett remembered

Terry Pratchett in quotes

Terry Pratchett and, well, everything

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Quote  —  Posted: August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Book Blogging, Indie Style

Posted: August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

grfrazier:

Nashville’s most popular Indie book store, Parnassus Books, posted this great blog about book blogging, Indie style so I thought I should share it here..

Originally posted on musing:

blogging station

Have you spotted the #AtMyBookstore hashtag online this week? If you have, you’re seeing a campaign dreamed up by Nicole Brinkley of YA Interrobang, a site where YA bloggers gather to discuss the books they love. The idea? To get book bloggers out from behind the screen for a moment and into local bookstores to browse books in real life. As Brinkley wrote:

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Every day I scour the web for interesting articles, tips, and just great reads. Most of what I’ll share concern reading or writing, books, movies and TV, because that’s what I’m into. If you see something worth reading or care to discuss a topic, just leave a comment.

I may not be a paid journalist any longer, but I still appreciate interesting news stories that are timely, well-told, or that inspire debate or critical thinking. Here’s a roundup of some articles that caught my eye in the past week:

The New York Times had an interesting report about Amazon’s bruising workplace culture. But even the Times was at odds with the story, as its Public Editor Margaret Sullivan pointed out what she felt were flaws in providing complete fairness in the article. There are numerous links in her opinion piece to additional takes on the article, both in favor and against. The article and its fallout-over 5,000 comments on the Times article alone—has the attention of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. And Fortune offers three lessons from the Amazon takedown. Apparently the idea of peer reviews that Amazon uses have been popular for years, according to NPR. Doesn’t make them right, though, if the idea is just to tear down someone else or stab them in the back so that you can get ahead.

Elsewhere, Conor Friederdorf of The Atlantic recently posted his annual list and links to 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism. Says Friederdoft: “This is my annual attempt to bring some of those stories to a wider audience. I could not read or note every worthy article that was published last calendar year and I haven’t included any paywalled articles or anything published at The Atlantic. But everything that follows is worthy of wider attention and engagement.” Truth is often stranger than fiction, as they say.

NPR posted this story about a library in Sri Lanka after it was gutted in a mysterious fire decades ago and how it has been reborn.

NPR also has a neat story about the first two women set to graduate from the Army’s elite Ranger School.

And this article sounds like that movie The Monuments Men: Nazi treasure train found in Poland.

For those of you who still can’t stop talking about Harper Lee, there’s a forthcoming book that explores the childhood relationship between the author and Truman Capote, “Tru & Nelle,” by Greg Neri, and how their friendship pushed them to write.

There was an interesting discussion between Liesl Schillinger and Benjamin Moser in the New York Times earlier this month about the so-called death of the novel. Of course, the novel is anything but dead. If anything, it is continuing to evolve with the advent of both self-publishing and ebook publishing, but the article is definitely worth a read.

For young adult authors out there, here’s an interesting article from NPR about cultural touchstones that today’s youth have never had the pleasure of knowing.

And, sadly, here’s an interesting story about the late actress Yvonne Craig, and her heroic battles onscreen as Batgirl and offscreen as an advocate for workers unions, free mammograms and equal pay for women.

Read anything good lately? Articles, books, or otherwise. Post your list (and links if you’ve got ‘em) in the comments below.

Dragonfish, like Gone Girl, is two interconnected stories in one – and both are thoroughly engrossing. Written by Vu Tran, the novel is part noir-crime thriller and part literary memoir.

DragonfishAt the heart of both stories is Suzy, a Vietnamese woman haunted by her past and her own inability to find true happiness with either of the men in her life. Her mood swings—from attentive and loving wife to sullen and mysterious stranger—baffle both men, Oakland police officer Robert Ruen and Vietnamese gangster Sonny Van Nguyen, neither of whom can let her go once she decides to leave them. Robert’s off-duty investigation takes him into the seamy warrens of casinos and gambling dens of Las Vegas, with Sonny’s sadistic son “Junior” shadowing his every move.

The story takes on a grim tone of mystery, lost love, and the slim hope of atonement for Robert, who is forever remorseful for having struck Suzy during one of their arguments. That tone is reflected further in Suzy’s own story, told in a collection of letters to her daughter, recounting her journey of discovery from a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon to her life in America.

Read the full review on Killer Nashville’s website.

Thanks to the proliferation of Doctor Who novels on the market, old school fans of early doctors like Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison are still able to revel in new adventures. The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (Broadway Books, $9.99) captures the zany fun of Tom Baker’s Doctor to perfection.

the Drosten's CurseBaker’s Doctor—he of the floppy fedora, multi-colored be-careful-you-don’t-trip-over-it scarf, and long overcoat whose pockets are stuffed with jelly babies—is often regarded by legions of fans as the best Doctor for his fun, over-the-top adventures. And with The Drosten’s Curse, Kennedy takes readers back to that sense of fun and adventure. The end result is a novel that plays like a four-part Baker episode in your mind.

The adventure begins when golfers at a country club start disappearing, thanks to an unseen beasty that has made its home under the greens and the sandpits. It doesn’t take long before The Doctor, who is attracted to unusual events, happens upon the scene. Along with new companions Byrony Mailer, the golf spa’s junior receptionist, and Putta Pattershaun 5, a rather inept bounty hunter, the Doctor is promptly sucked into the madcap melee besetting the club and surrounding town of Arbroath.

Unlike the more commonplace Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans in the Who rogue’s gallery, the beasty responsible for the Doctor’s latest woes is a more difficult to define entity. Eventually exposed as a Bah-Sokhar, the creature thrives on the emotions of its victims, especially fear, hate, and depression. Even the Doctor and his companions are lost, their minds hopelessly adrift in negative emotions when the Bah-Sokhar sucks them into its psychological maelstrom.

The Doctor ultimately recognizes things for what they are and rebounds in his usual hyperactive way, babbling nonstop to anyone who will listen—in particular Byrony, who plays a key role in helping aid in the Doctor’s escape from the Bah-Sokhar’s clutches. Putta, meanwhile, provides the comic relief as he stumbles and trips into one misadventure after another while trying to avoid the Bah-Sokhar’s minions, a pair of spooky twins and a twisted grandma who owns the golf course.

The adventure soars from outright humor to startling peril, and Kennedy’s writing style perfectly captures the chaotic action of any Tom Baker Who episode.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Every day I scour the web for interesting articles, writing tips, and just great reads. It’s all part of my ongoing effort to learn more about the craft of writing. Today’s roundup includes a look at the latest in books and authors. Enjoy.

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Ankerwycke Books, which is the publishing arm of the American Bar Association, is reprinting Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series. I picked up three of the first five books this week from Walmart.com. I used to read these books during my free study period at high school but have never had these books as part of my collection.

For Such A TimeThere’s an interesting drama going on over in the romance literature world right now concerning the Nazi romance novel For Such A Time by Kate Breslin. The book was recently nominated for two major prizes at the Romance Writers of America conference in July, but has since come under fire for its story involving the romance between Hadassah, an inmate at a concentration camp in World War II, and the Nazi commander who rescues her to be his secretary.

Frank Herbert’s Dune turns 50 this year. Here’s an interesting article about how the ecological lessons of the novel were ahead of its time. I’ve never read this one, but my brother speaks very highly of it so I’ll likely give it a read someday.

JRR Tolkien’s first story will see the light of day this month. The Story of Kullervo was written in 1915. Tolkien is among four writers featured in a new book, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. George R.R. Martin, in a recent talk, noted that Tolkien failed to deliver at the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings.

Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon was recently pulled from the children’s reading list at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., amid concerns over foul language used in the book. Incredibly, this is an awarded-winning book that has also spawned a prize-winning play.

Everyone seems to have a list of best books to read, even President Barack Obama. I came across these lists in the past week. I have my own big list of books to wade through, but I do peruse these lists for something I’ve missed or something everyone is talking about. I just wish I could read faster.

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime – I’ve got several of these books in my library already and I found a few I’d like to add to my reading list. One book I read and despised as a child was Where the Wild Things Are. It gave me nightmares. Maybe I should go back and reread it.

The Guardian posted this list: The 100 Best Novels Written in English.

And for those genre-specific readers, here are 10 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels of 2015

If you still can’t find anything to read after sifting through the above lists, chances are you’ll find something on Oct. 5. That’s the day being heralded as Super Thursday in the bookworld, in which more than 500 new books will hit the market in time for Christmas gift-giving.

Finally, if you’re in the Nashville area looking for a good read, head over to Parnassus Books, one of CNN’s coolest bookstores in the world.

What are you reading? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.

I finally have an accountability tracker.

After several days – nay, weeks – in which I accomplished nothing of importance and after complaining about my failings over and over again, my brother had enough of it. In response he has created a nifty Excel document that I must fill out every day to track how I spend my time.

Points are awarded based on how much time I put in, in a specific area. I get points for posting book reviews. I get points for reading scripts. I get points for attending writing classes or meetups. I even get points for doing chores around the house.

But the bulk of the points available are earned for each hour of writing and exercising. Getting published is a major goal of mine, as is getting in shape, for obvious health reasons.

Sands of Time (1024x576)

An hour of writing will earn me 16 points. Submitting a short story to a magazine, anthology, or querying a literary agent will garner 10 points.  Posting a book review or post to my blog is worth six points, as is reading and rating scripts for the Austin Film Festival. Chores around the house earn four points. I can earn a maximum of 80 points in a day or 400 points per week. I can “cash in” my points for rewards at the end of the week, or bank the points toward a larger prize later on.

Prizes include movie tickets, books, a steak dinner, concerts, clothes, and more.

By tracking points across all areas I can see how I’ve been spending my time and what’s keeping me from my main goals.

One of the best parts of all this is I don’t need a key fob to be scanned or have to log in to a website to monitor my points progress. Instead, my brother is serving as the guardian/keeper of the accountability/rewards. I must show him proof of my deeds. So if I say I wrote for two hours, I will present him with a stack of pages to read. I’ll even post my weekly point totals on this site as further proof of my accomplishments.

I could have come up with this tracker on my own, of course, but like everything else I kept putting it off.

Now that my brother has devised this system, I have no more excuses.

If this doesn’t put a spark under me to get things done, I may have to resort to more drastic measures. I don’t know what those are yet, but I’m sure my brother will think of something.

What do you do to track your time spent on your  writing goals? 

Welcome to another edition of Reading and Writing Around the Web. This time, I thought I’d take a look at some authors who have been in the news and share some interesting articles about each.

Go Set A Watchman and Harper Lee

Go Set A WatchmanEveryone seems to have a take on Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman. I’d love to join the conversation, but alas I’ve yet to read it (it’s on my list!). In the meantime, here’s some of the more interesting articles I’ve read on the book this week.

Blogger Jacob Brogan points out what the debate over Harper Lee’s two Atticuses reveals about our literary culture. “Arguments about Atticus have largely supplanted the earlier, more important moral quandary about the new book: the question of whether or not we should be reading it at all,” he says.

Horror novelist Anne Rice counters that Go Set A Watchman is really a story about Jean Louise, who she describes as a strong adult heroine who stands up to Atticus Finch. “I find it discouraging that there is so much talk in the mainstream press about the character of Atticus — is he a bigot or isn’t he —– and so little about the the powerful heroine of ‘Watchman,’” Rice says in her review of the book, posted on amazon.com.

Amazingly, I read Monday that a Michigan book store is offering refunds and apologies to readers who bought Go Set A Watchman, which isn’t quite the “nice summer novel” everyone thought it would be. The bookstore’s full online statement suggests the book be considered as academic insight only. “It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as Harper Lee’s New Novel,” the bookstore states.  “This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted.”

I think, and John Mullan of The Guardian seems to agree, most book buyers are pretty savvy people and knew what they were buying when they plunked their money down for Watchman, so the bookstore’s refund offer seems a little overboard.

Finally, here’s an interesting article on Harper Lee’s editor, who was the invisible hand behind To Kill A Mockingbird.

The End of the Tour and David Foster Wallace

Another novelist generating discussion is the late David Foster Wallace, the subject of the new movie The End of the Tour.The End of the Tour

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the film, the author, and his life here.

Julie buntin, who had the real-life David Lipsky (portrayed in the movie by Eisenberg) as her MFA professor, shares her take on the movie. Here’s an interesting interview with Lipsky about the original tapes made with Wallace on his 1996 book tour.

Here’s a roundup of other recent articles on DFW. This article provides a list of David Foster Wallace’s formative reading list. New Yorker critic John Wood shares his thoughts on what he’d change about his review of Wallace’s Infinite Jest now that time has allowed him to reflect on it. And Vikram Murthi, in an article on Criticwire, says The End of the Tour renders David Foster Wallace “just like one of us,” but what made him great was that he wasn’t.

James Russell Clark of LitHub asks if anyone has actually read Wallace’s  Infinite Jest? At almost 1,100 pages, he admits it is intimidating, but no more so than George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books. Infinite Jest is one of 10 such books to make this dubious list of books people pretend to have read, though they actually should.  I came across the book at Books-A-Million over the weekend and flipped through a few pages. I’m curious and may read it some day, but I’ve got such a large reading list already I’m not in any hurry. Congrats to those who have waded through it, but this may be one of those books where I’ll just catch the movie (though I don’t relish the thought of sitting through another  performance by Jesse Eisenberg).

Meanwhile, here are seven must-see movies about writers.

Mycroft Holmes and Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Mycroft HolmesI’m looking forward to this book, Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, you read that right, the basketball player. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan anyway, so even though this one focuses on his brother I expect it to be a good read. Here’s an interview Crimespreemag.com did with Abdul-Jabbar about the book, which hits shelves Sept. 22.

Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I prefer my Holmes stories to be set in his rightful 19th century Baker Street digs. So, I’m excited to see the TV show Sherlock planning a special episode in the Victorian era this fall or Christmas (an air date hasn’t been announced yet.)

Children’s Literature and Dr. Seuss

The new Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get?, saw record-breaking first-week sales numbers. According to an article What Pet Should I Getfrom Publishers Weekly, readers bought up 200,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling picture book in Random House Children’s Books history. Here’s a story about how Dr. Seuss reinvented children’s literature.

While we’re on the subject, here are 10 books every child should read before they leave school. I don’t know if I agree that Harry Potter should be on the list ahead of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And instead of Pride and Prejudice, let’s go with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! (OK, that was a joke. But I do love zombie novels!). What books do you think children should read in school?

Other news in books

Time lists the 10 best books of 2015 so far.

Love spy fiction? The Strand Magazine lists the top 10 spy novels of all time. Bond and Bourne are, of course, on the list, along with author John Le Carre, and some novels new to me that would definitely be worth checking out.

For those interested in horror fiction, editor Ellen Datlow shares her thoughts on the nature of horror and editing horror anthologies.

And finally, Fantasy author Ed Greenwood is launching his own publishing group.

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My reading list just grew by two books, courtesy of the folks at Killer Nashville.

First up is Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart, a historical suspense novel about one woman’s efforts to defend her family and way of life against a silk factory owner.

Next on the reading block is Minute Zero, a thriller novel from Todd Moss, who is a former deputy assistant secretary of state. The novel follows State Department crisis manager Judd Ryker on a tale of espionage and intrigue in Zimbabwe.

Looking forward to reading and reviewing both books in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

What’s on your reading list? Anything you’d recommend?