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Archives: June 2009

A Western Writer Named L. Ron Hubbard

cattlekingforadayLg.jpgMost readers remember L. Ron Hubbard as the founder of Scientology and a science fiction writer, but one publisher just celebrated the pulp fiction author’s 30 westerns–books based on memories from his Montana childhood.

Hubbard’s publisher, Galaxy Press, attended the 2009 Western Writers of America (WWA) Conference this week, pitching Hubbard’s 80 novels and 150 pulp fiction stories written during the 1930s and ’40s. The publisher hopes to release the author’s whole pulp output over a six-year schedule.

Here’s more from John Goodwin, president of the press: “[Hubbard's] familiarity with the real locale lets any reader really experience the excitement of another time and place … The Series represents one of the largest releases of short fiction ever published for a single author … We’re hoping to make publishing history.”

You Can Do It! by Tony Dungy

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I love positive books for kids and Tony Dungy’s You Can Do It! is definitely one of those. Illustrated by Amy June Bates, this book has spiritual overtones and is an uplifting story the whole family can share.

This is definitely a book you would want to read to your kids before bedtime and especially if they love sports. Dungy, if you do not know, is a former NFL player and was the head coach of the 2006 Super Bowl champions.

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Jeff Rivera is the author of “Forever My Lady” and the founder of GumboWriters.com

The Literary Side of Doctor Who

In an article for the BBC website, actor/screenwriter Mark Gattis pays tribute to the Doctor Who novelizations of his youth, which were produced by a British publishing company named Target.

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“Scarcely anything was repeated on TV in those days… so, if you missed something, you missed it,” Gattis recalls. “In an age before video and DVD, the Target novelisations were a chance to relive the television adventures. Many of the black and white 1960s stories had been wiped by the BBC altogether, so the books were the only record. Through them you could experience stories that had disappeared into the programme’s folklore.”

This was also true for American fans who discovered the show in syndication in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as they rarely saw anything predating the Tom Baker era; imported editions of the books were one of the few ways we had of fully comprehending the show’s rich backstory. (Once, a long, long time ago, we even had a copy of Castrovalva that was signed by Sarah Sutton!)

“The Target Doctor Who novelisations were phenomenally successful,” he points out. “They ran to 156 titles and the books sold millions of copies world-wide, becoming one of the best-selling ranges of children’s books ever published.” Virgin Publishing acquired Target around the time that the original show ended, and when the novelizations ran out, they published several original books. Once the BBC revived the show in 2005, the network’s publishing division decided not to adapt the episodes but has continued to publish original stories featuring the characters.

(via io9, which has a whole lotta covers from the Target series on display)

Alice Hoffman Is Ready to Rumble

Alice Hoffman has a new novel out, and The Boston Globe reviewed it yesterday—freelance critic Roberta Silman, though describing herself as a fan of Hoffman’s “gifts of precise prose and the ability to create sympathetic characters” in previous novels like Illumination Point, said The Story Sisterslacks the spark of the earlier work.” The assessment, though negative, is hardly a dogpile; Silman may have found the story “too coy, too contrived,” but she also spotted some “wonderful passages” in Hoffman’s writing.

So how did Alice Hoffman take the review?

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In addition to playing the Famous Writer Card on Twitter, Hoffman also played, among others, the Feminist Card (“Girls are taught to be gracious and keep their mouths shut. We don’t have to”), the Provincial Critic Card (“This is a town where a barking dog is the second top story on the news”), the Lousy Paper Card (“No wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore – they don’t care about their readers, why should we care about them”), and the Post Your Enemy’s Email & Phone Number Online Card (encouraging fans to further validate her reaction and “tell her what u think of snarky critics”).

That last bit in particular has some observers shaking their heads at Hoffman’s behavior—yes, as she noted on Twitter, “writers have a way to talk back now,” and in some ways the rise of online networking tools has changed the fundamental power dynamic between writers, reviewers, and readers. The relationships between writers and readers, and between reviewers and readers, have become more conversational; it’s only natural for the relationship between writers and reviewers to undergo a similar shift. By way of comparison, however, recall Porochista Khakpour‘s response to Carolyn See after a negative review of Sons and Other Inflammable Objects in 2007. Yes, Khakpour dismissively referred to See as “a very bitter, confused old lady,” but she didn’t call upon her fans to start harassing the critic. And if, as Hoffman claimed in response to a criticism of her tactics by Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles, “I’m not going after anyone… It’s about editors who allow reviewers to give the plot away,” why did she send her fans after Roberta Silman, rather than the editors of the Boston Globe?

Oh, and to answer Hoffman’s question—while you were working on your first novel, Property Of, in graduate school in the mid-1970s, Roberta Silman was publishing the short stories that came out of her graduate school work in magazines like the New Yorker and preparing them for a collection called Blood Relations, so you both published your first book-length works of “literary fiction” in 1977… except she had already published a YA novel called Somebody Else’s Child the year before that. That’s who Roberta Silman is.

Amazon’s Warning: Book Stock Watch

amlogo.gifAmazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) made the biggest bookselling headlines this week. The WSJ reported that Amazon.com Inc. mailed a letter to California lawmakers, warning that the company will “end its business with marketing affiliates in the state if legislation passes forcing the Seattle e-commerce company to collect sales tax from California customers.”

GalleyCat has been tracking the stock performance of the major companies that influence the bookselling business. We created this chart with eight publicly-traded publishing stocks hand-picked by our readers–including company name, symbol, current stock price, and price increase or decrease at week’s close.

The McGraw-Hill Co. MHP 29.64 -0.08
Books-A-Million, Inc. BAMM 7.04 0.49
Borders Group, Inc. BGP 3.45 0.41
Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN 83.88 1.68
Barnes & Noble, Inc. BKS 20.65 0.05
Wiley John & Sons Inc. JW.A 33.04 -2
Scholastic Corporation SCHL 20.09 -0.49
News Corporation NWS 10.53 -0.02
Google Inc. GOOG 425.32 9.55

Michael Jackson Jokes Cut

How will Michael Jackson‘s tragic death affect the way people write about the pop star? The Internet has archived thousands of jokes about the legendary singer, and Twitter writers unleashed a stream of off-color humor last night.

Today’s Morning Media Menu pondered the problem of Jackson jokes in an upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, Bruno–scenes that have since been cut from the film. Our special guest was Alex Irvine; the author of the Vertigo Encyclopedia, blogger, and one of the writers that produced the ground-breaking alternate reality game, I Love Bees.

The show was hosted by GalleyCat editor Jason Boog and FishbowlNY editor Amanda Ernst. If you want to read more, GalleyCat compiled a collection of links to the three books that Michael Jackson had written.

Transformers Rule iPhone Paid Book Apps

transformersapp.jpgAs “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” steamrolls the box office this weekend, iPhone readers are lining up to buy .99-cent digital comics in the Apple iPhone store. Transformer tie-ins now occupy the #2, #4, #6, #7, and #11-14 slots on the “Top Paid Apps” in the books category of the App Store.

Produced by IDW Publishing, the apps are digital versions of a comic book prequel to the film. The robot movie reaped $60.6 million on opening day alone, and readers are paying to read these special e-books as well. If you want to read more, one UK blogger reviewed the digital comics.

Here’s more from the promotional materials: “Can’t wait for the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie? Get a head start on with the film’s official prequels, Revenge of the Fallen: Alliance and Revenge of the Fallen: Defiance! Delve into the Transformer’s recent and ancient past as these stories lead up the the events in this summer’s blockbuster.”

1 Week, 100 Milkshakes: Adam Ried Did It for YOU.

Boston Globe food columnist Adam Ried got one of his best column ideas ever when a late-night case of the munchies led him to try making a milkshake out of chocolate sorbet. “It was so much better than the mocha shakes I’d made with chocolate syrup,” he recalled, and soon he had a bunch of people over to test-drive some more variations. (“It’s not hard to find friends to taste milkshakes,” he confided.) One guest sprinkled cardamom into the mocha shake; Ried loved the results, and the column wound up focusing on a batch of similar “twists.”

From there, he went on to develop Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes, and one of the first questions we had when we met him for drinks at The Stand was whether there were any flavors he hadn’t been able to refine to his satisfaction…

Once he got started experimenting, it was hard to stop. “The contract was for 50 shakes,” he said of the book deal, “and I think I ended up with 110.” Working on a tight deadline (less than five months), he wound up test-driving 100 variations during a visit with his sister; “I shudder at how many calories I consumed that one week,” he reflected—sure, a couple slurps would’ve given him an idea of the flavor, but how would he know if it was enduring without testing the entire glass? Afterwards, he joked, his doctor suggested his next book should be about “the wonders of dressing lettuce with plain lemon juice.”

That’s not the actual idea he’s working on, of course, but he is working out a concept for a second book at his own pace. In the meantime, he’s enjoying the wide range of dishes he gets to tinker with through his Globe column. Prior to that gig, he wrote for Cook’s Illustrated, where “it’s all about meatloaf and apple pie, so that’s what I did.” (Not that he’s knocking it: He notes that the magazine was able to attract a million subscribers in under 15 years by focusing on those basics, and he still writes for the sister publication, Cook’s Country—along with a recurring role on PBS’s America’s Test Kitchen.) “Some of my other friends who write cookbooks tease me for going too slow as I write recipes,” he added, “but I do want to at least try the obvious variations. I don’t know how people do those books with 1,000 recipes. It would take me years without a staff.”

Remembering the Stonewall Riots

stonewall2.jpgAs the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on June 28th, author Kate Clinton reflected in Beacon Broadside what the gay pride landmark means for people around the country.

Her post comes as New York City is hosting Pride Week, an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender pride–a movement born as brave individuals stood up for their rights in 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City (pictured, via). Earlier this week author Rachel Kramer Bussel discussed pride week on the Morning Media Menu.

Here’s more from the essay: “It used to be hard to find a NY gay person of a certain age who did not claim to have been at the Stonewall Riots. I am a New Yorker of that certain age, but I most certainly was not at the Stonewall Riots. In 1969 I had just graduated from a small Jesuit college in upstate New York. Insert ‘Class of 69′ joke here. I was a member of the Gay Resistance. I was trying not to come out. Because of that resistance, I could not and then would not hear the news of gay liberation spreading upstate from Greenwich Village.” (Via Colleen Lindsay)

Aspiring UK Designers Test Their Skills on Donna Tartt

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A while back, Penguin UK invited design students to create “a fresh and bold new look” for Donna Tartt‘s The Secret History “in order to bring it to a new generation of readers,” and the judging committee—which included Penguin Press art director Jim Stoddart, novelist Hari Kunzru, and British designers Frith Kerr and Amelia Noble—declared the above submission by Peter Adlington the best. “I wanted to look at the hierarchy within the group, as well as their merging whilst in a catatonic state,” Adlington writes of his design and its effort to reflect the book’s plot. (Also, note “[the] black void in the middle, which represents the impending doom that the group faced from the moment they committed the first murder.”)

The judges considered it “a bold, beautiful and distinctive cover that mirrored the themes of the book in an imaginative and succinct way,” but not everybody agrees:

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As far as we know, though, this is not going to be the new cover for the British edition of The Secret History. Instead, Adlington will get to spend six weeks in the Penguin design studio on a work placement assignment, plus a £1,000 cash prize.

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