Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Fun: "The Simpsons" Go Literary

I would never describe myself as a "Simpsons fan," but once and a while, it gives me a good chuckle. And I will say that I can relate more than I'd like to admit to Lisa... So this morning, when Book Riot pointed me in the direction of something I wouldn't have noticed about the show(ya know, not being a "Simpsons fan" and all :-p) I knew I'd found something I wanted to share with you all (and some new episodes I wanted to watch).

So, for today's Friday Fun, I give you....*drumroll please* eight of the best Simpsons literary references (courtesy of CBC books)!
Leon Uris 
The influential American novelist was known for his extensively researched, compelling but dense historical novels like Exodus and Mila 18. During one episode of The Simpsons, local hillbilly stereotype Cletus Delroy Spuckler can be seen in the library holding a copy of Uris’s acclaimed novel about Irish nationalism Trinity. But Cletus isn’t a literature fan – he's about to use the nearly 900-page book to crush a turtle for his lunch because “nothing cracks a turtle like Leon Uris.”

Bart the Raven 
Who could forget [this] amazing, epic adaptation of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe in the very first “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween special? The bit receives a boost of gravitas thanks to the baritone narration of actor James Earl Jones. The show would also reference Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart in a later episode in which Lisa competes against a schoolmate rival in a diorama competition. 
The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference 
In a famous season 18 episode, Lisa and aspiring poet Moe attends the “Word Loaf” conference, a parody of the Bread Loaf festival, which is considered the oldest and most prestigious annual writers’ summit in the U.S. This episode featured four literary heavyweight guests, including Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal. However, in a room full of literary egos, tensions will rise. One of the hilarious highlights of the episode is when Michael Chabon shouts “That’s it, Franzen! I think your nose needs some Corrections!” before the two get into a fist fight. 
A Tale of Two Cities 
Fans of the show will remember the time when the writers turned the indelible opening lines of Charles Dickens’s classic novel about the French revolution (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”) into a joke involving the infinite monkey theorem. The infinite monkey theorem basically suggests that an infinite number of monkeys hitting random keys on typewriters will eventually type out a given text, such as a Dickens’s novel. During an episode in the fourth season, Homer finds himself leading a union battle with his power plant Mr. Burns. The irascible Burns, in a show of the absurd power and resources he commands, takes a Homer on a tour and shows him “1000 monkeys working at a 1000 typewriters. Soon they’ll have written the greatest novel known to man!” Except Burns randomly pulls out a page from one of his monkey writers, which reads: “It was the best of times… it was the blurst of times?!!” Suffice to say, that monkey was probably fired. 
Thomas Pynchon 
Only an iconic show like The Simpsons could entice reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon to satirize himself, not once, but twice! The Gravity’s Rainbow author, known for avoiding interviews and public appearances, contributed two speaking parts throughout the years. Our favourite: when Marge becomes a novelist and asks Pynchon for a blurb, he responds: "Here's your quote: Thomas Pynchon loved this book, almost as much as he loves cameras!" The paper bag Pynchon also appeared briefly, in an unspoken cameo, in the World Loaf episode. 
Amy Tan at the Springfield Festival of Books 
This episode featured an appearance from The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan and took a humourous jab at literary criticism. When Lisa gets the chance to address one of her literary heroes, Tan immediately crushes the girl’s interpretation of her writing. “No, that’s not what I meant at all. I can’t believe how wrong you got it. Just sit down, I’m embarrassed for both of us.”  
Goodnight Moon, Walken-style 
Who doesn’t remember reading this classic children’s book? Well, The Simpsons writers
took that nostalgia and gave it a Christopher Walken edge. Walken himself doesn’t appear in the episode (he’s impersonated by actor Jay Mohr), but one of the funniest literary references is when Marge points out Walken reading Goodnight Moon with his intense, signature delivery to a bunch of terrified kids. 
The Ghost of Pippi Longstocking 
While on summer holiday, Lisa meets a group of cool kids and takes the chance to re-
invent herself as a laid-back beach bum. But she one day passes a library and her love of reading and learning becomes hard to repress. In one memorable scene, a spectre of Pippi Longstocking appears amidst the bookstacks and begs Lisa: "Read about my adventures in the South Seas! Make me live again!" 
See the original post HERE

Thursday, July 24, 2014

eBook Subscription Services On the Rise?

With more and more companies jumping on the eBook-subscription-service bandwagon, it's hard to believe that the service hasn't actually taken off yet. It's a fact that doesn't necessarily surprise me, but it does make me kind of happy, I'm not gonna lie.

While these services can benefit some authors greatly, which I am all for, the majority are more likely to be hurt by these "unlimited read" programs, and it's hard for me to get behind something like that doing what I do. At least until it's not a detriment to so many writers. While many could say that this Netflix-and-Hulu-watching girl is being a total hypocrite, the advances in subscription services for the book market just aren't up to snuff yet. 

But the big question is, When will it be? When is this all going to change? At what point will eBook subscription services become the norm? A recent study by the BISG tackles just those wonderings, according to Digital Book World:
A report released today by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) finds that 80% of publishers believe subscription ebooks becoming a major part of the publishing business is “inevitable.” The launch last week of Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, would appear to corroborate that finding — but are they? 
Professionals within the trade, scholarly, professional and higher education sectors interviewed for the BISG report had differing views on the various subscription-based models most likely to take hold in their respective categories. Among all those interviewed, however, there is a widespread belief that subscriptions are already playing expanding roles in each of those sectors, and that that trend will continue dramatically upward. Among trade publishers, only 7% of respondents said subscription services contribute significantly to their overall revenue today, but 59% expected that to change within the next five years. This is a case where the majority could be mistaken. 
Why? Because the most crucial questions for how — and how dramatically — ebook subscription services will reshape the industry are ones that no report can answer: Just how many authors and publishers will jump on? How deep will their participation be? And, ultimately, will readers buy? 
“One major concern surrounding the increase of ebook subscriptions,” the BISG report concedes, “is the potential degradation of high-value markets.” Yet the report indicates a prevailing belief among the various stakeholders in the publishing ecosystem that the benefits more often outweigh the costs: “New revenue from the emerging markets reached by subscription ebook options promises to offer some relief to publishers as they struggle with diminishing print sales.” 
But while price degradation, on the one hand, and upticking revenues from new subscription models, on the other, are possibilities, neither should be considered “inevitable.” 
It’s instructive to look for patterns in other forms of media where subscription services have taken hold, as the BISG report does, but publishing folks are often quick — and right — to point out that books are unique because, among other reasons, they’re consumed in a fundamentally different way than music, TV and movies. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of time Americans spend watching television and movies far dwarfs the amount of time they spend reading. It makes sense to have a service that lets you choose what you want to watch and watch as much of it as you want. The same doesn’t necessarily go for reading. 
Besides, book publishers and authors have largely succeeded at continuing to get readers to pay for each time they consume content, even as the business models for newspapers, magazines and music have been upended and TV and movies continue to suffer from widespread piracy. As some of the latest figures from the U.S. and UK markets suggest, revenues from both print and ebooks are more than just holding steady; they’re increasing. 
This growth is being seen in a market dramatically shaped by Amazon’s deep discounting and the transition to cheaper ebooks from more expensive print books. If readers were fleeing in droves from existing retail channels or being converted en masse to the notion that paying anything more than a couple of dollars for a book (or anything at all, for that matter) is highway robbery, then authors and publishers would have far greater incentive to pursue subscription ebooks aggressively. 
But to all appearances, they don’t really have that incentive — at least not yet. Readers are still showing a willingness to spend on individual books. 
Furthermore, in order for publishers, authors and the service providers themselves to each cash out favorably, subscription models must perform a difficult balancing act that relies heavily on user behavior. On the one hand, they need to encourage many people to sign up; on the other, they need to make sure they stay signed up and reading, but not reading so much as to cost the services more than they make from having them as subscribers. One analyst writes that even Kindle Unlimited may be doomed right out of the gates as a consequence of that challenge. 
Publishers and authors, having watched ebook subscription services like Oyster and Scribd gain footholds in the reading market, are now familiar with that difficulty. On balance, publishers have shown considerable caution adding their titles to those catalogs. And authors have already stepped forward to criticize the way Kindle Unlimited proposes to compensate some of them. 
In light of all this, the scope and nature of ebook subscription services’ impending impact on the industry looks if not more limited, then at least less “inevitable” than respondents to the BISG study anticipate. In a live debate Digital Book World hosted in June, in which executives from Scribd and Smashwords faced off with a business journalist and the head of a global ebook distributor on this very question, the skeptics carried the day, convincing a greater share of the audience that the potential costs to publishers, authors and readers outweighed the potential benefits. Even though the majority of attendees continued to feel optimistically about the place of ebook subscription services in the world of publishing — as do the publishers BISG surveyed — the fact that such caution remains in ample supply suggests that an industry-wide embrace of subscription ebooks is still far from certain. 
While it may not have impacted the results, it’s important to mention that the BISG survey was sponsored by ebook subscription providers Safari and Scribd, among others. Learn more about the report and purchase it here. 
See the original post HERE

Interesting stuff. Terrifying stuff. But interesting...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bilbo Baggins Gets a "Makeover"

I've never been one to really pay much attention to the sex of a character, unless it's super relevant to a storyline. A character's gender is a different story, of course, as that is typically apparent in the first few pages of meeting him or her.

However, there are some rare cases where a character is quite gender neutral, the only indication of his or her sex being the pronouns that are used. Sometimes it just doesn't matter if a character is male or female. A woman in Colorado proved this point when her daughter insisted that The Hobbit's Bilbo Baggins was a girl. 



A Mighty Girl has the scoop:
Michelle Nijhuis ran into an unexpected challenge when reading her 5-year-old daughter “The Hobbit”: “My five-year-old insists that Bilbo Baggins is a girl.” So what did she do? She had the simple realization that “it’s just a pronoun. My daughter wants Bilbo to be a girl, so a girl she will be.” 
Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that: “The first time she made this claim, I protested. Part of the fun of reading to your kids, after all, is in sharing the stories you loved as a child. And in the story I knew, Bilbo was a boy.” But when her daughter persisted, insisting that she “start reading the book the right way,” Nijhuis’ reservations quickly fell away: “The switch was easy. Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender -- and neither does anyone else.” 
The gender disparity in children’s literature remains high -- according to a 2011 study of 6,000 children's books, only 31 percent had central female characters. And, as Nijhuis points out, “more insidiously, children’s books with girl protagonists sometimes celebrate their heroines to a fault. Isn’t it amazing that a girl did these things, they seem to say -- implying that these heroines are a freakish exception to their gender, not an inspiration for readers to follow.” 
Emboldened by the success of the swap with Bilbo, Nijhuis tried the same technique with some of her other children’s favorites: “In The Secret Garden, Dickon, the animal-loving adventurer who rescues Mistress Mary, became Mary’s best friend Diana. In the Finn Family Moomintroll books, the Snork Maiden and her brother the Snork traded genders... Friends tell me they pull similar tricks while reading to their sons and daughters: Women who farm become not ‘farmer’s wives’ but ‘farmers.’ Boy animal characters become girls, and vice versa.” 
Nijhuis encourages parents to test this trick out, so both daughters and sons “get to hear about a world as full of women as the real one -- and as free of stereotypes as we’d like ours to be. Kidlit may be catching up to our kids, but we don’t have to wait for it.” And she hopes that, “years from now, when [my daughter] has a chance to take her own unexpected journey, she’ll remember the story of Bilbo -- and be a little more inclined to say yes.” 
You can read more about Nijhuis’ experience gender-swapping classic literature on her blog at http://bit.ly/1dreLAD and check out her new article on updating classics for our times at http://bit.ly/1mYgg1c  
A Mighty Girl was founded to provide parents, educators, and young readers with a resource to help them find high-quality books starring smart, confident, and courageous Mighty Girls! If you mouse over “Books” on our main menu bar, you can open our book menu and quickly be able to find girl-empowering stories for children and teens that encourage almost any interest, or you can browse our entire book collection of over 2,000 titles athttp://www.amightygirl.com/books 
If you like the idea of giving classic stories a girl-empowering twist, you might want to start with our selection of over 150 fairy tales and folk tales, each featuring a Mighty Girl at the heart of the action, at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/fairy-tales-folktales 

See the original post HERE (FB post dated 7/21/14)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Famous Non-Mystery Literary Characters Turn Sleuth

I've always enjoyed a good mystery novel. When done right, it can keep you on the edge of your seat, keep you guessing and exercising that good ole brain. So I was intrigued to learn of some upcoming books that feature famous literary characters.

Now, I struggle sometimes with books that use either real people from the past as fictional characters or characters that have been pried away from their actual creators. It can feel a little disingenuous or unoriginal, if not done perfectly (Think of the film Midnight in Paris. Nailed it.), but nonetheless this list from the Toast is an interesting one:
I recently stumbled upon a new novel – the first of a projected series – starring Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. Solving murders. Here are some other upcoming releases featuring famous literary heroes and heroines.  
1. The Hunny Killer, featuring Rabbit (from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh novels.) A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre wood may be a symbol for enduring childlike innocence, but we all knew it had to have a darker side. When Owl is found strangled in his tree, Rabbit discovers that what he thought was his peaceful, close-knit community is actually a hotbed of crime and perversion. We’ve always known Tigger was a speed addict, but have we ever asked ourselves who his dealer is? The answer may shock you. But Rabbit’s own demons may get in the way of his quest to bring Owl’s killer to justice when Kanga starts to blackmail him about their illicit affair. 
2. Charlotte Bartlett and the Mystery of the Slightly but Unacceptably Delayed Train, featuring Charlotte Bartlett (from E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View.) This demure, rather sour Edwardian lady finds crime in the unlikeliest of places! In between glowering disapproval at all and sundry and cockblocking Lucy Honeychurch, Miss Bartlett finds plenty of time to solve mysteries. Perfect for Downton Abbey aficionados, the Charlotte Bartlett mysteries will explore the seedier side of genteel British life – the indomitable Charlotte can investigate bamboozled dowagers, jilted parlormaids, and the appalling crime of crumpet theft, with her unmatched censorious flair.
3. Stranger Danger, featuring Meursault (from Albert Camus’s L’√Čtranger.) Imprisoned after committing a senseless murder, Camus’s disaffected hero grasps the meaningless of a random universe – and his unemotional outlook gives him a unique insight into murder. After his execution is stayed when Meursault successfully solves the unexplained death of a fellow inmate, he becomes a highly sought-after consultant to the colonial police force in Algeria. 
4. The Hell Jar, featuring Esther Greenwood (from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.) Who, in their difficult teenage years, didn’t relate to Plath’s angst-ridden, tortured heroine? But maybe all Esther needs is a little purpose and mental stimulation, and what is more purposeful and stimulating than solving a juicy murder? Esther’s first adventure happens during her stay in the mental hospital, when a fellow patient is drowned in his bath. Esther’s keen mind zeroes in on the most likely suspects. Her brassy friend Doreen proves a worthy Watson, and soon Esther’s blues are dispelled in the thrill of hunting a ruthless killer.  
5. Get Death to a Nunnery, featuring Hamlet (from Shakespare’s Hamlet.) What if Hamlet didn’t die? That’s the question this edgy historical series poses. Revived moments after curtain fall, Hamlet suddenly finds himself king. Yet, ennui sets in as he ponders endlessly which nation to enter into an alliance with and which advisor to promote. When the ghost of his father returns with new revelations, Hamlet finds himself drawn into yet another murder, this one in a convent. He doesn’t want to get involved, yet when a troubled young novice asks him for help, he is irresistibly reminded of his lost love Ophelia. 
6. Bump the Hostess, featuring George and Martha (from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) Albee’s famous couple is set to join the ranks of our most memorable crime-solving spouses, from Tommy and Tuppence to Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. When a fellow professor is strangled after being invited to one of their drinks parties, George and Martha find themselves prime suspects in a murder investigation. Could they have killed to conceal their terrible secret? Eager to clear their names, George and Martha find themselves embroiled in a web of deceit and hate.  
See the original post HERE

I've gotta say, it is likely I will snag a copy of The Hell Jar, and re-read The Bell Jar before cracking the new book's spine. The Hunny Killer I might check out, too, just for kicks. ;)

Ah, the intrigue!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Grammar Is For Musicians, Too

Ahh, Weird Al. You have always had a special place in my heart. You even were there for my brother on his wedding day when his groomsman walked into the reception to "White and Nerdy." And now, you are here for me and my editing career with your newest parody, "Word Crimes."

Much love to ya, buddy.

GalleyCat gives us the official scoop:
What are your grammar pet peeves? Grammy Award-winning musician and picture book author Weird Al Yankovic has released a new music video for his song “Word Crimes” (a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”). 
The video (embedded above), the second of eight being released from July 14th to July 21st, was unleashed earlier this afternoon and has already attracted more than 7,900 “thumbs ups” on YouTube. An announcement on Facebook has drawn more than 11,000 “likes.” 
In an interview with NPR, Yankovic explained that he wrote this parody partly because of his personal obsession with grammar. The song itself discusses conjugation, contractions, spelling, homophones, proper word usage, and more. It can be found on Yankovic’s 14th studio album, “Mandatory Fun.” Follow this link to check out the lyrics. 
See the original post HERE


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BFF LG McCann's Debut Novel is ON SALE NOW!!

Today is a very exciting and special day.

You may remember LG McCann as one of RBtL's guest bloggers, but today, one of my favorite BFFs is officially a published author. Her debut novel, The Other Side of Gemini, hit the virtual shelves this morning from Soul Mate Publishing!

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


And I couldn't be prouder of her. I remember working with her at the very start as she brainstormed and created these characters and let them grow before our eyes, evolving from characters into people with real meat to them. I remember reading the first draft once LG got their stories on the page and giving edits and advice, then watching as she revised and continued to fight for Sylvia and Lindsay, to make them and their stories the best that they could be.

This is truly a wonderful accomplishment, and I'm so excited that she's able to share The Other Side of Gemini with the world. This women's fiction novel is a lesson in dichotomy--not only is it fun yet powerful, but it shows how fear can spring hope, how two opposites can become stronger when combined, and of course, how life can change in the blink of an eye. 


Sylvia Miloche is a successful book editor by day, D-list party girl by night, and has been dating New York City’s favorite playboy James Ryan for five years. But things are far from perfect. When the New York Post catches James with an intern, Sylvia’s already precarious life comes crashing down. 
Lindsay Sekulich is a high school science teacher, wife, and mother of three in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. Her high school reunion is quickly approaching and that means the secrets of her bad-girl past, all of which she’s kept hidden from her husband, could come spilling out, revealing who she once was and the horrible things she’s done. 
When Sylvia emerges in Scottsdale, seeking refuge in her hometown from the relentless gossip blogs, Lindsay finds herself alternately elated and terrified. The two were inseparable as teens, but a tragedy just before their senior year tore them apart. Sylvia, once a carefree, joyful girl always up for adventure, is a beaten down and broken adult. Now Lindsay must make a choice: rescue the friend who saved her in high school, or keep it all hidden to save her marriage from almost certain destruction. 
Anything goes–and everything does–in this story of New York gossip and suburban oppression, a tale of sex, secrets, rebellion, and how your true soul mate isn’t necessarily the love of your life.

Make sure to get a hold of a copy now from Amazon.com for only $2.99! And if you don't believe me that this book is a must-read, just look: Gemini has already received amazing praise from a  number of established authors!

"The Other Side of Gemini is a surprise in all the best ways. I loved both main characters, even through their mistakes and hitting rock bottom, and the realism with which McCann portrays them is striking and honest. Most of all I love the clear idea that, no matter who we have been, what we have lost, or where we think we're headed, the only truth in life is that there is no end to any story." 
 –USA Today bestselling author Lyla Payne
"With humor, heart, and some unexpected twists, The Other Side of Gemini is great for anyone who ever mourned an old friendship or wished they could bury the past. Weaving easily between different time periods and points of view, McCann tells the story of two estranged friends who reunite just when they need each other the most. While they start off weak and disillusioned, these women grow and strengthen as the story evolves–which is a pleasure to watch. A wonderful debut! I'm eager to see what McCann does next!" 
 –Laura Kenyon, author of Desperately Ever After 
"The Other Side of Gemini ensnares you from page one, and with provocative wit and perceptive insights into human nature, a sympathetic portrait emerges of two friends who reconnect by virtue of each one’s personal demons – and take you on a wild ride that crosses the country. Bravo LG McCann."  
–Karen Kelly, karenkellywriter.com 
"LG McCann’s debut novel, The Other Side of Gemini, is a road trip to places everybody fears and all too many go. Its ... sharp dialogue and characters’ revelations carry the reader through a journey that rises from the bashes of female insecurity and confusion to vistas of empowerment." 
Dawn Shamp, author of On Account of Conspicuous Women 
"Past and present have a head-on collision in this bright and breezy debut by LG McCann. Dumped by her Wall Street baron boyfriend and pilloried by every tabloid in town, Sylvia Miloche is forced to return home to Scottsdale, Arizona where she must confront Lindsay Richardson, the friend she left behind. McCann deftly explores the relationship between the two women and demonstrates how the bonds of true friendship may be stretched and strained—but are never fully broken."  
Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of Two of a Kind

Congratulations, LG! 

Enjoy every moment of your first of what is sure to be many release days!

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Reading Tech for the Vision Impaired

It's always nice to end the "work week" on a good note. And today, while skimming all my publishing emails and basic new sources, I stumbled across one particular topic three times: MIT has created a prototype for the aptly named FingerReader,meant to aid the blind in reading in such a vision-centric world as ours.

The Associated Press tells us more:
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an affordable finger reader for people whose vision is impaired. 
The prototype FingerReader fits like a ring on a user's index finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. Special software processes scanned words and a synthesized voice immediately reads the text aloud. 
Reading is as easy as pointing a finger at the text. The device also has vibration motors and other cues to help users read in a straight line. 
MIT Media Lab researchers say the device can read books, restaurant menus, business cards and other texts. 
Jerry Berrier, who is blind, has tested the FingerReader. He says it will help people with visual impairment get immediate access to texts and live fuller, richer, more productive lives. 
See the post on US News and World Report HERE

See how it works:


Very, very cool.