Magic, mystery garner Jean Rabe honors

Jean Rabe may not be a household name, but it should be. Chances are, if you are into gaming, if you are into fantasy, if you are into mysteries, you’ve encountered her byline atop a story or two. Check your bookshelf, and you just may find her stories or novels in your collection. Her latest novel, The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge, has just hit bookstores, while the author was just named a grandmaster by theInternational Media Tie-In Writers. Jean was gracious enough to speak with Story By about the award and her career, as well as share some timeless writing tips.

Congrats on being named a grandmaster by the International Media Tie-in Writers. What an accomplishment! You posted on Facebook and in your newsletter that you were “dancing” over the news. Has it sunk in yet? What does this achievement mean to you?

Jean Rabe 4

Jean Rabe, International Media Tie-in Writers Grandmaster

I never expected to win an award like this; there is no higher honor a tie-in writer can achieve. I still don’t consider myself in the same league as a Grandmaster. I’ve been on the USA Today Bestseller list several times, but I never hit New York Times. I’ve been published in lots of languages in lots of countries. I’ve been in the game lots of years. I’ve just never considered myself a “big deal.” The award is typically presented at the San Diego Comic-Con, a huge venue with well more than a hundred thousand attendees. Despite my fear of crowds, I would have braved it to get the Faust. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing, the virtual presentation, kept my knees from knocking too much. I am so incredibly honored to have been handed the Faust, an award for doing something I’ve loved and enjoyed. I still am in disbelief.

When did you get the writing bug and how did you get your start? Who are some of your influences, past and present?

I started writing fiction in second grade. I always loved stories, sf in particular when I was a kid. I told my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Burleson, I wanted to be a paperback writer—she’d asked everyone what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” She said my plan wasn’t practical and that maybe I should consider being a nurse or a teacher. I won some writing contests in grade school and high school and got a bachelor of science in journalism. So I’ve been writing a lot of years … newspaper reporter, game designer, and editor, and now a full-time novelist. Maybe I’ve always had the bug; I can’t imagine doing anything else. Mrs. Burleson was wrong.

My influences. Hmmmmmmm. Mark Twain, love reading his stuff. Byron and Shelley and Keats, really like the English old masters. Louis L’Amour. Also: Elmore Leonard, Gene Wolfe (who was a very good friend of mine), Andre Norton (a very good friend and co-author), Ed McBain, Joe Haldeman, James Lee Burke, and W.P. Kinsella, to name some. I’m influenced by a lot of people; I think all writers are.

How did all of that lead to you writing media tie-ins?

DragonlanceAfter writing for three newspapers (and deciding I wanted to do something else), I took a job at TSR, Inc., the then-producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I worked as the head of the RPGA Network (Role Playing Games Association), and later as an editor and a designer. TSR published game-related fiction and occasionally had open tryouts. I submitted ideas, outlines, and sample chapters and finally one year I scored! It took me three rewrites … it was my first novel, after all … and Red Magic came out in 1991. It’s a Forgotten Realms tale set in the land of the Red Wizards of Thay, a creepy and powerful bunch. After that I wrote a couple of choose-your-adventure books…which are tough to write, then I managed to land in Krynn with Dragonlance, where I fit the best. Three standalones there, and three trilogies, several landing on the USA Today Bestseller list. After leaving TSR I still wrote Dragonlance, but I added a few Shadowrun titles, and I got to play with Rogue Angel for quite a few books. As for tie-in short stories Twilight Zone, Transformers, Metamorphosis Alpha, Pathfinder … I even got to write a Star Wars tale.

What are some of the challenges of writing characters and places in someone else’s world? Are there certain restrictions or guidelines you have to play by with each series? How do you keep it all straight and maintain the tone of each series?

There are a lot of restrictions and guidelines. You have to respect the property and its characters and stay true to what already exists. People read tie-ins because they are fans of the property—be it a TV show, roleplaying game, computer game, movie, comic book, etc., and they want more of a particular world. You have to honor the “sandbox” you are playing in, and treat it with care. There is a lot of competition to land a tie-in, and many authors were New York Times Bestsellers before they landed their tie-in gigs. If a tie-in author doesn’t stay true to the subject, he won’t get another chance … too much competition out there. Some properties help their writers, handing over “bibles” and world books. A good tie-in author reads other books in the line for flavor and background. One of the things I did with Dragonlance was to create a spreadsheet containing the characters I used. I filled in the details for canon characters, then I added the characters I was creating from whole cloth. I was fortunate with my Dragonlance trilogies that I got to craft the main characters for the sagas and sprinkle in the veteran heroes and villains as the plot merited.

What is your favorite story or novel you’ve written among all of your media tie-ins and why? What is your favorite series to write in and why?

My favorite character is Dhamon Grimwulf, who I took through two Dragonlance trilogies and a standalone. I tortured the poor soul, but he came out a hero in the end. I have two favorite media tie-in projects: my goblin trilogy—Goblin Nation. I love writing characters who are other than human, and I had a boatload of them to craft. The goblins and hobgoblins were born from whole cloth, and I based some of them on dogs I’d had through the years. Because the goblins were a slave race I gave them an odd speech pattern: they didn’t use “I and me” because they didn’t have a real sense of identity, they were property. Tough to write the dialog, and frustrating when a copyeditor at the last minute threw in some “I and me” here and there and I couldn’t do anything about it. Anyway, I liked taking my cadre of goblins from slaves to the masters of their own destiny and setting up their nation. Made me feel all fuzzy inside. My other favorite tie-in was a Shadowrun novel called Shadows Down Under, which I set around Canberra, Australia, where I visited many years back. I’d made notes when I was there, saved postcards, and subsequently sent the characters to the nifty places I’d traipsed through, and past some questionable spots, too.

A few years ago you began writing your own mystery series of novels. Your fourth novel in the Piper Blackwell series has just been released. What were some of the challenges of making the transition to your own original works?

The Dead of Jerusalem RidgeSo many of my tie-ins were original works, set in established worlds. The real transition for me was in swapping genres. I’d been writing fantasy and science fiction, and I wanted to jump to a new spot on the shelf—mysteries. I’d been reading mysteries for a lot of years and just wanted to try my hand at writing them. A former news reporter, I’d covered courts, crime, plane crashes, assorted things, so I had a good background for mysteries. And I’d written a true crime novel with F. Lee Bailey, When the Husband is the Suspect. The problem was being in a new pond. I didn’t know editors in the genre, so I had to start from scratch. Then agents told me they liked my writing, but that my books were cozy police procedurals and they’d have a tough time selling them. So I formed Boone Street Press, and I hire an editor, copyeditor, layout guru, cover artist, and publicist … all the things a traditional publisher does. It lets me write my cozy police procedurals, or uncozy-cozies as some call them. And I don’t have to wait years from when I send it off until it might show up on a shelf. Indie publishing fits me fine.

Which do you like best? Writing tie-ins or your own original stories? Will you continue to write media tie-ins?

I love to write … so both! Lately, my tie-in work has been short stories for fantasy roleplaying games, going back to my roots. I adore writing short stories, as they are a lovely break from long fiction. But the original stories I’m writing now are my property, and that’s a big thing to me. I own them. And I’m responsible for them, producing, promoting … my babies. I have two originals outlined and I’m partway into writing both. I need to pick one and crank on it. And I need to start outlining a fifth Piper Blackwell book—I already have some idea nuggets.

Now that you have been named a grandmaster, what’s your next big goal as a writer? A Shamus, maybe?

The Bone ShroudHa! I wasn’t expecting the Grandmaster nod, that oh-so-coveted Faust. I certainly don’t expect any more awards. This past fall I took first place in the Illinois Author Project adult division for The Bone Shroud, a standalone thriller I set in Italy. I didn’t expect that one either. Awards are just surprises to be treasured. Icing on my writing cake.

What advice would you have for new writers, regardless of age, trying to break in?

I could expound on that question for days. I used to manage the Gen Con Game Fair’s writing track and so scheduled many topics on that question, but I’ll take a quick stab here.

There are more than one million books published a year. Most of that because self-publishing is an option now, offering an alternative to the big houses. So you’re competing in a huge market. Make sure your book is clean—well edited, has no wasted scenes, and is filled with memorable characters. To that end, take advantage of writing programs available on the internet—blogs, classes, online workshops all designed to help hone the writing craft. I have more than forty novels and more than one hundred published short stories to my credit. And I still read writing advice blogs and books and take classes. Never stop learning. Never stop trying to improve.

Make sure your shelf has some essentials: Strunk & White, Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook, a good dictionary, thesaurus, and maybe a dictionary of word origins. Why physical books? So you don’t have to shift screens to consult an online reference book. Curl up with a dictionary some night and just read it. Highlight words that sing to you and that you want to put in your writing.

Follow posts about which agents are looking for clients and what type of books they specialize in. Read blogs about which publishers are buying, or educate yourself on all aspects of self-publishing. Consider attending a writing-focused convention: World Fantasy, World Horror, Killer Nashville; there are a lot out there … many doing virtual seminars because of the pandemic.

Write every day … even if you have something you’d rather do. And read each day, too, even if it is just a chapter; it keeps you thinking about stories and words.

My biggie: Always carry a notebook. Buy one of those small chunky ones at the Dollar Store, a size that’ll fit in your pocket. And take it everywhere. I see abandoned buildings during my travels that I want to describe; people—how they are dressed, walking, talking; cars; all manner of things. I fill my notebook with stuff I want to sprinkle in my fiction. And a notebook is handy for jotting down plot ideas. Always carry a notebook.

Follow Jean at:

American Hero: Remembering John Lewis

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Congressman John Lewis, 1940-2020

Note: With the loss of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis on Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to honor with him with an article I wrote for BookPage in 2016.

By G. Robert Frazier

It is appropriate as we enter Thanksgiving week to express our gratitude to the people who have influenced our lives in one way or another or who have made sacrifices on our behalf so that we may live better.

This past Saturday, I was fortunate to be among hundreds of Nashville-area residents able to give thanks to an American icon, Georgia Congressman John Lewis. (More than a hundred others were unable to get into the packed auditorium at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School.)

A graduate of American Baptist College and Fisk University, both in Nashville, Rep. Lewis was a leader in the Nashville student-led, nonviolent sit-in movement and the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. He was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington and helped lead the Selma to Montgomery March as part of the voting rights movement in 1965.

His account of the events make up the pages of a historical comic book trilogy, March, co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. March: Book One is the citywide Nashville Reads pick for 2017. The third volume in the series just won the National Book Award for young people’s literature and garnered him honors as the Nashville Public Library Foundation’s Literary Award winner for 2016.

Regardless of age, it is a story everyone should read.

“When people tell me nothing has changed, I say come and walk in my shoes,” he told the racially diverse crowd, which greeted him with a standing ovation. “Martin Luther King would be very proud of this audience. You look like the makings of a beloved community.”

Lewis recounted the challenges and incidents of the civil rights movement, including many of his 45 arrests for civil disobedience along the way.

“I didn’t like segregation,” Lewis said. “I didn’t like racial discrimination. I didn’t like riding the broken-down buses to school.”

As a child, he grew up listening to the message of civil rights pioneers like Rosa Parks and King, whom he would eventually meet. “They inspired me to find a way to get in the way, and I got in the way. . . . By sitting down, we were standing up,” he said.

Lewis still sits down when necessary. This past summer he inspired a sit-in on the floor of Congress itself.

“We still have a distance to travel,” he said.

He implored today’s youth to carry on the fight for equality and justice when needed.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, you have a moral obligation to stand up,” he said.

But most importantly, he said, “We must come together as one people. Not just as an American house, but as a world house. . . .  Just love everybody. Love is a better way. Be kind. Never hate. Keep the faith. Never, ever give up.”

He stressed a need to set a path to citizenship, adding that “Pope Francis said we are all immigrants. We all come from some other place.”

Following his lecture, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry presented him with a collection of recently discovered photos and images of his first arrest records in Nashville from 1961, 1962 and 1963.

“I hope these photos remind you of what you have done and the legacy you have left us,” Barry told him, adding, “I thank you for your message of peace, I thank you for your message of love, but most of all I thank you for your message of kindness.”

The photos will go on display in the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library.

“It’s here in this wonderful city where I really grew up,” Lewis said of his return to Nashville. “The first time I got arrested in this city, I felt free. I owe it all to this city. I feel more than lucky—I feel honored and blessed. I came to say thank you.”

No, sir, it is we who are honored and blessed. It is we who say, “Thank you.”

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: 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…