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Children in Danger August 13, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, thrillers.
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MediaMonday for August 13, 2012: Epitaph of the Book, a discussion on how digital media is rewriting the way we read. Source media from two essays published in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review:

Lesley Kagen in #litchatMost of us live in safe homes, in communities with efficient emergency services and reliable law enforcement. Opening a newspaper or flicking on news channels reminds us that we live in a violent world where where children are maimed by war, kidnapped by parents or others with nefarious motives, pushed around and beaten by bullies, and used as chattel in the skin trades. Reading about violence to children isn’t easy. Some people simply will not read books that feature children in perilous situations. Why are they such hard sells for authors? Why are the ones that succeed so compelling? Why do some people avoid reading them? We’ll ask these questions and more on Wednesday in #litchat during our discussion topic: Children in Danger.

Joining us as guest host on Friday, August 17, is novelist Lesley Kagen, author of four novels which feature the affects of harm, either physical or psychological, done to children. Kagen’s protagonists are girls who see the wrong things, hear too much, or happen to be in the wrong place at the worst time.  They grapple with responsibilities far too consequential for their age and face danger in places where children should not be required to go.  With compelling and believable characters, Kagen avoids the pitfall of polarization which is so easy in thriller genres. Her skill with plausible plots takes her novels from sensationalist exploitation of children into sensitive portrayals of life in rural communities where bad things happen to good people.

Good Graces, Kagen’s latest novel, was released in paperback last May. Good Graces is a sequel to her New York Times bestselling debut novel, Whistling in the Dark. Readers of Whistling in the Dark sat on the edge of their seats as precocious sisters Sally and Troo O’Malley survived the nightmarish summer of their father’s death and escaped the clutches of a murderer and child molester in their close-knit Milwaukee community. Good Graces picks up a year later as Sally struggles with the promise she made to her dying father to watch over her wild sister Troo. When an orphan in the community mysteriously disappears, Sally amps up her defenses, certain that Troo is in danger. Readers ride the tide of emotions once again, as Sally struggles with responsibilities and choices compounded by grief, fear and self-doubt.

A native of Milwaukee, Kagen’s four novels to date include, Whistling in the Dark, Land of A Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River, and Good Graces. Kagen has worked as on-air talent in the radio, television and record industries, including acting parts in several movies of the week and Laverne and Shirley. She was the voice of  “Lesley,” the hip spokesperson for the popular Southern California record store, Licorice Pizza. She and her husband moved their young children back to Milwaukee in 1990, where they opened and continue to operate a sushi bar. Kagen is at work on a fifth novel, soon to be released.

Follow Lesley Kagen on Twitter: @LesleyKagen.


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.

Ensemble Novels March 14, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, commercial fiction, fiction, thrillers, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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Meg Waite Clayton

Can a novel have more than one protagonist without losing focus and continuity? This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels that feature an ensemble cast, where more than one protagonist shares the stage for the revelation of story.

Guest host on Friday, March 18, is Meg Waite Clayton, whose debut novel, The Language of Light, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. Her most recent novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, features an ensemble cast of four strong women who bond during law school in 1979 and remain allies throughout life’s trials and triumphs.

Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four reunite for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

In addition to the acclaimed, The Language of Light, Clayton’s 2008 ensemble novel, The Wednesday Sisters, was a national bestseller. Clayton hosts the blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started, which features award-winning and bestselling authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, Calif.

Follow Meg Waite Clayton on Twitter: @MegWClayton

Frightening Fiction October 25, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, thrillers.
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Robert J Bennett

Love a good scare? As far back as ancient Mesopotamia and the demons of Gilgamesh, the monsters of Ulysses, and the Grendel of Beowulf, literary history is colored with epic poems, plays and novels filled with monsters and mutants, murder and mayhem. Is the purpose of horror and paranormal literature solely to raise goosebumps, or is there more behind the mask? This week before Halloween we’re discussing Frightening Fiction.

Joining us as guest host on Friday, October 30 is Robert Jackson Bennett, author of Mr. Shivers. Surely influenced by the canons of Steven King and Cormac McCarthy, Bennett has produced a chilling tale of murder and revenge set in the dystopian landscape of America’s Great Depression of the 1930s. After the daughter of Marcus Connelly is murdered by the mysterious man known as “Mr. Shivers,” Connelly takes off on a man hunt to find the killer. But is it a man hunt, or something else? Told with mythopeic imagery, with taut rendering of language and grim revelations of human nature, Mr. Shivers is a soul-chilling encounter with the past and the future.

Robert Jackson Bennett was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but grew up in Katy, Texas. He later attended the University of Texas at Austin and, like a lot of its alumni, was unable to leave the charms of the city and resides there currently. Mr. Shivers is his first novel, while a second novel, The Company Man, is due in April 2011.

Follow Robert Jackson Bennett on Twitter at @robertjbennett.

E-Book Revolution August 29, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in e-books, thrillers, weekly topics.
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Jane Friedman

E-books existed before the Kindle made them quick to find and easy to read. This August 26, 2010 piece in the Wall Street Journal notes how Laura Lippman’s latest thriller, I’d Know You Anywhere, sold more e-books than tree books during its first week of release. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss how e-books are changing the publishing industry.

On Monday, September 29, Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest and now an independent media consultant (The Most Progressive Media Professional You’ll Meet) opens our weekly discussion of e-books. Friedman is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, and teaches full-time in the e-media department of CCM. A frequent speaker at writing and publishing events, Friedman’s mission is to help writers understand the transformation underway in the media and publishing industries, and how writers can be successful and in control of their careers.

E.J. Knapp

Sharing his publishing journey on Friday, September 3, is E.J. Knapp, whose debut novel, Stealing the Marbles, releases September 1, from Rebel e Publishers. Based in South Africa, Rebel e Publishers released its first book, Killerbyte by Cat Connor, exclusively by e-book last April. While the global publisher is still sharply focused on e-publishing, reader demand has led them to seek an environmentally friendly POD publisher for those who prefer traditional print and pages.

Stealing the Marbles begins and ends in Greece, where master thief Danny Samsel is hiding out after his last art heist from the White House. Bored of the quiet island life and itching for action, Samsel emerges from hiding to take on the British Museum in a give-back caper to bring back to Greece a vast collection of statuary and marble carvings taken from the Parthenon by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, in 1798. Fans of the Ocean’s 11 film series will enjoy Knapp’s thief-with-a-heart protagonist and the clever plotting that an escapade of such magnitude requires.

Knapp has published several short stories in obscure online magazines, most of which no longer exist, though he insists this is not his fault. He is also the author of a non-fiction work, The Great Golden Gate Bridge Trivia Book, published by Chronicle Books in 1987 and reissued as Secrets of the Golden Gate Bridge for Kindle through Sleeping Tiger, LLC, in February of this year.

Follow E.J. Knapp on Twitter at @ej_knapp

Follow Jane Friedman on Twitter at @janefriedman

Read chatscripts from this week’s E-Book Revolution topic:

August 30, 2010: Ebook Revolution, Jane Friedman

September 1, 2010: Ebook Revolution, open topic

September 3, 2010: Ebook Revolution, author EJ Knapp