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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Story of a Renoir, lost and found

It looked like the bargain of the year, but then it turned into Oops! 

The BBC reveals the unravelling of a truly marvellous story of riches found and then lost

Back on September 8, it was reported that a painting bought at a flea market in Virginia might turn to be a work by French master Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

It was bought by a woman as part of a box lot that included a doll and a plastic cow, and cost about $50.  Taking a close look at the tiny painting after she got home (it is so very pretty) she noticed a plaque on the gold frame announcing that it was a Renoir, so she took it to a local auction house. Excited, they took a closer look themselves, and decided it was Renoir's "Paysage Bords de Seine" - a river scene - painted about 1879.  Measuring just 14 by 23 centimetres, it seems it has a romantic story, having been painted on a linen napkin at a restaurant on the banks of the River Seine, and presented by the painter to his mistress.

According to the rest of the story delved up by the experts at the auction house, it had been bought from a Paris gallery by an American collector, Herbert May, in 1926. 

Even more excitingly, they announced that they expected it to sell for up to $100,000.

Enter the investigative reporter.

Ian Shapira, of the Washington Post, did some digging in the records, and discovered it had been loaned to the Baltimore Museum of Art by Mrs. Saidie May in 1937.

At that stage, the mystery deepens. According to the Museum's records, the painting was stolen in 1951, just after the death of Saidie May, who left her entire collection to the museum.  But, there is no evidence of a police report.

This has led to some embarrassment. "Obviously, we take our responsibility for our collections and the things entrusted to us very seriously," the museum's director, Doreen Bolger told Mr Shapira. "We have to do more research and get to the bottom of the real story, and we're still in the midst of that process.

So there are murky details still to come.  Meantime, the painting has been removed from the catalogue of the auction house.  And the lady who bought the Renoir for a song has been hit with a dose of harsh reality.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Downton Abbey prequel planned

Julian Fellowes, the writer behind the hit series Downton Abbey, is writing a prequel which follows how the Earl and Countess of Grantham first met.

"I do actually have an idea of doing a prequel of the courtship of Robert and Cora, when all those American heiresses were arriving in London.

"They had a slightly troubled courtship, because she was in love with him before they married, as we know, and he married her entirely for her money," said Fellowes, speaking at the Bafta Screenwriters' Lecture series.

"I sort of feel there's something quite nice in there because he's a decent cove, and so he feels rather guilty about this which has affected their marriage beyond that."

Fellowes spoke of the prequel in book form, but - given the success of Downton Abbey - a TV adaptation seems almost certain.

The period drama, now in its third series, has proved a huge hit for ITV, and the broadcaster is keen to extend Downton's longevity - though it is rumoured that leading characters such as Dan Stevens are likely to leave the show at the end of the current series.

The spin-off drama would cast a pair of younger actors in the roles, currently played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, as his American wife.

Inter alia: Elizabeth McGovern is very sweet to look at, but let's hope the "younger" actress has somewhat more emotion in her face, and eloquence in her voice.

Read the BBC story

New Zealand's clocks go forward

Just in case you are phoning New Zealand next week

Even New Zealanders don't know about it.

The paper doesn't consider it news, and neither, as far as I can tell, does television.

So it is up to me to tell New Zealand and the world.

New Zealand daylight saving commences on Sunday 30 September, when at 2 a.m. the clocks go forward one hour.

Did you know that New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to officially adopt a nationally observed standard time? New Zealand Mean Time, adopted on 2 November 1868, was set at 11 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich Mean Time was established by British Railways in the 1840s but was not made Great Britain's standard time until 1880.

Origins of Daylight Saving in New Zealand

Cartoon of T.K Sidey from New Zealand Free Lance, 30 September 1911. Courtesy of and astronomer George Hudson was the earliest known advocate of daylight saving in New Zealand. Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895 advocating for seasonal time adjustment. However society members ridiculed his idea. It was not until 1909 that the issue was next raised, by Parliamentarian Hon Sir Thomas Sidey who argued for putting clocks forward by one hour during summer so that there would be an additional hour of daylight in the evenings.

In that year he introduced a Member’s Bill to put this idea into effect. The Bill was rejected, but Sidey was persistent, reintroducing it every year for the next 20 years. It almost became law in 1915 and again in 1926 when it was passed by the House of Representatives, but was rejected by the Legislative Council (which was New Zealand’s upper house of Parliament until 1951).

During the second reading of his Summer Time Bill in 1926, Sidey argued that:
the extra hour of daylight after working-hours during the summer months is of especial value to indoor workers and the community as a whole as it gives one additional hour for recreation of all kinds, whether playing games or working in garden plots…one cannot overlook the economic advantages that will also accrue. There will be a saving in the consumption of artificial light.

Much of the debate in the House of Representatives centered on the impact on people in rural areas
and women in particular.

Opponents of the Bill commented that:
[Summer Time] will bring no happiness to the women of New Zealand who live in the backblocks. [the Bill] does not make the case for now requiring the wife of the working-man to get up an hour earlier in order to get her husband away to his work.

In 1927 Sidey was successful. The passing of the Summer Time Act that year authorised the advancement of clocks by one hour between 6 November 1927 and 4 March 1928. The Act was only operative for one year, and when the Summer Time Act 1928 was passed extending the period of summer time from 14 October 1928 to 17 March 1929, the period of advancement was changed to just half an hour. This made New Zealand Summer Time 12 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time.

The Summer Time Act 1929 enacted the provision of a 30-minute time advance from the second Sunday in October to the third Sunday in March the following year. In 1933 the period was extended from the first Sunday in September to the last Sunday in April of the following year. This continued until 1941, when the period of Summer Time was extended by emergency regulations to cover the whole year. This change was made permanent in 1946 by the Standard Time Act.

Cartoon of T.K Sidey from New Zealand Free Lance, 30 September 1911. Courtesy of

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romance rules in Indie eBook sales

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of Monday, September 24, 2012

(List compiled by GalleyCat. Last week’s rank in parentheses)

1. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young: “Burying the grief, ignoring her demons, and forging ahead without any real attachments has worked well for her so far but when Joss moves into a fantastic apartment on Dublin Street, her carefully guarded world is shaken to its core by her new roommate’s sexy older brother.” (2)

2. Our Husband by Stephanie Bond: “Three women from different walks of life–a doctor, a socialite, and a stripper–find out they have one thing in common: a husband!” (1)

3. Better Off Without Him by Dee Ernst: “Mona Berman is a best-selling Romance writer and happy endings are what she does best. So when her husband of twenty years leaves her for somebody 15 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, and French, she’s got a lot of adjusting to do.” (3)

4. Naked by Raine Miller: “An American art student at the University of London and part-time photographic model, Brynne Bennett’s putting her life back on track with school and lots of hard work. When ultra successful London businessman, Ethan Blackstone, buys her nude portrait, he isn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

5. The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle: “It’s been twelve years since Tru Bennett last saw Jake Wethers, her former best friend and boy she once loved. Jake Wethers, sexy, tattooed and deliciously bad lead singer, and brains behind The Mighty Storm, one of biggest bands in the world, left Tru with a broken heart.” (6)

6. Taking Chances by Molly McAdams: “Eighteen year old Harper has grown up under her career Marine of a father’s thumb. Ready to live life her own way and experience things she’s only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father’s unit; she’s on her way to college at San Diego State University. ” (4)

7. I Think I Love You by Stephanie Bond: ”Sisters share everything in their closets, including the skeletons…”

8. License to Thrill by Stephanie Bond: “He wasn’t the man she wanted to trust…but when the stakes turn deadly, it’s nice to have a hard body between her and trouble!”

9. Let Me Be The One by Bella Andre: “an unexpected friends-to-lovers romance might not only turn out to be so much hotter than anything bad boy pro baseball player Ryan Sullivan has ever known … but much, much sweeter, too.” (8)

10. This Same Earth by Elizabeth Hunter: “Beatrice De Novo thought she had left the supernatural world behind… for the most part. But when the past becomes the present, will she leave her quiet life in Los Angeles to follow a mystery she thought had abandoned her?”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wellington is like the Tardis...

The Lonely Planet and the Coolest Little Capital in the World

"Like the Tardis, it looks small from the outside, but inside it holds big surprises"
--Lonely Planet 

The bestselling guide to our planet has raved about our town again.

After declaring Wellington the "coolest little capital" last year, the 16th edition praises the city's "compact and vibrant" downtown for its stimulating mix of theaters, galleries, boutiques, and museums, along with its "cocktail-and-caffeine" cafe scene that "fizzes and pops" with energy.

There are five must-sees, they say.

Of course, Weta Cave comes first, being the mini-museum of no less than The Lord of the Rings and all the other mind-boggling Peter Jackson productions.

Our harbor ferry is also highly recommended.  Personally, I love a day at Matiu Island in the middle of the harbor, followed by the spectacular return to Queen's Wharf.

Wellington shows off a number of intriguingly off-beat living sculptures.  My favorite is the silver fern-leaf ball that floats above Civic Square, but the Lonely Planet people love the Len Lye water whirler.

And of course a day trip to the wine region of Martinborough in the Wairarapa is a must.

The Dowse Art Museum gets the big mention. Te Papa is always popular, too, but my favorites are the Museum of Wellington, City and Sea in the Bond Store on Queen's Wharf, and the Pataka Museum in Porirua.

There are six other recommendations:

Unity Books In Willis Street -- "Setting the standard for every bookshop in the land."

Sweet Mother's Kitchen -- "it's clean, cute, has craft beer and good sun"

Malthouse (more beer)

Shinobi Sushi Lounge "Japanese training and Kiwi flair combine to create the most exciting sushi joint in town"

Hunters & Collectors -- "off-the-rack and vintage clothing"

Bats Theatre -- "Wildly alternative"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Admiral Nelson artifact found in jammed drawer

Horatio Nelson is eternally newsworthy

If a cribbage board owned by just about anyone else was accidentally discovered, it would be non-news.

But a cribbage board with provenance linking it to not just Admiral Nelson, but the Battle of Trafalgar, too, was serendipitously found, then it's breathtaking.  Like the junior royals of today, the hero of the Nile, the subject of scandal in his time and countless books since, is always worth a headline.

Cribbage board Nelson used before he pegged out at Trafalgar is found in jammed drawer of Victorian desk bought for £30

Blares the Daily News online.

The story itself is one of those great human interest tales.  A small museum wanted to get a few items into working order so they would be easier to sell.  Included in those items was a Victorian desk with a jammed drawer.  Toby Jenkins, a helpful staff member at the auction house, prised it open, and lo and behold, there was a neat little cribbage board.

It was made of bone, which makes it intriguing.  Even more rivetingly, there was a note attached claiming that this was the very same cribbage board used by "Victory" Nelson and Admiral Quilliam during the run-up to the Battle of Trafalgar.  Well, it can be so boring waiting for a big battle to happen.

On the reverse there was a handwritten label dated around 1940s in appearance stating the name of the donor as Byron S.G Penn.
Handwritten in ink next to that label were the words: 'The cribbage board used by Victory Nelson & Admiral Quilliam'

At first, as Mr. Jenkins admitted, it seemed too good to be true.  Then a search through National Archives turned up Byron S.G. Penn.  Hopefully, this is provenance enough, as the auction could fetch many, many thousands more than the usual cribbage board, even one made of bone.

You can read the full story, plus pictures, HERE.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How much should you charge for your eBook?

Ninety-nine cents or eight dollars, ninety-nine?

BookBaby has an excellent guide to eBook pricing. An interesting extract follows. Apply for the entire guide (at no cost) HERE.

Think about percentages

One of the biggest factors to consider in pricing your eBook is the percentage of sales you’ll receive from the retailers. Amazon pays out a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 to $9.99. For eBooks priced below $2.99 and above $9.99, Amazon pays out only 35%. Most of the other eBook retailers have similar price banding.

To encourage more readers with a low price and still get the 70% royalty, you would set your price to $2.99. Every sale will yield you a net royalty of $2.09 per sale.

If you opt to maximize your exposure and price your book at $0.99, then you’ll get 35 cents per sale. In order to get $2.09 in royalties with a book priced at $0.99, you’ll have to sell 6 books. If you sell 1,000 books at $2.99, then you’ll make $2,090. If you are contemplating a price drop to $0.99, then you’ll have to sell 5,972 books to make the same net royalties you did when it was priced at $2.99.
But writing and publishing an eBook is more than just numbers, dollars, and cents. These kinds of royalty calculations are only one factor in the success of an eBook. Why do some author’s price their book at 99¢ when the math seems to be so against that model?

A few reasons to price your book at 99¢:

• It’s only 99¢, what’s the risk? An impulse-priced book allows a reader take a chance on a book that looks interesting. If you’re an unknown author trying to build your readership base, this might be the answer. While $3.99 doesn’t sound like a lot, it does mean the difference between 1 book and 4 books for the purchaser.

• an easier path to best-seller status. To rise atop the Amazon rankings is the Holy Grail quest for most every author. Amazon counts book sales units, not revenue. Setting your price at the impulse level of $0.99 could help you creep up in the ranking and gain visibility there — visibility you might not have gotten if you kept your book price higher.

• Success begets success. When you visit your book page, you’ll see a section that says “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” The real value for you is when your book appears in that section on other successful books. Amazon will list up to 100 books in this section and readers will often scroll through that list to discover other books that look interesting. Again, a drop of 99¢ may be the catalyst to increase your sales enough to land you in that section on some popular books.

Those are a few of the arguments for dropping your Kindle book price to 99¢. Of course pricing is only one factor in the success of a book. There’s no guarantee your 99¢ book will attract hundreds of new readers — that’s why it’s important to continue to market your book and actively seek out ways to get it in front of new readers.

So what should you charge for your book?

As the back-and-forth pricing arguments attest, there is no easy answer. It depends on your genre, your commitment to marketing, and the prevailing winds of the marketplace at any given time or place. New authors who are trying to find a readership can use the low price strategy to great success.
If you have a series, you may want to lower the first book in the series to entice people to give you a try. Other books can then be priced higher because you are no longer a new author to those who have purchased your book.

And if you’re an established author finding success with eBooks, think long and hard about changing your book pricing strategy. If you are seeing success at one price, think hard before trying to cash in on a higher price. You don’t want to kill the momentum of your sales which may be a hard thing to restart if you do.

Like the rest of the eBook world, we’re in a rapidly evolving environment when it comes to eBook pricing. Things are so new, and changing so quickly, that pricing strategies can be outdated in the blink of an eye. One of the great things for authors who self-publish their eBooks is the ability to change the price, test different price points, and react to the market demand.

Annoying the hell out of your Facebook fans

Winning and losing at the Facebook promotion game: secrets from BookBaby

The secret to Facebook success is simple (they say) -- follow the Rule of 4 C’s—consistently create compelling content!

With a gazillion users, Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, so you can’t blame any lack of reader interest on “lack of audience.”

The answer is simple (they say) -- you’re not creating content worth sharing. And worse, you might be annoying the hell out of your existing fans, the ones you so desperately need to keep in order to build a larger following.

These tips are particularly worth following:

Don't nag at people to review your book or vote for you

It’s important to encourage your readers to leave reviews (hopefully positive ones) on Amazon and community book review sites, but don’t make a weekly habit of it. You’ll look desperate. Also, if you’re involved in some kind of literary competition that involves online voting, do NOT pester people every single day asking for more votes. Art is not a popularity contest.

Don't post updates every 20 minutes

If you’re posting more than a few times a day, it better be good stuff! Don’t use your Facebook page as your personal profile. The few folks who might care what you’re up to every day will stop caring quick.

Avoid whingeing

(Yes, I know whingeing is an Aussie slang term, but the meaning should be clear.) Every once in a while it’s ok to be honest and vulnerable on Facebook. You can vent your frustrations from time to time. But keep those kinds of posts as the exception. Bitching, whining, sour grapes, jealousy, and putting other writers down– no one needs a daily dose of that. (And that goes for your blog, as well.)

And then there is the usual things, like trying not to shout in caps, posting advertisements on other people's pages, and inserting dozens of meaningless photos.

Personally, I think it is a good idea to think of the internet as an extension of your home phone.  You know how annoying phone marketing can be? And over-posessive friends who claim far more than their share of your time? If you're not curt, rude, nasty, or too persistent on the phone, then you shouldn't be any of those on the internet, either.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Topless Royals

The story behind blogger

Suddenly, blogger has become a lot harder to use.

Fonts are not nearly as cooperative, and it is a lot harder to check before and after publishing.  And, if you add a caption to an image, the whole damn post goes into the tiny caption font.  Centered.

Someone has been fidding with something that didn't need any tweaks at all.

Naturally, I wondered why.  So of course I did a Google search.

And came up with an interesting background story, as well as the probable answer.

Here is the story, told by the folks who thought up Blogger in the first place:

Blogger was started by a tiny company in San Francisco called Pyra Labs in August of 1999. This was in the midst of the dot-com boom. But we weren't exactly a VC-funded, party-throwing, foosball-in-the-lobby-playing, free-beer-drinking outfit. (Unless it was other people's free beer.)

We were three friends, funded by doing annoying contract web projects for big companies, trying to make our own grand entrance onto the Internet landscape. What we were originally trying to do doesn't matter so much now. But while doing it, we created Blogger, more or less on a whim, and thought — Hmmm... that's kinda interesting.

Blogger took off, in a small way, and eventually a bigger way, over a couple years. We raised a little money (but stayed small). And then the bust happened, and we ran out of money, and our fun little journey got less fun. We narrowly survived, not all in one piece, but kept the service going the whole time (most days) and started building it back up.

Things were going well again in 2002. We had hundreds of thousands of users, though still just a few people. And then something no one expected happened: Google wanted to buy us. Yes, that Google.
We liked Google a lot. And they liked blogs. So we were amenable to the idea. And it worked out nicely.

Now we're a small (but slightly bigger than before) team in Google focusing on helping people have their own voice on the web and organizing the world's information from the personal perspective. Which has pretty much always been our whole deal.

And there is the answer, too.

Beware of what happens to your product when a huge IT conglomerate takes over ownership, as people in huge IT conglomerates love to tweak. It justifies their salaries.

Walmart to stop selling Kindles

I love my Kindle, but it may be harder to buy a second one, or a replacement

Not only did I read on TradeMe last night that Amazon has pulled Kindle Fire, but Walmart is pulling the plug on the lot.

Matthew Druett with my Kindle

Wal-Mart will no longer carry Amazon’s Kindle devices beyond commitments it has already made to do so, according to a report by Reuters.

The company said that the move was part of its overall merchandising strategy but it might have also been motivated by Wal-Mart’s desire to compete more aggressively in the online retail space that Amazon dominates. Every new Kindle Fire owner is potentially another shopper.

Target stores also recently pulled Amazon devices from its shelves.

Wal-Mart will continue to sell other tablet and e-reading devices, like those produced by Apple and Barnes & Noble.

Read much more at Reuters.

Jesus's wife mentioned in papyrus

Was Jesus married?

Archaeologist Karen L. King thinks so.

A small fragment of faded papyrus -- as small as a business card -- contains a suggestion that Jesus may have been married.

The fragment, with just eight lines of text on the front and six lines on the back, is from a fourth-century dialogue, written in the Coptic language, between Jesus and his disciples. In it, Jesus speaks of “my wife,” according to Harvard professor Karen L. King, who discovered the fragment.

“The most exciting line in the whole fragment…is the sentence ‘Jesus said to them [his disciples], my wife…” King said in a video posted to Harvard’s YouTube channel. The next line of text reads, “She will be able to be my disciple.”

“This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife,” King wrote in her paper on the discovery.

The discovery, if it is validated, could have major implications for the Christian faith. The belief that Jesus was not married is one reason priests in the Catholic Church must remain celibate and are not allowed to marry. It could also have implications for women's roles in the church, as it would mean Jesus had a female disciple.

For centuries, there has been debate about the possibility that Jesus was married, with many believing he might have had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, who is mentioned prominently in the New Testament. The speculation was even the subject of Dan Brown's best seller, The Da Vinci Code.

Read the full story

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sequel to the Travelling Restaurant

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of Barbara Else's new book

The Queen and the Nobody Boy
It was a great event, staged by Gecko Press and the inimitable Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie, Wellington.  Many friends were there, Jenny Robin Jones (No Simple Passage), Tony Simpson (A Distant Feast), Nelson Wattie (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature), Ray Grover (March to the Sound of Guns), and Marilyn Duckworth (Playing Friends) being a few of the number.  Wine flowed, marvellous speeches were made, nibbles were nibbled, and an excellent time was had by all.
The whole family loved The Travelling Restaurant, and we all can't wait to read this one.
Review to come!

Sequel to Stephen King's "Shining"

Stephen King's sequel to his horror novel The Shining is to be released on 24 September 2013, 36 years after the original was published.

The BBC reports that Doctor Sleep will follow Danny Torrance, the young boy who survived the horrific events of The Shining.

According to King's official website, Dan meets a "very special 12-year-old girl" who he must "save from a tribe of murderous paranormals".

Now a middle-aged man and aided by a prescient cat, he becomes Doctor Sleep.

One of King's most loved works, The Shining was adapted into a 1980 film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

As in the book, the movie followed the Torrance family as they move to the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado mountains.

Jack, a writer, takes a job as a hotel caretaker for a year but becomes possessed by the evil spirits in the building and attacks his family.

The young Danny, who has psychic abilities, eventually manages to escape with his mother Wendy.

According to King's UK publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, Doctor Sleep returns to the "characters and territory" of The Shining.

The book takes up the story of Dan who has been "drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence".

The book opens with him settling in a New Hampshire town and taking a job at a nursing home where his "shining" power helps him comfort the dying.

Known by the local people as "Doctor Sleep", Dan comes into contact with Abra Stone, a 12-year-old who has "the brightest shining ever seen".

Hodder and Stoughton said the story was "an epic war between good and evil" that would "thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining".

Fans posting on the official King website expressed excitement at the news of the follow-up, with one writing that he "can't wait to be scared all over again".

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Best business books of the year

The Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award Shortlist

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (Crown Business, Profile Books)

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates (The Penguin Press, Fourth Estate)

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll (The Penguin Press, Allen Lane)

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster; Little, Brown)

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits Of Markets by Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Allen Lane)

Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence by William L. Silber (Bloomsbury Press)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Satanic Verses would not be published today?

"My view was and is that nothing is off limits"
-- Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie has said he does not think his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses would be published today because of a climate of "fear and nervousness".

The writer said the banning of his book in many countries and the subsequent threats on his life had created a "long-term chilling effect".

"A book which was critical of Islam would be difficult to be published now," he told the BBC's Will Gompertz.

He said the only way to solve the issue was for publishers to "be braver".

"The only way of living in a free society is to feel that you have the right to say and do stuff," he said.

Many Muslims regard The Satanic Verses as blasphemous, and the book is still banned in India.

The 65-year-old writer lived in hiding for many years after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his execution.

Read the rest of the BBC story

Painting inspired by poet

John Moores Painting Prize won by Sarah Pickstone

Stevie Smith and the Willow by Sarah Pickstone Sarah Pickstone's winning entry is titled Stevie Smith and the Willow

Artist Sarah Pickstone has won the £25,000 John Moores Painting Prize for a work inspired by poet Stevie Smith.

The award is billed as Britain's most prestigious painting prize.

Manchester-born Pickstone based the winning painting on an illustration by Stevie Smith to accompany her 1957 poem Not Waving But Drowning.

Judge Fiona Banner described the work, titled Stevie Smith and the Willow, as "an enigmatic double portrait that grapples with the creative self".

Read the rest of the BBC story

Monday, September 17, 2012

Richard III excavated

Archaeologists searching for the grave of Richard III have said "strong circumstantial evidence" points to a skeleton being the lost king. 

Richard III

The English king, who suffered from scoliosis (curvature of the spine), died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and was buried secretly, so that his grave would not become a shrine.

A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a "cleaved-in skull" that suggest it could be Richard III.

The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard's family.

Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university's School of Archaeology, said: "Archaeology almost never finds named individuals - this is absolutely extraordinary.

"Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing."

A university spokesperson said the evidence included signs of a peri-mortem (near-death) trauma to the skull and a barbed iron arrow head in the area of the spine.

Richard is recorded by some sources as having been pulled from his horse and killed with a blow to the head.

The skeleton also showed severe scoliosis - a curvature of the spine.

Although not as pronounced as Shakespeare's portrayal of the king as a hunchback, the condition would have given the adult male the appearance of having one shoulder higher than the other.

Philippe Langley, from the Richard III Society, said: "It is such a tumult of emotions, I am shell-shocked.

"I just feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time. It is very odd."

As the defeated foe, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.

This was demolished in the 1530s, but documents describing the burial site have survived.

The excavation, which began on 25 August, has uncovered the remains of the cloisters and chapter house, as well as the church.

Read the full BBC story

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Charles Dickens at NYPL

The New York Public will celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens with a special exhibition. “Charles Dickens: The Key to Character” will open on September 14, 2012 and run through January 27, 2013.

Held in the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the display will include works that were influenced by Dickens’ writing. Nearly 30 illustrators contributed projects to the exhibit. Some of the pieces on view include watercolor paintings, original sheet music and Dickens’ own memoranda book.

Here’s more from the release: “The exhibition looks at characters across Dickens’s career, from beloved novels like A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and David Copperfield to lesser-know works including Martin Chuzzlewit and Dombey and Son…Also on display: an 1867 pocket diary filled with the code Dickens used to communicate with his mistress, Ellen Ternan; a couture gown by Prabal Gurung, a contemporary fashion designer inspired by the decayed elegance of Great Expectations‘s Miss Havisham; and recordings from the special collections of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.”

Another Indie author scoops a deal

After dominating our Self-Published Bestsellers List, YA novelist Abbi Glines has signed a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Simon Pulse imprint for The Vincent Boys and The Vincent Brothers.

According to the publisher, Glines has sold more than 150,000 digital copies of the books since October 2011. Simon Pulse editorial director Jennifer Klonsky negotiated the deal with Dystel & Goderich’s Jane Dystel.

Simon Pulse has already released both books in eBook format. The Vincent Boys will come out in both hardcover and trade paperback format on October 30th. The Vincent Brothers will follow on December 18th.

Here’s more from the release: “The Vincent Boys features Ashton Gray, Sawyer Vincent, and Beau Vincent. Ashton and Sawyer have been together forever. She’s the preacher’s daughter; he’s the town’s Golden Boy. But Ashton can’t deny her attraction to bad-boy Beau. He’s the hottest guy she’s ever seen, dangerous in ways that she’s only dreamed about, and one guy she should probably stay away from…but can’t.”

The deal includes North American, audio and eBook rights.

Friday, September 14, 2012

J.B. Priestley, born 13 September

The Good Companion

Born in 1894, in what he called an "ultra-respectable" suburb of Bradford, Yorkshire, John Boynton Priestley enjoyed his first success with a novel about travelling theatre, The Good Companions in 1929.  Turned into a radio series, it ran for years, delighting millions of listeners.

He followed it with a realist novel about London life, Angel Pavement in 1930; later books include Lost Empires in 1965 and The Image Men in 1968. As a playwright he was often preoccupied with theories of time, as in An Inspector Calls in 1945, but had also a gift for family comedy, for example, When We Are Married in 1938.

Priestley served during the First World War in the 10th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. He was wounded in 1916 by mortar fire. In his autobiography, Margin Released he is fiercely critical of the British Army and in particular of the officer class.

He also did not like Churchill. During World War II, he was a regular broadcaster on the BBC. The Postscript, broadcast on Sunday night through 1940 and again in 1941, drew peak audiences of 16 million; only Churchill himself was more popular with listeners. But his talks were cancelled. It was thought that this was the effect of complaints from Churchill that they were too left-wing; however, Priestley's son has recently revealed that it was in fact Churchill's Cabinet that brought about the cancellation.

He was a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which began in 1958. So perhaps it is unexpected that when he was offered that chance of becoming a lord (in 1965) he turned it down.  A consistent man, he also turned down the gong of Companion of Honour in 1969.

He died in August 1984, in Stratford.-upon-Avon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

H.L Mencken

H.L. Mencken was born on September 12, 1880 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Named Henry Louis, Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and a scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. Many of his books still remain in print.

Mencken is known for writing The American Language, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial". He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, the temperance movement, and uplifters. A keen cheerleader of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories and particularly critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, populism, Fundamentalist Christianity, creationism, organized religion, the existence of God, and osteopathic/chiropractic medicine.

In a word, he was not likely to belong to the Republican Party.

However, he wasn't liable to be labeled a Democrat, either. A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he believed that representative democracy was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War One, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda." However, he labeled Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs." 

Always controversial, he wrote critically of Jews, yet when he learned of Hitler's persecution of Jews, he attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt for refusing to admit Jewish refugees into the United States and called for their wholesale admission, writing:
There is only one way to help the fugitives, and that is to find places for them in a country in which they can really live. Why shouldn't the United States take in a couple hundred thousand of them, or even all of them?
In 1948, he suffered a stroke, and spent the following years putting his affairs in order, organizing all his papers (except personal letters, which were destroyed) for the use of scholars.

He died in his sleep January 29, 1956.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Johnny Depp gets a tattoo

Damien Echols, one of three men who were wrongly convicted for satanic murders in 1993, called on Johnny Depp, triggering the kind of bond that demands being memorialized with tattoos.

"There was an instant connection, some brotherly kind of love there," said Depp at a news conference in Toronto, at the world premiere of Amy Berg's film "West of Memphis," which chronicles the miscarriage of justice that sent Echols and two other presumably innocent men to jail.

"It was instant," Depp repeated. "To finally see Damien arrive at my house, on my doorstep, was moving and it was a celebration. It was beautiful. We had Tater Tots and tacos. And things took their natural course and we ended up at the tattoo parlor."

The tattoos, apparently identical, were undescribed. 

Shark expert dies

Ron Taylor, the Australian marine conservation pioneer who helped film some of the heart-stopping footage for the film "Jaws," has died of leukemia.  He was 78.

He and his wife Valerie pioneered the conservation of sharks. Their great underwater photography led the director Steven Spielberg to call upon them when he needed underwater sequences for his blockbuster film.

Although the couple were criticized for helping demonize sharks through the terrifying footage they created, the scenes they shot for "Jaws" became iconic.

Taylor is survived by his wife, his filming partner for more than 40 years.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bryce Courtenay coming to a conclusion

Australian author Bryce Courtenay reveals that his 21st novel will be his last

Sadly, he has stomach cancer.  However, he says he is prepared to die peacefully.

South African-born Courtenay will publish his 21st book, Jack of Spades, in November.  After that, he has only months.

He wrote on Facebook, "You will be pleased to know that I am currently feeling well, and am busy gardening, and writing a collection of short stories, as well as being with our beloved pets."

Working with plants and flowers shows a wonderful willingness to leave a legacy for others to enjoy, that he is unlikely to see.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Murdoch to take over Packer media group?

James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings has received a formal US$2 billion takeover offer from Rupert Murdoch's News Limited.

Though less than a previous offer, the intention is to back the deal.

Since the death of Kerry Packer in 2005, his son, billionaire James Packer, has been shucking the family's traditional media business to focus on a worldwide gambling empire.

Philip K Dick inspiration leads Toronto film festival

Philip K Dick stuns us still

The Toronto film festival opened with a science fiction film by the same director who made hits out of Philip K Dick's SF classic stories.

American director Rian Johnson's time-twisting "Looper," also inspired by reading Philip K Dick novels, is in the same class as "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," and "Minority Report," and promises to have the same cult following.

"Looper" first took shape as a short film, but never got past a written draft. It was not until the success of "The Brothers Bloom" at the 2008 festival that Johnson returned to the idea.

With "Looper" Johnson has taken filmmaking to a new level, according to an inside source, who added, "This is a new kind of opening night: an exciting, thinking-person's action film from a director who really understands the genre."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Those mysterious Scandinavians

BUSINESS in the Nordic countries has suffered a series of humiliations in recent years.

Nokia is a shadow of its former self. Volvo has been passed from one foreign owner (Ford) to another (the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group), and Saab Automobile has collapsed. Iceland’s banking industry has imploded.

But in one business, at least, Scandinavia is sweeping all before it: the production of crime thrillers.

We've all heard of Steig Larsson et al.  And enjoyed their bloodsoaked thrillers -- on screen as well as on the printed of e-ink page.

Yet there is a mystery.  Scandinavia is not a crime-ridden area.

As Schumpeter ruminates in The Economist, such success can come from the most unexpected places. Scandinavia is probably the most crime- and corruption-free region in the world: Denmark’s murder rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people, compared with 4.2 in the United States and 21 in Brazil. Scandinavians are also lumbered with obscure and difficult languages. A succession of mainstream British publishers rejected “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, Larsson’s first book, before Christopher MacLehose decided to publish it. Mr Indridason at first had poor sales because people found it hard to grapple with Icelandic names.

So where does the success come from?  One persuasive theory is that the history of bloodsoaked Icelandic sagas helps. Similar myths and legends of warriors and revenge are found in all cultures, and so the novels connect with something atavistic in the reader.

Another clue might be the fact that writers in Scandinavia are encouraged, many prizes and awards being available to anyone with promise.

Read on

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Women's Weekly goes German

ACP (Australian Consolidated Press) has sold its magazine division to German publishing giant Bauer Media Group.

Bauer publisher and owner Yvonne Bauer said that the acquisition means that ACP's strong brands in Australia and New Zealand will be the "perfect platforms to expand into digital areas."

ACP's owner, Nine Entertainment Company, will be glad of the cash, it seems.

"The decision to sell the magazine business is not one we have made lightly," said CEO David Gyngell.

"On balance, however, the sale provides NEC with an attractive all cash valuation, and ACP with the benefits of being part of a global publisher organization."

The sale, expected to be done and dusted within 8 weeks, is rumoured to be worth $500 million Australian

Happy birthday Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry
Edith Sitwell (Edith Louisa Sitwell) was born on Wednesday, September 07, 1887 in Scarborough, England

Like her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell, Edith reacted badly to her eccentric, unloving parents, and lived for much of her life with her governess. Never married, she became passionately attached to the gay Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew, and her home was always open to London's poetic circle, to whom she was unfailingly generous and helpful.

Edith published poetry continuously from 1913, some of it abstract and set to music. With her dramatic style and exotic costumes, she was sometimes labelled a poseur, but her work was also praised for its solid technique and painstaking craftsmanship.

Sitwell published her first poem The Drowned Suns in the Daily Mirror in 1913 and between 1916 and 1921 she edited Wheels, an annual poetic anthology compiled with her brothers—a literary collaboration generally called "the Sitwells".

In 1929 she published Gold Coast Customs, a poem about the artificiality of human behaviour and the barbarism that lies beneath the surface. The poem was written in the rhythms of the tom-tom and of jazz, and shows considerable technical skill. Her early work reflects the strong influence of the French symbolists. Her most famous poetic series is Facade, much of which was set to music by William Walton.

She supported innovative trends in English poetry and opposed what she considered the conventionality of many contemporary backward-looking poets. Her flat became a meeting place for young writers whom she wished to befriend and help: these later included Dylan Thomas.

Her only novel, I Live under a Black Sun, based on the life of Jonathan Swift, was published in 1937.

She died of unknown causes on 9 December, 1964.

Still falls the Rain—
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss—
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.
‘The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn’ (1942)

Perhaps her most famous quote:

I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty…But I am too busy thinking about myself.
In ‘Observer’ 30 April 1950

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 September belongs to Robert Burns

Happy birthday Robert Burns!

Robert Burns (1759-1796) was a Scottish poet, notable for his use of the Scots dialect at a time when it was not considered suitably "elevated" for literature.

Burns's first volume, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, appeared in 1786. In addition to his poetry Bums wrote or adapted many songs, including "Auld Lang Syne".

Born on September 5, 1759,  at Alloway near Ayr, in 1784  he and his brother became joint tenants of his late father's farm at Mossgiet, but they were not great managers. Following the success of his first volume of poems in 1786 Robert turned to farming at Ellisland, near Dumfries.  Five years later, however, this venture also collapsed, and so he became a district excise officer, chasing duties and taxes.

He is particularly famous for his poems "Holy Willie's Prayer," "Tarn O'Shanter," "The Jolly Beggars," and "To a Mouse."  He is also known for his songs, some of which were original, while others were adaptations of old folk songs.

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jonathan Livingston Seagull crashes

Jonathan Livingston Seagull author Richard Bach crashes plane

The BBC reports that US author of 1970s short novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull has been seriously injured in a plane crash.

Richard Bach was reportedly trying to land his small plane on San Juan island in Washington state when he hit power lines and got trapped in the cockpit.

Local media reported that a group of holidaymakers had to cut him free.

His son, James, said his father was flying alone and suffered a head injury and broken shoulder. Bach, 76, is known to be a keen aviator.

"Right now we're waiting for the sedation to wear off, for him to fully wake up," James Bach told the Associated Press news agency.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, published in 1970, is a fable telling the spiritual story of a bird, part of a genre that included the eco-message mega-seller about rabbits, Watership Down.

The book, a bestseller made into a film in 1973, with songs by Neil Diamond, gave Bach a loyal following.

Hybrid Vigor

In 1879, M'sieu Lemoine of Nancy, France, crossed two species of South African irises.

The result was a vigorous hybrid with brilliant scarlet flowers.  It became hugely popular, under the name of "monbretia."

In 1913, George Russell planted several kinds of lupin in his gardening allotment in York, England.

The result was a colorful range of hybrid lupins.  Mr. Russell sorted out the most spectacular, and sold the seeds for a penny each. These rainbow colored lupins became a gardening sensation, worldwide.

These two success stories are just two examples of what is known as "hybrid vigor," where the offspring of mixing seem to improve on the qualities of both parents. Hybrid breeding is used to improve strains of maize, sorghum, rice, sugar beet, onions, spinach, broccoli, cannabis, cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, and chickens.

Pointing this out, Dominion Post columnist Bob Brockie says it is strange that since ancient times cross-breeding in humans has been regarded with antipathy.  Wars and religious movements have strived to maintain "racial purity." "Miscegenation" and "mongrelizing" are bad words. And yet, as he says, "Racial and bloodline purity fly in the face of genetic research."  The facts demonstrate that "human hybrids enjoy better average health, intelligence and height than their purer parental stock." 

Paleontologists suggest that the human race took an upward leap when Neanderthals and Denisovians interbred with Homo sapiens.

Demographers, writing in the European Journal of Human Genetics theorize that urbanization, bringing different races together in the cities, has resulted in human hybrid vigor.

"And let's face it," says Brockie; "many half-castes are great lookers."

Fans of half-Maori seafaring detective Wiki Coffin would agree.

The replacement for Kindle Fire?

A tablet that morphs into an eye-friendly e-reader

Amazon may be working on a double-sided Kindle product that would incorporate both e-ink and an LCD display into one device, a new patent filing suggests.

The e-commerce giant has been awarded a patent where e-ink and LCD would work together — one display would be static for reading, while the LCD would be optimized for video watching. But according to the filing, the displays would be on opposing sides of the device.

The patent filing states that it would make use of the device’s front and rear-facing cameras to determine which side to display content.

“A device might alternatively utilize at least one camera to determine which side of the device is facing the user, and might activate the display on that side of the device to convey content,” the patent said. “A device might display notifications on an edge of the device, such that a current orientation of the device might be less important.”

Ngaio Marsh Award

Neil Cross wins Ngaio March Award

Born in Bristol (United Kingdom), Cross has lived in Wellington, New Zealand for the past several years. He has been the lead writer on the hit BBC TV series Spooks, and has written several books since coming to New Zealand.

Once shortlisted for the Booker Prize, he has now scooped the Ngaio Marsh Award for crime writing, presented at the Christchurch Writers’ Festival. Read all about it – and an interview with Cross – on Craig Sisterson’s KiwiCrime blog. Link to the right.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Gone Girl" hangs onto top spot

"Gone Girl" held on to the top spot of Publishers Weekly's bestseller list on Thursday.

NEW YORK (Reuters)

Hardcover Fiction Last Week

1. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (Crown, $25.00) 1

2. "The Inn at Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, $26.00) 2

3. "Odd Apocalypse" by Dean R. Koontz (Bantam, $28.00) 4

4. "Friends Forever" by Danielle Steel (Delacorte, $28.00) 3

5. "Where We Belong" by Emily Giffin (St. Martin's, $27.99) 5

6. "Wards of Faerie" by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Books, $28.00) -

7. "Black List: A Thriller" by Brad Thor (Atria, $27.99) 6

8. "I, Michael Bennett" by James Patterson/Michael Ledwidge (Little, Brown, $27.99) 8

9. "The Kingmaker's Daughter" by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone Books, $29.99) 7

10. "The Fallen Angel" by Daniel Silva (Harper, $27.99) 9

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. "Paterno" by Joe Posnanski (Simon & Schuster, $28.00) -

2. "Obama's America" by Dinesh D'Souza (Regnery, $ 27.95) 2

3. "Shadowbosses" by Mallory Factor (Center Street, $24.99) -

4. "The Amateur" by Edward Klein (Regnery, $27.95) 1

5. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, $25.95) 4

6. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard (Holt, $28.00) 6

7. "Wheat Belly" by William Davis (Rodale Press, $25.99) 5

8. "Fool Me Twice" by Aaron Klein (WND Books, $25.99) 29

9. "Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child" by Bob Spitz (Knopf, 29.95) 8

10. "Double Cross" by Ben Macintyre (Crown, $26.00) 9

- The list is compiled using data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide.
Week ending Aug 26, 2012, powered by Nielsen BookScan (c) 2012 The Nielsen Company.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

23 Adult Male Truths

Authorship unknown

1 Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

 4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

 5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

 6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sureI know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

 9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind-of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

 15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Light than Kay. (Maybe that's why in Australia the code for beer is XXXX)

17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

 18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. 

 21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

22. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

23. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

 Ladies.....Quit Laughing.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Random House profits zoom on eBooks and 50 Shades

I heard through the grapevine that 50 Shades sold 150,000 the first month or so in New Zealand

Now I believe it.

Revenues at Random House grew to €947 million ($1.19 billion) in the first half of 2012, up from €787 million in the first half of 2011 on the strength of selling 30 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, half of which were e-books.

Company profits also rose precipitously to €113 million, up from €69 million in the first half of 2011, the company announced today in a statement.

“Growth in our e-book sales, which continued to rise significantly in each of our divisions, was complemented by our increasing market share among physical retailers,” said Random House chairman and CEO Markus Dohle in a letter to the company.

According to a company spokesperson, digital revenues as a share of total company revenues rose in the first half of 2012 to 27% in the U.S., up from 20% in the first half of 2011. Perhaps more significant for the world’s largest publisher is that worldwide digital revenues were 22% of total revenues. The 27% in the U.S. is in line with recent first half numbers from Random House rival Hachette.

In the letter, Dohle credited Random House’s author-focused strategy with the company’s success.

“We are always actively working to drive change around us, this year in particular by expanding the scope of services and tools we offer our authors. We also are working diligently to get even closer to readers to help them discover our books,” he said.

Kindle Fire sold out

And yet, according to publishing gossip over 6 million units sold
As Digital Book World comments, it is very odd that they should let stocks run down.

Some nine months after introducing the device to the market, Amazon has sold out of the Kindle Fire tablet computer, the company announced today.

According to Amazon, the Kindle Fire has been the No. 1 selling product on since its introduction. While the company has not released total sales figures for the device, it says that the Fire has captured 22% of the U.S. tablet market and has had over 10,000 five-star customer reviews on the leading U.S. e-commerce site.

“All of the top 10 sellers on since Kindle Fire launched just less than a year ago are digital products,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement.

With the Kindle Fire sold out, speculation that a new Amazon tablet will be announced at the company’s upcoming Sept. 6 event in Santa Monica, Calif. should intensify.

The announcement also suggests that the Kindle Fire has sold more copies on Amazon than the e-book edition of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Publishers Lunch is claiming that the Kindle Fire has sold about 6 million units based on Amazon’s market estimates and other reports. Amazon has not confirmed or denied this estimate.