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Madmen & Monsters March 26, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in mystery, thrillers.
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Media Monday discussion: Book Blurbs, Do They Hurt or Do They Hinder Sales? Resource media from New York Times Opinion Pages, March 6, 2012.

Stephen GallagherMonsters, both real and metaphorical, figure prominently in every culture since the dawn of time. The sinister serpent in the Garden of Eden brought the downfall of humanity, Grendel devoured mighty warriors in their sleep, and Mr. Hyde swallowed the mild-mannered Dr. Jeckyll, and we mustn’t overlook the impact of vampires and zombies on pop culture. Even Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster have inspired poets and storytellers for centuries. What is it about monsters that titillates our terror? We’ll discuss this on Wednesday, March 28, and then on Friday, March 30, author Stephen Gallagher joins us to discuss his new novel, The Bedlam Detective.

In The Bedlam Detective, Gallagher introduces us to the Victorian-era British department of crazy, officially known as the Visitor in Lunacy, which investigates people of wealth to are suspected of mental incompetency in looking after their estates. Working as a special investigator for the Visitor in Lunacy, former Pinkerton detective Sebastian Becker, is sent to the small town of Arnmouth to investigate Sir Owain Lancaster, the sole survivor of a scientific Amazon expedition in which his wife, son and exploration team were killed. Sir Owain, once a respected member of the Royal Society, is lambasted as a fraud and a madman after his memoir is published with claims that prehistoric beasts killed the party. Becker’s arrival in Arnmouth coincides with the disappearance of two local girls who are later found dead. Complicating Becker’s investigation is Sir Owain’s claim that the beasts followed him across the sea and now roam the moors and are responsible for the deaths of the girls. Mystery and malice create havoc in Arnmouth, while Becker’s personal life is shredded when his wife is attacked by a grief-crazed father at a London children’s hospital. Madmen and monsters spring to life with truly terrible results in this literary mystery.

Stephen Gallagher is a novelist, screenwriter, director, and author of 15 novels published in the UK and US, including The Kingdom of Bones, which first introduced readers to his character Sebastian Becker. He was lead writer on NBC’s Crusoe and worked on scripts for the US version of Eleventh Hour, a series he created for ITV in 2006.  He has won the British Fantasy Award and International Horror Guild Award winner, and a Stoker and World Fantasy Award nominee.

Homing Instincts March 19, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Uncategorized.
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Media Monday discussion: The ethics of commercial fan fiction ala Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James. Resource media by Galley Cat editor Jason Boog for NPR Books.

Thomas Wolfe may have written the opus on returning home, but the conviction that you can’t go home again was well understood in the lexicon of life before Wolfe’s title was published. On Wednesday, March 21 in #litchat we’ll discuss novels with themes about returning home, then on Friday, March 23, author Myfanwy Collins joins us as guest host to discuss her debut novel, Echolocation (Engine Books).

As the title suggests, Echolocation draws an unforgettable cast of misfits to a home in the wilds of upstate New York that means something different to each one of them. There’s Marie, matriarch and mistress of the town convenience store, who’s raised a foster daughter, Geneva, to take over the store. Marie’s wild half-sister, Renee, flew the roost years ago, leaving her daughter, Cherie, for Marie to raise. When Marie succumbs to cancer, the three surviving women converge in the home they once shared with Marie, bringing their secrets, shame and self-destructive habits along with them. Add a baby girl and an ex-boyfriend bent on revenge and the story takes on a surreal seriousness that satisfies with its shocking conclusion.

Myfanwy Collins was born in Montreal, grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and now lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and son. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, AGNI, Cream City Review, Quick Fiction, and Potomac Review. A collection of her short fiction is forthcoming from PANK Little Books in August 2012.

Follow Myfanwy Collins on Twitter: @MyfanwyCollins.

Regeneration March 12, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in memoir.
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Duff McKagan

Duff McKagan (photo: Fab Fernandez)

A gritty memoir of spectacular recovery from substance addiction landed a certain author on Oprah and the bestseller lists. That memoir was later revealed as fake, pure fiction from an author jonesing to be published. Memoirs about recovery are common in the litosphere. Some of them read like prurient page-turners, while others are just matter-of-fact word flurries of hope and despair. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss recovery and regeneration in literature, then on Friday, author Duff McKagan joins us as guest host.

Duff McKagan is a founding member of the legendary 1980s rock band Guns N’ Roses—the bassist responsible for the distinctive bluesy rhythms behind the music. His memoir, It’s So Easy (and Other Lies), was released October 2011 in hardcover, only months after fellow band member Steven Adler released his memoir, My Appetite for Destruction. Slash, the lead guitarist and near household name, had already released a self-titled memoir of rock ‘n roll debauchery in 2008. What makes McKagan’s memoir stand out from among the three, as well as from other rock ‘n roll memoirs, is his transparency and complete regeneration. A fitting term for McKagan might even be Renaissance man.

McKagan’s regeneration wasn’t a miracle; he didn’t join AA, find God, or go on a spirit quest. His pancreas burst as a result of alcohol abuse and he was told that if he didn’t quit drinking, he would die. At that point in his life, he actually begged the doctors to “just kill me.” After weeks in the hospital, a sort of miracle did occur when his pancreas began regenerating to the point surgery wasn’t necessary. McKagan’s recovery was underway.

As McKagan details his shaky steps into sobriety, glimmers of the Renaissance man emerge. He takes on a personal quest to read all of the books he missed when he dropped out of high school. Soon, he’s reading all of Hemingway’s work and moving on to other classics. He takes up mountain biking as a way to punish himself for the want and purge himself of the cravings still clawing at his back. He enters a grueling mountain bike race in Big Bear, Calif. and finishes among the top 100 riders. He regularly wages physical discipline upon his body at a dojo with kick boxing at LA’s House of Champions. He forms new musical alliances, performing with former members of Duran Duran, the Sex Pistols, and eventually forms a new band, Velvet Revolver, with founding Gn’R mates Slash and Izzy. His current band, Loaded, has released three albums. Before leaving Gn’R, McKagan satisfied his curiosity about the band’s financial records by taking accounting classes at a community college. He finds the academic life satisfying and eventually gets accepted to Seattle University, where he’s working on a business degree. Academic writing leads to a column for the Seattle Weekly, then Playboy and finally ESPN.com. And then, It’s So Easy. Which in itself, wasn’t so easy. Although not listed as a co-author, McKagan acknowledges award-winning journalist Tim Mohr as a collaborator of the work.

A book written by a rock star would be incomplete without details on musical influences and formation of bands—and in Gn’R’s case, implosion. McKagan spares no details about life in seedy Hollywood neighborhoods, paying for play at punk clubs, and eventually forging the sound that would make Guns N’ Roses a global blockbuster. Without bitterness or judgment, McKagan chronicles the collapse of the original Guns N’ Roses line-up. Founding drummer Adler had already been ousted for his debilitating drug abuse, and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit because he’d gotten sober and could no longer take the band’s excesses. Then Axl Rose, famous for mood swings, tantrums and head trips, performed a coup d’état when refusing to go on stage at a sold-out concert if Slash and McKagan didn’t surrender rights to the Guns N’ Roses name they were instrumental in forming. Rather than disappoint thousands of fans who paid big money to see the band, McKagan and Slash signed away the band to Rose. McKagan’s retelling of these events takes much of the blame for his own self-destructive lifestyle leading to Rose’s action. After years of waiting to record a follow-up to the band’s phenomenally successful Use Your Illusion I & II albums, Slash quit, with McKagan following less than a year later.

It’s So Easy may disappoint hard-core Guns N’ Roses fans looking for more salacious stories about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Yet it’s the lack of such fodder that essentially elevates the book beyond other rock biographies and memoirs.

Watch the video trailer of It’s So Easyhere.

Follow Duff McKagan on Twitter: @DuffMcKagan.

Media Monday: March 12, 2012 March 11, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Uncategorized.
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We’re discussing the Department of Justice’s potential antitrust lawsuit against legacy publishers (the big 5, plus Apple), and responses by such authors as Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, along with indie publishing gurus Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, in #litchat’s Media Monday. Resource links here:

Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2012 report of DOJ’s treatened lawsuit

Scott Turow, president of Author’s Guild, response to DOJ

Joe Konrath & Barry Eisler’s response to Turow and Author’s Guild

This Week in LitChat March 4, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction.
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LitChat’s World Read Aloud Day 2012 photo-trailer is up. Watch it on YouTube.

This Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day. LitChat is among the hundreds of individuals and organizations participating with public events that feature the written word spoken aloud. Read about LitChat’s WRAD event here. Championing the World Read Aloud Day is author Pam Allyn, founder and executive director of LitWorld. (The similarity in names between LitChat and LitWorld is a happy coincidence. We are two separate organizations with similar missions.)

Allyn joins us as guest host of #litchat on Monday, March 5, to discuss the importance of reading and the efforts of LitWorld to foster literacy around the world. Allyn is the author of the acclaimed and award-winning What To Read When: The Books and Stories To Read With Your Child-And All The Best Times To Read Them (Penguin Avery). Her most recent books are Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How To Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives (Scholastic) and Your Child’s Writing Life (Penguin Avery). Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Oprah Radio, The Huffington Post and in The New York Times. Allyn is also the executive director and founder of LitLife, a national organization dedicated to school improvement.

LitChat is hosting a live World Read Aloud Day event at the Depot in Hillsborough, NC on March 7, from 5:30-7:30, with readings by John Claude Bemis, Bill Floyd, A.J. Mayhew, Aaron Belz, Barbara Younger, Linda Hanley Finigan, and Clay Carmichael. The event is free and open to the public. More info here.

If you donate $10 or more to LitWorld between now and March 7th, specifying LitChat as a reference, we will send you a free book. If you do this, please email a copy of your donation receipt to twitchat>a<gmail>.<com, along with your mailing address so we can send your free book. LitWorld is a 501c3 registered non-profit.

On Wednesday, March 7, we’ll discuss ways to enrich people’s lives through reading aloud. The popularity of audio books proves that listing to the written word is not just for children.

Friday Guest Host: Cristina Alger

Then on Friday, March 9, Cristina Alger joins us as guest host to discuss her debut novel, The Darlings. A fully realized cast of characters bring Manhattan and the financial district to life in this novel that eerily echoes the Bernie Madoff debacle and the crush that followed. When the manager of a super-producing hedge fund is suspected of suicide, all eyes look to Delphic, an investment partner with the dead financial master. Founder and CEO of Delphic, Carter Darling, resurrected his family name and fortune from the ruin of his father and will now do anything to save his family from the fall-out. A study of scandal, greed, and pride, The Darlings, examines the dilemma of family loyalty without melodrama or preaching.

With keen insight and insider expertise, Alger, herself an attorney and a Manhattanite of the upper crust, takes readers into the lives of the super-rich and powerful of Manhattan for a sophisticated weekend read.

Alger graduated from Harvard College in 2002 and from New York University School of Law in 2007. She has worked as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs, & Co. and as an attorney at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, & Dorr.  She lives in New York City, where she was born and raised.The Darlings is her first novel and she is currently working on her next book.

Follow Cristina Alger on Twitter: @cristinaalger.

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