“Wool” gathering

I am a reader that usually shies away, okay more like runs away, from a book that everyone is raving about (especially an Oprah pick!), so I don’t think I will ever be reading that mommy porn book that everyone seems to be reading, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t applaud the book and it’s author, E.L. James, for doing something incredible, making us all much more aware of self-published fiction.

It’s truly astounded how James’ trilogy racked up so many sales in such a short period of time. I read somewhere that it sold 25 million copies in four months, compared to Stieg Larsson’s equally infamous publishing sensation, which sold 20 million copies in 4 years! That’s a lot of books!

Even though I’ve heard that these particular novels are not the most well written books of all time, they have certainly struck a chord with readers around the world and brought to everyone’s attention how the internet and self-publishing have increased the amount of available material for us, the lovers of the written word. Readers win, I like that!

What’s great is that somehow readers are ferreting out these stories, giving them a wider readership which in turn gets a publishers attention. It’s a kind of backwards process but it seems to be working!

I honestly wasn’t even aware, until this past year, how many self-published e-books there are for sale on Amazon, and for a very small price too! I’ve read maybe a half a dozen of them and I have to say they were all pretty darn good. There are probably more punctuation and grammatical errors than from a book that’s been looked over by an editor, but if you can ignore that and just enjoy the story I think you will be in for a treat.Wool

The newest self-publishing phenomenon is, “Wool” by Hugh Howey, an american author, who spent his lunch hours at his day job writing fiction. He self published these stories on Amazon and in the fall of 2011 found himself at the top of the Amazon science fiction best-selling list with, “Wool”, a 50 page novella.  With his readers demanding more, he continued to add installments to the “Wool” series, and it is now selling as a 5 part omnibus on the site. The phenomenon continues to grow with the series being optioned by Ridley Scott for a potential movie, and the publication of a hardback version by Random House coming out in England in January 2013 and an American publication sometime later in the year.

I’ve read part one and really enjoyed it, and it did leave me wanting to read more, so I’ve downloaded the omnibus as well!  I’ve just recently listened to a podcast featuring Howey, and he is of course pleased and amazed with his recent success, and has been able to quit his day job!

He also said that his other self-published stories are now selling like hotcakes, and that if he had gone the traditional publishing route his own success story would be much different. Howey said he never spent his time and energy sending out manuscripts to publishers and networking, he instead put all of his efforts into creating, and as a result he already has a lot of material on the internet for readers to buy without going through the usual slow process of conventional publishing.

So with publishers being cautious about spending money these days on an unknown name, the internet seems to be helping them find the next sensation without having to do much of the work. And for those of us, like myself, who are just learning to embrace the e-reader I guess we have to give credit where credit is due and thank them for giving us some new voices that might otherwise have been lost!

Here is the link to the Guardian Books Podcast if your interesting in listening.

Rock on!

A few posts ago I took a pic of two musician bios I had checked out of the library, one an autobiography from Rod Stewart and another a controversial book about Michael Jackson. I was very anxious to read both because these are two of my favorite singers of all times!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was one of those pre-teens growing up in the 60’s that was swept away by the British Music Invasion. I adored the Beatles, Herman and the Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Who and Rod Stewart, with and without the Faces. I remember my friends and I giggling and swooning over the crazy clothes, long hair and naughty song lyrics. I listened to records for hours in my room, examining every detail on those album covers, singing along and loving it when they included the words. I sure miss album covers don’t you?  But I always had a thing for Rod the Bod, at least that’s what we called him. He had that scratchy voice, and the mod hairdo and his songs were really good, hey even my Mom like him!

I thought at one time I actually might get a chance to meet him, when on a trip to England I met a cousin and his mate who were working as roadies on his “Blondes have more Fun Tour”, but that didn’t pan out and instead they took me to a Sex Pistols gig and gave me a tour t-shirt.  Ugh, not the same at all!

Cover of "Blondes Have More Fun"

Cover of Blondes Have More Fun

But I digress, needless to say I was exciting to read what he had to say! I understand totally why Rod: The Autobiography has been getting rave reviews, it’s a lark from start to finish. His words come across just like he always has from the stage and the television, warm, intelligent, funny, talented and humble. Yes, I still have a bit of a crush can you tell?!  Unlike a lot of bios that are either dry and full of facts, this book seems honest and conversational. Most of the dirt he dishes is on himself, and when he gossips it isn’t done mean spiritedly but he gets his point across.  It’s one of the best rock bios I’ve ever read and if you listened to his music a lot like I did it’s really worth reading.

Michael Jackson’s biography is a good one too, but totally different. “Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson” by Randall Sullivan, is an excellent in depth look at poor old Michael Jackson. I can never think about him without feeling sad about how someone so talented and good looking could end up hating himself so much. Of course he isn’t the first talent that has died tragically, but his constant self loathing and his ever increasing need to alter his looks made his slow demise so much more public.

I can’t understand why his supposed fans tried to sabotage this book on Amazon, unless, like I suspect, they never read it, because if anything it makes you even more sympathetic to this multi-talented man who really only wanted to be loved.

Michael Jackson performing The Way You Make Me...

It really is tragic and if anything, this book will make you despise his entire family, because they are the ones that get crucified in this telling of Michael’s life from birth to death.  If all the facts are to believed, and the author seems meticulous in his research, they are truly awful people. This came to light as recently as this summer (which is included in this book), when Randy and Janet Jackson “kidnapped” their mother and tried to take over control of Michael’s kids. Because as the book says, Michael’s billions go where the kids go, and the Jackson clan has been trying to get every cent they can from Michael for years. It’s astounding how the Jackson’s have hounded and schemed, even after his death, to get rich off of Michael. They have used their mother Katherine to try to achieve this goal and it makes you understand a lot of how Michael Jackson turned out the way he did.

Michael was constantly told he was ugly by his father and his siblings. They told him he was too black, had a big nose and lips. It sure explains a lot about the way his appearance changed over the years! And then there were sexapades during the tours when there were just kids. His brothers and father using the groupies while little Michael tried to hide under the covers. Yuck, huh? Sorry that last tidbit was probably under the category of TMI but it seems to go on to explain his asexual behavior later in life.

This book is dense and probably isn’t for everybody, but it’s a fantastic read for those of us who followed Michael Jackson’s career throughout the years.  There is a wealth of information and specific details, and the author’s ability to formalize and verbalize these facts without making it dry and boring is truly amazing.

What’s great about reading books like these in this modern age of technology is the fact that as your reading a paragraph you can jump on your computer and call up an interview or a specific video that’s being talked about or even pull up Michael’s or Rod’s music and have it playing in the background. I found myself doing that a lot, and then getting distracted from reading the book. There is a LOT of content on YouTube from both of these guys.

I think one of the most fun facts I learned was that both Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson were friends with Gregory Peck! Who knew?!  You never know what totally useless trivia you will pick up in a book 🙂

Bookish.com

Three publishers have joined forces and launched a new bookish website this week appropriately entitled, Bookish.com.  Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Group (USA), hope by grouping together they can become stronger, increase their web presence and give readers another outlet to discover new authors and explore the world of books.bookish.com

I registered myself today and have taken a stroll around the site. It includes interviews, recommendations, and a chance to sample and buy print and e-books from a variety of vendors. It’s a pretty nice site and if you get a chance take a look at it. They are partnering with USA TODAY, where Bookish content will be displayed on the newspaper’s web page.

I hope they succeed, because the more book content out on the web the better for us the readers! Here’s a bit about the site from CEO Ardy Khazaei,

“Bookish was created to serve as a champion of books, writers and, most importantly, readers,” Bookish CEO Ardy Khazaei said in a statement. “Ultimately, we seek to expand the overall marketplace for books, and whether a book gets into a reader’s hands via Bookish’s e-commerce partner or another retailer, everyone – from the publisher, to the retailer, the author and the reader – wins.”

What a beautiful library! This looks like a marvelous tour. Thanks to The Londonphile for bringing it to my attention!

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Did you know that you can take a special behind the scenes tour of St Paul’s Cathedral, in which you visit its triforium area? After being whisked like a VIP through a locked door in the staircase that ascends the main dome, you will enter the triforium – an arched gallery that stands above the nave. This area includes a number of interesting sights not normally accessible to the public, including St Paul’s Library, the Geometric Staircase and Wren’s Great Model.

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But first the triforium leads down past some fascinating stone remains of the old St Paul’s – destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. These were excavated in the nineteenth century; their shelves boast unique labels, declaring ‘Norman’, ‘Gothic’ and so on. Next stop is St Paul’s Library, a wonderfully evocative old room, with its wooden bookcases full of beautiful old books. The library dates from 1709, although it was…

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Downton Abbey actor ~ handsome, talented and a writer!

There is a fan frenzy currently going on in America and it’s focus is on “Downton Abbey”. I’m not sure why this particular drama has caused such a stir when for years we have been the lucky recipients of so many other great British dramas, comedies and detective series on our PBS and BBC America stations but it has.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really enjoyed the first season because it put me in mind of two of my favorite shows, “Gosford Park”, another Julian Fellowes creation, and “Manor House”, a kind of Edwardian, “Upstairs Downstairs” reality show, but the two subsequent seasons just seem  too “soapy” and the writing has fallen way off. Of course that hasn’t stopped me from watching it mind you!

Today I learned something new about one of the most popular characters/actors on the show, Matthew Crawley/Dan Stevens.  Apparently the 28 year is not only a talented actor but is a gifted writer as well. He studied English Literature at Cambridge and has recently started a literary magazine called, The Junket. This article on the NBC news website talks about Stevens’ decision to start this quarterly magazine to help him get over his procrastination and get down to writing regularly.  He and four of his Cambridge friends originally were writing a blog, but decided this literary magazine venture would force them to be a bit more proactive and not dilly dally so much (this is my phrase not his!).

Matthew Crawley

The first edition came out in October and apparently they have been overwhelmed with submissions, due greatly in part to Stevens’ growing popularity. He was even appointed to the panel of judges for the 2012 Man Booker Prize and has signed up for next year’s judging as well. As the article pointed out, he has added “a large dose of glamour to the award”. 

I already liked him for his portrayal of Matthew Crawley, but I’ve gained even more respect for him because of his love of literature. No wonder he is so much smarter than Lord Granville, this explains a lot!