Around the Web: Top literary stories of the year, Wired goes sci-fi, and more

by G. Robert Frazier

I often troll the Internet and my web feeds for interesting articles about writing and reading in my ever-going effort to increase my knowledge and skills. Because I’m such a swell guy, I also like to pass along some of my finds to you lucky readers and fellow writers. This will, however, be the last such roundup on this site. I’m going to start a new “Resources” subpage where I will list links to some of my favorite writing sites, podcasts, and so on. If I see an article of particular interest, I will instead offer a blog post about that article along with my take. But more on that later. For now, enjoy the first and last Around the Web below, and Happy New Year!

From the unmasking of author Elana Ferrante to Bob Dylan’s surprise win of Nobel Prize for Literature, Electric Literature highlighted the top 10 literary stories of 2016.

The New Yorker published a terrific article about how Lee Child built his series character Jack Reacher. It’s an interesting look at the creative process of one of America’s best-selling authors, kind of a Cliff Notes for those who don’t want to read the more exhaustive behind the scenes book Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin.

wiredI recently received the January issue of Wired magazine and am looking forward to reading it. I just subscribed at the dirt cheap price of $10 for a year, which I thought was a great bargain. And that was before I learned the January issue is Wired’s first-ever issue devoted to science fiction! As Wired’s editors put it, “Ultimately, the goal … is to give you, the reader, something that helps you let your own mind wander. Think about what is possible, what is plausible, what is terrifying, what is hopeful.”

If you ever wondered how publications decide which books make their year-end top book lists, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul, explains the process.

Last year (I can’t believe it’s 2017!), I had the opportunity to attend Ann Patchett’s book launch for Commonwealth in Nashville. During her discussion, she mentioned Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, which challenges readers to step out of their comfort zone by reading different authors and genres. Check out the details on the 2017 challenge and give it a try.

The New York Public Library is launching its own imprint to publish books drawn from its collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps and photographs.

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, you may want to skip this entry and come back to it later. … For the rest of you, The Guardian’s film blog includes an interesting discussion about the thrilling recreation of actor Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin through a revolutionary CGI process. While the appearance of a long-dead actor on screen again is fascinating, it raises questions about using the likeness of individuals in such instances and who owns the rights to such an image. I was personally thrilled to “see” Cushing, of whom I am a longtime fan, on screen again.

Congratulations are in order for Sourcebooks founder/publisher Dominique Raccah, who has been named Publishers Weekly’s Person of the Year after 30 years in the business.

Author J.T. Ellison’s blog on Getting the Most Out of Social Media is a must-read if you’re a writer looking to build an audience.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may enjoy this look at the screenwriter’s journey. Speaking of screenwriting, there’s good news on the spec sales front. According to an FX study, the number of scripted originals hit a record of 455 in 2016, up from 421 in 2015. Online services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon accounted for 93 of those. As many as 500 originals could be on the air in 2017.

peeplandIf you’re a fan of crime novels and films, you will probably be excited like I am by the launch of a new crime series of comic books from Hard Case Crime. I collected all the Hard Case Crime novels when they were published in mass market paperback form but held off when they switched to trade paperbacks for financial reasons. The comics may get me hooked on this series in a new way.

Wattpad has become a hit resource for writers looking to build a fan base or get feedback on their stories from an online audience, and it’s not done growing. I haven’t explored Wattpad as yet, but this article has fueled my curiosity.

Harry Potter scribe JK Rowling is preparing a pair of new novels, one under her own name and one under her pen name of Robert Galbraith. No word on whether our favorite boy magician will appear in the Rowling novel.

The Atlantic highlights some of the best writing advice gleaned from author interviews over the past year.

In Memoriam

LitHub has compiled a last goodbye to several notable authors we lost in 2016, including Umberto Eco, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Edward Albee, Natalie Babbitt and others. Of course, we also lost Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher this past week, who was an accomplished writer in her own right.

Seen any good articles on reading and writing? Share the link in the Comments!

Around the Web: Max Allan Collins named grandmaster by MWA, more

Every once in a while I like to pass along links to some of the articles on reading and writing I encounter in my Internet travels. So, herewith is my latest roundup for your reading pleasure:

photo by G. Robert Frazier

Just some of the many Max Allan Collins mysteries in my collection.

Author Max Allan Collins has been named a grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America, the highest honor for mystery writing. He’ll pick up the award in April.  Collins has written hundreds of stories and dozens of novels in his long career, from original adventures to movie novelizations. His Quarry novels are the basis for a new series on Cinemax. The full list of MWA award winners is here.

Small, independent publishers take the risk of publishing new authors and discovering new talent, often to only see the big houses snatch them away once their names are made. The Guardian explores the relationship between big and small publishers in this interesting article.

Just read this fascinating article about how schools are teaching children wrong when it comes to writing.

Culture Trip has a fascinating compendium of literary city guides, spotlighting notable literary landmarks, bookstores, writers and more from cities around the world. It’s like going on a book tour without leaving home. Definitely worth checking out.

Will Schwalbe writes that reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small, according to an excerpt from his new book, Books for Living.

Growing up surrounded by books was as magical as you can imagine for Ronald Clark and his daughter, who lived above a New York Library branch in the 1940s.

I missed this article when it first came out in July, so I’m including it here: Why Calvin & Hobbes is great literature.

NPR featured an interesting column on how to find the facts in the face of false news.

The House Judiciary Committee has released a policy proposal backing the creation of an autonomous Copyright Office, with control over its own budget and technology needs. Currently, the Copyright Office is overseen by the Librarian of Congress.

Authors United, the authors group formed by author Douglas Preston in 2014 to support writers caught in the e-book discount dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group, is being disbanded. Preston urged AU writers “to throw their support behind the Authors Guild as it is “the only organization out there with the resources, experience, and energy to fight for authors’ rights—and to defend the literary culture of our country.”

Jane Friedman has collected her own list of best writing articles. Here’s an article from Screenwriting U on ways to name your characters. While all the articles are helpful from a technique standpoint, this article from Script Magazine gets to the heart of how to be original.

So, once you’ve got your technique nailed and you’ve got an original idea, it’s time to submit. Here’s what some editors have to say about the submission process. One editor says if you’re submitting effectively you’re probably sending out 20-30 submissions every month.

Here are some helpful submission tips to live by. For those submitting books, Jane Friedman offers this useful article on how to evaluate small press publishers.

the-strand-hg-wells

“The Haunted Ceiling,” a macabre tale by H.G. Wells, is published for the first time in the latest issue of The Strand Magazine.Books always make great Christmas gifts. Twenty-five authors recently shared their best literary presents. If you still need help picking out a great book, NPR has a nifty book concierge service that can help. Harper Collins has also launched its own Book Finder to help you find the perfect book to give this holiday.

In Memoriam:

William Trevor, whose mournful, sometimes darkly funny short stories and novels about the small struggles of unremarkable people placed him in the company of masters like V. S. Pritchett, W. Somerset Maugham and Chekhov, died on Sunday. He was 88.

Seen any interesting stories about reading or writing? Share them in the Comments below!

Around the Web: Authors sound off on Trump’s America; awards season begins

It’s been a while since I compiled one of these, and a lot has happened (such as a new president being elected), so here goes:

If you just can’t get enough of President-elect Donald Trump, Publishers Weekly has compiled a roundup of its reviews for his books and books about him.

The backlash over Trump’s election has extended to some renowned authors as well. Brad Meltzer posted this message to the president-elect to denounce the hate. And The Authors Guild weighs in on what the Trump presidency could mean for writers. The New Yorker includes essays from 16 authors on Trump’s America.

The Oxford English Dictionaries in the U.S. and U.K. have selected “post-truth” as the word of the year.

The Columbia Journalism Review says journalism’s fundamental failure in this election is a wake-up call for the profession to return to “our legacy as malcontents and troublemakers, people who are willing to say the thing that makes everyone else uncomfortable.” Clearly, no one is more malcontent about the election’s outcome than CNN so far.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that lending e-books should not be treated the same as lending of physical books. The ruling concerns the ‘one copy, one user’ model, which blocks a library from lending out more than one copy of an e-book at a time. The Federation of European Publishers reacted immediately, saying it was shocked at the decision, principally because unrestricted e-book lending represents a serious threat to publishers’ revenues and equates to copying versus the sale of multiple copies of books.

I always enjoy the new issue of The Big Thrill from International Thriller Writers, Inc. The November issue features interviews with ITW co-founder David Morell, Lee Child, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kathy Reichs, Marcia Clark, and many more. Always interesting to read about other authors, their processes, and their latest works.

It’s awards season:

  • Bob Dylan says he will not travel to Stockholm to pick up the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature because of “pre-existing commitments.”
  • The 13th annual Best Book Awards are out and here are the winners.
  • GoodReads welcomes your vote to help determine its 2016 choice award winners. Go here to get in on the action.
  • The Washington Post has listed its Best Mystery Books of 2016 and Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2016. Scroll to the bottom of either list for links to additional best of categories.
  • Kirkus Reviews gets in on the fun with its best of list.
  • Former Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon is back with a searching family saga in his new book, Moonglow. To get a taste of it, check out his short story The Sandmeyer Reaction. I’m planning to see Chabon on his book stop in Nashville next month.
  • And finally, the annual Bad Sex Award in writing, were announced.

Closer to home, author Michael Sims remembers Nashville’s BookMan/BookWoman, which will close its doors at the end of the year.

In Memoriam:

To celebrate the life and work of singer/songwriter/novelist Leonard Cohen, LitHub compiled some clips of him reading some of his works.

Gwen Ifell, who became the first African-American woman to host a major political TV talk show and went on to host “Washington Week” and “PBS NewsHour,” passed away.

 

Around the Web: Spooky good reads, tips, and The Walking Dead debate

By G. Robert Frazier

In honor of Halloween, here are a few horror-related tidbits to satisfy your sweet tooth, if you dare:

The History Channel presents a crash course on the history of Halloween in several short, spooky videos. The series includes a history of witchcraft, pumpkin carving tips, a look at how candy corn is made, and much more. The videos run about two minutes each, but be warned: you can easily get sucked into watching the whole lot of them and before you know it you’ll have lost a half hour of your time.

Want more? Check out these spooky Irish myths about Halloween.

Time shares this video about how Halloween became a holiday

LitHub columnist … discusses why we love to be haunted.

True life can often be stranger than fiction. As proof, check this story about Dr. Sergio Canavero who wants to transplant a head onto another body.

Author Chuck Wendig asks: “Why is horror so anathema in publishing?” Once you let that sink in, check out his 25 things you should know about writing horror.

Hugo award-winning editor John Joseph Adams talks about horror and his favorite writers with The Master’s Review.

The New York Times Book Review offers this list of the latest and best in horror.

The Guardian asks “what scares the masters of horror?”

Kids, Charlie the Choo-Choo isn’t related to Thomas the Tank Engine. Charlie is a spooky train from the pages of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series due out in book stores Nov. 22 from Simon & Schuster and written by King under the pseudonym Beryl Evans.

Speaking of King, Cemetery Dance frequently shares a column called News from the Dead Zone featuring all things King. The latest edition has news about his newest collection of essays, his aforementioned children’s book, as well as updates on film and TV projects based on his works. I was fortunate to see King on his last book tour at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville earlier this year, and even more fortunate to come away with a signed copy of the book. Writer’s Digest columnist Philip Athans shared these lessons on crafting monsters by drawing from King’s The Mist.

A Head Full of Ghosts author Paul Tremblay, who has a new three-book deal with HarperCollins, is planning to release a short story collection next year.

The season seven premiere of The Walking Dead generated a lot of criticism for going too far in terms of brutality and blood on TV. I’m a fan of horror movies and horror fiction, but even I thought it was one of the most over the top and revolting 90 minutes of programming I’ve ever seen. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with The Walking Dead already—I love that it has delivered powerful, scare-filled stories to the small screen, but hate its increasingly repetitive plot, the complete waste of its titular zombie villains as legitimate threats, and lack of narrative drive to determine what caused the outbreak or if it can be cured. I’m hopeful the series gives us some strong storytelling in the weeks ahead and a lot less gore, or I may have to go the way of Fear the Walking Dead and American Horror Story by turning it off altogether.

Video blogger Ray Edwards posted an extremely thoughtful piece about “Why I stopped watching The Walking Dead.” I think he nails it in terms of what feelings the season premiere evoked in viewers: hopelessness, anxiety, and helplessness. Edwards says those are feelings he doesn’t want in his head, that he would much rather carry feelings of hopefulness, peacefulness, and helpfulness. I don’t want to feel those negative things either. I’d much rather laugh or cry in joy or feel a sense of pride. Mel Gibson’s new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, for instance, is a movie experience that will have you bursting with pride and good emotions when it is over. But, I’m not sure quitting watching The Walking Dead at this point will erase the negative feelings the season seven premiere evoked. I think now that the show has reached what has to be its lowest point, its all is lost moment, that we will be watching our heroes each week out of a desperate need for hope. That, by the way, is one of the hallmarks of any well-structured story. Once a character gets to the bleakest, harshest moment, he or she must make a decision: quit and give in to your fears and sense of failure and utter helplessness, or take a stand to make things better. Watch the video at the link above. Watch the series. Then you decide.

As if The Walking Dead’s gore isn’t enough, now there’s a haunted attraction, McKamey Manor, drawing fire for its immersive torture-like level of mayhem on its guests. According to the article, participants are subject to waterboarding, force-feeding, punching, slapping and torture. Virtually nothing is off limits as the goal of organizers is to make sure no one completes the maze. So far, they’ve been perfect. The whole idea of taking such things to extremes for an adrenalin rush sounds eerily similar to a drug addict’s attempts to reach a new high. The danger lies in just how far you’re willing to go and how far event organizers can push things. But then, that sort of thing is part of our culture. Just look at the evolution of theme park rollercoasters over the years. Each new one takes riders higher and faster than the last one. Extreme sports is another example, as individuals dare to dive off cliffs or race through grueling obstacle courses with no apparent regard for safety. I’m perfectly content to get my thrills from the safety of my recliner with a good movie or a good book, thank you very much.

To that end, here are some short horror films. I hope to watch several of these, but plan to cap the night with a DVD double feature of The Mist and The Wolfman. For those of you writers out there thinking about writing a horror opus of your own for the big screen, Screenwriting U breaks down 13 subgenres of horror in its guide to writing horror scripts.

Screenwriters and filmmakers interested in writing horror should jump on this: The second online Genre Summit features four days of webinars beginning Monday from experts on everything from developing, writing and shooting a horror film to selling your screenplay and self-financing your project. The sessions are free for 24 hours, but you can pay for an upgrade that gives you lifetime access.

The Genre Summit 2 guest lineup includes horror director  Uwe Boll, who recently announced his retirement. Boll says “the market is dead. You don’t make any money anymore on movies because the DVD and Blu-ray market worldwide has dropped 80% in the last three years.” Now that’s scary news for any screenwriter, filmmaker or horror movie fan. Of course, Boll’s movies are generally considered some of the worst horror movies around, so it’s not like his movies were ever making huge sales gains on DVD or Blu-ray anyway. On the other hand, movies like The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, and Ouija 2 are seeing considerable success at the box office. Even Boo! A Madea Halloween slayed the competition in its opening weekend. So there’s hope for you screenwriters right there!

And finally, if you write in the horror genre, you need to know about The BloodList, an annual survey of screenplays that includes the best dark scripts that fit into the wide horror genre.

Happy Halloween!

Around the Web: Shakespeare, Tolkien in the headlines

by G. Robert Frazier

The New Oxford Shakespeare edition of the playwright’s works — which will be published by Oxford University Press online ahead of a worldwide print release — lists Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare’s co-author on the three “Henry VI” plays, parts 1, 2 and 3. It’s the first time that a major edition of Shakespeare’s works has listed his colleague and rival as a co-author.

Thomas Mullen, who I interviewed for BookPage at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, charts whether you are a Southern writer or a Brooklyn writer.

Any Tolkien fans in the house? Then you’ve probably already heard the news that a new book from the Hobbit writer is about to hit bookshelves in 2017. Beren and Lúthien, the story of the love between a mortal man and an immortal elf, will be released by HarperCollins in May, 100 years after it was first written.

Paul Beatty has been named this year’s winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Sellout. It was the first time an American has won the award. Beatty’s book takes a satirical look at the issue of racial identity and justice.

Interest in psychological suspense in the tradition of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, is holding steady, according to Publishers Weekly.

Women buy 80 percent of the 21 billion crime books sold every year. Despite this, Killer Women co-founder Louise Millar, speaking at the group’s London crime festival, feels women’s voices aren’t always acknowledged or celebrated.

Signature-Reads recently listed 27 of the best books on writing. I have several of these books that I refer to from time to time. No matter where you are in your writing, you’re bound to find some valuable tips and incentives to help elevate your craft and your career. So check them out.

In the 1920s, dime store novelist William Wallace Cook painstakingly diagrammed and cataloged his personal writing method—“Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict”—for the instruction and illumination of his fellow authors. His efforts resulted in 1,462 plot scenarios and PlottoThe Master Book of All Plots was born. A how-to manual for plot, Plotto offers endless amalgamations to inspire limitless narratives.

New Yorker columnist David Sax explains what Barnes & Noble doesn’t get about bookstores.

Bad review on your book? Don’t panic. That’s the advice from LitHub.

Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen expressed their congratulations to Bob Dylan on being named the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. Dylan’s silence on the award is a bit disappointing and makes me wish that The Boss had actually received the award instead.

There’s quite a debate across the pond about the value of public libraries in the face of budget shortfalls and whether they should get a free pass. As a member of the La Vergne Public Library Board, I am a staunch supporter of libraries and their worth in the communities they serve. Library Director Donna Bebout and I have talked about how our city library is much more than a place to borrow books. It is a community hub, offering education for readers young and old alike, a place for fellowship, learning, and empowerment. But it is also constantly evolving, changing to meet the needs of a diverse and growing populace, as well as adapting to new technologies affecting the publishing world. The library is a place of community pride and is fortunate to have the support of our elected government leaders. I would think that in the face of drastic budget cuts, a library might become even more vital to the community it serves, not the first thing to be put on the chopping block.

Publishers Weekly has just listed its 150 Best Books of 2016 across all categories, from comics to poetry and everything in between. Cool to see The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Redemption Road by John Hart on the list, as I had the opportunity to see both authors at events in Nashville this year. By the way, you can likely find many of these at your public library.

In Memoriam:

Mystery Scene magazine founder and author Ed Gorman has passed away.

LitHub remembers author Thom Jones.

Got interesting book news or articles on writing?  Share a link in the comments!

Around the Web: A curated list of book news, writing tips and more, because, well,…books.

By G. Robert Frazier

So, I read somewhere that bloggers like myself shouldn’t waste time with these sorts of curated lists. The argument is that it doesn’t say anything about you, the writer, and it potentially sends readers away from your site. I can see the point of that argument, but I don’t entirely agree. For one, I think the following lists say a lot about me. The links below clearly show my interests in the industry and my support for other writers. If I see an industry-related article that might be entertaining or useful, I’ll share it. That said, here are some articles I’ve come across in the last few weeks you may find interesting:

The Authors Guild has now opened up member services to new and unpublished authors, as reported by Digital Book World. The $100 per year Emerging Writer Membership includes a quarterly newsletter, access to liability insurance in case you get sued for plagiarism or libel, marketing and social media advice (that you can get all over the internet), invites to seminars, workshops and writing events (not discounts, mind you, but invites!), access to their writer’s resource library of helpful articles and tips on publishing and promotion of your work. For a complete list of Emerging Writer Membership benefits and details on how to join, visit authorsguild.org/join/emergingwriter. Seems like most of these things you can get now for free by just doing some Google searching.

Amazon has made more changes to its review policy. This time it’s banning so-called incentivized reviews, which are reviews for products, including books, given away in exchange for “honest” reviews. The argument is that those doing the reviews aren’t being entirely honest since they are basically being “paid” for the review by way of a free book. As a result, there are more five-star reviews from incentivized reviewers than your routine readers. Read about it here.

The 2016 National Book award-winner will be announced Nov. 16 in a ceremony in New York City. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is among the five finalists for the honor. Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett, during her booklaunch for Commonwealth in Nashville, said she believes Whitehead will win all the big awards this year, including the Pulitzer. As something of a Civil War buff, I already had plans to read the book. But when he came to Parnassus, I made sure to be there and get an autographed copy. I’ve still got a lot of books ahead of it in my must-read pile, but I’m hoping I can get to it before the year is out.

LitHub recently shared Junot Diaz’s introduction to the Best American Short Stories of 2016, all about his fascination with the literary short form.

Here’s Benjamin Percy on the books he wants to write, a combination of the best of genre and the best literary stylings. I’ve always enjoyed genre novels and never really had room for the so-called literary masters of the craft as I considered them boring and long-winded. I craved action and adventure, thrills and chills. Still do. But, lately, I’ve found myself picking up books I normally wouldn’t. Books like Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, El Paso by Winston Groom, and the aforementioned Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Books that are literary, but combine action, mystery, and intrigue within their pages. It’s not that my tastes have changed, but that perhaps they have matured. On the one hand, I believe the more I read of such books, the more exposure to their style of fine writing and sentence structure and vocabulary, the more it will rub off on my own writing. In the end, it can only elevate a simple genre tale to a more impactful, meaningful story. Maybe I’ve come to this realization a bit late in my writing career, but I’m willing to explore it. I’m willing to expand and broaden my horizons. That, folks, is how you constantly learn and better yourself. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Explore your potential. Hopefully, in the months ahead we’ll see if my new reading habits are reflected in my writing.

The Hollywood Reporter ranked the movie industry’s 25 most sought-after writers, with several novelists making the list.

Jennifer Blanchard shared a handy guide explaining 5 Ways to Plot Your Novel, just in time for National Novel Writing Month.

The always insightful Jeff Goins highlights what professional writers know that amateurs don’t.

As it is approaching Halloween, you may enjoy reading Laura Miller’s introduction to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which was reprinted by LitHub. It’s a somewhat lengthy treatise about the book, its ghosts and its characters, and Jackson. Once you’re done with that, you may find yourself wanting to read Jackson’s book again. I’d actually love to, but I’ve got a backlog of other books to get to. Maybe next Halloween.

While we’re on the subject of horror, you’ve no doubt heard about all the alleged evil clown sightings. Publicity stunt or urban legend, it has admittedly made for some chilling reading. Naturally, LitHub took the opportunity to share this fascinating story on “The Literature of Creepy Clowns.”

Otto Penzler has a penned the introduction to The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, out this year from Vintage Crime. I’m adding it to my Amazon Christmas list.

And if you are still looking for a horror-themed fix, Kevin David Anderson offers these terrifying episodes of Star Trek as a guide to horror among the stars.

Harlequin is about to cash in on the commercial women’s fiction trend by launching a new imprint to its trade program, Graydon House Books. The books will focus on family relationships and “run the gamut from light-hearted humor to emotional tear-jerkers.”

There are some surprising numbers in regard to ebook sales in the October Author Earnings Report. Despite the fluctuating numbers, one thing is clear: Digital books aren’t dead. If anything, they are making another resurgence for your reading attention. Kensington Publishing, for example, has plans to add two digital-first imprints to its Lyrical Press romance line. And, Comixology is debuting a line of exclusive digital comics. Amazon, meanwhile, is now offering free digital books to Prime members as part of its Prime Reading program. The selection is somewhat skimpy compared to what’s out there, but there are a number of potential good reads included in the program. The freebie program is obviously an effort to get folks to dust off the Kindle. Best thing is there’s nothing to lose if you pick a book and don’t like it, ‘cause it’s free. I personally don’t like reading digital books and prefer a physical book to thumb through, and I’ve got more than enough of them on hand already.

I recently saw an advance screening of Deepwater Horizon and thought it was a well-done, though very grim movie. Screenwriter Peter Berg recently related the fascinating account of the challenges encountered in bringing it to the screen.

I recently saw The Girl on the Train at the theater and was a bit disappointed. The movie dragged in many places, the main character was irritating, and the climax wasn’t worth the slow buildup. The Guardian’s latest film blog says the film heralds the return of the Hitchcockian thriller, but I think it falls short of such platitudes. Hoping the book, which I haven’t read yet, will be better.

Podcasts

BookRiot compiled this handy list of 30 podcasts for writers, but, dammit, who’s got time to listen to podcasts when we should be writing!

And finally, there’s this: the new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Just ‘cause, you know, Star Wars.

‘Til next time…

Around the Web: Articles to inspire from the world of writing, reading

 By G. Robert Frazier

I occasionally like to troll the interwebs in search of interesting articles about writing and reading, how-to’s, advice, and news about authors, books, and film. Because I’m so cool, I then share those links with my fellow writers and book lovers (even though there are some out there who say this is not a good use of blog space and effort). This one is a bit longer than usual because I haven’t posted in a while. Just click on the link to read the full articles.

Pat Conroy lives on. The Pat Conroy Literary Center, named for the author known for such novels as The Prince of Tides, will open in October in Beaufort, S.C.

Steven James is Calling All Applicants in one of the best articles I’ve read on what it means to pursue this craft of writing.

British writer Frederick Forsyth has penned his last thriller novel because he says he’s run out of things to say. Sounds like a serious case of writer’s block to me.

eqm_sept-oct2016webEllery Queen Mystery Magazine celebrates 75 years with a special issue this month. Always worth reading, though the anniversary cover leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. As part of the celebration, here’s an article about the Ransom of EQMM #1.

Wow. Check out this illustrated guide to writing scenes and stories from Jeff VanderMeer.

This tidbit is old news (unless you’ve been living under a rock), but worth noting: Criminal Minds actor Thomas Gibson was fired from the show after kicking one of the writers on set. About time someone stood up for writers.

A Pew Research Center study has concluded that people prefer physical books over their digital cousins. That’s how I feel as well. Haven’t looked at my Kindle in forever, and I’ve got dozens of books on there.

I recently came across this neat article from BookRiot about how to repair your books from torn pages, sticky price tags, and more with these helpful tips. Nothing I hate more than sticky price tags on the covers of my books.

Jane Friedman offers this advice on when and if you should pay for a publicist to help promote  your book and your brand as an author.

Pamela Burger traces the Bloody History of the True Crime Genre in this excellent article.

Author Jonathan Maberry talks about writers helping writers in this interview from Writer’s Digest.

Author/blogger Kristen Lamb discusses writers’ brands and platforms and what’s the difference.

Liz Kay discusses the broadening scope of stories by and for women in this article from LitHub. (LitHub, by the way, aggregates stories from around the web every day, so if they can do it, why can’t I?).

Penguin Classics has published Writings from Ancient Egypt in Great Britain (it will be available in the US in January), the first literary English translation of some of the texts that cover thousands of square feet of monuments and tomb walls.

So, can you make a living as a self-published author? This article puts that question into perspective.

Envy stimulates innovation and keeps writers and other artists from becoming complacent in their work. Read more about why a little writing jealousy isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this column.

Feeding thousands of books into a computer to find new meaning in literature sounds intriguing, but does cultural analytics actually tell us anything about the books we read? That’s the question posed in this interesting article from The Guardian.

Boris Kachka put together a comprehensive Encyclopedia of Every Literary Plot, Ever. Whoa.

Joyce Carol Oates spoke recently about great editors, reviews, and the internet in this wide-ranging interview with LitHub.

The Bestseller Code by former publisher Jodi Archer and Matthew L. Jockers, of Stanford University’s Literary Lab, attempts to dissect the elements of what makes a bestseller using an algorithm they built.

Ann Patchett, who owns Parnassus Books in Nashville which I frequent regularly, discusses how writers must take responsibility for themselves and our industry in this interview with The Guardian. I attended Patchett’s official book launch for  Commonwealth in Nashville on Sept. 12 and blogged about it here. The Tennessean featured this excellent article about the nun who taught Patchett to read.

There was an interesting article on LitHub recently about the history (and present) of banning books in America. The American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) in New York fights yearly to challenge books banned in libraries and schools. And since this is National Banned Books Week, this column would be incomplete without a link to this handy graphic from Readers.com showing the 24 Most Controversial Books of All Time.

In Memoriam:

Edward Albee, best known for his Broadway hit “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, passed away at age 88.

Podcasts:

Author Jacqueline Woodson discusses her new novel, Another Brooklyn, with Publishers Weekly.

Here are six podcast episodes that promise to make you a better writer.

Writer Jeff Goins shares three habits writers should embrace in this podcast with Andy Traub. Jeff also shared this post about how practice makes perfect.

If you’re ready to publish, here’s a helpful podcast from Joanna Penn about how to write your book sales description.

Seen any good articles on writing or reading lately? Share them in the Comments section. Until next time, happy writing and reading!

Around the Web: News, tips, and more for writers and readers

by G. Robert Frazier

I scour my newsfeeds and the interwebs routinely in search of helpful writing tips and news about the publishing industry. I’m a writer, so it’s what I do. If you’re visiting this blog, that means you are probably a writer or reader as well and you might be interested in an article or two. Give a look:

News & Views

Barnes & Noble now plans to offer self-published authors the opportunity to sell their print books in stores as well as participate in in-store discussions and book signings, provided they meet certain criteria. First, the author must show ebook sales have surpassed 500 units in the past year. And second, the book must receive a positive review from B&N’s reading team.

If you’re going to take advantage of a book appearance, Kate Raphael, author of the award-winning Murder Under The Bridge: A Palestine Mystery, offers 5 Steps to a Killer Book Talk. As with anything, preparation is the key.

Beverly Cleary, who published her first book in 1950 and has gone on to write more than 30 books for children, celebrated her 100th birthday in April. The Oregonian posted a short video to commemorate the occasion.

There’s great news for writers if you haven’t found a place with traditional publishers or prefer to go the indie publishing route. Your work can still get noticed, and in a big way, as The Guardian points out in this article.

Not surprisingly, James Patterson and JK Rowling are among the world’s highest paid authors for 2016.

Everyone knows that reading is healthy for the mind, but now there’s research that suggests that reading can lead to longer lives. Author Neil Gaiman recently shared his take on why we read and what books do for the human experience.

On the other hand, you might want to avoid reading while on the road, because your brain might think you’re being poisoned.

Talking About Trends

Serialized fiction seems to be making a return. NPR looks at the trend in TV writing and how that may translate into the publishing world.

Lawyer and writer Manning Wolfe offers this fascinating look at the history of the legal thriller, tracing the genre’s origins to Wilkie Collins and such early luminaries as Harper Lee and Earle Stanley Gardner to modern day masters such as Scott Turow and John Grisham.

The Guardian examines the latest writing trend among women crime writers with the rise in domestic suspense thrillers, such as Girl on A Train, Gone Girl, and more. But if you think women crime writers are a fad, then give this article in LitHub a read.

Kirkus Reviews posted a great article on how small press publishers are shaping the field of science fiction and fantasy in today’s marketplace.

Mexico’s undiscovered literary talent is riding a wave of interest, thanks to some small presses who are busy translating the authors’ works into English for American readers.

Researchers say nearly all books follow one of these six emotional arcs.

Go Into the Story by Scott Myers presented this cool info-graphic on Nine reasons why writers make incredible friends.

If you’re a writer and don’t believe that social media sites matter, you’ll change your tune after reading this column by horror novelist Brian Keene.

Writing Advice

Angela Ackerman, a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, shares these Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Regarding Setting.

Writer Terry Odell shares six reasons I won’t love your book.

Playboy recently asked some accomplished writers and filmmakers to share their one piece of writing advice for newbies. If you are serious about the craft and take time to read and learn from others, you’ve probably already heard much of the advice before. But, it doesn’t hurt to hear it again. A little reminder and reinforcement goes a long way, especially if you are struggling to finish.

For freelance writers, this might be worth checking out. The Writer magazine lists five sites to host your portfolio.

For Your Reading Pleasure

How cool is this? Bouchercon has posted links so that you can read the 2016 Best Short Story Anthony Nominees.

S. Stribling was a pioneer figure in Southern literature during the early twentieth century. Kenneth W. Vickers, who wrote T.S. Stribling: A Life of the Tennessee Novelist, explains in this article, as part of a series celebrating Pulitzer Prize winners.

Best-selling author Carla Neggers shared top ten tips to surviving a writers conference in The Strand Magazine.

Podcasts:

Character Arcs with K.M. Weiland – Episode 58 of the Very Serious Writing Show

Writer Jeff Goins recently sat down with Andy Traub for a podcast to discuss coming up with compelling ideas, the best places to find inspiration and the importance of just getting started.

Read any good articles on reading and writing? Add them to the comments section!

Around the Web: Inspiring advice for writers and readers

By G. Robert Frazier

Every once in awhile I skim through my favorite websites or newsfeeds in search of interesting stories on writing and reading. I like to share those articles for other authors and readers who may like to draw inspiration from them. I haven’t posted one of these in a few weeks, so this one is extra long. Enjoy!

Author Anthony Hamilton grew up as a dyslexic who couldn’t read in an environment where reading wasn’t stressed as being important. Today, he’s a published author. Here’s his inspiring story.

Writer Alan Lewis shared this important story about a fellow writer who lost his battle with depression. It’s a moving story and something many writers experience. Writing is a difficult craft full of emotional ups and downs, self-doubts and personal triumphs. Sadly, it doesn’t always end well. I’m thankful to know Alan and many other writers like him in the Nashville Writers groups who meet each week to provide support and encouragement for each other, whether it’s in the form of a constructive critique or a simple conversation about the craft or life in general.

Literary Hub published this great article about How Books Can Help Us Survive A War.

Noir fiction is enjoying a renaissance. Author Nicholas Seeley expounds on why in this article.

Embracing intellectual messiness goes against our instincts and training as educated people, but writers and artists should accept and understand it as crucial to the creative process. That’s the gist of this message from author Malcolm Gladwell.

Another paying market for writers is falling by the wayside. Sadly, Thuglit announced its last issue will be published in May.

I came across this cool infographic depicting what 20 authors did for a living before they became famous. It’s particularly interesting that none of their previous jobs involved writing, which means when I become famous and join the list I will set a new precedent.

Columnist Leah Dearborn penned an article on the lifecycle of books, detailing how book production impacts the environment. While it’s eye-opening, I don’t think it will affect my book-buying habits.

Barnes & Noble’s longtime leader Leonard Riggio has announced his retirement. The big chain bookstore has oft-times been criticized for spelling the death of small, independent bookstores but at the same time turned his bookstores into a destination for book lovers. The New York Times says that today, the resurgence of indie bookstores has made B&N something of an underdog.

The Mystery Writers of America announced the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards on April 28, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015.

Sana Amanat, Katie Kubert and Emily Shaw all work at the comic book giant that is Marvel, and are helping change the way their stories reflect women and women superheroes. Hear what they have to say in this video from Today.

Writers interested in writing for TV or the film industry should keep a watchful eye on next year’s Writer’s Guild of America negotiations. The WGA’s current film and TV contract doesn’t expire for another year, but guild leaders already are gearing up for negotiations. Some of the hot-button issues it says need to be addressed at the next round of contract talks include cable parity, diversity, free rewrites, free pre-writes, sweepstakes pitching and “bake-offs,” late payments, packaging, creative rights, one-step deals, so-called “paper teams,” the erosion of the “quote” system, the guild’s ailing health plan and the steady decline in pay and jobs for feature film writers.

LitHub offers these eight writing tips from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, of all things. Just goes to show the power of the written word, regardless of format.

Keith McCafferty makes the case for why writing a short story is the key to becoming a better writer in this article in The Strand.

Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow) captured the top award in the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers Association. He and a slate of other winners will receive their prizes at StokerCon 2016 in Las Vegas.

There’s an interesting article on The Guardian’s website on How plot grips us. Writer John Mulan notes: “Plot involves the laying of clues, the implicit promise to the reader or viewer that the true significance of what we read or see is not self-evident, but will eventually be revealed. A good plot exploits not just suspense, but also a kind of retrospective curiosity.”

Novelist William Boyd is the latest author to share his process in My Writing Day, a recurring feature in The Guardian.  Boyd explains how writing long hand is more conducive for him than pounding away at the keyboard, but adds that after about three hours of writing per day he’s spent. I sometimes feel spent before I can get in any writing. My brother says I stay up too late, which makes me tired all day.

If you need a reason to quit worrying and start writing, this column by Corey Mandell might help. I heard Mandell speak at the Screenwriters World Convention in sunny L.A. a few years ago and got a lot out of his discussion, but this column really drives home the point of putting away your fears and going for it.

Speaking of going for it, Steven Pressfield offers The Blitzkrieg Method as one way to power your way through your novel to the end without stopping or looking back. This is sort of the idea behind National Novel Writing Month as well, where you just sit and type furiously until you get to the end. I’ve been meaning to get to the end of my novel, aptly titled River’s End, for some time now and I’m going to try this method.

This is an oldie but a goodie. South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone share an amazingly simple piece of writing advice on the importance of “therefore” and “but”.

Thriller writer John Gilstrap, who I met at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference last year, talks about one of the most important weapons in a writer’s arsenal: the query letter.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and writing! And if you come across a great article about the craft you’d like to share, just do so in the comments sections!

Around the Web: MFA offers bragging rights, but will never replace my ‘MBS’

By G. Robert Frazier

Every once in a while I like to share some links to interesting articles about reading and writing I’ve stumbled across on the “interwebs.” I haven’t posted any in a while, so let’s catch up a bit with this offering:

The Atlantic recently weighed in on the debate over the value of obtaining an MFA in Creative Writing. It seems the biggest advantage to having an MFA is simple bragging rights on your resume. People see that MFA and think, well, that person must know how to write… or, he has an MFA, so he can teach others. I don’t have one and I don’t believe at this point in my life I’ll be spending the time or money to get one. I’ll just stick with my MBS: Master of Bull-Shittery, thank you very much.

Do you keep a reading journal? Writer’s Relief extolls the benefits of analyzing what you’ve read and how it can help improve your own writing. I publish book reviews on several sites, including this one, and keeping a journal is part of my routine. Sometimes it just helps to keep track of all the characters and storylines, since I know I will be referring to them in my book reviews.

If you struggle with writing authentic dialogue, you’re in luck. BookBaby recently offered a series of free instructional videos on how to strengthen speech in your stories and books. It’s a bit elementary, but also good reinforcement for anyone in the writing biz.

The old journalist in me found these articles interesting: What Happens to Older Journalists and  How Facebook Swallowed Journalism. The Charlotte Observor held a wake of sorts recently as it bid farewell to its old digs in favor of smaller space because of downsizing. The Dallas Morning News says it’s reinventing itself by starting over, but what it’s really doing is the same thing Gannett has already done with all of its newspapers: Buying out or outright firing its long-term, experienced journalists and hiring a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears Millennials who supposedly have more digital-savvy skills but in reality will work a whole lot cheaper than the veterans. Ten or twenty years from now those employees will be out the door for another younger generation of suckers, if the “paper/website/app/whatever you want to call it these days” is still around.

If you’re a writer, I’m pretty sure you don’t need any added stress. You’ve got enough to worry about already. This article by Susannah Felts sort of sums it up, doesn’t it? I try not to worry about everything she worries about, but I do worry about her lack of paragraphs in the article.

If you need inspiration after that worrisome post from Susannah, you should read this column from writer Skyla Dawn Cameron.

And here’s some bad advice from writers you may want to ignore.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent loss of author Pat Conroy. I hate to admit that I have never read any of his works, so I welcome your recommendations. Conroy recounts his lessons and passions for writing in this article for The Writer magazine.

Seen any good reads lately? Post them in the comments section!