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Prizes galore

Congratulations to Eimear McBride for winning the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction. It’s nice to read about someone pushing the envelope of the novel out and being rewarded for their courage.

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Also announced yesterday was the lower-key but still important HWA Debut Crown shortlist. The Historical Writers Association has decided that they too should have a range of  awards similar to those given by the Crime Writers Association (CWA).

It’s lovely to read about these successes. But I still wonder about those who don’t win them. Does the existence of a prizewinner affect other people’s sales? logo

As a reader I also wonder if all the hype and publicity skews what I read. While wandering round a bookshop I’m likely to pick up books I’ve heard of, even if I can’t recall why they seem familiar.

Does winning a prize affect a book’s long term sales? Or does it fade from popularity as fast as it would without the prize?

We seem to live in a world of awards and competitions. Is this a good thing? bad? totally irrelevant?

Secondhand serendipity

I recently went to Crimefest, and had a really good time. Among the many tables dedicated to books is a swap table. Browsing through the books left for swap I saw one with ‘Johnson County Library’ and a bar code on its cover.3026099

My first reaction was that someone had left their library book by mistake; then I opened it and inside was printed ‘Withdrawn from Johnson County Library’. So it was the result of library weeding and it was OK to take it.

The book was Daughter of Deceit by Patricia Sprinkle, an author I’d not heard of. I’m not sure if her work is available in the UK – Johnson County sounds like it’s somewhere in America.

I really enjoyed it. I’m so glad that someone at Crimefest left it. Now that I’ve read it I feel honour bound to pass it on to one of the local secondhand bookshelves so someone else can enjoy it too.

It is set among the very rich in Atlanta. Not an underworld setting – well-mannered, well-dressed women living in beautiful houses in a lovely town. Like my own, less wealthy, neighbours they spend their time raising families and raising funds for good causes. The mystery, when it strikes, is all the more shocking for being in such a society.

A middle-aged woman deeply into genealogy is called upon to help a woman neighbour whose world has been turned upside down by the discovery that her late father may not have been related to her at all. How did he really feel about her? Is she entitled to the wealth she’s inherited? And, to top it all, did she really shoot her husband?

I will certainly look out for more of Ms Sprinkle’s work.

Cover art from Goodreads.

The end of the 30 day book challenge

A few days ago I posted my last instalment of this challenge. I have to thank the writers of Snobbery for setting me going on what has turned out to be a long journey.

These are the stops on the way:

Day 1:  My Favourite Book
Day 2:  My Least Favourite Book
Day 3:  A Book That Surprised Me
Day 4:  A Book That Reminds Me of Home
Day 5:  A Non-Fiction Book I Like
Day 6:  A Book That Makes Me Cry
Day 7:  A Book I Find Hard to Read
Day 8:  An Unpopular Book I Think Should Be A Bestseller
Day 9:  A Book I’ve Read More Than Once
Day 10:  The First Novel I Remember Reading
Day 11:  The Book That Made Me Fall In Love With Reading
Day 12:  A Book So Emotionally Draining, I Had To Set It Aside
Day 13:  Favourite Childhood Book
Day 14:  A Book That Should Be On High School Or College Required Reading Lists
Day 15:  Favourite Book Dealing With Foreign Culture
Day 16:  Favourite Book Turned Movie
Day 17:  Book Turned Movie That Was Completely Desecrated
Day 18:  Book I Love That I Can’t Find On Shelves Anymore
Day 19:  A Book That Changed My Mind About A Particular Subject
Day 20:  A Book I’d Recommend To An Ignorant/Racist/Closed-Minded Individual
Day 21:  A Guilty Pleasure Book
Day 22:  Favourite Series
Day 23:  Favourite Romance Novel
Day 24:  A Book I Later Found Out The Author Lied About
Day 25:  Favourite Biography/Autobiography
Day 26:  A Book I Wish Would Be Written
Day 27:  A Book I’d Write If I Had All The Resources
Day 28:  A Book I Wish I’d Never Read
Day 29:  An Author That I Completely Avoid/Hate/Won’t Read
Day 30:  An Author That I’ll Read Whatever They Put Out

Most of the route has been down memory lane and it’s been useful, and at times exciting, to scour my recollections of past reading in order to write the posts. Looking back I see I’ve read a lot of great stuff.

Remembering the books has also made me remember how I felt on reading them: I had forgotten that I cried over Black Beauty, felt really cross with Dennis Wheatley, and thrilled at the description of the research in Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time.

My original plan of writing one post a week has long since failed, but I think that may have been a good thing, giving me more time to mull over what to write and, importantly, what to leave out.

I’ve considered taking up the NaPoWriMo challenge but, if I can’t stick to once a week, every day has no chance.

A new online magazine with 100 haiku

Kigo mag cover artFor all you haiku fans, here’s a link to a new online magazine Kigo: Seasonal Words – available to download free.

It contains four of my haiku, which, of course, makes me really happy, but that’s not why I recommend it. It has 96 other haiku and they are a wonderful collection.

This first issue is a Winter/Spring one, but having a restricted subject matter has not restricted the poets. There are so many ways of looking at a season; many of them I wouldn’t have been able to think of ever. A formal poetry style, a restricted subject, but so much variety.

The human brain has so many manifestations – if all the 8 billion people in the world sat down and wrote a haiku about winter no two of them would be the same. And yet in all that difference almost all those 8 billion people respond to poetry. Behind the diversity is an underlying sharing.

Those who write haiku, tanka or haiga may be interested to know that the publishers, Chuffed Buff Books, are now taking submissions for the summer issue.

30 Day Book Challenge – day 30: An author I’ll read whatever they put out

Another challenge I have difficulty meeting. I can’t think of anyone whose work I must read: I don’t wait anxiously for the next whatever.

Having said that, a newly come to light Blandings or Jeeves by P G Wodehouse would have me waiting, with interest if not anxiety. But this is fantasy, I don’t think he left any hidden manuscripts for anyone to discover.

I must have read most of Agatha Christie’s output except her six books written as Mary Westmacott – and they are on my ‘to read one day’ list. Not that she’s the greatest writer, but her stories are clever and her writing style very smooth and easy to read.

In the days when a lot of my reading was science fiction I picked up Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke big time. Later I enjoyed Brian Stableford’s books and read quite a few, but according to Wikipedia he has written around 70 novels and I certainly haven’t seen anything like all of them, and don’t think I ever will. Now I read much less in the genre and have rather lost track of who’s who and what they’re writing.

Jeeves cover art

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I choose books by subject rather than author. When garnering books, either from a shop or library, I use the back-blurb as a guide.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR THE COVER REVEAL OF 100 NIGHTMARES

E A M Harris:

Congratulations to KZ on her new book. I hope it really takes off. There are too few illustrated books around these days.

Originally posted on The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic:

what's the tale behind this image? find out in one of my stories in 100 Nightmares

what’s the tale behind this image? find out in one of my stories in 100 Nightmares

Hi everyone! I’m releasing my very first horror story collection this April and I’m seriously psyched. It consists of 100 stories written in exactly 100 words, accompanied by a few illustrations.

I’ll be needing volunteers for the cover reveal. The book cover is finally done and it’s oh so brilliant!

If you like my writing, help me spread the word by joining my Blog Blast. It’s a self-published effort so I’m going to need all the help I can get.

Send me a message at crazyaboutmiumiu2@yahoo.com

I’ll send you the cover and a description of my book so you can post it on your blog whenever you’re free. In exchange, I’d give you my soul but you probably don’t want the filthy little thing so I’ll just feature you on my blog and thank…

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Five Fascinating Facts about Douglas Adams

E A M Harris:

For all lovers of things quirky and particularly Douglas Adams brand of quirk.

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

1. One of Douglas Adams’s early jobs was as a bodyguard to a Qatari family of oil tycoons. He also had a job cleaning a chicken-shed at one point. The ‘eureka moment’ for  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came when he lay drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in the early 1970s. At the time he was carrying a copy of  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe with him, and it occurred to him – as he looked up at the stars - that ‘somebody ought to write a  Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.  It took a few years for the idea to take shape, but in 1978 the radio programme made its debut. A trilogy – comprising, as trilogies don’t tend to, five books – followed. If you want to see an interview with a young Douglas Adams talking about the series, there is a great Youtube clip of Adams being interviewed on the…

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30 Day Book Challenge – day 29: An author I completely avoid

519O1fDZq+LThere are a number of authors I don’t bother reading and would only read if there was nothing else available, but ‘completely avoid’ is a bit extreme.

I think Patricia Cornwell would be one of them, unless she changes what she writes to something a bit less detailed and forensic. She’s a good writer and with other subject matter might be an OK for me.

Dennis Wheatley is a writer I’ve no time for. I’ve only read a couple of his books, and those a long time ago. I thought them potentially exciting but too wordy to hold my attention and the attitudes he had are no longer relevant.

I don’t see myself reading any Ian Fleming – spying as a subject doesn’t interest me, though I might have a go at a John Le Carré novel one day. I’ve seen the Alec Guinness portrayals of Smiley and enjoyed them, so I might like the books.

I don’t believe in saying ‘never’. Just as my interests change over time, so do those of writers; someone whose work I don’t like at present may well start doing something I can’t wait to read.

Reading a book so new it’s not out yet – ‘Amok’ from Solarwyrm Press

amok cover artI recently reviewed Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction – edited by Dominica Malcolm on Goodreads, but since I don’t know how to connect this blog with Goodreads I’m reposting it here as I think the book is worth writing about.

It is a rich collection of twenty-four stories; rich in diversity of setting, of speculative ideas, and of character.

There are a lot of stories here that I loved and only a couple that didn’t appeal to me. There were also a few I felt could have been shortened – but this might just be a reflection of my dislike of description.

The editor defines speculative fiction as

real world settings in the past, present, or future, with science-fiction or fantasy elements.

and the stories chosen reflect this closely.

The settings are spread widely in the Asia-Pacific area and move from the present to the not very distant future. However, the science-fiction and fantasy elements are all in residence on variants of modern Earth; there are no alien planets or sword-and-sorcery fantasy cultures – though there is some sword-without-sorcery.

This doesn’t mean the ideas are limited. The story-worlds described may be recognisable as derived from ours or from our folklore, but each has one or several differences that fuel the events. Some of them are very way out, but some are horribly possible. How do people deal with making a cupid, quarrelling over a mountain of rubbish, half the world disappearing in a flood, or a special dimension for healers? Even the vampire and the mermaid have unexpected features.

Though the speculative ideas are central to the stories, these are basically tales about people. In them we meet, as central characters, parents and grandparents, a blind schoolboy, students, a shopkeeper, a soldier, a gangster, a couple of ghostbusters, a kung fu master, and several pairs of lovers. Even the moon rabbit and the garden ornament are ‘people’.

Some face a variety of enemies – among them an empire building European, a Filipino aswang, big corporations up to their usual (and unusual) evilness and a sea-witch.

Others have to deal with the aftermath of a major war, the pain of losing a child, their own inability to believe the unlikely, and love lost in some odd ways.

All lovers of speculative or quirky fiction should find something for them here.

Expected publication: April 30th 2014 by Solarwyrm Press.

30 Day Book Challenge – day 28: A book I wish I’d never read

Post-Mortem-HungarySome years ago I read a book by Patricia Cornwell. She has written several books about her fictional medical examiner, Dr Kay Scarpetta, and is popular with crime fiction readers.

I can’t now remember which of the books I read. It was certainly well written with a complex plot, active characters and convincing detail – all the things I usually love in a crime novel.

But I didn’t like this one. The detail was too much and too blood and guts for my taste; I really don’t want to know the ins and outs of post-mortems. Also the main character really annoyed me. She seemed to take offence at almost everything and to act illogically at important points in the plot.

Usually I’m willing to step far outside my reading comfort zone and have often been surprised at how rewarding it is. Not this time. Many people enjoy Ms Cornwell’s books, but they just aren’t for me, and I doubt if I’ll ever try another.

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