Archive for September, 2011

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

Monday, September 26th, 2011

  PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing for a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2010.

Winner – George Dohrmann, Play Their Hearts Out : a coach, his star recruit, and the youth basketball machine (Find in our catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “Eight years of unfettered access, a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths, and a genuine compassion for his subject allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars.   Hoop dreams aren’t just for players. The fever that grips college basketball prospects hoping to strike big-time NBA gold afflicts coaches, parents, and sneaker executives as well. Every one of them has a stake in keeping America’s wildly dysfunctional, incredibly lucrative youth basketball machine up and running-no matter the consequences. In Play Their Hearts Out , George Dohrmann offers an up-close and unforgettable look inside the maw of that machine. He shares what he learned from his years spent embedded with a group of talented young recruits from Southern California as they traveled the country playing in elite Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) events. It’s a cutthroat world where boys as young as eight or nine are subjected to a dizzying torrent of scrutiny and exploitation. Coaches vie to have them on their teams. Sneaker companies ply them with free shoes and gear. “All-star camps” are glorified cattle auctions, providing make-or-break opportunities to secure the promise of an elusive college scholarship.   At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious AAU coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron”-thereby paving his own path to power and riches; and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to the unrealistic expectations his supposed benefactor has set for him. As their fortunes take shape and the pressure mounts-Demetrius finds himself profiled in Sports Illustrated at age fourteen, while Keller cultivates his business empire-Dohrmann weaves in the stories of numerous other parents, coaches, and players. Some of them see their prospects evaporate as a result of poor decisions and worse luck. Others learn how to thrive in a corrupt system by playing the right angles. Written with incomparable detail and insight, Play Their Hearts Out is a thoroughly unique narrative that reveals the inner workings of an American game, exposing the gritty reality that lies beneath so many dreams of fame and glory. From the Hardcover edition.

See more about the Awards.

Editor

Random House Launches New Current Affairs Website

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

This announced lately in the bookselling and library professional press.  These discussions will tie in both nonfiction and fiction books from all publishers.

“Random House has announced the launch of The Conversation (http://www.conversationonline.com/) with Random House executive editor Jon Meacham, a new website that will encourage an exchange of ideas relating to current affairs through a discussion of a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction books.

The site will encourage a community discussion about the most relevant issues facing the nation and the world. Meacham and other contributors will regularly recommend titles that give context, historical background or other insights into the daily headlines. Frontlist and backlist titles from all publishers will be among the recommendations.”

 To begin, Meacham is recommending five books on the attacks and the aftermath of September 11. They are:

The Eleventh Day: the full story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden

Ghost Wars (Find in our catalog)

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 (Find in our catalog)

102 Minutes:  the untold story of the fight to survive inside the Twin Towers (Find in our catalog)

Beyond Bin Laden .

The first conversation is between Ballantine editor Mark Tavani and authors of The Eleventh Day, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan.

Meacham won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Find in our catalog)

Editor

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

  A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Find in our catalog) is a Chief Inspector Gamache novel.  I have enjoyed all I have read in this series, which keeps getting better and better.  Mostly this series is set in an isolated village in Quebec called Three Pines.  Though harking back to the classic village who-dun-its of Agatha Christie, in no way can these books be desribed as dated.  As with the traditional mystery, the setting is an idyllic and sheltered community where the cast of eccentric characters know each other, on the face of it, very well.  Within this idyll, however, lurks real evil, just as the canker lurks in the heart of the rose.  Louise Penny, with the help of Chief Inspector Gamache, the kind, intuitive and thoughtful head of the Quebec Surete, examines the nature of good and evil, bringing in real modern-day issues to the sheltered life of her village.

This time the art world of a cosmopolitan city, Montreal, with all its fascinating background details, impinges on Three Pines: a murder at a party following the opening of an artist’s debut one-person show causes Gamache to ruminate on the contrast of good and evil, of light and dark in every individual.  With the help of his devoted team and some interesting police-work  Gamache and the reader must decide if there is cause for hope for humanity, or if it is just a trick of the light.

Editor

Jen’s Jewels with Amy Ephron

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, many of us took time out of our hectic lives to reflect on what really matters to us as families and as a nation. Nowadays, the world is a much different place …one in which our children will have to navigate using difficult life lessons as a guide from generations past. Together, we can build a brighter tomorrow for the children of today.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Amy Ephron has done her fair share of recollecting in her sensational new memoir LOOSE DIAMONDS …AND OTHER THINGS I’VE LOST (AND FOUND) ALONG THE WAY. In her typical deadpan fashion, Amy reminiscences about her own life experiences in love, marriage, and special friendships.
With just the right amount of humor peppered with down-to-earth honesty, she delivers yet another hilarious tale.

As part of this interview, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. And to all those families touched by the tragic events of 9/11, my thoughts and prayers are with you as always.

Jen: A bestselling and award-winning novelist, your writing career has been quite extensive. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.

Amy: I had a lot of jobs when I was younger. I was a film executive for awhile and I learned an enormous amount about film, production, and the difficulties associated with all. I was a producer on Alfonso Cuaron’s A Little Princess, with Mark Johnson, who is an extraordinary producer. It took us 7 years to get it made and was a labor of love. I am primarily a writer, novelist, and essayist, although I also publish an online magazine, One for the Table, which specializes in food, politics, and love. Last year I directed a short film, “Chloe@3AM,” a sort of deconstructed dance video about a bad Saturday night in LA (or a normal Saturday night in LA). It was amazing as I collaborated with my daughter, Maia Harari, and her dance company. The best part was that we were featured at the American Cinematheque in the Women’s Directors Festival and they screened it at the Egyptian Theatre, which was magical as it was built by my childhood friend “The Birdman” who is featured in the book, Stiles O. Clements, the man who lived across from me who collected birds. And I almost felt as if he was there. I hope I get to direct more (just putting that out there…).

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.

Amy: I don’t know that I had a proper “Aha!” moment. I always wrote, even as a child. I remember being at summer camp and trying to find a meadow where I could be alone. It’s not that I wasn’t athletic. I was about nine and I was going through a phase where all I wanted to do was write sort of abstract poetry. Kind of bad nine year-old poetry about soggy yellow crayons on the road which I guess I thought were a metaphor for something. I had a lot of jobs when I was younger, as writing can be a difficult way to earn your keep. I don’t really believe the Virginia Wolf statement: in order to write a woman must have money and a room of one’s own. It’s very helpful but some writers, like me, are just compelled to write.

Jen: In addition to writing for such well-known publications as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, you also have your own online magazine One for the Table. Please share with us its premise while taking us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.

Amy: I started One for the Table during the Writers’ Strike in Los Angeles and feel very fortunate to have such amazing contributors: Laraine Newman, Steve Zaillian, Alan Zweibel, the amazing food writer, Matt Armendariz, and on and on. The focus is food, politics, and love, with a big emphasis on holidays (mostly centered around food, and holiday recipe extravaganzas, although we think watching “elections returns” is also an event that can be centered on food). It’s sort of emo with reflection and recipes, sometimes we focus on fresh and seasonal, sometimes a hamburger, sometimes the Iowa caucus or Super Tuesday, travel, a beloved pet, or a favorite tech gadget! We try to reflect the mood of the day, whether upscale or frugal or somewhere in between. Part of our philosophy is there aren’t enough waffles in the world and, sometimes, not all the time, you should order one for the table!

Jen: Your new release LOOSE DIAMONDS is a collection of reflective essays touching on traditional women’s issues like romance, friendship, marriage, and divorce. What was your inspiration for this compilation of ideas?

Amy: The book started with an essay I wrote for Vogue called “I Love Saks” about how, in a way, I can tell my life through Saks, the flagship store on 5th Avenue. The ups and downs, when I first went to New York and my mother bought me a hat so I could march in the Easter parade, years later, when I couldn’t actually afford to shop there but bought a TSE sweater so that the editor I was having lunch with wouldn’t know I actually “needed” to sell a book, key moments, like when I had my first child, and my oldest sister sent me a layette (which I needed badly). My editor of many years, Henry Ferris, at William Morrow read the piece in Vogue and suggested that I turn it into a memoir, pieces of a woman’s life, but it wasn’t until I’d published the second piece, “Loose Diamonds,” also in Vogue (about being burglarized and realizing that the real value of the pieces I lost was in the memories and the people who had given them to me) that the book started to take shape. I’m also a period writer. My novel, A Cup of Tea, is set in New York in 1917, so I love the idea of writing about the different aspects of a woman’s life (mine), in different decades, and from different ages and points of view. The simplicity and magic of childhood in “The Birdman”; the somewhat wild, edginess of the ’70s in “Champagne by the Case”; the complications of being a single working mother with a somewhat complicated ex in “Musical Chairs”; the later complications of a blended family in “Post-Modern Life.”

Jen: The book is written somewhat chronologically depicting certain milestones in your life. In terms of nuts and bolts, how did you go about selecting the themes?

Amy: In a way it’s about LA, in a way it’s about New York, but the later pieces are about anyone who ever tried to have a blended family, or what I call a Post-Modern Life, after a first divorce and a second marriage when there are children who are only related to each other through the accident of their parents’ second marriage, which is a theme I wanted to write about. Why women stay, why men stay, why you finally make the choice to leave. I also wanted to write about the many aspects of a woman’s life how circumstance and experience affect the way you view the world, and how it’s sometimes difficult (but always necessary) to pick yourself up after life takes an unexpected turn.

Jen: Growing up in Los Angeles, you have led such a colorful life. The vignette which stood out the most to me is The Bird Man (which you have mentioned briefly). How did your interaction with Mr. Clements affect your appreciation for the elderly?

Amy: I didn’t think of Stiles O. Clements (“The Birdman”) as “elderly.” He was so amazing, and educated and extraordinary-looking that there was a kind of ageless quality to him. And then there was that magical thing with the birds. I’d also to some degree, as the fourth of four daughters with parents who had a professional life and a fairly extensive social life, been raised in the company of grown-ups so I didn’t have that kind of segregated thing that kids sometimes have that they’re always in the company of children. As far as I was concerned, he was just an amazing grown-up person. And I was really happy to write this piece which in a way is an homage to him, to our friendship, to his work as an architect, and to the extraordinary care and kindness that he showed me.

Jen: A rather brazen escapade in your early years was an interview with the infamous Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme at an abandoned Southern California ranch. In retrospect, how did this experience positively affect your future career path in journalism? If you could turn back the clock, would you still have chosen to do the interview? Why or why not?

Amy: I was covering the Manson trial for a magazine called Scanlans, so the Squeaky Fromme interview was incidental to that. Would I go out to the Spahn Ranch, now? Probably not. Well, maybe…but with more initial trepidation. I was nineteen and fearless (or at least fear hadn’t entered into my consciousness yet). It was the old journalism (not the new instant online kind) and I was going to write two very long pieces when the trial ended – but the trial went on so long that the magazine had folded by the time the trial ended. The afternoon with Squeaky Fromme though always stayed with me, as if it were by accident she’d ended up there and I always wondered what if someone else had found her on that corner. I’ve always been fascinated by moments like that. In a way, A Cup of Tea, based on a Katherine Mansfield story, is all about that-an accidental meeting on a street corner in New York in 1917 that changes everyone’s lives.

Jen: In chapter 10, you touch upon your psychic abilities. In your opinion, what impact has the media had on the validity of such powers?

Amy: In LA, in the last few months, psychic storefronts have popped up on ever other corner. I don’t know if that’s a sign of the times, but I think either you believe in things like this or you don’t. I think in general the media doesn’t (and then someone comes along who’s six and had a near-death experience and…). But for people who’ve had numerous experiences where the coincidence seems too extraordinary to be explicable or a “feeling” that then turns out to be true is a common occurrence, there’s something to it.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Will you be making any scheduled book signing appearances?

Amy: Really excited that I’ve been invited to the opening of the West Hollywood Library/West Hollywood Book Fair with the amazing Shepard Fairy Mural that I think he just completed. A few JCC appearances in Atlanta, Houston, Cherry Hill, New Jersey; a party in New York which should be really fun and a signing at an actual bookstore, Diesel in Santa Monica.

Jen: Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?

Amy: There’s one book club that’s one of the original book clubs in the country that I love to go to, as they’ve been doing it for so long and they’re extraordinary to watch since they’ve been friends forever and they almost finish each other’s sentences. But I don’t generally do phone chats, as I have so many other professional commitments and family obligations. And not to continue with a theme, but a psychic once predicted (ten years before this happened) and I had no idea what it meant and neither did she: “I see a building, it’s like a national monument or a train station and people in period dress and they’re all coming to see you. I have no idea what this is.” Me: “An Oscar?” Her: “No, it’s not the Academy Awards; I don’t know what it is.” And ten years later, someone fell in love with A Cup of Tea and threw a party at the train station there, the Union Train Station, an art deco masterpiece now maintained as a museum and invited a hundred people and they all came in period dress and they insisted that I come to Omaha for the “book/tea party.” It was really fun! I wish I still had that psychic’s phone number…

Jen: Do you participate in Social Media?

Amy: I am on Facebook with my Amy Ephron fan page, and I am on Twitter as @Oneforthetable. I love Twitter; I often go to it as a breaking news spot. I use it on my phone…. Sometimes I track my children on it (kidding), although Facebook can sometimes be helpful if you don’t know the exact city one of your offspring is in (half-kidding). But I love the sense of community of both. And some of the people I’m friends with and follow are really funny and sometimes informative.

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next project? And if so, what can you share with us?

Amy: Curiously, though I haven’t done anything like this since the Manson trial, I am covering the Dr. Conrad Murray trial (manslaughter for the death of Michael Jackson) for The Daily Beast and Newsweek. Opening statements are expected September 26th. I know, it’s going to be a circus and it’s really sad, on a lot of levels, but it fascinates me about the culture and the times and it’s very much about LA. Stay tuned…

Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I wish you all the best.

Amy: Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun. And I love your blog!

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Amy. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of LOOSE DIAMONDS today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?

Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at jensjewels@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win! Good luck!

What is the name of Amy’s online magazine?

In October, I will be bringing to you my interviews with Marisa de los Santos and Rosalind Lauer. You won’t want to miss them!

Until next time…

Jen

PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

The PEN literary awards have been announced, including the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical and biological sciences published in 2010.  2011  is the inaugural year for this particular award.  Read more about all of this year’s awards.

  Winner – Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer (Find in our catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer–from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with–and perished from–for more than five thousand years. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive–and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

  Runner Up – David Abram, Becoming Animal: an Earthly Cosmology (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “A startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature. As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve inured ourselves to the wild intelligence of our flesh, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. This book subverts that distance, drawing readers ever deeper into their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the body and the breathing Earth. Abram shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself–a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.–From publisher description. ”

Editor

Zombie Breakout

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Writers are using these ghoulish creatures to examine a modern world wracked by social, political, and economic ­uncertainty.  Try these new and forthcoming titles:

  Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Find in our catalog

Colson Whitehead mixes wry social satire with the tale of a lonely man working to reclaim Manhattan after a global zombie pandemic.

Summary: “In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street-aka Zone One-but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety-the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world. And then things start to go wrong. Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One brilliantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.”

  World War Z by Max Brooks (Find in our catalog

Summary: “The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years. Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War. Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?” Note: Some of the numerical and factual material contained in this edition was previously published under the auspices of the United Nations Postwar Commission. Eyewitness reports from the first truly global war — “I found ‘Patient Zero’ behind the locked door of an abandoned apartment across town. His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he’d rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds. He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls. At first the villagers tried to hold me back. They warned me not to touch him, that he was ‘cursed.’ I shrugged them off and reached for my mask and gloves. The boy’s skin was cold and gray–I could find neither his heartbeat nor his pulse.” –Dr. Kwang Jingshu, Greater Chongqing, United Federation of China. “‘Shock and Awe’? Perfect name. But what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t, but biologically can’t! That’s what happened that day outside New York City, that’s the failure that almost lost us the whole damn war. The fact that we couldn’t shock and awe Zack boomeranged right back in our faces and actually allowed Zack to shock and awe us! They’re not afraid! No matter what we do, no matter how many we kill, they will never, ever be afraid!” –Todd Wainio, former U.S. Army infantryman and veteran of the Battle of Yonkers. “Two hundred million zombies. Who can even visualize that type of number, let alone combat it? For the first time in history, we faced an enemy that was actively waging total war. They had no limits of endurance. They would never negotiate, never surrender. They would fight until the very end because, unlike us, every single one of them, every second of every day, was devoted to consuming all life on Earth.” –General Travis D’Ambrosia, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.” From the Hardcover edition.

The film adaptation of World War Z starring Brad Pitt is scheduled for release in 2012.

Editor

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (Find in our catalog)

Fans of Charles Todd will already know of his mystery series featuring World War I veteran, Inspector Ian Rutledge.  A Bitter Truth is an outstanding mystery in the newer series about World War I nursing Sister Bess Crawford.  Having read this book first, I found it can easily be enjoyed on its own, but I must go back and read the other series entries, A Duty to the Dead and An Impartial Witness.

A battlefield nurse, Bess Crawford, returning to London for a well-earned Christmas leave, finds her holiday fraught with mystery and murder when she agrees to help a bruised and battered woman return to her small village in Sussex.  The house called Vixen Hill  is extremely isolated in a bleak and blasted heath, and each of the extended family whose ancestal home it is seems also to have had his or her life blasted in some way.  The War, of course, is an ever-present background and cause of both tragedy and drama.  Fans of the Maisie Dobbs series will enjoy the background details of the setting as they will the resourceful heroine, Bess Crawford.  She is an educated woman, yet she has seen her duty is to face up to blood and horror to aid her countrymen on the battlefield.  She has been matured by her experiences and people turn to her; yet she is still young enough to make gaffes and to doubt herself when trying to do what’s right.  She enjoys mild flirtations, pretty clothes, and the thrill of the chase.

In this finely crafted mystery with layer upon layer of intrigue, family secrets, red herrings and multiple murders, Charles Todd has added, for me, a delicious air of gothic gloom.  The doomed household marooned in such a bleak setting reminded me of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters or The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.  Vixen Hill and its traditions is almost a character in the book.  The decaying and anachronistic family is dying, both literally and figuratively.  They have to face up to many bitter truths including the possibility that one of them may be a vicious killer.

Editor

Editor’s Choice – New Horror

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

  American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout

Buried in the heartland is a town that no one enters or leaves. Graf McDonald somehow becomes its first visitor in more than five years, and he was only looking for a good party. Unfortunately, Penance, Ohio, is not that place. And after having been isolated for so long, they do not like strangers at all. Jessa’s the only one to even remotely trust him, and she’s desperate for the kind of protection that only a vampire like Graf can provide. Supplies are low, the locals are ornery for a sacrifice and there’s a monster more powerful than Graf lurking in the woods. New men are hard to come by in this lonesome town, and this handsome stranger might be Jessa’s only hope for salvation. Even if she has to die first…–From back cover.”

  Dust by Joan frances Turner

Jessie and her gang of zombies have a wonderful life in “Hicksville”, Indiana. But now new beings are in the woods; they aren’t human nor are they zombies. But a new disease has come that makes the undead more alive and the living to exist on the brink of death.”

The White Devil by Justin Evans (This is available as an audiobook)

A ghost story about an American teenager who attends a British boys boarding school, and becomes the target of a haunting.”

  The Zombie Autopsies : secret notebooks from the apocalypse  by Steven C. Schlozman

Based on the research of renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum, performed at a remote island where a crack medical team has been sent to explore a radical theory that may lead to a cure for the zombie epidemic, this notebook documents for the first time the unique biology of zombie organisms.”

Editor

 

The NAIBA Books of the Year, chosen by members of the New Atlantic

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

  Fiction: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, young physician Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.”

  Nonfiction: Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family-the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends. Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work. Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion. By turns epic and intimate, it marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.”

Editor

Jen’s Jewels with Susan McBride

Thursday, September 1st, 2011


There’s just something special about a little black dress. Like a trusted friend, its presence provides comfort and warmth. Whether donned for an elegant affair or needed for the funeral of a loved one, this mainstay of every woman’s wardrobe brings special meaning to life’s precious moments. Without it, we simply would be lost.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Susan McBride touches upon this very topic in her sensational new release LITTLE BLACK DRESS. It’s the unforgettable story of one family’s attachment to a magical black dress that changes their lives forever. Written from two points of view spanning the past and the present, Susan is indeed one of the brightest stars in women’s fiction today.

As part of this interview, Harper Collins has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. And, as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: An award-winning author well-known for the sensational hit The Cougar Club, your latest release LITTLE BLACK DRESS is sure to find its way to the top of the bestselling lists as well. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.

Susan: I have a B.S. in public relations from the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, but all I wanted to do when I graduated was write novels. So that’s what I did. I got various part-time jobs so I could plug away at the computer, eventually writing ten manuscripts in ten years before I got my toe in the door in 1999. My first two mysteries were published by a small press, and I worked hard to promote them. Along the way, I met lots of authors, some of whom became my good friends, and I signed with a New York agency that sold BLUE BLOOD and the next two Debutante Dropout Mysteries to HarperCollins/Avon. I switched agencies soon after, and I wrote two more mysteries for Avon, the last being TOO PRETTY TO DIE which came out in 2008. I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time I penned TOO PRETTY and THE DEBS, my first young adult novel for Random House/Delacorte. It was a scary bump in the road, for sure, and I really believe my writing helped me stay sane as it was both an escape and good therapy! I’ve since authored two more young adult Debs novels, plus a young adult mystery for Delacorte, in addition to THE COUGAR CLUB for HarperCollins/Morrow, which came out last year. LITTLE BLACK DRESS is my first story with magical realism. It gave me goose bumps so I hope it does the same for readers!

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.

Susan: I have always loved to read, and so many old photographs show me on my parents’ or grandparents’ knees, with a book open in front of me. I wrote stories and novels in grade school, but I always imagined I’d be a teacher or a lawyer (because I loved school and I loved to argue!). When I was 19, between transferring from UT-Austin to the University of Kansas, I had an epiphany during a car trip to my grandparents’ house for Christmas. I wanted to write a grown-up novel, and I actually took some time off school to do it. THE THORN OF THE ROSE was a 600+ page historical romance that never sold, but I got such positive feedback from agents and editors that I knew, “this is what I want to do with my life.” And that became my focus.

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a novel? And, do you plot first, or simply just allow the novel to take on a life of its own?

Susan: I always tell aspiring authors, spend A LOT of time on your first novel-and your second and third-before you get published, as you will never have that much time to write anything ever again. Being on a book-a-year schedule (and occasionally, two books a year, like this year) is a little crazy. I love to write, and there’s nothing more I’d rather do; but I’ve backed myself into corners where I only have two to three months to complete a first draft so I’ve learned how to do that. Basically, it entails writing 24/7 (until my fingers get cramped and my butt goes numb!). I don’t outline-at least I don’t like to-but I do take lots of notes. When I’m about to write a novel, I think about it night and day. I start envisioning characters and scenes, and I jot it all down. By the time I’m done with a book, I’ll have a folder filled with chicken scratches noting plot points, bits of dialogue, and all sorts of things. I’m most assuredly a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” kind of writer, although it does help if I’ve written a proposal and have a summary and at least one chapter done. I truly love revising better than writing a first draft. I tell folks that a first draft for me is like “verbal vomit”-I just have to get the words out, even if the story’s not exactly the way I want it. Once those bare bones are down and I’ve got editorial suggestions, I go to town! I really see what the novel was meant to be during the revision.

Jen: Your new release LITTLE BLACK DRESS is a poignant story of a family’s secrets, lies, and betrayal. Masterfully written, it is one of those books readers will be talking about for years to come. How did you arrive at the premise?

Susan: Wow, thanks so much, Jen! (I’m tempted to cut out your quote and paste it on my wall!) Two thoughts kept swirling in my mind as I concocted the idea for LITTLE BLACK DRESS. The first was about family heirlooms. I had just received a brooch from my mother that had belonged to her grandmother, and I started thinking about objects passed down from generation to generation, whether they were considered lucky charms or maybe unlucky! The second began with a comment my mother made a long time ago about how every girl should have at least one little black dress. “It will get you through all of life’s events,” she’d told me. I conjured up this vintage black dress, one so classic it never went out of style. I wanted it to be worn by different women who were not the same shape or size (like the jeans in THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS). I decided this dress would have a mystical quality: that of foretelling the future of its wearer. Okay, just a glimpse of her future, but enough to change the direction of her life forever. I wondered how this dress might affect two very disparate sisters, Evie and Anna, and Evie’s daughter, Toni, as well. Once I knew that, I couldn’t get the story out of my head…and I couldn’t write it fast enough.

Jen: The story is written from two points of view, those of mother and daughter. How did you go about constructing each separate storyline? And, what was the most challenging part of weaving them together?

Susan: This was one of those rare books that sort of fell into place; not that it didn’t take a lot of effort to write it-because it drained me like no book I’ve ever written-but because I really heard Evie’s and Toni’s voices from early on when I submitted the proposal to my agents. Once I knew who they were and how they sounded, the rest flowed naturally. It was challenging to make sure I told Evie’s story without revealing too much, as Toni had to discover some of her mother’s (and aunt’s) secrets for herself. I didn’t quite nail it on the first draft, but I felt very good about how the past and present met through Evie’s and Toni’s perspectives when I was done with the revisions. I was going through a lot on a personal level as I wrote and revised LBD, so I was hyper-emotional during the whole process. I’m guessing that probably comes through!

Jen: Antonio (Toni) Ashton is a successful wedding planner who has chosen to leave her hometown of Blue Hills, Missouri to pursue her dream. How does her unstable relationship with her mother directly correlate to her desire to prove herself as an independent business woman?

Susan: Toni always saw Evie as so capable and independent. She grew up feeling overshadowed by her mother’s strength and by her family’s history as vintners in Blue Hills. If she stayed, she knew it would be nearly impossible to pursue any career but wine-making. Also, if she stayed, she would live in Evie’s very formidable shadow forever. Growing up with a very strong mother, I totally understood Toni’s desire to prove herself apart from her family, Evie in particular. Once Toni has made a name for herself in St. Louis-away from Blue Hills-she eventually realizes there’s more to life than job success. Going home to take care of her mother-and Evie’s very tangled past-makes Toni finally see what’s truly important. Sometimes I think we have to leave home in order to be able to find home again, if that makes sense.

Jen: When her mother Evie suffers from a stroke, Toni returns home in order to be by her side. Why does she resist her boyfriend Greg’s emotional support during this difficult time?

Susan: Honestly, Toni doesn’t feel like she’s getting much emotional support from Greg, or at least not the kind of support she needs. He’s a numbers guy, very logical and rational, and she’s tried to be that for many years. But once she’s back in Blue Hills, she begins to understand how truly emotional she is and how logic doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with finding a mate or discovering your true passion.

Jen: Hunter Cummings is a dashing man who swoops in to try to save the family’s winery. Why does Toni doubt his good intentions?

Susan: Toni’s problem with Hunter is that she’s jealous of him. He’s clearly spent more time with Evie than Toni has in the past few years. He knows Evie’s feelings about the family vineyard and its future, when Toni herself has no clue. She’s resentful that Evie turned to him for help. So it’s less a matter of not trusting him-as she hardly knows him-but of being envious that he’s closer to Evie than she is.

Jen: When Toni discovers the powers of the little black dress, how do her feelings towards her family change?

Susan: Like most of us, Toni never understood so many things about her parents or her family’s history. It takes time and effort to ask those questions and to dig to find the answers. Discovering the little black dress and its magic opens her eyes in so many ways. She sees the person her mother was and grasps how difficult Evie’s life was for her as well as why Evie kept so many secrets. This new awareness of the sacrifices her mother made-and the truth about her aunt Anna-makes Toni more attuned to her roots and who and where she came from. The black dress not only gives her a taste of her own future, but it has opened her heart to the past.

Jen: What role does Bridget, the family’s housekeeper, play in restoring Evie’s and Toni’s relationship?

Susan: Bridget is pretty much the secret-keeper in the family. She’s made so many promises to both sisters, Evie and Anna, that she becomes sort of a guard dog. She wants to protect Anna, Evie, and Toni. She’s loyal to a fault. But once Toni comes home and begins to ask questions and poke at the skeletons in the closets of the old Victorian, Bridget tries to direct her toward the answers without betraying any trusts.

Jen: The role of the winery plays an important part in the storyline. A question I just have to ask, does Missouri truly have a vibrant wine industry?

Susan: Yes! Missouri has a very vibrant wine industry. In my interview in the back of LITTLE BLACK DRESS, which was conducted months ago, I mentioned 80+ active vineyards in the state. I read a recent article that says now it’s more like 90+. I love going into Missouri wine country, particularly the Ste. Genevieve area. It’s truly scenic and gorgeous.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest.

Susan: I’m very active online, and I update my web site regularly. So the home page will always give folks the latest scoop on my writing life. There are other pages listing events, all my books and where to buy them (with just a click!), a media page with my bio and recent interviews, links to all my online pages (Facebook, Goodreads and Librarything author pages, The Stiletto Gang, Girlfriends Book Club, etc.), and an easy “email me” page so readers can always contact me.

Jen: Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?

Susan: I am definitely willing to do phone chats with book clubs. If a book club is interested in setting something up, they can email me at semauthor@aol.com.

Jen: Do you participate in Social Media?

Susan: I’m not a Tweeter, but I do love Facebook. I have a Susan McBride Books page for those who’d rather “like” than “friend”:

http://www.facebook.com/SusanMcBrideBooks

I pretty much stick to books and writing on that page. Then I have a personal page where I talk about all kinds of things, and I’m always open to new friends. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000474977686

Also, my web site at http://SusanMcBride.com has links to everything I do on the Web. So I’m easy to track down!

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next project? Any chance there will be a sequel?

Susan: There isn’t a sequel planned although it’s something I’ve thought about (and talked about with my agents). I just finished writing the first draft of DEAD ADDRESS, a young adult mystery for Random House/Delacorte, and I’m about to get to work on LITTLE WHITE LIES, another women’s fiction title for William Morrow. It’s about a woman who’s grown up telling little lies to make others around her feel better. Only those lies start catching up with her when a tornado dumps a man from her past into her lap (well, into her walnut grove!). Like LITTLE BLACK DRESS, it depicts how far mothers will go to protect their daughters. And it reminds us that true love isn’t always so easy to spot and how sometimes, when we get a second chance, we need to grab it with both hands and not let go.

Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I highly recommend LITTLE BLACK DRESS to all of my readers. Such an unforgettable novel! Bravo! I wish you the best of luck on your promotional tour.

Susan: Thank you so much, Jen, for your kind words and for having me as a guest. It was an absolute pleasure chatting with you. :

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Susan. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?

Okay, be one of the first five readers to email me at jensjewels@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question.

What is the name of the family’s housekeeper in LITTLE BLACK DRESS?

Later this month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Amy Ephron. You won’t want to miss it.

Until next time…

Jen