Monday, June 27, 2011

Inspirations for The TAKER: Casanova in Bolzano

There aren't too many books I read more than once (it seems there are too many great books I've yet to read to go over ground I've already trod), but CASANOVA IN BOLZANO is one of them. It was written by Sandor Marai, the great Hungarian novelist, and like all Marai novels, CASANOVA features a plot like an infinite set of Russian nesting dolls. It really is a complex and twisty discourse on love, all the possible facets of love. Don't settle for the disappointing movie that was supposedly "based" on the book ("Casanova in Love" with Heath Ledger); read Marai's book.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Contests! Prizes!



It's still about 80 days until the TAKER is released in the US but there are two ways you might win a copy now. One is to enter the contest on GOODREADS which you can do here. You have to be a GOODREADS member to enter (it's easy to join if you're not a member yet) and it's only open to US and Canada.

The second way is to sign up on my mailing list which is on my website here. You'll be entered to win not only a copy of the TAKER advance reader copy (ARC), but if you win you'll also get a signed ARC of Colin Meloy's (lead singer for the The Decemberists) middle-grade novel WILDWOOD, and a tote bag from Book Expo America. (While you're at it, hop over to the homepage to see the awesome countdown widget Simon & Schuster made to let you know when pub day is here.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

DC: Hotbed of Literary Humor

A strange thing has taken root in the literary scene in DC: authors are turning funny. In the sense of 'humorous', I mean. Above is a video just put out by Keith Donohue for his just-released novel, "Centuries of June." It showcases his dry wit. (I went to a reading last night and had such a great time. He is very funny live, as any scholar of Irish literature would be.)

Then there's Carolyn Parkhurst. Would you guess that the woman who wrote "Dogs of Babel" and "The Nobodies Album" was so za-zing funny? She put together this trailer for the release of "The Nobodies Album" in paperback. (I ran into one of the women in the video at Keith's reading last night. That's the other nice thing about the DC literary scene: the novelists, at least, flock together.)
I credit (blame?) Ron Charles for this outburst of video literary hijinks. Mr. Charles is a book critic at the WaPo who last year produced a series of hysterical videos that alleged to be reviews but were, really, insights into book culture and pop culture. He hasn't been producing any videos lately. What a shame.

What do you think? Perhaps someone is dosing DC writers in an attempt to divert us from the publishing industry doldrums? A reaction to the unfunny wonkiness that dominates our daily existence here in DC?

Have you seen any good book trailers lately?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Blogger Con: Scientific Evidence Why Bloggers Rock

On Friday, 27 May, I attended Book Blogger Con (BBC), a whole day of panels and programming for book bloggers. This is the second year this event has been held, and I was one of the lucky attendees both years even though I do not write a book blog.

Some of you may have noticed I have a lot of enthusiasm for book bloggers. I thought that in this post, instead of reporting on the doings of BBC, I would explain why bloggers are fascinating -- and, in the process, explain why BBC is such a fabulous event.

Until recently, in my other life, I did something that involved measuring what goes on on the Internet. Trying to figure out the macro level stuff -- what topics are trending, which websites or users are popular and so forth -- from all the billions of pieces of metadata. Long story short, one of my favorite research in this area is done by Morningside Analytics, a team that I consider at the forefront in measurement of large online networks.

Among Morningside's pivotal findings is that within large online communities of interest -- the total of all websites, users, etc on the internet (aka 'nodes') -- bloggers are the backbone of any community. While there will typically be all sorts of nodes making up the network -- news sites such as CNN or NY Times, YouTube and Facebook and the really popular sites that get looped into any network, etc etc -- it's the bloggers who end up defining the community. It's the bloggers who curate the community by pointing out (through linking) which content is most relevant to the community's interests.

And this happens in every community, whether it's book bloggers or environmentalists or anything. Any topic at all. Bloggers are at the center of the activity, driving new ideas, feeding the discussion.

Through the book blogging community, I've been able to experience this phenomena in action. Book bloggers are a strong and dynamic community. Which is why I find BBC so fun: it is the vibrance of the online world in the physical world. It's also the opportunity to meet the people behind the posts and vlogs and tweets, the people who are so passionate and driven that they put extraordinary energy and effort into curating top-notch blogs. Learning and mastering new technologies because they want to add a feature or capability to their sites. It's this drive that makes the book blogging community so strong. (There are many lackluster communities of interest out there. Low rates of participation. Sites using old technology and with antiquated look and feel. Dull conversations that flow like cold molasses.) Anyway, when I say book bloggers rock, this is what I mean: you really shine, among multitudes of communities on the internet. You are like a very bright shiny constellation in the darkness of space, a galaxy of life and activity. Without you, reading (not to mention book publishing) would be a much diminished space in the 21st century.