The Cultural DNA of “To Kill A Mockingbird”

In the L.A. Times, Michael Schaub writes how “46 times ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ echoed throuTKAMgh pop culture,” which includes movies, TV, celebrity offspring, music, shopping, and more. Look for the Etsy links for TKAM-related items for sale, including this bookmark. The literary masterpiece by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim FederleAlso, check out Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by @TimFederle.

In another article, Michael Schaub writes that after an expert examined the manuscript in a safe deposit box used by Harper Lee, he determined that no third novel will be forthcoming.To read further on this issue, visit an article by Laura Stevens and Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal.Go Set A Watchman

Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, is on Twitter @GSAWatchmanBook.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Literary Trivia

jpg_5840_Royalty_Free_Clip_Art_Surprised_Brain_Cartoon_Character_Reading_A_Book_With_Question_MarkOn Buzzfeed.com, Erin LaRosa compiled a list of “20 Literary Facts to Impress Your Friends With.” Of the 20 facts of literary trivia, I only knew about five; I love learning something new every day!

TriviaPlaza has a quiz, “Literary Detectives and Their Authors.” (The average score is 6.46; I got an 8). Other trivia-plaza-quiz-logogeneral literature quizzes include: “Female Title Characters,” “Pen Names and Authors,” and “Book Opening Lines.” (Haven’t tried those yet.)

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If you’re up for a lengthy challenge, Triviabug has 275 questions on their Literature Quiz. (If I start it, I’ll never finish this post!)

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If you’ve never visited Arts & Letters Daily ~ you’re missing a great opportunity to learn many literary tidbits. New material is added six days a week. Check out this gem, which is linked to the original feature, “The Great Quietness of Eudora Welty,” written by Danny Heitman, at Humanities (The Magazine of the National Endowment of Humanities), March/April 2014:

“Eudora Welty had a simple explanation for her popularity as a speaker: ‘I’m always on time, and I don’t get drunk or hole up in a hotel with my lover.'”

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Another site, NewPages, is a wealth of information for writers, readers, and editors, when it comes to Blogs and Daily News Sites.

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If you visit any or all of the quiz sites, let us know how you did. Have fun, & good luck!

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

My Summer Reading List

wordleSince as far back as I can remember, the end of the school year came with a summer reading list. I think we were given a selection of 10 or 12 grade-appropriate books and had to pick 2 or 3 to read over vacation and then write a short book report to present in September.

Being someone who loved to read—to me it was way more enjoyable than summer camp—a measly two or three books weren’t nearly enough. I’d try to get through the entire list, or at least those books whose titles seemed interesting.

As an adult and a writer, I still love to read as much as work, writing and life will allow, and often stay up way past a reasonable bedtime unable to put down my latest pick. Now that the weather has finally warmed up, the park and the beach are also great places to indulge and I’m looking forward to reading the books below, which are listed in no particular order. And, since I’m no longer in school, the summer can last as long as I need
it to.

Day She Died by Catriona McPherson

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

Lost by Laura K. Curtis

The Fever by Megan Abbott

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Colemam

Brooklyn Bones by Triss Stein

Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

What about you? What’s on your list of must-read books this summer?

Not Bragging, Celebrating with Kudos to Harper Collins

Image from Daniel Bates’s Daily Mail‘s article on the EBM in April, 2009.

(Click image to enlarge)

A couple of us WoM have been asking for in-store POD of Big 6 backlists since at least 2009, and Harper Collins is going to give it a go by allowing Espresso Book Machines (EBMs) in physical bookstores to handle about 5,000 titles of their trade paperback backlist to begin.  It always seemed like a natural to me/us, once the technology became available.

When people are shopping for new titles, or investigating an author’s backlist which may be too costly or too infrequently requested to keep in stock, why not allow them to order a printed copy from a database that can be produced in about 20 minutes from start-to-finish while they’re browsing? Alternatively, order from home–it could be ready by the time you arrive for book club.

If you read here or at CriminalElement.com, you know I’m no technophobe (obviously) and a big e-book fan.  Still, I adore physical books, parchments, folios, etc., as a fabulously robust format that just plain works.  Want to read the Egyptian Book of the Dead?  You can!  Because it’s a book, and despite the indignities and ages they suffer, well-made books do a great job of outlasting conditions and even civilizations.  I also love, love the beauty of them and find there are times when the library or used bookshop won’t do, when I desire or need a brand-new, physical copy of an older book.

H-C’s pricing for this new initiative will be on the agency model, and guarantees the same royalties to authors as the usual retail copies.  Usually on the pricing issues, I have to dig in deeper before I understand the many-tentacled implications, so if you know why this particular pricing model for the Espresso-printed books is a good move or not-so and for whom, please share! Until I know more and can try it myself, I unconditionally volunteer many Huzzahs to Harper Collins for being the first mover.

(Turns out that NYC’s McNally Jackson bookstore already has one I can try.  I’ve been meaning to field test the Espresso Book Machine’s final products, and hadn’t gotten to it. I’ll report back on how I find it using not-so-great source material and a very well-formatted source, and feel free to share whatever you know, too.)

Last, related to this quote from the Publisher’s Lunch article:  “Harper ceo [sic] Brian Murray says, ‘I think it’s important that we make more of our books available in brick and mortar stores’ which ‘are important for discovery.’ He adds that ‘if I only cared about profitability, I wouldn’t be doing this,’ but it’s ‘good for authors and for booksellers to be able to satisfy a customer’ who goes to a physical store and wants a Harper title.”*

*Okay, but if the new delivery model’s good and serving a need well, snowy nobility will be accompanied by profitability, I’m sure.  And I think that would be fine with Harper Collins, too : )

Banning Books: Is it Ever Okay?

Image from La Deetda Reads

Every year during Banned Books Week (this year it’s today through Oct. 1) I’m shocked by the latest lists of banned and challenged books. The last three years alone have seen challenges of books including And Tango Makes Three, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Twilight (series), To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, My Sister’s Keeper, The Color Purple, His Dark Materials trilogy, and The Kite Runner.

This year I defended my freedom to choose by posting videos of friends reading from a favorite banned or challenged book on You Tube’s Virtual Banned Book Read-Out. I’m reading from The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.

But while I’ve trumpeted the right to read books I consider important, I’ve been uncomfortable about applying that right to “hate” books. Words do incite hateful actions. Take Mein Kampf, and consider the role it played in Hitler’s Germany. What if our freedom-to-read values mean we must defend works that counter everything we stand for? What if our kids read precise and accurate instructions for making bombs in the garage?

Should we keep dangerous material available so we can weigh sides of an issue and come to our our own conclusions? Should we make it available to children who presumably don’t have the experience to develop a considered opinion? Aren’t these questions we should discuss as we celebrate intellectual freedom and the right to read books that present unorthodox or unpopular views?

Giving Thanks for All Things Bookish

Given the Women of Mystery’s plethora of posts about favorite authors, favorite genres, favorite children’s books – not to mention Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Book Friday – it’s clear that those who write and read this blog are lovers of words, humor, horror, fantasy, mystery, and illustration.

Having been reminded, I will have no problem giving thanks around the turkey today. And since I’m gathering with family and friends this Thanksgiving, I thought I’d ask them to toss out the names of a few books they want to give thanks for. I urge you to add to the list and carry on the discussion around today’s nibbles and feasts:

To the Lighthouse; Pride and Prejudice; Anna Karenina; The Golden Bowl, His Dark Materials, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky, James Joyce’s Dubliners, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Barbara Deming’s Prison Notes. Ender’s Game, Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Running with the Demon, Never Cry Wolf, James Herriot series. Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince and Night Flight, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

And for dessert, a reminder that it all starts with words:


Jabberwocky

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Have a wondrous Thanksgiving!
– from The Women of Mystery

Wordy Wordsmithery

Logo from the site of supercool word artist John Langdon, who creates ambigrams, among other things. To see them is to know the definition.

Bob Greene declares, via CNN, that typos are a big deal.
Blogpal Charles Gramlich covers more problem words from a book by Bill Bryson. I missed it when Charles began this series at Razored Zen, and if you did, too, it’s a goodie. I larned stuff!
William Zinsser, at the American Scholar, posts his speech to incoming international students of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism about writing English as a second language. In explaining its vagaries and abuses to people who aren’t native speakers, he exposes how to write if you sincerely care about being understood.

And The Winner Is …


A recent article in the Arts, Briefly column of The New York Times reported on an online contest sponsored by The Bookseller magazine for the most bizarrely titled book of 2009. 4,553 votes were cast in the competition in hopes of snaring the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

First place went to “Crocheting Adventures With Hyperbolic Planes” by Dr. Daina Taimina.

“What Kind of Bean Is This Chihuahua?” by Tara Jansen-Meyer received second place.

Other books that received top votes included “Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter” by David Crompton and “The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease” by Ellen Scherl and Maria Dubinsky. Surprisingly a volume about Nazi eating utensils, “Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich” by James A Yannes, garnered enough votes to secure third place.

Image from SystemaxOnline.com

Crimes by Moonlight Cover Art

Last July, Clare announced the fact that I had a story called “The Awareness” accepted for the Mystery Writers of America anthology, edited by Charlaine Harris.

Well, a few names got bandied about for the anthology, and the powers-that-be finally settled on Crimes by Moonlight.

It is my honor to be among the authors whose stories are included: Charlaine Harris, Steve Brewer, Dana Cameron, Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, Barbara D’Amato, Brendan DuBois, Terrie Farley Moran, Jack Fredrickson, Parnell Hall, Carolyn Hart, S. W. Hubbard, Toni L. P. Kelner, Lou Kemp,William Kent Kreuger, Harley Jane Kozak, Margaret Maron, Martin Meyers, Jeffrey Somers, Elaine Viets and Mike Wiecek.

The Berkley hardcover edition of Crimes by Moonlight is due for release on April 6, 2010. Bricks and mortar bookstores and online stores are accepting pre-orders now.

I’m sure I’ll be back bragging about this brilliant anthology more than once in the months to come, so stay tuned . . .

Terrie

Entitled

Last week a friend handed me a book I knew I’d have to read. It’s title: If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him (… I’d Be Out of Prison Now). With a title like that, how could I resist? The author, Sharyn McCrumb attributed it to a friend who overheard the words from a battered woman who was in jail for murder. Ms. McCrumb is a wonderful writer and a New York Times best-selling author, but this book, an early Elizabeth MacPherson novel, hadn’t made the list.

I wondered why. With such an interesting title and a fun, well-plotted story, it seemed like it would have been a sure-fire winner, at least in my opinion.

This got me thinking about titles and the importance that they have not only in describing a book’s contents, but also in attracting readers and ultimately sales. Through online research, I learned that conventional wisdom has it that it’s easier to market and sell a book with a great title—preferably a short, catchy one. The Exorcist and Blink are two that come to mind.

I also learned that a good title is one people tend to respond to, and perhaps more importantly, retain, much like Pride and Prejudice, the #2 listing on the BBC’s poll of the 100 most popular books. Furthermore, a good title should also be one that the media catch on to and use over and over again, like Catch-22.

We’ve all heard of Jaws ( a book which sold 20 million copies according to Wikipedia’s list of best sellers). This blockbuster novel spawned several movies and from them, the famous tag line: “Just when you thought it was safe…“ A line that’s become part of the vernacular, as has the intro music. Da dum. Da dum. All keeping the popularity of the book alive and well for many years.

So, can you judge a book by its title? The Great Gatsby started out as Trimalchio in West Egg until editor Maxwell Perkins changed it. Somehow he understood what would hatch successfully and what wouldn’t.

Some titles, like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo seem provocative. Others, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife may appear straightforward. And some, like The Kite Runner, merely hint at what’s to come. Of course, each of these titles can be interpreted by the imagination and the inclination of the reader. And each has its own twists and turns that have gone beyond their titles to make them best sellers.

Many well-known authors depend on repetition and reader memory to move their work along. Titles by John Sanford include 12 titles in his Prey Series while James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club is working on their 8th crime.

Wondering about which new titles might attract me as a reader, I took a trip to my local Border’s, to see what was on offer.

Titles in new fiction included Invisible by Paul Auster, Looking Glass by Alice Sebold, Ice by Linda Howard and The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw.

Among the Best Sellers, I found Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn, Ford County by John Grisham, and The Given Day by Denis Lehane.

While all seemed interesting and fit the criteria of short and catchy, none had that immediate, got-to-read-it-grab of If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him, at least for me.

I’m hoping that the titles of the two novels I’m working on, Keeping Secrets and Telling Lies, will spark interest of that kind among mystery readers.

What titles are you planning for your work? Will they be short and sweet? Long and expressive? Emotional? Descriptive? Or something entirely different? Will they spark accolades, adoration and sales? Please post a comment and let us know what you think.