Today I got word that Vanessa Miller's Long Time Coming—the #1 title on the Black Christian News/Black Christian Book Company National Bestsellers List—is available for free Kindle download on Amazon.com. (The ebook is only free until November 8.)
Long Time Coming is about two women from two very different circumstances: One has a seemingly perfect life, minus the children that she desperately wants. The other has a house full of kids—and a whole other set of problems. The story is about how the women come into each other's lives and grow and change. (Read more on Miller's website.)
I don't own a Kindle, so I don't usually monitor the books that are temporarily available for free on Amazon.com as part of a special promotion—but I thought some readers would be interested in this deal.
Are any of you inspirational/Christian fiction fans?
Also in BookPage: Love Christian fiction? Don't miss this roundup of six novels from our September issue.
Salon reporter Rebecca Traister's Big Girls Don't Cry (September, Free Press) answers the question: Was the 2008 election good for women?
You may know the ending to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (out in paperback last week from Harper Perennial)—but it still manages to be a page-turner.
Of course, President George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points (Crown), comes out next week. The book may be embargoed, but the Drudge Report has already posted leaked passages (via GalleyCat).
Want to go way back in our political history? Read Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life (October, Penguin Press). BookPage reviewer Roger Bishop writes that it's "historical biography at its best."
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As long as we're on the subject of bestsellers, I want to point out that November 2 is going to be a very happy day indeed for a lot of readers. The Penguin Group is hoping two million readers, to be exact—that's the print run for Nora Roberts' Happy Ever After, which comes out today.
BookPage romance columnist (and author) Christie Ridgway writes that Happy Ever After, the conclusion of Roberts' best-selling Bride Quartet, "should not be missed." The story follows Parker Brown, the mastermind behind wedding planning company Vows, as she falls for mechanic Malcolm Kavanaugh—her opposite. Learn more from Roberts herself:
Have you been waiting to say "I do" to Happy Ever After? (Sorry! Couldn't help it.)
What book trailers are you buzzing about this week?
Last spring we discovered from our 2010 Reader Survey that half of BookPage readers rank bestsellers as their favorite kind of book. Now, BookPage reviews a lot of different kinds of books, from commercial books that have print runs in the millions, to literary novels by debut authors with much smaller first printings.
It would be impossible to cover all the bestsellers being published (and as we learned a couple months ago during the Jonathan Franzen-inspired literary vs. commercial fiction showdown, many people would ask, what's the point?). But in tomorrow's edition of BookPageXTRA (our bi-monthly e-newsletter), we've devoted our full attention to this particular kind of book—fast-paced, entertaining, often funny stories that will inspire thousands of people to pull out their wallets at the bookstore then run home to start turning the pages.
You'll have to sign up for BookPageXTRA to learn which books we're highlighting*, but for now, I'd love to know:
Which bestsellers do you think are worth the hype? (Or, who is your favorite best-selling author?)
What makes a bestseller?
*You'll also get a chance to win copies of all the featured books.
Writer Tasha Alexander and her Victorian-era novels featuring the intrepid, ahead-of-her-time Lady Emily should be well-known to BookPage readers—see our reviews of them here. The fifth in the series, Dangerous to Know, came out last week. Here, Alexander gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of the research required for Dangerous, making us even more jealous of the life of an author!
I spent much of last summer housesitting in rural Normandy, writing and doing research for my latest book. It was heavenly. The landscape is extraordinary, like walking through an Impressionist painting, and the food is everything you’d expect from France. I’d do just about anything right now for the village boulangerie’s still-hot croissants. Spending a significant amount of time in the place your novel is set enriches the story in ways you can’t anticipate—and in ways that would be impossible if you limited your research to reading.
But the thing that surprised me the most about my time in France was driving. Or navigating, really. And that was something that couldn’t go into a novel set in 1892.
To start, let me say, for the record, that I absolutely adore France and the French. Always have, always will. Until I came to Normandy, I’d not spent much time in France outside of Paris (it’s pretty hard to tear yourself away from Paris), and I was looking forward to exploring the coast, the crumbling châteaux, and the lush countryside. Armed with directions printed from Google Maps, I set off for my first excursion, to the seaside town of Étretat.
Within about half an hour, I was hopelessly lost.
Google Maps, you see, doesn’t quite fit with France. I was approaching the trip like an American—an American planning to follow numbered highways to numbered exits.
Now. The French have both numbered highways and numbered exits. But to get to them isn’t quite so easy as you might think. It requires a different frame of mind. You don’t want to look for the number—instead, you need to go through each roundabout in the direction of the next village that’s on your way to your final destination. Knowing you need the N15 or the D8 isn’t enough. From that day on, I abandoned Google for a real, hard copy map, and made lists of towns before setting off. In the end, it made for much more pleasant excursions. How lovely to look for Pierrefiques or Fauville-en-Caux, wondering what you’ll see there, rather than fixating on numbers. Sure, you may eventually wind up on the N15, but more likely, you’ll never see the entrance and will spend a gorgeous afternoon meandering through charming places you’d never have seen otherwise.
Once you get accustomed to it, switching back to taking I-80 to exit whatever seems pedestrian and crass. I’m already looking forward to my next trip along the back roads of France.
Thanks, Tasha! Next time you go to France, take us with you. :) Visit her site for more about Tasha Alexander and the Lady Emily series.
It's been another great week of reading blogs—especially because of all the spooky and kooky holiday posts. (I've already mentioned a couple this morning.)
A few of my favorite posts from the week:
Leading up to the 31st, Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves has been hosting a wonderful (and freaky!) series called Halloween Fright Fest. Two of my favorite posts are linked above, on what makes a book fit into the horror vs. thriller genre.
Horror forces us to realize and confront our fears. In many cases, as I’ve stated repeatedly, horror forces us to examine social issues that are often ignored or frowned upon. Notice I didn’t state that said writing must contain vampires, ghosts, werewolves, or anything supernatural?
A thriller is a story where a basically innocent person endures increasingly terrible events until they can’t take it anymore, and in a fit of fight-or-flight syndrome, they choose to run. (By the way, the post on thrillers was a guest post from Carrie of The Books I Read.)
October's Compendium of Literary Links
Posted by Greg on The New Dork Review of Books
I highlighted The New Dork Review of Books a couple months ago in "Best of the Blogs" and have enjoyed perusing this smart and funny blog ever since. Today (because we all love roundups!), I want to direct you to a "compendium of literary links"—a "few really good, really long articles" about books and reading. The separation of art and artist. Nicole Krauss. Philip Roth. It's good stuff!
What blog posts have you enjoyed this week?
Now that you know what to read on Halloween, what are you going to wear?
Lit Drift has posted a fantastic roundup of 10 literary-inspired Halloween costumes. I am happy to say that I have dressed up as two of the ideas in years past (Nancy Drew—my perennial standby—and Hester Prynne). Another suggestion—Lisbeth Salander—is sure to be popular this year. And another—Scout-as-ham in To Kill a Mockingbird—if just plain hilarious.
YA blog Forever Young Adult has posted a fun roundup of costume ideas from teen books. Besides the obvious Hunger Games-inspired outfits, there are also some suggestions I never would have thought of: Ponyboy or Soda Pop from The Outsiders! Stargirl Caraway!
In college, I had a friend who got some laughs by carrying around a pillow and pretending to be suffocated by it every few minutes à la Desdemona. Sherlock Holmes would be pretty easy to pull off. Or Dorothy Gale if you have red shoes. What about Fern Arable?
As for me, I'm dressing up as Rita Skeeter—everyone's favorite magical yellow journalist. All I need now is an acid-green Quick-Quotes Quill . . .
What are your ideas for a bookish Halloween costume?
Booker Prize-winner author Margaret Atwood was the keynote speaker at Belmont University's Ninth Annual Humanities Symposium on October 27. Karen Trotter Elley, BookPage Production Designer, attended Atwood's talk. Below, she describes the memorable evening (Atwood sang!)—and provides some writing tips from the prolific author.
On Wednesday, I sat in a pew in the Belmont Heights Baptist Church patiently waiting for a talk by acclaimed author Margaret Atwood. In the row in front of me, a young woman squirmed in her seat, giddy with delight.
“I just love her,” she confided. “I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to see Atwood in person. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” The young lady I assumed couldn’t possibly be over 18 years of age turned out to be a writing teacher at Belmont University, and she had just checked an item off her bucket list.
Then the highly anticipated event of the evening began as Sue Trout, professor of English at Belmont and an organizer of the symposium, came out to make her opening remarks. Trout stated that the evening was “one of those shining moments in life.” Chalk up another one for her bucket list.
According to the Symposium’s program, Atwood (author of 40 books) is a giant of modern literature, “a rare writer whose work is adored by the public, acclaimed by the critics and studied on university campuses around the world.” She is perhaps best known as the Booker Prize-winning author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin.
When Atwood finally stepped up to the podium, she had a surprise for us. She listened to the Grand Ole Opry every weekend growing up in Canada, and one of her dreams was to someday sing to an audience in Nashville, TN. Since Belmont University is smack dab in the heart of Music City, she begged our indulgence. In a sweet voice with an authentic sounding accent, the sophisticated, world renowned writer delivered a more than adequate rendition of a verse from an old Hank Williams tune, “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used to Do.” The crowd went wild and one more bucket list item bit the dust.
After that, Atwood charmed us with her warmth, wit and wisdom as she made wry observations about writing and life. Her selected readings from her latest novel, The Year of the Flood (2009), introduced a future world where much of human life has been obliterated. Two women remain: Toby, a former God’s Gardener (a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion and nature) barricaded inside a luxurious spa, and Ren, a trapeze artist, locked away in a high-class sex club with a really good dental plan and the cleanest dirty girls in town. Adam One, the kindly leader of God’s Gardeners, is still around. But how many others have survived and in what form? Atwood wasn’t telling so I guess we’re going to have to read the book to find out.
To put a capper on the evening, there was an extended Q&A with Atwood followed by a book signing. It was a great night for readers, writers and bucket lists.
• In order to minimize confusion on the part of the reader, Atwood advises writers to use character names that begin with different letters of the alphabet or at least give them a different hair color. For example, Betty is a blonde and Barbara has dark brown hair.
• When writing about several different people, Atwood stresses that it’s important to keep their timelines straight. She suggests creating a chart with the years across the top and the months down the side. Be sure to put the characters’ birthdates in so you’ll automatically be able to determine the actual age of characters as time passes in your story.
• Check the world events against the birthday to determine what was going on at different ages in their lives. One example she gave was the invention of pantyhose, without which mini-skirts might never have existed. Another example cited was the color of appliances, carpeting, etc. used in homes at that time. Some folks still vividly recall the period in the ’70s when avocado green, orange and brown were all the rage in home décor. It’s important to get the details right, she says, or someone will write you a "yah, yah, yah letter," as she calls it.
• During the revision process, Atwood says you may need to cut what you may feel is a fabulous piece of writing. She advises writers not to throw those pieces away. “Put those cuts in a drawer. That deleted piece might fit perfectly in another writing project somewhere later down the line.”
What is your favorite book by Margaret Atwood?
Another 2011 release we have our eye on is Ruth Brandon's Ugly Beauty (Harper). Coming in February, the book is a dual biography of Helena Rubinstein and the founder of L'Oréal, Eugène Schueller, who faced off during the early days of the cosmetics industry. Though Rubinstein's company made her into the first female millionaire, Schueller's brand eventually triumphed, albeit at the price of his reputation—his rise to the top during the 30s and 40s meant collaborating with the Nazis.
From the catalog:
[C]ultural historian and biographer Ruth Brandon uses their conflict to ask important contemporary questions about feminism, standards of beauty, and the often murky intersection of individual political aims and the role of business. Drawn from incredible archival material and a vast historical record, Ugly Beauty is a riveting true story that reads like a thriller, filled with remarkable twists, turns, and larger-than-life characters.
Last night, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation awarded 10 Whiting Awards. Since 1985, these honors have gone annually to emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays. The award comes with $50,000 and is "based on accomplishment and promise."
Though you may have never heard of some of the recipients, these people are writers to watch. For proof, just look at the list of past winners: Jonathan Franzen (1988), Justin Cronin (2002), Kim Edwards (2002), Daniel Alarcon (2004), Yiyun Li (2006), Allegra Goodman (1991), Michael Cunningham (1995) and many other best-selling authors and iterary superstars.
Michael Dahlie, A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living
Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Sightseeing
Lydia Peelle, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (and a Nashville resident!)
Elif Batuman, The Possessed
Amy Leach, writing a book of essays about animals, plants and stars
Said Sayrafiezadeh, When Skateboards Will Be Free
Matt Donovan, Vellum
Jane Springer, Dear Blackbird
L. B. Thompson, Tendered Notes (a chapbook)
David Adjmi, Stunning
What other writers are on your "to-watch" list?