Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Clifford the Big Red Dog Creator, Norman Bridwell, Passes at 86

I don't know about y'all, but I always loved Clifford the Big Red Dog. He was awesome--the size of a house but the gentleness of a mouse! (Why, yes, I did just make that silly phrase up just now. :-p) The Clifford books were excellent books for me--and remain to be for others--to not only practice reading but to get me interested in the stories being told between the covers. That's why it saddens me today to hear that Norman Bridwell, the Clifford book illustrator and creator, has passed away at 86.

The Boston Globe posted a lovely article about Bridwell and his Clifford-driven endeavors online today:

To hear Norman Bridwell tell the story — and hundreds of millions of children around the world have read his tales for more than 50 years — Clifford the Big Red Dog almost never came to be. 
Mr. Bridwell was living in New York City in the early 1960s with his wife and their new baby, and money was short. He was working as a commercial artist when his wife, Norma, suggested he try his hand at illustrating children’s books. 
“I made some samples and took them to eight or 10 publishers and was rejected by every one,” he told the Globe in 2004. “One young editor said, ‘You’re not very good. No one’s going to buy your artwork. Why don’t you try a story, and if someone buys it, then you could do the art.’ She pointed to a sample painting, of a little girl and a big red dog, and said, ‘Maybe this could be a story.’ ” 
At home, he wrote the first Clifford story, making the title character even bigger. As for the dog’s color, “it was red because I happened to have red paint on the drawing table that night,” he said in 2004. 
After the manuscript sat for a while in the slush pile of one publisher, a freelance manuscript reader handed it off it to Scholastic books, which offered Mr. Bridwell a $1,000 advance for the story and $875 for the art. 
That first story grew into an empire of more than 150 titles, 129 million books in 13 languages, a popular PBS TV series, and an ever-expanding list of merchandise. Mr. Bridwell, so modest about his creation that he told the Globe he had “never been able to figure out why it was so popular,” died Friday in Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, after a fall in his Edgartown home, the Associated Press reported. He was 86. 
“A lot of people were Clifford fans, and that makes them Norman fans, too,” his wife told the AP. 
The late actor John Ritter lent his voice to the PBS “Clifford” series, which debuted in 2000. The Clifford character also has been featured in a movie, popup books, and coloring books, as plush toys and beverage napkins, in postcards and puzzles, and as dinnerware and underwear. 
The smallest in a litter of puppies, Clifford grows to more than 25 feet tall and is cared for by Emily Elizabeth, a character named for Mr. Bridwell’s daughter, who was an infant when he wrote the first book. The book version of Emily narrates the stories, in which she and Clifford go about rather ordinary family activities that are complicated by his size. 
“The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes,” Dick Robinson, chairman, president, and chief executive of Scholastic, said in the company’s statement announcing Mr. Bridwell’s death. “What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally.” 
Mr. Bridwell thought Clifford’s mistakes made him all the more appealing and hoped the books would help young readers become more forgiving. Though he brushed off suggestions that he based Clifford on himself, his wife thought otherwise. 
“He’s never been able to recognize that,” she said in an interview with the AP a few years ago. “Clifford tries to do the right thing, Norman tries to do the right thing, and he makes a mess of it. But he’s the most lovable grown-up man. He’s just a nice guy.” 
Their daughter, Emily Elizabeth Bridwell Merz of Carlisle, told the Globe in 2004 that “the whole spirit of Clifford is born out of my father’s sense of humor, which I always appreciated while growing up. To me, Clifford is sort of an extension of my Dad, and for that I have a great deal of love for the character.” 
Born in Kokomo, Ind., Mr. Bridwell took to drawing at an early age. 
“I was not good at sports and my high school shop teacher, after a few days of class, took my tools away, telling me, ‘Here’s a pad of paper instead. You seem to like to draw: stick to that,’ ” he said for his biography on the Scholastic website. 
Aspiring to be a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, he studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis before moving to New York City, where he took classes at Cooper Union. 
In New York, he met Norma Howard, who also was from Indiana, and they married. 
When Mr. Bridwell wrote the first Clifford story, he initially called the title character Tiny, a name his wife found too obvious for a 25-foot-tall dog. She suggested Clifford, “after an imaginary friend from her childhood,” Mr. Bridwell said in his Scholastic biography. 
Norma also bound the manuscript with a red gingham cover before they sent it to a publisher. 
“A lady called from Scholastic and said, ‘We have a book here called Clifford, and we’d like to publish it.’ I was completely stunned. It was a bad year, and we needed something. We had a new baby,” Mr. Bridwell recalled in 2004, adding that he “asked them, ‘If it doesn’t sell, do I have to give back the advance?’ ” 
He was so sure lightning might not strike twice that according to his Scholastic biography, he told his wife: “Now don’t count on there being any more. This one is just a fluke. I don’t know if there will ever be another one.’ ” 
Dozens of books and decades after that initial sale, Mr. Bridwell had not tired of finding new adventures for Clifford or of creating books for children. 
“I’m very thankful,” he said in the 2004 Globe interview. “I love the kids. You couldn’t think of a better audience to write for.” 
The Bridwell family moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1969, keeping a place on Beacon Hill as well. 
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Bridwell leaves a son, Timothy, and three grandchildren. Mr. Bridwell’s wife told the AP that a public service will be announced, probably next year. 
Scholastic announced that before his death, Mr. Bridwell completed two Clifford books that will be released in 2015: “Clifford Goes to Kindergarten” and “Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah.” 
When meeting with his young readers, Mr. Bridwell drew from his own experience of having manuscripts rejected to encourage children to persevere: “You might do a drawing today that you think is nice, and you show it to the other kids but they don’t like it, or the teacher won’t put it up. But don’t let that discourage you. That’s just today. You never know what you are going to do tomorrow.” 
Even after filling shelves around the world with Clifford books, Mr. Bridwell was matter-of-fact about how he wrote and illustrated each one. 
“A woman once asked me about my process in writing it,” he said in the 2004 Globe interview, “and I said, ‘No process at all. He just seems like the kind of dog it would be fun to own.’ ” 
Read the original piece HERE

Thank you, Mr. Bridwell for your inspiring tales and characters. Rest in peace. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

INSURGENT Trailer Released by Lionsgate

Oh man. Lionsgate Entertainment released the official Insurgent trailer today, and I cannot wait 'til this one hits theaters on March 20, 2015 (which is actually closer than it seems, and for once that thought is exciting! LOL).

Insurgent is the second installment of the Divergent series, and this sequel looks even more intense and action-packed than the first. Such a great series to be adapted for the silver screen!



Friday, December 5, 2014

Hmm...What to Do With Those Letters You Never Sent...

I recently found out that a dear friend of mine, Heather Winter, is working on a very cool nonfiction Letters I Never Sent will be a compilation of letters from people throughout the world, as well as from Heather herself, that were written in the heat of a moment, when wrapped up in the deepest emotions we possess as humans. Now this is a nonfiction book I can get behind for so many reasons.
book project. While I'm mostly a fiction gal, there are some NF titles that really speak to me and pull me in.

Heather and I met online in a Canadian Forces military wives and girlfriends chat room (it sounds random, I know, but I was once intending to marry a CF member LOL Oh life... How you change...), and we instantly hit it off. Years later we are still in touch, and hopefully we will soon meet in person for the very first time. *squee!*

Our friendship has always been filled with shared emotional experiences and helping one another not feel so alone. I was very lucky to have stumbled across her that day so long ago. And with her new project, people everywhere will be able to have that very same feeling, simply from reading a letter than someone wrote so purely from the heart and without censure.

She is currently collecting submissions to be included in the book on a variety of topics, so if you have a letter you'd like to contribute, please e-mail her. She would be thrilled to read your work. All letters will be anonymous unless otherwise requested.

Check out the project's website HERE and consider getting involved! Not only is it a great way to get your words out there and potentially support a stranger who is going through similar experiences as you have but it is sure to be an excellent study of human nature as a whole.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some Hunger Games Silliness

Hello, dear readers. I have returned! Well, sort of. I'll be in and out, as my recovery from spine surgery has been rougher than anticipated. :( But I thought I'd poke my head out this morning with something silly and Hunger Games related to bring us back full circle to when I went on hiatus.

What I'm about to show you is not a trailer. It is not an interview. Instead, it is a silly parody. Or three, to be exact. According to GalleyCat, the sketch comedy group Studio C has created three HG song parodies to help create buzz for the upcoming film release of Mockingjay: Part I.

First, we have my personal favorite..."Peeta's song."




Then of course, "Katniss' Song"... (I really want to correct that possessive soooo bad. *holds back editing fingers*)




And finally, "Gale's Song."





While all three of these parodies are funny in their own ways, I've got to say the I'm not a fan of "Gale's Song" really at all. I also won't lie--I didn't even listen to the whole thing. That might be because I don't really like Gale, but who knows. :-p 

The one about Katniss cracked me up at first, and I was like, Oooh this is going to be good, but then it bummed me out that Studio C only focused on the love triangle part of the character's journey. There is so much other stuff in there to play off, too! Though, maybe it's not kosher to parody children massacring one another... Hmmm... LOL 

"Peeta's Song," however, I adored. Everything about it made me laugh on a day where laughter was much needed. I hope these videos do the same for you!

What do YOU think of these videos? 

Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Official Trailer Released for Mockingjay Part I

How perfect that the day before I go in for spine surgery (I will be taking a hiatus from the blog for a couple of weeks, as a result, just FYI!) that I get to share something fun with y'all. The new MockingJay trailer!! Wooooo!!!!

Entertainment Weekly shares more:

A full trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 is finally here, and it offers a look at the war-torn land Panem has become as well as a poor, brainwashed Peeta, now acting as a mouthpiece for President Snow. 
In the trailer, Haymitch explains to Katniss that Peeta is the Capitol’s weapon, just like she is the rebels’. Katniss, however, uses Peeta’s plight as an ultimatum. “You will rescue Peeta at the earliest opportunity, or you will find another Mockingjay,” Katniss tells Julianne Moore’s President Alma Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee. 
The trailer also gives fleeting glimpses at characters old and new, including Natalie Dormer’s Cressida. Effie Trinket pins a mockingjay pendant on Katniss’s armor, Gale shows off his talent with a bow and arrow, and Finnick gives Katniss a worried glance. It all ends with Katniss shooting down a plane with her arrow. We’ve always known she has great aim.


See original post HERE

CANNOT WAIT.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Television's Most Famous Bully Pens Kids' Book on Bullying

It's no surprise that nearly three years ago Jane Lynch's memoir Happy Accidents hit the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists, among others. Her candid and surprisingly relatable story was one every Glee fan was dying to get their hands on (myself included. It was amazing, FYI. I listened on audiobook). 

Now, the comedic actress who plays television's most famous bully, Sue Sylvester, has written a children's book on bullying: Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean. (And yes, she did so after admitting that she herself was once a bully.)

I've gotta say, I'm pretty excited to take a look at this one when it pubs later this month (9/23) from Random House Books for Young Readers. BuzzFeed tells us more:
In reality, Jane Lynch couldn’t be less like the character she plays on Glee. Sue Sylvestor is the oft mean-spirited high school cheerleading coach from hell. Lynch is a mild-mannered comedic actress and now, author. She did, however, spend some time as as a playground agitator as a child, which inspired her to write the children’s book Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean with consult from her then-spouse, psychologist Lara Embry. 
She and Embry were casually discussing their own childhoods when they came to the same observation about themselves as young girls. “We both admitted that we were kind of bullying. Especially when we were younger,” Lynch told BuzzFeed. Despite what their childhood behavior would suggest, both women admit they were actually just trying to make friends. “We found this the easiest way to do it because it works. Bullying works on a level. You get to be part of the group. The catch is, you’re never really equal. People are afraid of you. You inspire fear more than you inspire companionship.” 
The book is gorgeously illustrated by Tricia Tusa, and Lynch is excited to praise the vision of Marlene that Tusa brought to fruition. “We wanted her to look awkward. She has a bow that’s way too big for her head. She’s got freckles and long limbs and she’s just a goofy kid. [Tricia] nailed it.” 
In the book, the turning point for Marlene comes when another kid stands up to her. Big Freddy, another student, doesn’t challenge her to a fight or say mean things, he just points out what every other kid has failed to realized about her — she’s just not that scary. 
“There’s always one advanced soul,” Lynch says. “Just one of those kids who wants everyone to get along and has the wisdom of someone beyond their age. They can see into the heart of the person doing the bullying. ‘You’re not that mean and you’re not even that tall. Why don’t you just be friends with us?’ And it works.” 
After her confrontation with Big Freddy, Marlene attempts to change her behavior with other kids, and mostly succeeds. It’s acknowledged that there is some backsliding, but Lynch says that was absolutely intentional. “We’re not going to turn her into a cardboard cutout of the perfect child. She still makes mistakes, like we all do, and she has to re-learn the same lesson over and over again. But she’s had the big epiphany. And that’s the important thing.” 
In fact, Lynch believes that children who are bullies often show the signs of natural giftedness in leadership. She believes that while it’s important to correct the actions that victimize other children, it’s just as important to foster the awakening of something else in the child who bullies. There is a very positive trait — especially for girls — hidden beneath all of that overly aggressive demanding. 
“She is who she is. This is a little girl who is a bright light and is probably going to run a corporation someday,” Lynch said. “We don’t want to tell her that who she is at base is wrong. She has great leadership skills. Her natural gift is that she’s great at leading. She loves to be in an authority position. She just needed some redirection. Now, she’s just going to be a great boss who takes into consideration people’s individuality, and their feelings. But ultimately, she’s not going to change her stripes.” 
You can preorder Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean here. Available everywhere September 23rd! 
See the original post HERE

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Classic Novels Had Inspiration Too

One of the questions I always ask authors is what inspired them to write their novels. All stories come from something, whether its the seed of a character, a plot, a theme.

I often wonder this same thing when reading the classics, with unfortunately no way to get that extra insight, that authorial intent. (That said, while I find it intriguing to know authorial intent, it doesn't mean I read the book that way personally, and that's totally okay.) And now, HuffPo Books posted an article yesterday about some of the true stories behind some of the great novels. Maybe not "inspiration" per se, but this more than whets my appetite:

According to Jack London, "You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club." London himself took the inspiration for The Call of the Wild (1903) from his time spent living in Canada and Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush when high-quality sled dogs -- like those that feature in the book -- were in impossibly high demand. The stories and inspirations behind fifteen more of literature's most memorable titles are explained here:  
Anna Karenina (1877), Leo Tolstoy In January 1872, the death of a 35-year-old woman was reported in the Russian press: smartly dressed and carrying a bag containing a change of clothes, the girl had thrown herself under a freight train at Yasenki Station outside Moscow. The woman was identified as Anna Pirogova, a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy's wife and the mistress of his good friend and neighbour, Alexander Bibikov. It soon transpired that Alexander had told Anna that he planned to leave her and marry his son's new governess, and, unable to cope, she had left him a brief note -- "You are my murderer; be happy, if an assassin can be happy" -- and fled. Tolstoy himself attended Anna's post-mortem the following day, and by all accounts the sight of the unrecognisable body of a woman he had known so well stayed with him long afterwards, so that when he came to begin a new novel more than a year later he already had its tragic conclusion in mind. 
The Birds (1952), Daphne Du Maurier Dame Daphne Du Maurier is well known for having taken inspiration for some of her most celebrated works from her adopted home county of Cornwall in the far southwest of England. Jamaica Inn (1936) was inspired by an overnight stay at the real-life Jamaica Inn, an isolated 18th century pub on Bodmin Moor, in 1930. Frenchman's Creek (1941) was inspired by Readymoney Cove, where Du Maurier owned a holiday home on the coast. And the imposing Manderley estate in Rebecca (1938) was at least partly based on Menabilly, a grand country house that Du Maurier herself moved into in 1943. It was while at Menabilly that she saw a flock of seagulls following a plow at a nearby farm and was struck by a simple yet unnerving thought -- what would happen if the birds attacked? The resulting story, The Birds, first appeared in Du Maurier's collection The Apple Tree in 1952. 
Catch-22 (1961), Joseph Heller Joseph Heller joined the US Army Air Corps in 1942 at
the age of 19, and went on to take part in more than 50 European bombing raids before the end of the Second World War. His military service affected him greatly -- he became an angst-ridden chronic nail-biter, with a habit for screaming in his sleep -- and it took him another eight years to begin dealing with his experiences in writing. After a few dreary post-war years working as a copywriter, one afternoon in 1953 a line simply popped into Heller's head: "It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, Someone [he had yet to name Captain Yossarian] fell madly in love with him." Heller wrote the first twenty pages of what he presumed would merely be a short story over the next seven days, but it took him another eight years to complete what would eventually become Catch-22
Crime & Punishment (1866), Fyodor Dostoyevsky When he began writing it in the early 1860s, Dostoyevsky originally envisioned Crime & Punishment as a novella entitled "The Drunkard", in which he intended to explore the consequences of alcoholism on family life. That was until he discovered the writings of a French writer and murderer named Pierre Fran├žois Lacenaire, who had been executed in Paris in 1836 for the brutal killing of a young man and his mother. While in prison, Lacenaire had written essays and poems, met with journalists and researchers, given interviews, speeches and press conferences, volunteered for psychological studies, and even offered to have a life mask made of his face, all on an apparent quest to become an icon of social injustice and guarantee his notoriety endured long after his death. It's unclear whether Dostoyevsky had already created the character of Raskolnikov by the time he heard of Lacenaire, but there are a number of striking similarities between his murder of the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her half-sister Lizaveta in Crime & Punishment and Lacenaire's own crimes 30 years earlier. 
Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley Frankenstein was famously written in response to Lord Byron's suggestion in the summer of 1816 that the guests at his villa on Lake Geneva -- including the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his future wife, Mary -- should each write a ghost story to pass the time. After initial reservations, 19-year-old Mary more than rose to the challenge by penning what is now considered masterpiece of gothic horror, inspired by a single terrifying image that popped into her mind as she lay in bed. "When I placed my head on my pillow..." she recalled in the introduction to her novel, "I saw -- with shut eyes, but acute mental vision -- the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together." The first edition of Frankenstein was published anonymously just two years later, followed by a second edition in 1822, a stage version in 1823, and finally a revised third edition in 1831 dedicated to Mary's then late husband, who had died nine years earlier. 
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), Arthur Conan Doyle In July 1900, Arthur Conan Doyle met an English journalist named Bertram Fletcher Robinson on board a ship returning to England from the Boer War. The pair quickly became friends and the following year Doyle agreed to visit Robinson at his home in Devon, southwest England, with an eye to collaborating on a new novel. Robinson took Doyle up onto Dartmoor, a vast ancient moorland (and now a National Park), and regaled him with an old folktale about a notorious local squire named Richard Cabell who had apparently sold his soul to the Devil -- when he died in 1677, local legend claims a monstrous pack of jet black hounds descended from the moors to escort his soul into Hell. Although Doyle had agreed to co-author a book with Robinson, after putting pen to paper the story quickly evolved into a new Sherlock Holmes mystery (his first in eight years) and Robinson's input was relegated, in his own words, to "assistant plot producer." 
Jude The Obscure (1895), Thomas Hardy It is unclear precisely who inspired Thomas Hardy's tale of a young working-class man's struggle to become a scholar, but it seems likely that the eponymous Jude Hawley was at least partly based on Hardy's tragic friend Horace Moule. Born in 1832, Moule earned a place at Oxford University in 1851, but failed to receive his degree. Moving to Cambridge University three years later, it took him another 14 years to finally complete his studies, during which time he battled alcoholism and severe depression until finally, in September 1873, he committed suicide by cutting his own throat as he lay in bed. He was just 41 years old. 
Little Women (1868-9), Louisa May Alcott The four eponymous March Sisters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women were all based on the author and her three sisters. Louisa herself was the strong-willed protagonist Jo; her elder sister Anna was Meg; her youngest sister May was Amy; and her middle sister Elizabeth, who died at the age of 23, was Beth. The setting and the sisters may have been the alike, but the events and circumstances around them were not: the Marches were by no means rich, but the Alcotts lived in near abject poverty for many years during Louisa's childhood. What's more, the March family's father -- a philanthropic and scholarly Civil War hero -- was strikingly different from that of Alcott's own father, Bronson, a pacifist vegan schoolteacher and an early advocate of transcendentalism. 
Middlemarch (1872), George Eliot In January 1869, George Eliot wrote a list of tasks in her journal that she wanted to complete in the coming year, one of which was "a novel called Middlemarch." Although Eliot seemed determined to set to work, progress on the new novel was slow and when her son Thornie contracted a fatal case of tuberculosis later that year she ceased writing completely; by the time Thornie died in October, Eliot had produced just three chapters of what would eventually be an 86-chapter work, and she promptly shelved the project. By all accounts Eliot did not recommence writing until more than a year later, when, in November 1870, she began an entirely new work entitled Miss Brooke. This new story introduced an eponymous character named Dorothea, but sometime during Miss Brooke's development Eliot saw the opportunity to merge its narrative with that of the three chapters she had shelved the previous year, and Middlemarch was born. 
Moby-Dick (1851), Herman Melville Herman Melville's own experiences on board a Pacific Ocean whaling ship, the Acushnet, in the early 1840s provided the primary inspiration for his novel Moby-Dick, and later editors and commentators have since even been able to draw parallels between Melville's real-life fellow crewmembers and the characters in his book. The Acushnet was far from his only inspiration, however, as Melville was doubtless also influenced by the true story of a whaling ship named the Essex that was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in the central Pacific in 1820. Melville later met the son of one of the Essex's eight surviving crewmembers during his time on the Acushnet, and after the publication of Moby-Dick in 1851 met with the ship's captain, George Pollard, whom he later described as "one of the most extraordinary men I have ever met." 
Robinson Crusoe (1719), Daniel Defoe It is widely believed that Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was based on the true story of real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk, but that's by no means guaranteed. In fact, there are such telling inconsistencies between the two tales -- Selkirk was voluntarily marooned in the Pacific, while Crusoe was shipwrecked in the Caribbean; he was stranded for just four years, compared to Crusoe's 28; and Selkirk was alone, while Crusoe's tale involves encounters with natives, cannibals and pirates -- that some editors have suggested Defoe likely had another story in mind. It may be that Crusoe's tale was based on the 17th century sea captain Robert Knox's 19-year imprisonment on Ceylon, which was published as An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon (1681), or else on the British doctor Henry Pitman, who escaped from a British penal colony in the Caribbean before being shipwrecked on a nearby island. Alternatively, there could be some truth in Defoe's own claim that Robinson Crusoe was the true story of a man he knew personally, and for whom he simply served as memoirist. Whatever its true inspiration, there's no doubting the success or impact of Defoe's novel, which ran to four editions in its first year alone and has remained enduringly popular ever since. 
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Louis Stevenson had already written a play about Deacon Brodie -- an 18th century Edinburgh city councillor who led a double life as a burglar -- when in 1885 he had a dream about a mild-mannered man transforming into a monster. His wife Fanny later recalled how, "In the small hours of one morning... I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily, 'Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey-tale.'" She had woken him, she later discovered, at what would eventually become Jekyll's first transformation into Mr Hyde. 
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), John Buchan John Buchan was recovering from a stomach ulcer at a nursing home in Broadstairs on the far southeast coast of England he began work on what he referred to as his first "shocker" in 1914. Buchan reportedly took the title of the novel from a wooden staircase that once ran from the clifftops at Broadstairs down to the beach, although there are several conflicting accounts: one version of the story has Buchan's young daughter running down the stairs two at a time and announcing that there were "39 steps" down to the beach, while another claims that as there were actually 78 steps Buchan either halved the number simply to make a snappier title, or else changed it because he was 39 years old at the time. 
Three Men In A Boat (1889), Jerome K. Jerome In the mid 1880s, Jerome K Jerome came up with the idea of writing a straightforward travel guide to the River Thames, including descriptions of several historical sites along its course. As he began to compile it, however, Jerome's guide became increasingly filled with humorous anecdotes and bantering conversations recalled from boat trips he had taken along the river from London to Oxford with two of his friends, George Wingrave and Carl Henschel. Together, the three men became the eponymous Three Men In A Boat, with the addition of Montmorency the dog having, "as Jerome admits, developed out of that area of inner consciousness which, in all Englishmen, contains an element of the dog", according to Oxford World's Classics. 
To Kill A Mockingbird (1960), Harper Lee Harper Lee has long denied claims that To Kill A Mockingbird is an autobiographical work, but rather a reflection of an author simply writing about what he or she knows and has experienced first hand. Either way, it's hard not to see parallels between her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic and her childhood growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. Just like Scout, Lee's father practiced as a lawyer, and in 1919 was faced with defending two black men accused of the murder of a local white shopkeeper (both men - a father and son - were later hanged). Moreover, Lee, like Scout, was a tomboy in her youth, and her eldest brother Edwin, like Jem, was four years her senior. She wrote the book in the years following the death of her mother in 1951, and in the story Scout too has lost her mother. And even the character of Dill, who lives next door to the Finch family during the summer, is modelled on her childhood friend Truman Capote, who would spend the summer with his aunt in Alabama while his mother visited New York. 
See the original post HERE

Friday, September 5, 2014

Giveaway Results: "Desperately Ever After" by Laura Kenyon

Okay, lovely readers. I know it's a bit past my 12 p.m. EST deadline for announcing our Desperately Ever After giveaway results, but I was being poked and prodded at the hospital for my pre-admissions testing (surgery next week on my spine! Eek!). Not nearly as much fun as giving away free books! :-p

That said, with no further ado.....our winners are.....

Sarah Guttenplan and Lauren Marler!

Woop!

Please email us at readingbtwthelines@gmail.com so we can arrange delivery of your new eBook!

I hope you enjoy the first book in Laura Kenyon's awesome series as much as I did!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blog Tour Kicks Off for "The Other Side of Gemini"

Happy September, everyone! This month is an exciting one. First because I am having spine surgery to address a problem that has been torturing me for months and months (Yay! But scary!), second because autumn begins (my fave season), and third because my dear friend LG McCann just kicks off her blog tour today! Woop!

LG McCann
You may recall my posting a little happy dance back in July when The Other Side of Gemini, her debut women's fiction novel, hit the virtual shelves, and now here is another one...

*happy dance wiggle wiggle happy dance*

And here's a little sneak peek at today's review from Chick Lit Plus... "What LG McCann gives us [...] is a compelling, emotional, and honestly a bit of a dark story about friendship and life in general. [...] I was won over!"

Below are her upcoming blog tour stops, so mark your calendars. Her guest posts and Q&As are fantastic (one of which I've gotten a sneak peek of!) so you definitely don't want to miss those! Aaaaand she will be wrapping up her tour here with us, at RBtL with an interview and an excerpt on September 24!

September 3 -  Review at Chick Lit Plus
September 4 - Guest Post at Doorflower 
September 8 - Review and Q&A at Ai Love Books 
September 9 - Guest Post at Chick Lit Club Connect  
September 13 - Review and excerpt at Reading in Black and White 
September 17 - Excerpt at Ski-Wee's Book Corner 
September 18 - Review at The Phantom Paragrapher 
September 19 - Review and Excerpt as The Word as I See It 
September 22 - Review, Guest Post, and excerpt at Jersey Girl Book Reviews 
September 24 - Q&A and excerpt right here at Reading Between the Lines

For those of you who haven't read my earlier post and don't know what I am even talking about, here is more about Gemini, which USA Today bestselling author Lyla Payne called "a surprise in all the best ways!"

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.

Have an awesome tour, LG! 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Release, Giveaway, and Q&A: "Damsels in Distress" by Laura Kenyon

I've been anxiously awaiting the release of Damsels in Distress, the second book in Laura Kenyon's Desperately Ever After series for a while  now, and it is finally here!

Yay!!!!! *Kermit flails around the house*


After watching her fairy tale go up in flames, Belle is finally starting over. With a baby on the way, a business to run, and a new love interest she just can't shake, things are finally looking up. That is, until she learns her independence might revive broken curses the world over. Could "happily ever after" really mean staying with her unfaithful husband? Or will Belle and her steadfast friends find another way?

Meanwhile, Dawn still longs for the life she had three centuries earlier--before her sleeping curse ended in two kids, an unfamiliar era, and a husband she barely knows. So when the childhood sweetheart she believed to be dead resurfaces, she must suddenly choose between the past she once wanted and the present she never knew she did.

As both women struggle between love and obligation--between what's right for the world and what's right for the heart--they fail to see a great danger brewing in the capital. One that could change everything forever.

With the wit of authors like Jennifer Weiner, the vision of ABC's Once Upon a Time and the imagination of Gregory Maguire's Wicked, Damsels in Distress picks up where the original tales left off--and twists them every "witch" way.

I'm so excited to read this book, you have no idea. With a unique twist on the fairy tale princesses we all know and love, the first book in the series, Desperately Ever After, is packed with good laughs, some heart wrenches, and all the things we adore about women's fiction. And Damsels in Distress is sure to be just as fun and fabulous, so don't miss it!

Laura Kenyon is an awesome and talented author whose books you're going to want on your "keep shelf," and I'm thrilled to have her here with us today for an inside look at the series, her inspiration, and what's coming next. Aaaaand we have two eBooks of Desperately Ever After, book one in the series, to give away! Woop woop!

So without further adieu, let's get Q&Aing!

RBtL: Welcome, Laura! Now, Damsels in Distress is the second book in your Desperately Ever After series to be out in the world. Congratulations! How does it feel? 
Well, I'm exhausted from publishing my first novel, surviving my first pregnancy, and writing Damsels in Distress ALL at the same time! But finally sharing these characters with readers (and having so many people embrace them!) is an absolutely amazing feeling. They've been part of my life for so long—as real to me as flesh and blood friends—but I couldn't introduce them to anyone until now.

RBtL: What inspired you to write this series? 
The idea actually came to me decades ago (the result of a Disney-obsessed kid growing up) and was continually fueled by life and by shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. I loved the happily-ever-after Disney films, but couldn’t stand how quickly the characters always fell madly in love. The implication was that because they were physically attracted to each other, they were perfectly matched in every other way … and their lives were going to be filled with butterflies and rainbows and infinite happiness forever after. 
Real life just doesn’t work that way. So I began to imagine what happened after true love's kiss. Would Cinderella be happy ten years down the road, when she had four kids, could no longer fit into her ball gown, and was responsible for running a kingdom? How long would it take “Beast” to go right back to his old, selfish ways after Beauty broke his curse? And for Book Two, how would Sleeping Beauty fare being uprooted from the life she knew, tossed centuries into the future, and ushered into marriage with a stranger who went about kissing comatose women in the woods? 
RBtL: Your writing is so much fun, so relatable and full of hope and humor. Who are your muses? And I mean that not only in terms of your personal life, but also, your literary idols, of course.  
What a fantastic compliment, Danielle. Thank you! As far as muses go, I wouldn't be able to write about such a fun and supportive group of friends if I didn't have some in real life. Same goes for my own handsome prince (husband) and noble steed (a silver Labrador retriever on whom I based Belle's own canine companion).  
In the literary world, I adore Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and the Bronte sisters for their timeless stories and great characters. But when it comes to writing style, I prefer the melodic and relatable prose of authors like Allie Larkin and Jennifer Weiner. Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love are also among my favorites.

RBtL: Most of your characters are based off of famous fairy-tale heroines. Why did you pick the ones you did to include? Is there a specific character that you relate to more than the others? 
The most important thing Desperately Ever After readers should know is that the characters aren't based on the Disney films. I wanted to mold them from the original tales because: 1) they're so open to interpretation, 2) I could take what I wanted from the various versions and fill in the rest with my own ideas, and 3) I'm pretty sure it would be copyright infringement if I named Sleeping Beauty Aurora or gave Belle a talking teacup with a chip in it!  
Cinderella became one of the five main characters when I saw my prom dress in my closet one day and wondered whether it still fit. Plus, she's sort of the Queen of fairy tales. Just look at how many cultural phrases we gleaned from her story! Rapunzel and Penelopea (The Princess and the Pea) appealed to me because Disney hadn't yet reinvented them, so the canvas was practically blank. I had so much fun imagining how Rapunzel's sheltered youth (imprisonment in the tower) would affect her adult life (especially in terms of men), and how Penelopea could spend the night on a death-defying tower of mattresses without wanting to pummel the prospective mother-in-law who put her there. Belle actually began as a minor character, believe it or not, but somehow took over the entire series. And the past-vs-present angle of Sleeping Beauty's tale was just too good to pass up. So many of us have trouble letting go of the past as is. Imagine having it torn away and flung 300 years into the future! 
It's hard to say which of these women I relate to the most. There are bits and pieces of me in all of them. But if I had to choose, I'd go with Cinderella. She puts far too much weight on her shoulders, stresses easily, and is a full-blown perfectionist. But despite all that, deep down she knows how lucky she is to be loved and to love in return.

RBtL: Now, it has to be asked...what is your favorite Disney movie? 
The Little Mermaid. No question. Yes, I also loved Belle's affection for books in Beauty and the Beast, but I've got red hair and spent all of my childhood summers at the beach. I seriously used to clap my ankles together and swim around pretending I was a mermaid—singing "Part of Your World" in my head and watching my hair whoosh through the water. If I had the authority, I might have legally changed my name to Ariel.

RBtL: What’s in store next for the D.E.A. series? Any secret morsels you can share with us to whet our appetites? ;) 
Let's just say I'm a big fan of love triangles, unexpected twists, and "bad boys" who could just as easily be heroes in disguise. But even though Book Three (Skipping Midnight, 2015) is the last novel in the main series, there are so many characters that could use some extra time in the spotlight! And while I'm eager to try my hand at something new, I doubt I can ever fully leave Marestam behind. That's why I'm also planning several novellas—starting with Grethel, the woman who kept Rapunzel in that tower for all those years.

Now, dear readers, if that hasn't whet your appetite for some fab new fairy tale fiction, I don't know what will. Tell us who your favorite fairy tale princess (or prince!) is in a comment this post for your chance to receive one of two available eBooks (US only, unfortunately--sorry, folks!) of Desperately Ever AfterRecipients will be randomly selected at noon on Friday, September 5th, so get commenting!

Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after the wedding bells stopped ringing? Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, Desperately Ever After sprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings. 
Years after turning her husband from beast back to man and becoming his queen, Belle finds out she’s finally going to have a child. But before she can announce the wondrous news, she catches him cheating and watches her “happily ever after” go up in flames. Turning to her friends for the strength to land with grace, she realizes she’s not the only one at a crossroads: 
Cinderella, a mother of four drowning in royal duties, is facing her 30th birthday and questioning everything she’s done (or hasn’t) with her life. 
Rapunzel, a sex-crazed socialite and one-woman powerhouse, is on a self-destructive quest to make up for 20 years locked away in a tower. 
Penelopea, an outsider with a mother-in-law from hell, is harboring a secret that could ruin everything at any moment. 
One part Sex and the City, two parts Desperate Housewives, and three parts Brothers Grimm, Desperately Ever After picks up where the original tales left off—and reimagines them a la Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. With the wit of authors like Jennifer Weiner and the vision of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the women of Desperately Ever After rescue each other from life’s trials with laughter, wine, and a scandalous new take on happily ever after.
For more about Laura Kenyon, visit here online:
Website: www.laurakenyon.com 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/laura_kenyon 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/laurakenyonwrites 
Amazon (US): http://bit.ly/1sP8JVV

Thanks so much for joining us today, Laura, and happy release day!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Books to Film: An Emotional Process for Some Readers

Film adaptations can be difficult for some people. I have a friend who really struggles with watching a movie of a book she likes because she gets so frustrated with the changes made by the filmmakers. I used to be that way, too, actually. I remember very clearly going to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and being so distraught over how the new director reimagined the world and changed things about the dementors and left out this and that and on and on I went. My poor boyfriend at the time. I was nearly in tears. 

Excessive, yes, I know. But it was that experience that forced me to change my mindset. I've always been intrigued by adaptations (despite the occasional what-did-you-do-to-this-book-I-love?! meltdown), and in time, I learned to separate the book from the movie, to focus on the heart of the story and how two different people can take that same essence and bring it to life in two totally different ways. It's those changes that now interest me the most, even when a book I loved was maybe not done in the way I would've done it.

I always wonder what it must be like for the author of a book, if the changes in a film adaptation are s so hard for some readers to accept. I'm sure it varies like anything else, but it was great to get some insight from two-time Newbery Medal winner Lois Lowry this morning on HuffPo as she writes about her experience with The Giver adaptation, which just opened in theaters across the country:

I've been watching The Giver movie project for many years and read a lot of scripts. After I'd gone to the set and sat in the editing room, it began to feel like a jigsaw puzzle. You have the blue pieces here, and the yellow pieces over there, and then it begins to all fit together. When I finally saw the final movie with the music in there, it was kind of overwhelming. It was a very gratifying experience to see that it was done with such regard for the book. It retains the essential ingredients of the book, while adding all of the visual stuff that a movie needs but that a book sadly cannot have. 
I think the film does what a film should. It takes a book -- the heart of the book and the integrity of the book -- and it adds to it what only a film can add: the visual stuff, the suspense, and the back and forth that the book doesn't do.  
I chose the images in the book carefully, but I think I didn't choose enough of them. The movie makers have taken my work and retained the questions I wanted to raise, but they expanded it and brought it to a new level -- a wonderfully visual level, at that. When I wrote the section of the book about the boy out on his journey with the baby, I felt restrained. As a writer, I had only one character really out there. I had a baby who didn't talk, so there could be no dialogue. There was description of landscape, but how many pages can you do that? And yet in the movie, you still have the boy, and the baby who doesn't talk, and therefore there's no dialogue, but you have that incredible landscape -- partly in South Africa -- and it almost becomes a character in the film. I was very moved by that. 
One of the things that particularly struck me were the wonderful memories that the boy is given. It seemed to me that they had incorporated every bit of the past world into such fleeting images, and each one was carefully chosen. Now having seen the movie, I'd love to go back, rewrite the book and incorporate some of those things that are in the movie. One of the things I wish I could beef up now are those memories -- the different religions, for example -- little flickers of a baptism, of an immersion, of a mosque. There is a section where the boy is going to flee and he goes to The Giver, who gives him some final memories so he'll have strength. It's that selection of memories that I found most gripping. In particular, the image of the boy in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square; that's not in the book, but wow is it powerful in the film.  
From the beginning, I felt as though the book was in good hands. The reason for my feeling that way was because both Nikki Silver, the producer, and Jeff Bridges, the producer and star, were so passionate about the book and dedicated to retaining its integrity. Although the chances of the film getting made fluctuated over the years, I never worried about how it would be made because I knew about their passion, and respected and trusted that. 
And the other night, there I sat in the theater. I knew the story. I had read the screenplay. I knew how it was going to end. So nothing was a surprise, except that everything was a surprise because of how overwhelming it was, how many shivers went up my spine and how terrific it felt to watch it. The movie is finally out there and is a vast, beautiful, finished piece. 
See the original post HERE

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"The 5th Wave" Adaptation Casts More Young Stars

I'm not sure exactly how I missed that Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave is being adapted for the big screen. There are even numerous actors lined up for the project already!

I read the ARC for this one last year and really enjoyed it. Its structure and writing style are very cinematic in the first place, so I'm already feeling the buzz of excitement shaking my body at what they'll be able to do in an actual film. I. Cannot. Wait.
Sony Pictures announced that they officially inked the deal with Chloe Grace Moretz to play Cassie in the film adaptation of Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave. Relative newcomer J Blakeson will direct, but veteran Susannah Grant will write the adapted screenplay  (Erin Brockovich; The Soloist). After the world has been destroyed by four waves of brutal alien invasions, a young girl named Cassie is desperately trying to save her little brother before the inevitable “5th wave” of attacks. On her journey she meets a boy who may be her only hope of survival.  
So yes, the plot is not super original, but the book has sold very well. It spent 20 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list, sold 240,000 hardcover copies and 55,000 e-books. The novel also won the 2014 Red House Children’s Book Award in the UK.  The second book in Yancey’s planned trilogy, The Infinite Sea, will be published on September 16, 2014. 

And as we’ve come to realize with these other YA film franchises, the key is a compelling female star and Chloe Grace Moretz certainly fits that bill. Her biggest role to date is playing the telekinetic teen Carrie in the remake of Stephen King’s novel. And she’s set for a handful of big upcoming roles: The Equalizer where she’ll play alongside Denzel Washington and Dark Places, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel which will also star Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. Most importantly though, Moretz has been kicking a** since 13.


See original post HERE from Entertainment Weekly
Actors Nick Robinson and Alex Rox joined the project in June, and it was just announced today that Maika Monroe is on board, as well. There is also going to be a familiar face behind the camera, with Tobey Maguire co-producing:
Sony's young adult alien invasion thriller “The 5th Wave” has added Maika Monroe to play the role of Ringer opposite Chloe Grace Moretz, it was announced on the film's Twitter page Monday. 
J. Blakeson is directing the adaptation of Rick Yancey's bestselling YA novel, which has a screenplay by Susannah Grant. Nick Robinson and Alex Roe also have lead roles, while Liev Schreiber is in final talks for a villain role. 
Moretz plays Cassie Sullivan, one of the last surviving humans left on a planet savaged by waves of alien attacks. When her little brother goes missing, she journeys to find him, meeting a mysterious young man named Evan Walker (Roe) along the way. 
Robinson's Ben Parish takes Cassie's little brother under his wing, while Monroe's Ringer is another member of his team, tough and capable with a gun. 
Tobey Maguire, Graham King, and Lynn Harris are producing, with Matthew Plouffe and Denis O'Sullivan executive producing. 
“The 5th Wave” will be released on January 19, 2016. The book is the first in a planned trilogy. The second book in the series, “The Infinite Sea,” is out in September. 
See original post HERE from The Wrap

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Mash-Up for Your Morning

I spent last night trying to mediate an argument between my eight- and ten-year-old sisters about which Harry Potter movie to watch for "sister's night. It figures that this morning I look on GalleyCat and find an awesome mash-up of scenes from all eight films, which probably would've stopped that argument in a flash:


What happens when you cross Harry Potter with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? 
The comedian behind “The Unusual Suspect” YouTube channel tried to answer this question with his “Harry Potter vs. The World” mash-up trailer. The video embedded above features scenes from all eight Harry Potter films. 
Thus far, the video has drawn more than 607,000 views. Two days ago, The Unusual Suspect announced on his Facebook page that filmmaker Edgar Wright (the Scott Pilgrim movie director) complimented this project. What do you think? (via io9
See the original post HERE

For reference, io9 also conveniently shared the original Scott Pilgrim vs. the World trailer that inspired this fun mash-up:




The perfect way to start my day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dr. Seuss and Turning Thirty

The past week or so has been a little bit crazy, hence the radio silence on my end. While most of the time I have been trapped in the editing cave, I did have a big event last week that also took up a bit of my time (though in the best ways possible). And that is...I turned thirty. The big 3-0, dirty thirty, whatever you want to call it, and now it feels like a bigger milestone than I ever really expected.

Initially, I had struggled with the idea of this new era of my life, focusing too much on all the things I had wanted to accomplish by the time I hit thirty but haven't yet. But then I shifted my thinking, realizing that now I'm moving into a more stable, more confident, and more successful period of my life. While there are certainly highlights to my twenties, looking back, they really kind of sucked, and I think that's a relatively common feeling. Your twenties are this crazy roller coaster, where you start out just finishing up college, figuring out who you are, where your supposed to be, making lots of mistakes along the way as you grow into a real "adult."

That's not to say that I have all those things figured out 100 percent just because I'm in a new decade of my life, but I'm done with the wishy-washiness of my twenties, with the huge changes that go along with growing up, the tripping and falling on my face for the same reasons again and again. I still want to grow on a daily basis, but now it's time to do so with a different mindset. This is the time to make shit happen, if you will excuse my language, to be settled in my own skin and build the life I've always wanted, for the present and the future. I still expect to get some dirt on my face here and there, but I'm ready to be a bit less clumsy and a lot more balanced.

All that said, when I was skimming my book biz emails this morning, I came across something quite fitting for this renewed mindset of mine, so I knew it was the perfect thing to share with you: 10 Life Lessons From Dr. Seuss That’ll Make You A Better Person, courtesy of Buzz Feed:

1. He taught us that we can change our world if we take the initiative.  
2. He wanted us all to realize that everyone deserves equal rights, and sometimes we need to give our voice to the voiceless.  
3. He validated that reading is awesome, and knowledge will take you to new and amazing places. 
4. He wanted us to stay true to our word and true to ourselves, no matter what.  

5. He taught us that if we remain open-minded, we can discover some pretty great things.  
 
6. He let us know that it’s okay to grow up and go off in to the world. You know what you’re doing, and you have to believe that you will find your way in the end.  
7. He wanted us to open our eyes and realize that the world truly is a funny place.  
8. He told us to believe in love.  
9. He opened our eyes and made us grateful for what we have.  
10. And above all, he told us that no one is “youer than you.” 

See the original post HERE


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. 
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Interesting stuff. Terrifying stuff. But interesting...