Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hotel Abandons Bibles in Guest Rooms for Something More...Fun

Whenever I travel and stay at a hotel, I always look to see if there is a Bible in the room. Not because I actually want to read it but because I just want to know if it is there.

In a country that claims religious freedom, it bothers me tremendously that so many hotels still employ such a practice. If you really want to be nondiscriminatory, you'd need to have every religious text in the room, not just that of a single sect. Or even better, don't put any in there. If people feel strongly that they require a Bible on a trip, they should bring one with them.

Alas, it is not a perfect world.

One hotel owner in England, however, is trying to make it closer to perfect by swapping out every Bible in his hotel for....50 Shades of  Grey, according to Overhead Bin on

Bibles in nightstands are a familiar amenity for hotel guests, but travelers seeking to read their favorite verse at one establishment will be in for a big surprise.

The Damson Dene Hotel, which touts itself as the perfect destination for a “peaceful break away from it all” in England’s picturesque Lake District, is making quite a noise for replacing the Bible with “Fifty Shades of Grey” in its 40 guest rooms.

The steamy novel — part of a trilogy by author E.L. James — has become a worldwide blockbuster thanks in large part to the graphic sex scenes that have its main characters engaging in bondage, sadomasochism and other exploits.

Damson Dene owner Jonathan Denby, who bought the hotel from a Methodist group 10 years ago, said he had been pondering for a long time what to do with the Gideons Bibles that had been placed in the rooms by the previous proprietors.

He decided that in a modern secular society it was “wholly inappropriate” to keep a religious book in people’s private bedrooms, so the search was on for a replacement.

“I was thinking originally of putting in a book by Ayn Rand — ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was my first thought,” Denby told NBC News.

“(But) because everybody is reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ we thought it would be a hospitable thing to do, to have this available for our guests, especially if some of them were a little bit shy about buying it because of its reputation.”

The choice to offer “Fifty Shades of Grey” was done purely for fun and just because the novel is so popular, not for any deep philosophical reason, Denby added, noting that he himself has not read the book.

The switch was made earlier this month, prompting cheers, jeers and lots of media attention.

Not surprisingly, the local vicar has been an outspoken critic. The Rev. Michael Woodcock — the parish priest at St. Mary’s Church in Crosthwaite, where the hotel is located — declined to comment for this article, but he told British media that the hotel’s decision is just a gimmick.

“It is a great shame that Bibles have been removed from rooms and very inappropriate to have been replaced by an explicit erotic novel,” Woodcock told The Westmorland Gazette.

“The Bible remains a source of comfort and inspiration that many people do find helpful.”

The hotel has also received plenty of public feedback criticizing the move, most of it from the United States, Denby noted. The Gideons Bible isn’t as common in England as it is in the U.S., he added.

“People in the States feel much more strongly,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few e-mails quoting the scriptures to us and suggesting that it would be a good thing to put the Bible back.”

Still, most guests “have loved” discovering “Fifty Shades of Grey” in their rooms, Denby said. The hotel is also accommodating those who want to read the Bible, updating its guest handbooks to let travelers know that copies are available at the reception desk.

“We’re not disposing of the books. We’re keeping them and if people want to borrow them, then they’re very welcome to,” Denby said.

Read the original post HERE

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Release: WHISPERS IN AUTUMN by Trisha Leigh

Every so often a story comes around that you just fall in love with. It's become rarer and rarer for me these days, though, and I'm not entirely sure why. But not too long ago, I was able to feel that feeling again. And lucky for me, the author wanted me to edit the book and the others in the series. I was thrilled that she wanted me to be a part of it! "Yay," I squealed!

On now the first book in the series, Whispers in Autumn by Trisha Leigh, has hit the virtual shelves:

In 2015, a race of alien Others conquered Earth. They enslaved humanity not by force, but through an aggressive mind control that turned people into contented, unquestioning robots.

Except sixteen-year-old Althea isn’t content at all, and she doesn’t need the mysterious note inside her locket to tell her she’s Something Else. It also warns her to trust no one, so she hides the pieces that make her different, even though it means being alone.

The autumn she meets Lucas, everything changes.

Althea and Lucas are immune to the alien mind control, and together they search for the reason why. What they uncover is a stunning truth the Others never anticipated, one with the potential to free the brainwashed human race.

It’s not who they are that makes them special, but what.

And what they are is a threat. One the Others are determined to eliminate for good.

It's been fantastic working with Trisha the past few months to hone and polish her already awesome book. I'm excited to see what she has in store for us next...

So, if you're looking for a fun YA read, order yourself a copy and enjoy! :)

You can find a print edition of Whispers in Autumn on Electronic versions are available on Kindle, NookKobo, and iBooks.

You can even order an autographed copy from Trisha herself via her website.

Congratulations on the release, Trisha!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Books and Dating

On the bookshelf across the room right now I can see a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dating. No, I am not in my apartment, but yes, I am curious about what is inside the pages. Even just seeing a book about dating reminds reminds me how perpetually intertwined books and dating are in my life, though it took me a long time to realize it.

I'd always told myself I didn't need someone to share my deep love of reading, that differences are intriguing and compelling. And while I still believe the latter, I've realized that I can't date someone who doesn't enjoy reading. They don't have to like the same books as me, but they need to understand what's so special about reading and respect and appreciate it to a decent extent. Otherwise, they won't understand a huge part of who I am.

The Huffington Post tackled a similar subject in its Books section last week, but with a bit of a silly flair to it: 9 Books That Make You Undateable.

Yes, that's right.

They picked out nine books that should make you head for the hills if your date describes one of them as his or her "favorite" (and HuffPo tells you why).

While I don't necessarily agree with the reality of this concept, it certainly got me thinking (and chuckling):

There's a lot of red tape to cut through before completely committing to a relationship: There's the ex talk, the meeting of the parents, and if you're a literature nerd there's the unavoidable conversation about your respective favorite books.

We hold our breath and hope for Woolf or Wharton or Waugh--anything but Rand!--because a person's favorite book is like a family member or a mantra. It's an essential component of their life and can paint a pretty clear picture of their character.

A Jane Austen girl might be lovably fiery, if a bit traditional, and a Christopher Hitchens guy could play devil's advocate over issues both large and trivial (he may also live a double life as a compulsive Internet commenter).

Ryan Britt says in an article for GOOD Magazine's "Dealbreaker" series that a date reading the wrong kind of books, or reading for the wrong reasons, is a deal breaker. In Britt's case, his beaux read solely to seem objectively smart, and never to enjoy the plot or language. He writes:
“What’s your favorite book?” I asked. “I mean, of all time. Any subject. Favorite book. Go.” 
Without hesitation, she said: “1984,” then quickly, “by George Orwell.”
I suppose she didn’t want me to confuse it with the Danielle Steele version. I was irritated. 1984? What a drag. Sure, it’s iconic. But the characters are thin, and if you really want to read some Orwell, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" is his better work, and—but I didn’t say any of these things. I could get over this. I could get over 1984 being her favorite book. I could get over all of her ignorant claims about just shooting off a book, an important one. I could maybe even be supportive and helpful in this endeavor. There was just one thing I needed to know.
“When is the last time you read it?” I asked. I was 28 years old. She was 32.
She blinked and said, “I don’t know. High school.”
And just like that, it was over.
 Harsh? Capricious? We don't think so. Here are nine other books that merit praise, but if your significant other cites them as numero uno, we'd proceed with caution:
"A Confederacy of Dunces" -- Quoted by do-nothings everywhere.

"On the Road" -- Spontaneous, maybe, and a helluva romantic, but if you're looking for commitment, your "On the Road" lover will likely be too busy burn, burn, burning and "explod[ing] like spiders across the stars" to, you know, pay rent.

"The Silmarillion" -- It's probably a red flag if your beaux enjoys LOTR minutiae more than the stories themselves, which are conversely awesome.

"The Orestaia" -- Unless, of course, you're into the whole fatal revenge thing.  

"The Great Gatsby" -- Your Gatsby-loving partner may seem endearingly romantic at first, but the clinginess and the fact that their entire identity was constructed for your benefit may get to you.

"On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" -- Your Nietzsche lover may insist that fidelity is a metaphorical concept that does not correspond to reality.

"A Lover's Discourse" -- Madeleine from "The Marriage Plot" learned the consequences of this book the hard way, when longtime boyfriend Leonard said to declare love is to undermine it.

"Anna Karenina" -- Somebody needs to lighten up.

"Atlas Shrugged" -- Enough said.

See the rest of the  original post HERE
P.S. An ex of mine's favorite book was totally The Silmarillion. But he and I are still great friends, so he can't  be all that bad! :-p

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hemingway Look-alike Contest Rocks My Socks

If you live in South Florida, do I have the literary event for you!

Sloppy Joe's 32nd Annual Papa Look-alike Contest in Key West!

Who is "Papa," you ask?

Why, Ernest Hemingway, of course! 
Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West will host its 32nd Annual Hemingway Look-Alike contest July 19-21, 2012. The contest is one of many events in Key West to celebrate the birthday of Ernest Hemingway and honor his work as author and sportsman.

The competition starts with the first preliminary round on Thursday, July 19, second preliminary round on Friday, July 20, and finals on Saturday, July 21.

From each preliminary round finalists are chosen. Last year's competition had 121 Look-Alikes taking the stage with 12 contestants from Thursday night preliminary and 15 from Friday night preliminary going on to the final round.

Look-Alikes are everywhere, it's a load of fun! Come early, get a good seat and watch the competition.
After the finals, the party spills over into the streets, where the Street Fair on Duval continues with food, drinks, entertainment and fun for everyone!

The infamous Hemingway Look-Alike Society invites you to join the Society. They will be at Sloppy Joe's to sign-up new members. 
 See more details from Sloppy Joe's website HERE

Now that you know what it's all about, you may be wondering about previous winners...

Please do marvel at these findings:

Man, do I wish I were in Key West.

This is fabulous. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Long Live the Scholastic Book Fair

Growing, up, my favorite time of the school year was when the Scholastic Book Fair came to town. I would spend every minute I was allowed over in the library, combing over the little metal shelves for the books I had circled in the newsletter (usually almost all of them). I even loved just looking at the newsletter that came every month. It was a rarity that I could convince my mom to let my buy anything from the catalog, but I would certainly gaze at them longingly. And then take a massive trip to the library to get a stack of books to borrow.

The Scholastic Book Fair was such a big part of my educational culture, and I'm not sure if I would've been so gung-ho about reading if I hadn't had the opportunity to be introduced to new books every month through the Scholastic program. It was part of how I learned what I love to read. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear that the program is still going strong, even in this new, digitally focused market. The Wall Street Journal has the scoop:

When Scholastic Corp. looks to promote new children's books, instead of pouring money into a traditional advertising campaign, the publisher uses a highly localized strategy: neighborhood schools.

Alan Boyko, president of Scholastic Book Fairs, said the events are critical for authors and publishers, as many popular series—including "Goosebumps," "The Baby-sitter's Club" and "Captain Underpants"—are often first discovered by young readers at school book fairs.
Scholastic, which sells its own books as well as those offered by other publishers, says publishers are keen to see early demand trends for new books that are hitting the market. The company, which runs 128,000 book fairs across the country annually and continues to add new events, is due to report fiscal fourth-quarter results on Thursday.
The company's book fair business has been relatively resilient in a time when many brick-and-mortar book stores are closing. Scholastic reported book fair revenue grew 3% to $288.1 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year ended Feb. 29. From 2007 to 2011, the unit's sales jumped 10%.
Craig Hatkoff is one author who keeps the importance of book fairs in mind before crafting his nonfiction children's picture books. He collaborates with Scholastic and the fairs to make sure there is interest in the real-life stories he writes about, which focus on animals overcoming adversity.
"The sales force are your partners who are going to get the book into the schools and get essential distribution to kids," Mr. Hatkoff said.
Though Mr. Hatkoff is an established author, Scholastic sought to leverage the company's own book fairs as a way to promote his latest title, "Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again." Scholastic contends word-of-mouth recommendations of new books at a fair can be a great marketing tool, as many children's books aren't advertised.
Mr. Hatkoff, who coauthors books with his daughters Isabella and Juliana, gave a presentation for "Winter" to Scholastic's sales force in Florida just before the book was published in 2009. Scholastic says as a result of that effort, the title sold exceptionally well in that market.
Al Greco, a professor at Fordham University and a book publishing industry expert, said industry data shows the number of U.S. books stores and outlets shrank 32% over an eight-year period, with 16,968 locations as of 2010.
Mr. Greco said though Scholastic's book fair business has been bolstered of late by popular series including "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight," there are some threats.
Rising transportation and delivery costs can eat into the unit's profit, and Mr. Greco said independent book sellers and Barnes & Noble Inc. BKS +1.18% have moved into the space. He said increased public-school access to computers and iPads could dent revenue.
"As book stores continue to close and consumers show an interest in buying digital books and books online, I think the book fair business will lose its traction, which will have a great impact on Scholastic," Mr. Greco said.
Scholastic has sought to address the e-book market by launching an e-reading application called Storia. While the digitalization of picture books and young-adult books is occurring at a slower pace than books for adults, Mr. Greco said e-readers will continue to permeate the younger market.
Signs promoting Storia could be seen at a recent book fair at the Nest, a K-12 school in Manhattan. The school's Parent Teachers Association hosts a Scholastic book fair twice a year, an event parents and educators praised.
Anita Leone, a parent volunteer who runs the event at the Nest, said the fair was highly popular as parents also purchased books to add to classroom libraries.
Bellamy Richardson, a fifth-grade student at the school with a copy of Alyson Noel's "Radiance" in her hands, said she always bought books at the fair.
"I like that I can come here at school, I don't have to go to a Barnes & Noble, and there are so many books and I can talk to my friends about it," Bellamy said.
Bellamy is the ideal customer. She says reading is her favorite hobby.
Read the original article HERE

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Lesson in Life...and Publishing

Not always what they seem to be...
I was emailing last night with a new friend of mine in Alaska and telling him a bit about New York City. I told him stories of subway antics, dating woes, the works, and it reminded me that even people you think you know are not always what they seem. This is, of course, something I know very well--we all do--but a little remembering can't hurt when you're out there in the wild, wild world.

Given that, the article I read this morning on was very fitting. A story of a new author whose first agent turned out to be more than just a "hack":

Some people say life imitates art. Other people say art imitates life.
Here's a true story that clearly supports the "life imitates art" argument, and when it does, life can turn out stranger than the art it set out to imitate in the first place.
It goes like this: At the turn of the century I wrote the first draft of Hack, a novel which, after 12 years and several close calls has just been published by Harper Davis Publishers. In it, the protagonist fakes his own death and returns under a new identity to bilk fat sums of dough from greedy rich guys.
Hold that thought.
I signed on with my first literary agent, Melanie Mills of North Myrtle Beach, SC, on August 26 2002.
Dear Mr. Harrison: 
I have reviewed your work titled "Hack" and have reached a positive evaluation of the property. I feel this property could have a great market appeal and if you choose I would like to market this book for you.
A "positive evaluation of the property"? Hallelujah!
I worked on the manuscript through the winter and in the spring we submitted and got four "good" rejections. Melanie was encouraged: all four editors agreed Hack was a riveting story with quirky characters, but the premise was too far fetched to be believable.
Then it was Spring Break, and by chance I found an almost-free timeshare in Myrtle Beach, which in April promised family fun and a face-to-face meeting with my agent.
And so I went to meet Melanie Mills. Beyond the paved roads and onto rutted single tracks snaking between shacks on stilts crammed together, I found her: a tiny elf-like being, hunched over the deck railing of her falling-down shack. She was scraping at some old paint, a cig dangling from her lips, and a blonde wig, teased and blown into a platinum rat's nest, resting atop her pointy little head.
We sat on her deck overlooking the slough. She talked while I noticed that it smelled more like the county dump than the salty seashore. She showed me the handful of rejection letters as she pounded back Dr. Peppers, puffed on pack after pack of Dorals, and drawled like John Wayne on Dilaudid.
She even explained that her great legs (she stood up to show me) were due to six-miles-a-day beach walks. She also mentioned that she was hosting a writers' conference during a Harley rally in Myrtle Beach the following month, and another in the fall in Banff Lake Louise.
At her suggestion, when I got back to Fairfield County I made some broad brush changes to the manuscript, such as making the female protagonist "less of a bitch" (Melanie's words) and sent it back to her. Her assistant, Kat Baker told me that Melanie was traveling in Germany. I waited three weeks, and when I didn't hear from her, I contacted her office again. I received this email in reply:
Last week, during her trip to Europe due to a death in the family, Melanie Mills had a fatal car accident. Therefore, all submission to publishers have been retracted, all events cancelled, and all existing publishing contracts have been reverted over to the individual authors. I'm very sorry. This has been, and still is, a very emotional time for her entire family and friends, 
Good luck to all of you,
Kat Baker
Assistant to Melanie Mills
Never mind that she looked like Dobby with a fright wig and sounded like The Duke, I had sipped 7Up at her table in Myrtle Beach. We shared laughs. And we had talked about Hack, my story of faked death and identity fraud.
So, when I heard this news, I felt as if someone had kicked me in the crotch. I couldn't breath; I lost the feeling in my hands. And I bemoaned my bad luck. Now what was I going to do? My literary agent was dead!
I began scouting for a new agent. I didn't think it would be too hard -- "Hey, my agent died, would you mind reading a few chapters of the novel she was representing?"
I was right. I had many tire kickers right away, and by the following spring a new agent with a whole notebook full of new ideas for Hack. But somewhere along the line, someone suggested I look at the website "Writer Beware". And it was here that I discovered what really happened to Melanie Mills.
She didn't die in a car wreck in Germany. Not only did I learn that my former agent was still quite alive, but that she had roughly 15 aliases and that she was wanted for real estate fraud across the southern part of the United States, including, of course, Myrtle Beach.
She was also wanted for the attempted murder of her own mother who she pinned to a cement table with her car, crushing her pelvis.
Oddly enough, she had also published "a mystery novel under the pseudonym L.R. Thomas.
Her pitch letter to publishers began: "What would you do when your mother, who leads you to believe she had died, shows up months later and tries to kill you?"
Melanie Mills obviously had a thing for resurrection.
So how did she finally get caught? As it turns out, before she "died" she did organize that writers' conference in Banff Lake Louise, that she'd mentioned when I met with her. Ironically, she did not encourage me to register, supposedly because I already had an agent (her).
The conference advertised big name authors, publishers, and agents, all drooling to make a six-figure deal. She organized and published the schedule on a dedicated website, advertised on all the sites where unpublished writers troll for agents, deployed a reservation system and started collecting money.
After defrauding writers of the fees for the conference, she took off for Germany and was killed, unrecognizably mangled in a bloody wreck. Of course the planned conference attendees, upset though they were by her death, wanted their money back. But when the authorities went looking, they found not a trace -- no bank accounts, no real estate, nothing to indicate that she had ever existed.
And in Arkansas and Myrtle Beach, where she was wanted for real estate fraud and attempted murder, more authorities started to follow the her trail. With the help of Writer Beware, they made the connection between various aliases and found her. Last I heard, she has yet to be extradited to Arkansas to face attempted murder and fraud charges, and a judge had declared her unfit for trial: She'd shed her orange jumpsuit in the courtroom and was commando underneath, leading to a diagnosis of acute schizophrenia. I suppose she won't be doing any Martha Stewart-style hard time soon.
So we've got life imitating art all over the place here, and yet, Melanie Mills never charged me a nickel for her services. Usually literary agent con artists charge a reading fee, an editing fee, a submission fee and then they don't shop your book. I guess Melanie Mills was ever the anomaly, or perhaps playing legit with me was her way of thanking me for giving her the idea for her biggest con.
I will probably go to my grave wondering if Hack's fake death, and his return as a swingin', Harley-ridin', Mexican with a ponytail and pencil-thin mustache, along with his plan to rip off as many people as possible, got Melanie Mills thinking -- maybe such a plot isn't so far-fetched after all? I guess she found out.

Read the original post HERE

Eyes open, friends. Do your homework. Be careful and look out for yourself in all areas of your life!

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Old College Spot--Trident Booksellers & Cafe--Expanding

When I went to college in Boston, you could often find me in one of three places: Boston Billiards, Jamba Juice in the student union, or Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury Street.

My friend Jasmine and I would sit in the back corner of the cafe with our books, studying and chatting, chowing down on homemade pasta dishes and berry cobbler and sipping delicious herbal teas. There was also a teeny tiny little mouse we'd spot occasionally. He wasn't a gross mouse, surprisingly--not like the one that lives behind my kitchen cabinet and won't fall for my traps *shudder*--he was actually quite cute. I named him Hermon. Anyway, when I needed a break from my studies (or from writing an angry email to an ex/boyfriend, which happened twice at that back booth) I would comb the stacks of the bookstore, looking for  nothing in particular, just enjoying the shelves and the bindings they held.

So, when I saw Trident in a headline on Publishers Marketplace today (catching up on my publishing news!), I was terrified that the shop was closing its doors. I was ready to cry. But upon reading the entire headline, I was happy to find that it is, in fact, doing the opposite--the store is expanding, according to the Boston Herald:

Boston’s last independent new bookseller is growing at a time when other neighborhood bookstores and even large chains have succumbed to online book sales and e-readers.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe, an eclectic fixture on Newbury Street since 1984, will be 50 percent larger when it spreads out into the second floor of its Back Bay building by September.

“We just want to expand seating, expand retail — just make everything bigger here,” said manager Courtney Flynn, daughter of founders Bernie and Gail Flynn. “We’re going to be moving sections around, expanding some book sections and also adding a lot of gifts and games.”

The Flynns settled on a bookstore-cafe back in ’84 because there were few places to sit down with a cup of coffee or linger over a conversation or book. And that combination has helped Trident withstand industry changes that have forced the likes of Borders out of business.

Trident’s expansion, which will add 1,500 square feet to its 3,000-square-foot operation, is fueled by a brisk weekend brunch business in its 80-seat cafe. New seats with a Newbury Street view, and a bar with beer and wine taps, will be added upstairs.

“Brunch, especially when the students are here, is very busy,” Courtney Flynn said. “We have long waits, and the whole store is packed, so we’re kind of aiming to relieve that.”

There’s a symbiotic relationship between the bookstore and cafe parts of Trident’s business. “We wouldn’t have one without the other. Books really create the atmosphere here ... and we do sell a fair amount,” Flynn said.

“It’s definitely a dying industry in a certain way, but there’s still a lot of people who enjoy reading real books instead of e-readers, and people who like to browse and discover something new,” she said. “Just touching new books and experiencing that is something we have to offer.”

Bookstores that serve as a broader destination seem to be faring well, said Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association in Cambridge.

“There’s a lot of stores ... across the country that would kill for room or a license to have a cafe or have a wine bar,” he said.

Still, Fischer views Trident more as a cafe that sells books. “If you go in, you don’t go, ‘Aha, what a great bookstore,’ ” he said.

James Hill, chairman of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, called Trident a “wonderful” neighborhood resource. “It’s great to see they’re surviving in the bookstore world,” he said.

Read the original article HERE

Next time I visit my old stomping ground, you know where to find me.