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Friday, August 31, 2012

Quote of the month

"I don't want anything from you except the cats and the giraffe."

--Jennifer Wade's pre-nuptial agreement with John Cleese

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saving your computer from typing cats

Believe it or not, there is a program that cat-proofs your computer

It's called Pawsense 

cat surfing the Web?

 When cats walk or climb on your keyboard, they say, they can enter random commands and data, damage your files, and even crash your computer. This can happen whether you are near the computer or have suddenly been called away from it.

According to their hype, PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats. It quickly detects and blocks cat typing, and also helps train your cat to stay off the computer keyboard.
  • Every time your computer boots up, PawSense will automatically start up in the background to watch over your computer system.
  • Even while you use your other software, PawSense constantly monitors keyboard activity. PawSense analyzes keypress timings and combinations to distinguish cat typing from human typing. PawSense normally recognizes a cat on the keyboard within one or two pawsteps.

It even makes funny sounds to scare your cat away.  You can try an audio link to see what they are making a noise about.

If you have a curious cat, it might even be worth buying! 

"Incidentally, "cat typing'' is also worth a mention. It refers to the prose produced by cats walking over computer keyboards and can be used in a derogatory fashion to describe a human effort."

—Beth Pearson, "The word on the street is a dog watching TV,"
The Herald (Glasgow), May 3, 2003

New view of Bin Laden's death

According to a new book, trigger fingers were very twitchy

A firsthand account of the commando raid by United States Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden contradicts previous accounts by administration officials, raising questions as to whether the terror mastermind presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him.

Bin Laden apparently was shot in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction, according to former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in No Easy Day. The book is to be published next week by Penguin Group (USA)'s Dutton imprint.

Bissonnette says he was directly behind a point man going up the stairs in the pitch black hallway. Near the top, he said, he heard two shots, but the book doesn't make clear who fired them. He wrote that the point man had seen a man peeking out of a door on the right side of the hallway.

The author writes that the man ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the man crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body. Once they wiped the blood off, they were certain it was bin Laden.

Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way. He and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sights on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said.

AAP report by Kimberly Dozier

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tupaia and the Parliamentary Order Paper

A letter received today
Many thanks to Charles Chauvel, Member of the New Zealand Parliament, for this very nice gesture.

Best of best books award announced

Britain's oldest literary prize is to make a special award later this year for its best-ever winner.

For 93 years the James Tate Black awards have been given to the best work of fiction and the best biography.

Organisers are now planning to make a special award for the "Best of the James Tait Black" in fiction.

A shortlist of authors will be announced in the autumn.

The awards were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, and the prizes commemorate her husband's love of good books.

Past winners of the fiction prize include Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan and literary giants such as D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and Graham Greene.

The winners are presented with their £10,000 prize, which is awarded by Edinburgh University, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The reason for this best-of-best award, apparently, is to commemorate the university's 250th English Literature anniversary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Richest playwriting prize awarded

Tony Award-winner David Henry Hwang has won the $200,000 (£126,000) Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the richest prize in US theatre.

The 55-year-old said he was "overwhelmed with gratitude" and that the award was a "life-changing gift".

Hwang won a Tony in 1988 for his play M Butterfly, while his newest play Chinglish ran on Broadway last year.

He told The New York Times the money would allow him to decline other work to concentrate on writing plays.

"This award literally buys me time to focus mostly on my theatre work," he said.

"Even if you're lucky to have a play on Broadway like Chinglish, you don't necessarily earn enough off it to support the years it takes to get there."

Happy birthday C.S. Forester

Monday August 27, 2012 is C.S. Forester's Birthday.

Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (born 1899, in Cairo)  wrote under the name C.S. Forester.

C.S. Forester rose to fame with books about naval warfare, in various eras.

His most notable works were the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

During World War Two, Forester moved to the United States where he wrote propaganda to encourage that country to join the Allies. While living in Washington, D.C., he met a young British intelligence officer named Roald Dahl, whose experiences in the RAF he had heard of, and encouraged him to write about them.

Forester died on April 2, 1966 but Horatio Hornblower lives on as a model to many other seafaring writers, a name that leaps to mind being that of Patrick O'Brian.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stand up, the real Jack Aubrey

For a couple of reasons, I always thought that Patrick O'Brian's hero, Jack Aubrey, was based on Captain Thomas Cochrane.

Like Aubrey, Cochrane captured a Spanish frigate and was disgraced in a Stock Exchange scandal.

However, Stephen Taylor, on the Daily Mail Online, reckons Captain Edward Pellew was the model. Cochrane, he says, was too Scottish, and too socially inept.

Pellew, like Aubrey, he says, "Enjoyed spectacular success in single-ship actions," and was a gunnery expert "who drilled the crew hard for speed and accuracy of fire.

"Both were strong swimmers who would dive overboard to rescue drunken hands.
"Both formed long friendships with enemy captains, and were fiercely loyal to the crew who followed them devotedly from ship to ship.

"While utterly single-minded in battle, both men were genial hosts in the captain’s great cabin, fond of claret and company, yet unworldly fellows who made a terrible hash of dealing with superiors. Big men who tended to bulk in later years, they were loving fathers and husbands, yet with an eye that might roam."

Taylor's thesis is well worth reading.  However, O'Brian himself staunchly denied that any Nelsonian figure was the prototype of his bluff, likeable hero.  Personally, I think Aubrey is made up a hints and ideas from a whole range of real life characters, including both Pellew and Cochrane.  Just as reading about the awkward and slightly repellent Dr. Stephen Maturin reminds one of a whole range of medical men and naturalists of the time, including Joseph Banks. 

In fact, a large part of the fun of reading Patrick O'Brian is trying to second-guess what books he was reading at the time.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kiwi researchers find key to origin of language

Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.       

Biologists using tools developed for drawing evolutionary family trees say that they have solved a longstanding problem in archaeology: which of these marks the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.

Nicholas Wade, writing in the New York Times, reports that Anatolia is the winner, having been declared the cradle of Indo-European tongues. And the researchers who made this claim are New Zealanders.

An evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, together with  colleagues, has taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and used a computer simulation on a grammar-based tree constructed by Don Ringe, an expert on Indo-European at the University of Pennsylvania, to walk them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.

The result, they announced in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, is that “we found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin.” Both the timing and the root of the tree of Indo-European languages “fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago,” they report.

Bin Laden killing tops Amazon bestsellers

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.”

On September 11th, Penguin’s Dutton Adult is publishing a first hand account of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The title, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, was written by a member of the elite squad who killed the terrorist leader known as SEAL Team Six.

The title has been published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, but apparently he has been outed by Fox News.
The title is already shooting up the charts from presales. As you can see from the screen shot, it is currently the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, ahead of all of the Fifty Shades of Grey titles and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Well, one can see that the action-packed true adventure would be a great sell for Father's Day, and not nearly as embarrassing a gift as 50 Shades. But the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association? 
That really has me puzzled.  Are there that many psychologists in America? Is it replete with racy case histories? Or is it a spoof?

PS.  On investigation, I found it is a style guide for grad students who are desperate to turn in an acceptable thesis.  Apparently it is also replete with so many errors that the publisher is sending out typewritten lists of corrections!


Friday, August 24, 2012

50 Shades and the toxic effect on other genres

"It's a case of lots of people buying Fifty Shades to see what the fuss is about and not buying other books."
-- The Bookseller
The recent boom in sales of erotic fiction is "cannibalising" the rest of the UK book market, The Bookseller has said.

The trade magazine said print sales of other fiction genres were down year-on-year, including crime novels, which have fallen 20%.

Other genres to suffer declines include science fiction and fantasy which is down 25% and horror, down 30%.

Eight of the top 10 bestselling novels last week were works of erotica.

The fiction chart continued to be led by EL James's Fifty Shades trilogy, which originally started as a work of online fiction.

Although sales fell by more than a quarter from the previous week, the three books sold nearly 340,000 copies altogether.

The only two non-erotic novels in the mass market fiction chart were Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher thriller, The Affair, and John Grisham's The Litigators.

"The whole book market this year was suffering because of the growth of the digital market with print books losing money to ebooks," The Bookseller's Philip Stone told the BBC.

"When Fifty Shades came out it was such a phenomenon that sales grew for a few weeks but at the detriment to other sectors of the market.

Mr Stone added erotica was now stealing sales from the rest of the book industry as publishers scrambled to take on new titles to make the most of the current boom.

"Publishers haven't really taken erotica seriously and have never had it on their books," he said.

"So they've been looking at other self-published authors and seeing what's being talked about online to snap them up as soon as possible."

Non-fiction sales also appear to be affected by the erotica trend, with sales of hardbacks down 16% year-on-year and paperbacks down 8%.

However, sports books have seen a boost in numbers thanks to the London 2012 Olympics with titles by medal winners Tom Daly and Bradley Wiggins making the top five in the non-fiction charts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rightwing books sell better than leftwing books

"Conservative" books sell better than "Liberal" books in the US

As Ezra Klein of Wonk Blog on the Washington Post, comments, "The fine folks at Amazon have constructed a “heat map” showing the kinds of political books that people are buying across the country. The more conservative a state’s literary tastes, the more red it appears on the map. The more liberal the reading habits, the bluer the state gets."

Naturally, he wonders why the map is so comprehensively red.  After stating a few quibbles about Amazon's classification of liberal books and conservative books, he posits five (actually four) theories.

1. Conservatives are more likely to read political books than liberals are.

2. Conservatives are more likely to read partisan political books than liberals are.

3. Conservatives are better at writing political books that people want to read than liberals are.

4. Liberals are focused on consolidating their control of Hollywood rather than making gains in the publishing industry. (Yes, this is a joke.)

5. It’s easier for the opposition to sell books. If you look at the “red books,” they’re largely about Obama. The top “blue book,” meanwhile, is Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” It would be interesting to see what this map looked like in 2004.

He ends up with the guess is that #5 is the big mover here, with #1 and #2 playing a role as well. "But," he says, "feel free to correct me in comments."

And here's the link again, if you feel so inclined.

2012 Bulwer-Lytton award

~~~As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting~~~

Thus runs the winning entry this year's Bulwer-Lytton Award, named in honour of Sir Edward's 1830 novel Paul Clifford and its fabulously contorted opening.

The prize was won by Cathy Bryant of Manchester, who commented, "We're surrounded by bad writing everywhere, so the bar is very, very low – to write for the Bulwer-Lytton one has to reach deep, deep inside oneself and find the utter dregs therein."

While, according to Alison Flood on the Guardian Books Blog, Cathy Bryant is a long time fan of the spoof contest, this was her first entry.

She was inspired to have a go at it by a trip to the optician. "The eyelash mites came from a terrifying optician who wouldn't stop enthusing about the awful things," she said. "I asked her if I had them and she said no, clearly very disappointed with me. I was clamped into one of those lens-testing machines so I couldn't flee. But now I can't gaze romantically into anyone's eyes without checking them first for inflammation, which tends to spoil the moment (fifty shades of red?) a bit."

As an author, Bryant feels she's probably "better at funny than meaningful". She's "currently working on a spoof diet book – only because I discovered that all the others were actually being taken seriously by people, to my surprise."

Nook taking a dive

Nook tanking?

So asks Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World

Barnes & Noble had a disappointing earnings announcement yesterday in which the Nook’s mounting losses shared the stage with the figures from Fifty Shades of Grey which buoyed the overall business.

After losing $51 million in the first quarter of 2012, Nook went one better and lost $57 million in the first quarter of 2013.

Amid the poor report and growing losses, there has been speculation that the Nook has fallen off a cliff.

The reasons? Problems selling e-readers, dropping prices on the devices, delays launching internationally and slowing of the growth of e-book sales.

Not exactly inspiring stuff for investors, who sent the stock down nearly 4% yesterday to under $12 – way off the company’s $26 52-week high following the Microsoft/Nook deal announcement and just a few dollars above the 52-week low.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stoush on the New Tricks set

I can tell you EXACTLY how much of it the actors wrote: not a comma.

--New Tricks writer Julian Simpson on Twitter.

We're fans of the popular cop show "New Tricks" in this household (though we could do with rather less of Amanda Redman's bosom), and the writing has always seemed snappy and the plot kept tight.

However, the BBC reports that the actors are unhappy with writers who keep on going over the history of the characters, considering it repetitive.

New Tricks star Amanda Redman has told the Radio Times the show is "more bland now" and the characters are not as "anarchic" as they used to be.

Co-stars Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman agreed with her assessment.

"My character has got saner. Which I'm not too enamoured with," Armstrong told the magazine.
Waterman added: "We're always talking about history and some writers - not all of them - can go on and on, repeating themselves."

The actors have just finished filming the ninth series of the popular police drama based on solving cold cases, the first without James Bolam, who announced he was leaving last year.

The eighth series attracted the show's highest ever ratings.

Waterman added: "You have to remind yourself that people aren't as stupid as writers think. But that's the way things are going in the industry. Basically, we all want to move to Copenhagen to get to do some extraordinary television."

Armstrong said: "We put a lot of time into making the scripts work.
"If we felt that a story didn't work, or that bits of the story could be improved, then - if the writer wasn't around - we would set about re-writing it ourselves."

Although the cast did not single out any particular writer, one of the show's mainstays has hit back at the comments.

"A New Tricks I wrote and directed airs on Monday. I can tell you EXACTLY how much of it the actors wrote: not a comma," said Julian Simpson on Twitter.

Smashwords Indie bestsellers

Smashwords eBook Bestsellers for Week of August 20, 2012

1. Wisdom by Amanda Hocking

2. The Dex-Files by Karina Halle

3. The Last Shaman by William Whitecloud

4. Bedding the Billionaire by Ruth Cardello

5. The Great Convergence by Joseph Lallo

6. Taken by Claire Farrell

7. Don’t Forget to Remember Me by Kahlen Aymes

8. Settling the Account by Shayne Parkinson

9. The Battle of Verril by Joseph Lallo

10. The Grey God by Lizzy Ford

As everyone may (or may not) know, Shayne Parkinson is a New Zealand Indie writer

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Litera-Tea Bookstall staff - L to R: Tanya Gribben, Virginia Dale, Mary-Liz Corbett, Marnie Prickett


I had a BRILLIANT Sunday, 19 August.

Random House flew me from Wellington to Auckland, and I had the privilege of sitting next to a famous jazz bass clarinetist -- Bennie Maupin.

He was lovely.  We talked about Sidney Bechet and the influence of Dixie on modern jazz, and all the various places in the world where jazz is played.  And he gave me a book (by someone else) and signed it.  I told him the signature was worth more than the book.

Then I met bubbly Helen Heath (poet and publicist for Victoria University Press) and we took our taxi to the wonderful LADIES LITERA-TEA.

We were early.  Which meant we had an early scan of the CAKES and also a half-hour with Carole Beu's truly terrific team.  Friends arrived, it was buzzing before it even started, and then the first team (including me) paraded onto the stage.

From the very first presentation, it was alive. The audience was great, the line-up varied and always thought-provoking, amusing, attractive, beautiful ... And wonderfully moderated by the Carole herself.

A terrific programme, met many really great people, and signed lots of books.  What more could want want?

(Getting home, actually. Well, it was the most exciting take-off from Auckland ever.  Gusts, tarmac awash, plane skidding from side to side, a relief to get in the air.  And we arrived in Wellington after a very bumpy flight illuminated by lightning that flickered along the wings -- for once I wished I didn't have a window seat!)

But that Ladies Litera-tea!  Totally rewarding, totally memorable.  As Helen said, let's write another book quick, so we can have that fun again.

And here is the run-down from whoever posted it to BeattiesBookBlog:
Poet Paula Green was in the packed audience at Sunday afternoon’s LADIES’ LITERA-TEA: “I loved the balance, the energy, the conversation. It was a terrific line-up and I came away feeling inspired.”

Inspiration seems to be what many members of the audience went away with, judging by the positive feedback the team at The Women’s Bookshop have been receiving. People loved the variety of authors and topics – and the delicious afternoon tea!

‘Enthralling, inspiring, brilliantly diverse’ are recurring words in the many emails arriving at the bookshop.

All the authors loved being involved – Helen Heath from VUP said “I'll have to hurry up and write another book so I can come back!”

Paula Green will be on stage next time, with Kate De Goldi, Fiona Farrell, Stephanie Johnson, Lynda Hallinan and others, for the SECOND LADIES’ LITERA-TEA on SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER 1pm – 5.30pm, again at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls.

Tickets for this second event are selling fast!
$55 (includes sumptuous afternoon tea) from The Women’s Bookshop 3764399, or Book Here

Top Ten eBook Sellers

Intrigued by the announcement by Digital Book World that they have devised a method of creating a more accurate bestseller list, I searched for the list itself.

And the rumor is right.  One of the top three places no longer belongs to those Fifty Shades of Gray.

A psychological mystery called Gone Girl has materialized at #3.

Top 25 E-Book Best-Sellers | Week Ending 8/18/12

Rank*TitlePublisher Price** Change
1 (n/a)Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades TrilogyRandom House$ 9.99
2 (n/a)Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades TrilogyRandom House$ 9.99
3 (n/a)Gone Girl: A NovelRandom House$ 12.99
4 (n/a)Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades TrilogyRandom House$ 9.99
5 (n/a)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)Scholastic$ 5.99
6 (n/a)Bared to You: A Crossfire NovelPenguin$ 7.99
7 (n/a)Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Scholastic$ 5.99
8 (n/a)The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1)Scholastic$ 5.00
9 (n/a)Fifty Shades Trilogy Bundle: Fifty Shades of Grey; Fifty Shades Darker; Fifty Shades FreedRandom House$ 29.99
10 (n/a)Where We BelongMacmillan$ 12.99

Top publishers and top prices dominate eBestseller list

From Digital Book World, a new venture, with interesting results

Agency publishers and higher price points dominate the new Digital Book World e-book best-seller list, a new weekly venture from Digital Book World in partnership with Iobyte Solutions.

Scholastic, with its popular Hunger Games series, and Soho Press, a New York-based independent publisher, were the only two publishers outside of the six largest in the U.S. to break the top 25 on the list, which measures the top-selling e-books across five of the largest e-booksellers for the week ending Aug. 18.

Random House controlled the top of the list. Unlike in past months on other best-seller lists, however, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy no longer has the three top spots. The recent release, Gone Girl, clocked in at No. 3.

Publishers worried about low-priced e-books cutting into sales of their higher priced competitors should take note — only three books below $3.00 cracked the top 25: best-selling author Lee Child’s Deep Down (Random House, No. 11); Lene Kaaberbol’s and Agnete Friis’s The Boy in the Suitcase (Soho Press, a New York-based independent publisher, No. 12); and Jonathan Tropper’s novel This Is Where I Leave You (Penguin, No. 20).

LLoyds Register of Ships Online

Lloyds Register

Thanks to Mat Curtis, who contacted me via my post LLoyds List Online, I'm able to report that it is now possible to read and search a large number of issues of Lloyds Register online.

The Register, published for the years 1764-66, 1768-71 and then annually since 1775, records the details of merchant vessels of the world. Since the 1870’s Lloyd’s Register has tried to include all merchant vessels over 100 gross tonnes, which are self-propelled and sea-going, regardless of classification.

Before this time only those vessels classed by Lloyd’s Register were listed.
Registers published after 1876 contain the ‘List of Ship Owners’ and those published after 1886 contain the list of ‘Late Names of Ships’, which is very useful if you only know the previous name of the vessel. A vessel will remain in the Register until something happens to her; for example if she is sunk, wrecked, broken up, hulked, etc.

So, how do you search for a ship?

Hitting the link embedded in the title above (and also here) leads to a page with a table, which provides links to the volumes of the Lloyd’s Register of Ships that are fully accessible and searchable online.

They say that the early volumes, up to 1899, were scanned in by Googlebooks and by The Internet Archive. These digitised Registers can be searched by any of the fields such as ship name, master, ship owner or place of build (note that some of the fields may be abbreviated such as ‘Capt’. for Captain or ‘Amer.’ for America).

The Registers for 1930-1945 were digitised as part of the Plimsoll ship data project by the Southampton City Libraries and Archives Services in conjunction with Lloyd’s Register’s Information Centre. The fields can be searched by ship name(s), year of build and gross tonnage.

They will soon be adding the Register Book for 1764-66  in PDF format so that vessels can be found in alphabetical order of ship name. This is the first time that pages from this original edition of the Register of Ships, 1764 will be available online. The only surviving volume is on permanent loan to the British Library. *Please note that copyright of all images of the 1764-6 edition remains with Lloyd’s Register.

They ask that if you discover any other (full-access) digitised editions of the Lloyd’s Register of Ships that they have not listed to please contact them at the email address given in the page.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quote of the day

Any woman who'd vote for this guy should have her head examined. Any man who'd vote for him should have his crotch examined.

Stu Freeman, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Commenting on the New York Times report that Senator Todd Akin (Republican/Tea Party) believes that the body of a woman who is "legitimately" raped (whatever that means), will automatically shut down, averting pregnancy.

Sir Andrew Motion in Wellington

Thursday 30 August 2012, 7:30 pm

Book your ticket at

Larry McMurtry tries to sell 300,000 books

And he had trouble getting rid of the fiction

Irritated at having 30,000 unsold books on his hands, Larry McMurtry described the  book-selling experience on the New York Review of Books.

. "I wanted to test the vigor, or lack of it, of the book trade as we have it," he wrote. "Dealers in old books are a subculture, one I’ve been part of for a very long time. Is that subculture still there? Are there still young people piling books in their garages, hoping to have a real shop some day? I didn’t know. Calling for the auction was a way to find out...

"Everyone who deals in fiction has plenty, and more is spilling onto the market from the sale of the Serendipity Books stock now being dispersed on the West Coast. Many people asked me if I was sad to see so many books go. I wasn’t—mainly I was irritated to discover that I still had 30,000 novels to sell."

Carolyn Kellogg, writing in Jacket Copy in the Los Angeles Times reported that one notable work of fiction sold for $2,750 -- because like "50 Shades of Grey," antiquarian erotica is hot. It was a typescript of 29 erotic short stories that were commissioned in the 1940s by an oilman who has remained anonymous. The authors include Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller and Anais Nin.
McMurtry will continue to sell used, collectible and, although he doesn't like the word, rare books at his store Booked Up. He put up more than 300,000 books for auction, but held onto an additional 150,000.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ex Ex Anniversary

18 August 1838: Exploring Expedition embarked on world cruise

By Naval History & Heritage Command (Albums)

On Sunday, August 18, 1838, the six ships of the first, great United States South Seas Exploring Expedition, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, crewed by 246 Officers amd men, and with seven scientisits and two artists on board, set sail from the Hampton Roads, Virginia, headed for the far side of the world.

Almost four years later, in June 1842, the remnants of the expedition straggled into New York.  One vessel had been sent back in disgrace; one had been lost iwth all hands; another had been wrecked at the Columbi River; and a fourth had been sold into the opium running trade.

Much had been accomplished -- huge tracts of the ocean had been charted, plus 800 miles of scarcely known Oregon shore and 1,500 miles of entirely unknown Antarctic coast. The Stars and STripes had fluttered off the lagoons of well over 200 tropical islands, and more than 4,000 artifacts and 2,000 scientific specimens had been collected, an enormously rich fund that became the foundation ofthe collection of the new Smithsonian Institution.  For uncounted thousands of Pacific Islanders the Exploring Expedition had been their first introduction to the official face of the  USA.

Yet, instead of returning home in triumph, Lieutenant Wilkes chose to slink on shore by hitching a ride on the pilot boat.

So, what had happened?  There are several great books on the topic, including one by Nathaniel Philbrick.  There is also a fictional series -- the Wiki Coffin mysteries, set on a seventh ship, also fiction.  I am currently working on the fifth volume. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Sweet Valley High machine

Good lord, there is a YA series that works like the James Patterson industry

And it is micro-managed by the author whose name is on the cover, too.

Maryann Yin on Galleycat meditates that as many Sweet Valley High series fans know, the hit YA books (and multiple spin-off series) were primarily written by ghostwriters. The Hairpin interviewed one of those writers, Marijuanamerica author Ryan Nerz.

During the interview, Nerz named several successful teen writers who had also worked on the series. This group includes Gossip Girl author Cecily von Ziegesar (editor), Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants author Ann Brashares (editor) and Soho Teen editorial director Daniel Ehrenhaft (ghostwriter).

When asked if he had ever met Sweet Valley author Francine Pascal in person, he answered: “No, Francine Pascal was always like the voice of God from afar. She would occasionally chime in on little things saying, ‘No, Elizabeth would never do this.’ ‘This tone doesn’t really work for me.’ ‘This is too risqué.’ Blah blah blah. She would kind of consult from afar. I never met her.”

Nerz theorized that Pascal never wrote a single Sweet Valley novel. Before the release of 2011′s Sweet Valley Confidential (a novel which follows the lives of the Sweet Valley characters as adults in their late 20′s), Pascal gave an interview where she stated that she was “having kind of good time” writing that title.

Recently, St. Martin’s Griffin digitally-released the final book of the adult series, Sweet Valley: The Sweet Life. This series chronicles the lives of the Sweet Valley characters as 30-year-old adults. A hardcover edition of the first Sweet Life book will be published on October 30th.

Hunger Games bestselling series on Amazon

Dianna Dilworth reports on GalleyCat that Amazon announced today that The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is the bestselling book series of all time on

The seven-book Harry Potter series was previously held this record, calculated by combining print and Kindle eBook sales.

Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle at, stated.: “Interestingly, this series is only three books versus Harry Potter’s seven, and to achieve this result in just four years is a great testament to both the popularity of the work and, we think, the growth in reading digitally during that time. Customers love these books and all three titles are consistently on our Top 10 lists in both print and Kindle formats, and ‘The Hunger Games’ is also the most-borrowed book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.”

Actual figures were not quoted, but it is easy to believe the statement.  Sales for the Scholastic series have been so high that competing publisher Penguin blamed The Hunger Games for its revenue drop this year.

What you can't do with eBooks

An Olympian Book Maze

Books on books reports that a Mysterious Maze of 250,000 books has been installed on The Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Oxfam loaned 150,000 of them. When the exhibition is taken down, the books will be returned to Oxfam along with the other 100,000 donated by UK publishers. The books will go to Oxfam’s used books stores to raise funds for Oxfam projects.

Inspired by the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the maze was created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, in collaboration with production company HungryMan.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scriptwriter Awards Announced

Congratulations to all the finalists for the Scriptwriter Awards NZ!

Best Feature Film Script

Existence by Jessica Charlton &  Juliet Bergh

Sione's 2: Unfinished Business by James Griffin & Oscar Kightley

Good for Nothing by Mike Wallis

Best Short Film Script

Lambs by Sam Kelly

The Dump by Hamish Bennett

Milk & Honey by Marina McCartney

Best Play

Snip by April Phillips

Mike & Virginia by Kathryn Burnett & Nick Ward

The Pantry Shelf by Mark Prebble & Marion Shortt

Best Television Episode: Comedy Script

Hounds, Episode 5 by Thedownlowconcept

Auckland Daze, Episode 4 by Millen Baird

Golden, Episode 3 by Lucy Schmidt & Stayci Taylor

Best Television Episode: Drama Script

The Almighty Johnsons, Series 2, Episode 5 by James Griffin

Nothing Trivial, Series 1, Episode 13 by Rachel Lang

Go Girls Series 4, Episode 1 by Gavin Strawhan

Best One-off Television Drama

Safehouse by John Banas

Siege by John Banas

What Really Happened - Votes for Women by Gavin Strawhan

SWANZ AWARDS NIGHT FRIDAY 31ST AUGUST!*Ticket sales $40 NZWG members/$60 non-members. Tickets will be limited so please book in advance through the NZWG & Tickets can be paid for via the usual methods and posted out - or collected from the Guild Office 243 Ponsonby Road. Looking forward to this great evening!

Australian historical the next big hit

Amazon August Spotlight leads the way

Spotlight Selection: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans
Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day’s boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple’s reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom--whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I--begins to waver. M. L. Stedman’s vivid characters, the gorgeous descriptions of the solitude of Janus Rock and of the unpredictable Australian frontier, create a perfect backdrop for the tale of longing, loss, and the overwhelming love for a child that is The Light Between Oceans

Breaking news is that The Light Between Oceans is going to debut at number 7 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestseller list this weekend, with a showing at number 13 in the combined eBook and print fiction list.

The Light Between Oceans is also Library Journal editor Barbara Hoffert's top listing in her nine picks of must-read books. And the American Booksellers Association is joining in the general acclaimation, too, featuring Stedman's debut novel on its August Indie Next list.

So, who is M.L. Stedman?  Linda Morris of the Sydney Morning Herald found it surprisingly difficult to get the author to open up.

Her official biography comprises a single line: ''M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London.'' Even her first name, Margot, is concealed. As Linda Morris writes:

In only her second media interview, by phone from Perth, Stedman is nervous and bats back questions about her age, schooling, family and her work as a lawyer with a polite: ''I really don't want to answer that.'' Stedman later explains that she has never been one to seek out the limelight. ''As the book's not autobiographical, details of my life won't really shed light on the story for the reader and I'd much rather let readers focus on the book and their own experience of it.''

These are the dot points of her writing life that Stedman reluctantly offers for public consumption: raised and schooled in Perth, she says she always adored the artistry of words, had an affinity for them. Working in London as a lawyer in 1997, while staring at her office computer screen, she had a eureka moment, ''from God knows where'', deciding then to try creative writing. She hired a writing coach, went to Greece on a creative-writing holiday, where she wrote her first published short story, Flight, and went on to study creative writing part time at the University of London. Three novellas were published in an out-of-print anthology, Desperate Remedies, in 2008.

The Light Between Oceans began as a short story of 15,000 words whipped together in three months. After shopping it to an agent who told her it had the makings of a novel, Stedman began ''rolling the pastry, this way and that'', folding in archival research on lighthouse keepers and the bleakness of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which she visited to find living inspiration for Janus Rock.

Most days, Stedman would go to a corner of the British Library, with its green leatherback chairs and desk lamps, to ride her imagination to her homeland and carry back memories of the smell of eucalypts, the blinding slash of sunshine and the expressive cadence of the Australian vernacular.

Read more:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Harry Harrison dies

I was saddened to learn that one of my great SF writing heroes has passed on

American science fiction author Harry Harrison, who also created the Stainless Steel Rat comic space opera series, has died aged 87.

His 1966 dystopian novel Make Room! Make Room! also inspired 1973 film Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston.  (His famous comment about this was to say that every now and then there was a "faint resemblance" to the book.)

Harrison died in the early hours of Wednesday, 15 August.

"His passing leaves a huge gap in the universe, but thankfully he didn't leave us empty-handed," said friend and fellow author Michael Carroll.

"Dozens of novels and over a hundred short stories are as fine a legacy as we could hope for," continued Caroll, who also runs Harrison's website.

He told the BBC that Harrison became a "friend, inspiration and mentor", and that his novels were "a gem, a rich conglomeration of intelligence and adventure that so few other writers have been able to match."

Harrison's first novel, Deathworld, was published in 1960, while the first book in the Stainless Steel Rat series was published a year later.

The last of the series was published just two years ago in 2010 and the books are widely regarded as producing one of science fiction's great anti-heroes, Slippery Jim diGriz, aka The Stainless Steel Rat.

The author also parodied the sci-fi genre in his seven Bill the Galactic Hero books, which were first seen in 1965. He saw his work as anti-war and anti-militaristic.

Bill Gates and toilets of the future

I can't resist this one ...

The BBC reports that Bill Gates is, in a manner of speaking, flushing his money down the toilet.

His charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is looking for future loos that can improve sanitation around the world.

At the Reinvent the Toilet fair, hosted at its Seattle campus this week, designs included a lavatory that used microwave energy to turn poo into electricity.

Another turned excrement into charcoal, while a third used urine for flushing.

In total 28 designs were shown off at the fair and the winner was a team from the California Institute of Technology.

Led by Prof Michael Hoffman, the toilet they designed was solar-powered and generated hydrogen gas and electricity. They won a $100,000 prize.

"We couldn't be happier with the response that we've gotten," said Bill Gates (pictured presenting the award to Hoffman)  at the event.

Read more on the Christian Science Monitor

BBC boss becomes NYT boss

The New York Times Company has announced that BBC director general Mark Thompson is to become its chief executive and president in November.

The NYT runs national and regional newspapers and websites and said his experience in digital media on a global scale made him the "ideal candidate".

Mr Thompson, 55 (pictured), said he was "excited" to take on the role.

He took over as director general in 2004 and is responsible for the BBC's TV, radio and online services.

He started his career as a production trainee at the BBC in 1979 before leaving in 2002 to become chief executive of Channel 4 television.

At the beginning of July the BBC announced that George Entwistle would replace Mr Thompson as director general on 17 September.

Read the full BBC story

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th birthday, Julia Child

All those who enjoyed the movie Julie and Julia have another reason to celebrate

Julia Child (if alive) would be 100 years old.

It was Child — not single-handedly, but close — who started the public conversation about cooking in America that has shaped our cuisine and culture ever since. Her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published in 1961, just as trends including feminism, food technology and fast food seemed ready to wipe out home cooking. But with her energy, intelligence and nearly deranged enthusiasm, Child turned that tide.

Boat People

Thought-provoking poster, posted on FaceBook, makes a pertinent comment

I often point out that Tupaia was a "boat person."  Driven out of his home island, Raiatea -- about 1760, during an invasion from the neighboring island of Borabora -- the priest-navigator fled to Papara, in the south of Tahiti.  Given refuge, he became the advisor of the chief, Amo Tevahitua, and the lover of Amo's wife, Purea, also a prominent chief.  By the time HMZ Dolphin arrived, seven years later, Tupaia was the chief priest of the whole island.

On July 13, 1769, Tupaia sailed with Captain James Cook on HMB Endeavour, and on April 28, 1770, he was there when the first party landed on a beach in Australia.

You won't see him in the iconic Fox painting of the event, however.

Poster copied from Dale Caldwell's Facebook page. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Read Breaking News -- on Kindle

Independent journalist Paula Todd knew it was a gamble when she published Finding Karla: How I tracked Down a Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three as a $2.99, 46-page e-book, rather than in hard-cover print or as an article for one of Canada’s leading magazines.

But time was against her.

“Other reporters were on Homolka’s trail, too, and I had no idea how close they were,” Todd, a former Star reporter, says.

“I didn’t have the luxury of waiting a year for it to see print as a real book or two or three months for publication in a magazine. And I’d spent a lot of my own money tracking her down. I couldn’t make it back on the kind of money magazines pay.”

But till recently e-books were unproven in Canada as a viable publication option for breaking news, long-form reportage and non-fiction. Would readers buy a single news story on Kindle or Kobo or iBooks, or would Todd’s scoop, one of the year’s biggest, slip by unnoticed, her work uncompensated?

Less than two months after its publication, Todd has her answer. Finding Karla holds down the top position on Amazon Kindle’s non-fiction singles bestseller list and No. 5 on Kobo’s e-books list, says her Toronto agent/publisher, Derek Finkle.

And her royalties from this venture? Probably about $200,000 -- compared to the $15,000 she might have got for an exclusive magazine story.

Read the full story

With thanks to Gerry Gray

F-Bomb enters the dictionary

And the "earworm," coined by novelist Stephen King, makes it, too.

The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary added the "F-bomb" and its definition to its ranks on Tuesday, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Yet, it seems it has been in common use for over two decades, or so they say. According to them, it was used for the first time in 1988, in a Newsday story about baseball player Gary Carter. Then, in the late 90's, it became widespread with Bobby Knight's heavy bombardment during a locker room shout down.

Quoted in the New Zealand Herald, Kory Stamper, associate editor at Merriam-Webster, believes its sudden popularity is because of its casual usage by politicians.

"We saw another huge spike after Dick Cheney dropped an F-bomb in the Senate in 2004," and again in 2010 when Vice President Joe Biden did the same thing in the same place," she said.

The more widely known Oxford University Press dictionary has had the 'F-bomb' lined up for a while, though Merriam-Webster seems to have beaten them to it.

Other new words to make into the new edition include 'aha moment', made famous by Oprah and 'earworm', a phrase used to describe a song you can't get out of your head which was first coined by Stephen King.

'Bucket list', 'brain camp', 'sexting' and 'man cave' were also added for the first time.

Google scoops another travel guide

Google tops up Zagat with Frommers

Wiley announced Monday morning it has "entered into a definitive agreement to sell all of its travel assets, including all of its interests in the Frommer's brand," to Google. The publisher had said in March it intended investigate the sale of "a number of consumer print and digital publishing assets in its professional/trade business that no longer align with the company’s long-term strategies." Those properties included Frommer's, as well as CliffsNotes, and Webster's New World. Prospective buyers reported to us that they were originally told Wiley preferred to find a single purchaser, but given the diversity of the properties--which are verticalized across many interests (also including culinary, general interest, nautical, pets, and crafts)--locating a single buyer presumably proved difficult.

For Google, the purchase builds on their acquisition of Zagat's in September 2011 for approximately $151 million, and provides them even more significant book publishing-related IP. Wiley said recently that the entire collection of trade/professional assets up for sale drove approximately $80 million in annual revenues. The announcement indicates that other sales "may arise from the sale of other consumer assets," and all proceeds "will be redeployed to support growth opportunities in Professional/Trade; Scientific, Technical, Medical, and Scholarly; and Global Education businesses."

Monday, August 13, 2012

World War Two Sailor's Diary Found

Journal kept by a sailor on the battleship USS Idaho has been uncovered.

In Oro Valley, Arizona, north of Tucson, Salvatore A. Montegino opened a shoebox stored for years in a closet, containing a personal diary written by Jack Van Horn, a boson's mate second class, serving on board that ship.

Along with the diary, covering two years from July 16, 1943 to July 31, 1945, were two sets of flashcards, one to identify Allied and enemy warships; the other to learn pennant signal flags, semaphore and Morse code.

Also in the box were four newspaper clippings and a postcard-size photo of a group of sailors aboard a ship, none identified.

The USS Idaho has long gone to the scrap heap, but in Jack Van Horn's hand-written diary its memory lives on, telling about the historic events of which he was a part:

August 18, 1943: "Tokyo Rose claims the Idaho is sunk. I don't believe it!!"

Oct. 25, 1943: "Entered Pearl Harbor..."

Oct. 27, 1943: "The (USS) Oklahoma is being raised after nearly two years, but the Arizona is sunk for the duration."

Feb. 13, 1945: "Underway for Iwo Jima!! Where the hell does Rosie get her information? Maybe the Jap fleet will come out this time - I hope. I'd like to get this business over with & go home."

Feb. 14, 1945: "Another kid jumped over the side last night. So far all these guys who have cracked up are in their teens. Maybe they haven't lived long enough to know that what they are fighting for is worth all the discomforts we have to put up with."

Feb. 16, 1945: "Commenced bombardment (of Iwo Jima). Funny looking island with a dead volcano on one end called Surabachi."

Mar. 3, 1945: "Received ammunition off Iwo Jima from ammo ship. They finally changed the little flag on Mount Surabachi for a big one - looked like they couldn't get her up for a while but they did."

Mar. 25, 1945: "Arrived off Okinawa during the night - all quiet.

Apr. 12, 1945: "We got it today. Terrific suicide attack by God knows how many Jap planes - 55 were shot down in our immediate area. We got 5 in 4 minutes & received a suicide plane in our port blister ... When that guy hit us he really raised hell - I've got port stack, & the pieces of plane covered the entire platform - I pulled 5 pieces of Jap pilot off my clothes - the largest about as big as my hand - the explosion sure scattered him."

Jack Van Horn's last entry: "July 31 - Out for practice firing - can you imagine that!!"
Six days later, the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On Aug. 15, Japan surrendered and World War II was over.

On Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, Gen. MacArthur and the Allies accepted the formal Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri.

Nearby was the USS Idaho, with Jack Van Horn on board to witness the historic event.

Read the full story

James Patterson machine top earner in 2011

The figures are going to look very different in next year's list, but this year the outfit that operates under the name of American "James Patterson" heads the Forbes list for top earning authors.

The Patteron machine earned an estimated $94m (£60.3m) from the 14 new titles published in 2011 - 2012.
Second author on the list is Stephen King, who earned $39m (£25m) thanks to a new instalment of his Dark Tower series.

Forbes said its list was based on figures from Nielsen BookScan, authors, agents and publishers.
Number three was the highest-earning female writer, Janet Evanovich - author of the Stephanie Plum suspense series - with $33m (£21.1m).

John Grisham was next at four with $26m (£16.7m). His baseball novel Calico Joe helped prove he could write a bestseller away from his usual legal thrillers.

Children's author Jeff Kinney was fifth after Cabin Fever, the latest book in his Wimpy Kid series, was the top-selling book of 2011 with 3.3 million copies sold. However part of his $25m (£16m) earnings come from film royalties - the movie version of fourth book Dog Days made $15m (£9.6m) in its opening weekend at the US box office.

Other authors to feature in the top 15 include Danielle Steel at eight and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins at nine.

With film royalties from the Hollywood blockbuster released earlier this year and two more films still to come, Collins is expected to rise up the list next year.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling was at 11 on the list with a large portion of her earnings coming from the $8m (£5.1m) advance for her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, due for release next month.

Twilight writer Stephenie Meyer also features on the list at 13, still riding on the success of the film franchise.

Forbes has taken note of the current publishing phenomenon, saying  it expected Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James to "feature highly" on next year's list.

The erotic novel sold 20 million copies in the first four months of release and at its peak, the trilogy earned James more than $1m a week.

She has also picked up an estimated $5m (£3.3m) for the film rights.

One waits breath-held to see if the film reaps her even more publicity, by being banned.