pegkerr: (Loving books)
Jesse Galef, one half of "the world's #1 brother-sister blog about rationality, science, and philosophy" has compiled a list of what each Hogwarts house might read, here.

Includes booklists, with nice pictures of each House's bookshelf.
pegkerr: (Default)
HOW IS IT that I did not know that this beloved book had been made into a Broadway musical? I ran across the link to this song, and I really really like it. What a great song about a young girl brimming with life and hope, on the cusp of adulthood. Mothers, take note. Will probably investigate and buy the soundtrack tonight.

Fiona and Delia? This one's for you.


Your mother

("I just want to... cure disease and write a symphony and win the Nobel Prize like other girls.")
pegkerr: (Default)
[ profile] jimhines (Livejournal link here) Jim Hines mimicks the poses of the women on his fantasy book covers and discovers that striking a pose is not all it's cracked up to be. (Specifically, that the poses made his body, er, crack.)

I deeply, deeply adore him for doing this.
pegkerr: (Loving books)
How is it that I have never thought of doing this before???


pegkerr: (Loving books)
I get the Writer's Almanac email from Minnesota Public Radio every day. Yesterday's included these two paragraphs about Louise Erdrich, and my immediate reaction was yes oh yes indeed yes:
She said, "We have a lot of books in our house. They are our primary decorative motif—books in piles on the coffee table, framed book covers, books sorted into stacks on every available surface, and of course books on shelves along most walls. Besides the visible books, there are the boxes waiting in the wings, the basement books, the garage books, the storage locker books. They are a sort of insulation, soundproofing some walls. They function as furniture, they prop up sagging fixtures and disguised by quilts function as tables. The quantities and types of books are fluid, arriving like hysterical cousins in overnight shipping envelopes only to languish near the overflowing mail bench. Advance Reading Copies collect at beside, to be dutifully examined—to ignore them and read Henry James or Barbara Pym instead becomes a guilty pleasure. I can't imagine home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you'd longed to fall asleep reading The Aspern Papers, and there it is."

She said, "By having children, I've both sabotaged and saved myself as a writer. [...] With a child you certainly can't be a Bruce Chatwin or a Hemingway, living the adventurer-writer life. No running with the bulls at Pamplona. If you value your relationships with your children, you can't write about them. You have to make up other, less convincing children. There is also one's inclination to be charming instead of presenting a grittier truth about the world. But then, having children has also made me this particular writer. Without my children, I'd have written with less fervor; I wouldn't understand life in the same way. I'd write fewer comic scenes, which are the most challenging. I'd probably have become obsessively self-absorbed, or slacked off. Maybe I'd have become an alcoholic. Many of the writers I love most were alcoholics. I've made my choice, I sometimes think: Wonderful children instead of hard liquor."
pegkerr: (Loving books)
I discovered yesterday and have loaded onto my Nook free books by Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Rafael Sabatini, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Fanny Burney, George Eliot, Alexandre Duma, père, and, ahem, Baroness Emmuska Orczy (talk about guilty pleasures). W00t!

I'm just loving my Nook. I was worried about cost when I got it for Christmas, but it's been a lot more economical than I was afraid it would be. I've bought less than half a dozen books to load on it, but I've read probably close to seventy books on it. I've downloaded dozens from the library. That's a great perk: you download a book and then you have the right to read it for three weeks, and you don't ever get any overdue fines. And wow, I didn't find out until this week that Barnes & Noble offers a free book for download every Friday. Yes! And I love the free web browsing I can do with it when I'm out at a coffeeshop, since I don't have a laptop (although keyboard input is slow and not ideal).

I wish it could download and use applications, since I don't have a smart phone. Maybe that will come someday with a software upgrade? I can hope.
pegkerr: (Default)
starting Game of Thrones. I am a total neophyte to the series.

Good idea/bad idea? (Alas, I do not get HBO and so cannot feast my eyes on Sean Bean.) But I saw some initial promotional material which certainly intrigues me. Especially given a cursory check with Googlefu, which notes the influence of the history of the War of the Roses on the series.

I love this

Apr. 6th, 2011 04:28 pm
pegkerr: (Default)
From a book review on Amazon:
"I got this book based on a recommendation from a friend. I am now reconsidering that friendship, the book was that bad."
(No, I'm not going to tell you which book.)
pegkerr: (Default)
I regularly read a blog by Gretchen Rubins entitled The Happiness Project. Here's an excerpt from a post today:
I have a friend who is a working artist. She told me, “When I was starting out, I made money by working as a receptionist at a gallery. When my art career advanced enough so that I could quit that job, another artist friend told me, ‘Now you’ll be working all the time.’”

“What exactly does that mean?” I asked.

“He meant – I have to be looking, thinking, all the time. I have to notice and consider my reactions to everything. Why do I love this display of Christmas lights? What makes this restaurant so ugly?”

I’ve noticed a similar thing happen to me, with happiness. Now, whenever I feel a surge or drop in my happiness, I think: What’s happening, what triggered that? If I’m feeling happier, how can I ramp it up? Why do I suddenly feel blue? I’m trying to be more mindful about my fleeting reactions to thoughts and experiences, and I’m often surprised by what I notice.

For example, I found myself thinking about a famous piece of public art -- a luggage trolley apparently halfway through a brick wall at London's King's Cross station.

If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, the trolley is a reference to the fact that when magical children leave London to go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they take a special train, the Hogwarts Express, which boards from Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross. One of the first things Harry Potter does as part of the magical world is to run through a brick wall to get to the platform hidden between 9 and 10.

This public sculpture doesn’t just make me mildly happy. I love it; I get choked up thinking about it. It gives me a feeling of elevation – one of the most delicate pleasures the world offers. So, I ask: why does it make me feel this way?

First, it’s a celebration of something I particularly love, children’s literature. Second, it’s an acknowledgment that the love for Harry Potter is so ubiquitous that this artifact makes sense. We all love Harry Potter! And I love the collision of literature and real life. And this trolley sculpture is so funny, so playful.

How could I dwell on this happiness? One of my resolutions is to Find an area of refuge, and I’ve spent quite a lot of mental energy, in the last few days, fantasizing about what delightful surprises I would plant around New York City, in the manner of the Kings Cross trolley.

All my examples comes from beloved classics of children’s literature; it would be just as fun to have examples from adult fiction, but I couldn’t think of any.

This is what I would install:
From Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, in Central Park: a giant peach pit, with a door and a nameplate reading “James Henry Trotter.” I’m actually surprised this doesn’t already exist.

From E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: a book bag tucked behind a drape behind a statue from the Middle Ages. And also in the Met…

From Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman’s You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum: a yellow helium balloon tied to the outside stair railing. This would be so inexpensive and fun!

From Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family in the Children’s Room at a branch of the New York Public Library in the Lower East Side: a copy of Peter and Polly in Winter, placed in the “Returns” section.
In a similar project, a few years ago, I made a long list of children’s books and where they take place in New York City. In many cases, a reader can locate the character exactly, like Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy who spies on 84th and East End, and Peter Hatcher, from Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, who lives at 25 W. 68th Street.


New York City did rise to occasion of the release of the movie of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, with a sign at Union Station.

I love New York City, and I love Harry Potter. It makes me so very, very happy to see something like this.

And now I’m off to try to think of more additions to my list. Any suggestions?
This is an intriguing idea. Here in Minneapolis, of course, I always think of War for the Oaks at a lot of locations. Can you think of any public art you would install, in honor of one of your favorite books?
pegkerr: (Eliza)
Literature's gender gap
Women are underrepresented in literary publishing because men aren't interested in what they have to say

(Rather a bald, sweeping statement, but the author offers evidence.) I've mentioned the story before about the cover for The Wild Swans, I think. When we were discussing possible covers, my editor said, rather to my surprise, that she expected the audience would be women. When I asked her whether she thought gay men would read it, she said she said something (and I can't remember the exact wording) that she didn't think men read books with...a woman in the cover art? A woman's author's name? Can't remember exactly.

(The author's on Twitter at @magiciansbook.)
pegkerr: (But this is terrible!)
Here's an interesting article about the difficulties inherent in attempting to write sex scenes. Specifically, good sex scenes, the ones that don't pull the reader out of the story because he or she is too busy guffawing. Apparently, there is an annual award for the worst of the worst: the Literary Review's Bad Sex award.
While these nominations provide testimony to the creative potholes authors can slip down when they stray into the bedroom, the awards themselves prove their opposite – good sex writing - does exist. Against that the bad is selected, according to Jonathan Beckman, assistant editor of The Literary Review.

But for all the vituperation at authors who get it wrong, there appears to be little consensus on how to get it right. Some writers follow the forensic language of anatomy, others adopt metaphor and euphemism, while opponents of literary sex shun it for crass approximations with pornography.
I've actually been thinking a bit about this during the past month because for unknown reasons (in fact, I've been rather mystified about it) for the past three months I've been gorging on romance novels. It's really my first attempt for a wide-ranging exploration of the genre. Well, not so wide-ranging, as a matter of fact. I've been reading almost exclusively Regency romances, ignoring other niches such as paranormals, highlanders and westerns. What have I discovered?

First of all, that there are an awful lot of bad romances. Secondly, much of what I've read in the field is very repetitive and/or derivative.

I don't know why on earth I'm reading this stuff. Maybe I'm restlessly searching for someone who is doing it right, even as I'm wading through so many books where the author is doing it wrong. In fact, this compulsion (and it has truly seemed like a compulions; I've read possibly fifty of the damn things in the past two months) is downright baffling to me. One possibility is that I'm studying the use of the erotic in fiction. This is one area that I never felt comfortable attempting myself, and I thought it was a true deficit in my own writing. I envy writers that can manage it gracefully (Kij Johnson is certainly one whose confidence in this type of writing just always made me marvel) I just never had the courage to try it because I knew (and know) that when done clumsily, the result could be so very embarrassing. My overly developed critical review of my own work (the same thing that led to my writers block) made me so self conscious that I couldn't really even bring myself to write sex scenes, even when I wrote with the intention that I would only ever be the only reader. The bravest thing I ever attempted was chapter twelve in The Wild Swans, when Sean and Elias went to the bathhouse, but neither of my two main characters actually participated in the graphic encounters right there on the page, and I cut to black several times in that book rather than writing an encounter with the camera on, so to speak. I almost broke out in hives when my critique group went over Chapter 12, I found it so stressful.

One of the most erotic scenes I've read in my romp through the pages of a host of romance novels is particularly striking because of its restraint. It took place when a man and a woman are sitting next to each other in a theater box. The man slowly unbuttons the buttons on her glove, one by one and slowly insinuates a finger inside to stroke the palm of her hand.

Who are authors you admire who do sex scenes well? Have you attempted to write them yourself? Do you find it easy or difficult? Do you balk at showing your work to other people? Does practice make perfect? Do you that a wide-ranging sexual experience is necessary to write sexually explicit prose with ease and confidence? Other thoughts?
pegkerr: (Loving books)
Ever wondered about how a book's subtitle is created? Don't miss this hilarious chart from Publishers Weekly, Subtitle-o-Matic, about how to generate a book subtitle. It's HILARIOUS because it's TRUE. Martin Kihn also has a website, Subtitle-o-Matic.
pegkerr: (Default)
A very interesting site examining the problems of translating the Harry Potter into Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese here.
pegkerr: (Default)
It's always wonderful to see new authors enter the world of publishing. Stephanie Burgis' ([ profile] stephanieburgis, on Twitter as @stephanieburgis) new novel A Most Improper Magick is out in the UK today. You can read the first three chapters on her website here. (She's running a contest to offer someone a free copy, along with book-related swag. Boost the signal for her to enter. See the details here.
pegkerr: (No spoilers)
I'm really enjoying the blog Mark Reads Harry Potter. This is the guy who hilariously enviscerated the Twilight series (Mark Reads Twilight). He's enjoying Harry Potter much more. Right now, he's about four chapters into Prisoner of Azkaban, and his joy over the series (partly, he admits, because he likes it SO much better than Twilight) is entirely infectious. It's really delightful to watch someone read the series for the first time.

Also great fun is a guy who is reading Jane Austen's novels for the first time. He's finished Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility and is now reading Pride and Prejudice.
pegkerr: (Default)
Although both of my novels have romantic elements, I've never considered myself someone who generally reads romance novels myself. There are a few exceptions. Jane Austen, of course, is the most important one. I adore Jane Austen, as long-time readers of this blog know. Interestingly enough, it was a science fiction writer who got me to read Jane Austen, when I was (I think?) somewhere in my late twenties or early thirties. Eleanor Arnason made an off-hand comment at a panel at a science fiction convention (or perhaps it was one of our one-on-one conversations afterwards; my memory is hazy) that one of the best Iago-like depictions of evil she's ever read takes place in the opening chapter of Sense and Sensibility. Fanny Dashwood cleverly leads her husband, step-by-step, to repudiate the promise he made to his father on the latter’s deathbed to support his sisters. She gets him to agree to a little, and then a little more, and a little more, until by the end he is actually congratulating himself for his generosity for resolving to behave in totally dishonorable and miserly way to the women his father commended to his care. I was intrigued by her description of the passage and so read the book--and I was hooked. It's curious, that my introduction to romances was due to my writerly curiosity about how to write an effective villain.

Of course, Jane Austen wasn't considered a 'romance writer' in her day because the marketing category simply didn't even exist yet. Even today, I think that people who dismiss her as a mere romance novelist (often without reading her) are missing the point. She wrote about love and marriage, true. But she was hardly a wild romantic, but more of an Augustan realist with a very keen sense of the absurdity of human nature. When it comes down choosing between the worldview of Marianne or Elinor Dashwood, I think Miss Austen would clearly side with Elinor.

I also read Georgette Heyer's novels, which were recommended to me by a friend. I loved them and reread them almost every year. I had a couple Joan Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodge romances, which I picked up because I read Joan Aiken's children's books, and because Joan Aiken wrote continuations of Jane Austen's works.

Last year I picked up the Sons of Destiny novels of Jean Johnson ([ profile] ladyofthemasque) because I'd read and enjoyed some of her fanfiction. These were fantasy romances. Magic+sex=fluffy and fun.

But last month, I did something I'd never done before. I'd just finished the Jean Johnson books and when I got the bookstore gift card from my family, I went into a bookstore and headed, somewhat uncertainly, to a section I'd never hung out in before: I think I'll buy a romance. Any romance, I don't care. Um, well, a good romance. But which one? No recommendation. No knowledge of the author. Could I pick a romance up off the shelf and just read it cold?

I didn't know and I had literally never tried doing such a thing before. I have a sense of a slight preference for type (I was gravitating toward the historical romances, particularly regency) but I have no idea who popular romance authors are. As a genre, I had a little idea of how the marketing works from reading, of all things, Elizabeth Peter's Die for Love, a marvelously snarky and fun murder mystery set, of all places, at a romance writers convention. Yeah, Elizabeth Peters was right. The covers of romance novels ARE embarrassing. I thought about Joanna Russ' essay "How to Suppress Women's Writing" as I browsed the lurid covers. Here was writing by women, for women. It's wildly successful, but I'm embarrassed to pick it up. I thought a lot about that as I browsed, but yeah, I was uneasy about being seen carrying a book with those stereotypical clinch bodice-ripper covers. How interesting. Was I buying into the disparagment of the genre without thinking about it?

My first two picks were okay. Fun and pleasantly salacious. I enjoyed them well enough that I went back last weekend and picked up four more, again, picking cold. OMG. This last attempt was much less successful. I squirmed at the egregious errors, in history and voice. It was like biting into a bon bon, hoping for some delicious chococolate, and encountering plastic. Well, that was a waste of money. The cover blurbs were useless and "New York Times Best Selling Author" is no guarantee of quality, believe me. The historical errors irritated me, and the cliches were a turn off.

Well, what do other people think are good fantasy novelists? So I googled "Best romance novels" and picked a book that came in #1 on several lists: Outlander by Diane Gabaldon. There are over sixteen hundred reviews on the Amazon page, so I guess a few people have read it. I was interested to discover, when I got to the bookstore to pick up a copy, that although it was considered a rather groundbreaking book when it came out, and won the best novel of 1991 from the Romance Writers of America, it is now shelved in "Fiction." Not Romance. No clinch on the cover.

So I'm diving into the book, and so far it's certainly gripping my attention. No taste of plastic in my teeth so far. I'll keep you posted.

MyCharityWater Campaign Report:

91 people served
42 donations
29 days left

The Charity:Water blog posted about this campaign, and I felt more than a little envious. He raised more than $25,000? What fundraising mojo does he have that I don't have?

Then I realized he is one of the co-founders of Twitter.

Oh. Guess that answers that.

(Only 29 days left! There's still time to make the goal!)
pegkerr: (Default)
Interesting book marketing.

Laura Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict now has a web series going, Sex and the Austen Girl.
When you publish a novel, people immediately start saying, "So when is it going to be made into a movie?"

When you tell them it's been made into a web series, all of them will say "Wow, that's great!"

Many of them will add, "Uh...what's a web series?"

There was a time when I, former Luddite and current new-media convert, would have asked the same question. A web series is no different than a TV series except that it's made specifically to watch on your computer or smartphone. Oh, and it's a lot shorter. A typical web series episode (or webisode) runs anywhere from a minute and a half to 4 or 5 minutes. I've seen 8-minute episodes, but that's sort of pushing the attention-span envelope.

My episodes will run about two minutes. Two funny, pithy minutes. Twenty of them.

Sex and The Austen Girl and it's a comedy web series inspired by my novels Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

In it, two young women, the protagonist of Confessions and the protagonist of Rude Awakenings, have switched bodies, time periods, and lives. One is from Regency England; the other from 21st-century Los Angeles. The only thing they appear to have in common, aside from their devotion to the works of Jane Austen, is a propensity for romantic disaster. And so who better than they to face off over the pros and cons of life and love and being a woman in Jane Austen's world vs. the modern world?

How did this series come to be? After all, in my books these two young women never meet. It's sort of difficult to meet when you've switched bodies with someone in another time. And who would you be meeting, actually...yourself? Sort of twists the mind in pretzels. But in the world of imagination, anything is possible, even two women from two different times who have traded identities meeting in limbo to give each other dating advice, compare notes on how to survive in their respective centuries, and ponder the mysteries of changing your Facebook relationship status.

How this series came to be was the result of a wild idea I had in my car, where I thought it would be a blast to launch Rude Awakenings, which is just out in paperback, with bookstore events featuring characters from the books debating whether or not we are better off today or in Jane Austen's time, especially when it comes to relationships. After brainstorming the idea with my new-media-genius-filmmaker husband, it all morphed into, hey, let's do it as a web series!

Which is how I got to watch my heroines come to life. And meet each other. They'd like to meet you, too. Arabella Field and Fay Masterson are the amazing actresses who become these characters. So take a two-minute comedy break, and crack the code of dating and mating-Austen style. Watch Sex and the Austen Girl on
You can also follow along on Twitter: @TheAustenGirl. I've read the books, and they're fun, rather fluffy reads. Another article on the web series here.


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