In the novel-writing business it pays to be persistent, but local author Kelly Frederick knows it also pays to know when to take matters into your own hands.
Frederick self-published her first novel, Umbrellas in the Sun, last year after turning a seemingly unrealistic goal into a reality. An avid reader, Frederick began to consider challenging herself to finish a novel and jotted down a first draft in a looseleaf notebook, despite having no formal training as a writer.
While her friends, family, and even her boss gave her feedback for future drafts, Frederick went to work on researching options for publishing, but literary agents who accepted drafts from unpublished authors were hard to come by.
Instead of hitting ‘save’ and moving on, Frederick enlisted the help of her husband, a graphic designer, to finish formatting the novel and design the cover art. They partnered up with Amazon, and a promotion on the site helped Umbrellas in the Sun reach over 800 downloads. The numbers excited Frederick, but admits they were misleading.
“Unless someone knows to go and look for it, they’re not going to come across it,” Frederick said, adding that self-publishing introduces the issue of self-promoting if you want your novel to fly off the shelves.
In 2011, Lawrence Wright profiled former-Scientologist Paul Haggis for the New Yorker and now he's taken that research a step further, looking into the celebrity culture and inner workings of the Church of Scientology in his new book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The Hollywood Reporter is running two excerpts in the next issue, one from the section on John Travolta and one, from which the passage below can be found, regarding Tom Cruise:
Cruise poured millions of dollars into the Church — $3 million in 2004. He was not simply a figurehead; he was an activist with an international following. He could take the Church to places it had never been before. Whenever Cruise traveled abroad to promote his movies, he used the opportunity to lobby foreign leaders and American ambassadors to promote Scientology....
In 2003, he met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, to express the Church's concerns over its treatment in Germany. Cruise had access to practically anyone in the world.
That same year, Cruise and Davis lobbied Rod Paige, the secretary of education during the first term of President George W. Bush, to endorse Hubbard's "study tech" educational methods. Paige had been impressed. For months, Cruise kept in contact with Paige's office, urging that Scientology techniques be folded into the president's No Child Left Behind program.
One day, Cruise flew his little red-and-white-striped Pitts Special biplane, designed for aerobatics, to Hemet, along with his Scientologist chief of staff, Michael Doven. Miscavige and Rathbun picked them up and drove them to Gold Base. Rathbun was in the back seat and recalls Cruise boasting to COB about his talks with the secretary.
"Bush may be an idiot," Miscavige observed, "but I wouldn't mind his being our Constantine," referring to the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity.
Cruise agreed. "If f—ing Arnold can be governor, I could be president."
Miscavige responded, "Well, absolutely, Tom."
If there are better ways to spend a minute and a half on YouTube than listening to George Takei reading smutty literature, I'd like to hear them. But until then, I'll keep alternating between this and Gilbert Gottfried's enlightening narration of E.L. James's ode to rough sex.
It turns out that there's a course at Brown University, entitled "Open Source Culture," that studies "the line between sampling and stealing," examining the idea of open source works and how today's Internet-centric culture has taken the idea of using "found footage," expanded upon it, and transformed it (for example: Danger Mouse's "Grey Album," a mash-up of Jay-Z's "Black Album" and the Beatles' self-titled "White Album").
As a final project, student Katherine Lee created "Da Great Gatsby," a reinterpretation (remix?) of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," as run through Gizoogle, a search engine/translator that spits out Snoop Dogg-ified versions of whatever is put into it. As Lee put it, she had been using the translator "to read NPR," which sounds fantastic, truly.
Her reasoning, according to the page cataloging the project?
If you're among those good, kind, literary folks that are still interested in reading books in both paper and electronic formats, the good folks at the Pima County Public Library have a treat for you. They've put together a list of the best books published this year, sourcing 32 separate lists that's sure to stir something within the hearts of Southern Arizona's book loving community.
If you're interested in checking out the list of lists, head over to the Pima County Public Library Ravenous Readers blog. Hopefully, if Black Friday didn't knock out your holiday shopping, these will be able to help you pare down your gift lists.
It began when Joshua Ellis could no longer spit.
The blockage in his saliva gland resulted in swelling, the pain forcing him—a freelance web designer and writer—to visit a place that 50 million Americans who lack insurance coverage know too well: the emergency room. Finally, after hours of waiting, waves of guilt washing over him as a rising tide of heart-attacked, bullet-riddled and generally worse-off souls gurneyed inside to meet their fates, he received an X-ray.
What it revealed would lead Ellis 700 miles away into the Mexican city of Juarez and into the inscrutable mystery of the preserved heart of a baby vampire. To put it to a point, his teeth were killing him—specifically his severely impacted wisdoms, which his skull had grown around. The teeth threatened to pierce his sinus cavity. Left unaddressed, they would likely break his jaw and possibly stab his brain.
In other words, Ellis’ new ebook, An American Vampire in Juarez: Getting My Teeth Pulled in Mexico’s Most Notorious Border Town (nsfwcorp.com, $2.99), is hardly your average trip-to-see-the-dentist tale. It’s a sordid, noir-esque memoir of how the richest country in the world fails to take care of its own and offers a vivid, no-holds-barred snapshot of the border relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. (Disclosure: Ellis and I worked together at Las Vegas CityLife almost 10 years ago.)
In a civilized country like, say, oh, Canada, a death panel would convene to decide the best moment for Ellis’ grey matter to be lacerated by his own tusks and for his organs to be harvested to benefit Islamist militants needing donations. Kidding. In any other First World nation, Ellis would simply have made an appointment. In the U.S., he lacked coverage, couldn’t afford treatment, so he did nothing. Luckily he landed a gig with a military contractor and months later met with an HMO dentist in a Vegas clinic sandwiched between a Food 4 Less and a smoke shop.
Former Tucsonan Barbara Kingsolver will be in town on Sunday, Nov. 18, to read from her new novel Flight Behavior. The event begins at 7 p.m., at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Kingsolver will autograph books after the reading.
As of this writing, tickets are available, but they are going fast. Only balcony tickets remain. They are $15, available online at www.inconcerttucson.com. You may also purchase tickets at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave., or by calling them at 792-3715.
Kingsolver’s new book, Flight Behavior, follows in the Kingsolver tradition of fiction that addresses issues of social justice and demonstrates the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Set in a small town in Tennessee, the novel tells the story of a young woman mired in an unsatisfying life who happens upon a strange phenomenon: a forested valley filled with silent red fire. Her attempts to share the sight and find an explanation throw her into a spiraling confrontation with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.
Barbara Kingsolver spent two decades in Tucson before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently resides. She was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. She has received numerous prizes and awards, the most recent of which was the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the entire body of her work, awarded in 2011.
In 2000, Kingsolver established the Pen/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, the nation's largest prize for an unpublished first novel. This prize has helped to establish the careers of many new literary voices. The latest recipient is a Tucson author, Naomi Benaron, who won the Pen/Bellwether Prize for her new novel Running the Rift.
Like most Tucsonans, I'm spoiled by the existence of a Bookmans within reasonable driving (or in my case, walking) distance. Typically, I'll wander through the stacks, searching for one particular book by one particular author—whether it be an obsession with finding new-ish Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Gaiman, or David Foster Wallace on that day—and I'll give up upon not finding my target, completely ignoring the rows of fascinating books that are lay on those shelves. I imagine I'm not the only person who does this, either, meaning that (guessing off the top of my head) thousands of Tucsonans go home without a spectacular bit of reading material each week.
Well, Canadian used bookseller The Monkey's Paw has a solution for that: Enter the Biblio-Mat, a vending machine specializing in offering up a random used book in exchange for a measly $2.
Quill & Quire, a book-centered Canadian magazine, has an interview with the owner of The Monkey's Paw, Stephen Fowler here, where they get a look at the inspiration behind the machine, and a touch of his philosophy:
What is the story behind the Biblio-mat? I went fishing this past summer with Craig Small, co-founder of The Juggernaut, an animation studio in Toronto. I had this idea that I would love to have a vending machine that gave out random books. I pictured it as a painted refrigerator box with one of my assistants inside; people would put in a coin and he would drop a book out. But Craig is more pragmatic and visionary then I am. He said, “You need to have an actual mechanical vending machine.” That was beyond my wildest imaginings, but not Craig’s, so he just built it for me.
What books are stocked in the Biblio-mat? The books in the machine are two dollars each — that’s not enough to make any profit, but the nature of the second-hand book business is that I end up with a lot of books that are interesting and worth keeping and disseminating, but have no practical retail value. Historically in the used books trade there has always been the dollar cart in front of the store. This is just a spin on that.
Personally, I'd love to have a similar machine in my tiny hallway of an apartment, if only for the ease of deciding which to pull next from my immense to-read pile of books.
For the rest of the interview, check out Quill and Quire's write-up here — and if you've seen anything else booksellers have done that's similarly clever, share it below.
Tucson's Museum of Contemporary Art wraps up this year's book club—Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’12—with a discussion of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, moderated by yours truly, Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel.
It all goes down at 5:30 p.m. at MOCA. You can find the details here, but as for the important stuff: Yes, there will be beer and wine.
I first read Hunter S. Thompson's 1972 campaign dispatches back in 1983, when I was in Mr. Albertson's government class at Rincon High. (I scored high enough on an initial civics quiz that Mr. Albertson, in his infinite wisdom, felt it would be waste of time for me to sit in class with everyone else, so he sent me off to the library to read books about government and produce reports. Fear and Loathing was first on my list. How I got away with that is one of the great mysteries of my life.)
I'm left with a number of impressions as I've re-read it all these years later, some of which we'll dig into this evening. To wit: In a historical context, HST's observations rolled back the curtain on what campaigning like no one else; it must have been deeply weird to watch these dispatches unfold in the pages of Rolling Stone (which itself was a youngster in those days); running for president has changed a lot in the last 40 years; HST had a lot of filler and digressions in these articles (but it's great filler and digression); and I sure wish I could read Hunter's impressions of Campaign 2012. It's just a delight to read the words that poured out of him.
Matt Taibbi has a wonderful introduction in the 40th anniversary edition of the book that was reprinted in part in Slate a few months back. An insightful excerpt:
People who describe Thompson’s dark and profane jokes as “cynical humor” don’t get it. Hunter Thompson was always the polar opposite of a cynic. A cynic, in the landscape of Campaign Trail ’72, for instance, is someone like Nixon or Ed Muskie, someone who cheerfully accepts the fundamental dishonesty of the American political process and is able to calmly deal with it on those terms, without horror.
But Thompson couldn’t accept any of it. This book buzzes throughout with genuine surprise and outrage that people could swallow wholesale bogus marketing formulations like “the ideal centrist candidate,” or could pull a lever for Nixon, a “Barbie-Doll president, with his box-full of Barbie Doll children.” Even at the very end of the book, when McGovern’s cause was so obviously lost, Thompson’s hope and belief still far outweighed his rational calculation, as he predicted a mere 5.5 percent margin of victory for the Evil One (it turned out to be a 23 percent landslide for Nixon).
Vanity Fair has a huge, seven-page adaptation from a new book by Mark Bowden, which discusses how the plan to assassinate Osama bin Laden came together. Here, we've excerpted a few paragraphs from the story's second part, but we highly encourage you to check out the whole thing — it's a great read, and hell, the work day's not THAT far from being over, right?
Check out "The Hunt For 'Geronimo'" at Vanity Fair:
The C.I.A. men had had a head start. They sketched five different options. That fact alone was telling. [Admiral Bill McRaven] could see at a glance that there was really only one way to do it. The admiral ruled out the bombing option immediately. Whatever the advantages in simplicity and reduced American risk, his educated guess was that it would take upwards of 50,000 pounds of ordnance to destroy a compound of that size and make sure bin Laden, if he was there, did not survive. You had to consider the possibility of tunnels or an underground bunker. That explosive power would kill everyone inside the compound and quite a few people nearby.
A ground raid, on the other hand, posed relatively few problems. His men had been hitting compounds like this daily for years, often a dozen or more a night. This one was unremarkable. It had a three-story residence, a smaller outbuilding, and high stone walls all around it, which merely indicated the right way to go in—from above.
McRaven explained to [Leon Panetta] and [Michael Morell] how special ops would hit the target. The biggest problem was its location in Abbottabad, a “denied” space 150 miles from friendly territory in neighboring Afghanistan, which meant that delivering the force and safely extracting it without triggering a shooting war with Pakistan would be challenging—but doable. It would increase the complexity of the mission, and complexity multiplied the number of things that could go wrong. That aside, attacking the compound and the buildings was old-hat. The tactics McRaven’s teams had developed were built on years of trial and error, missions that had worked and those that hadn’t. Think what one will about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they had produced a new kind of fighting force. McRaven explained what his men would do, and why. He even suggested the right man for the mission: his SEAL Team Six commander, who in 2009 had led the mission that killed three Somalian pirates, rescuing an American freighter-ship captain. McRaven also noted that, no matter how well the operation in Abbottabad was planned, long experience taught that something would go wrong. Something always went wrong, which was why his men’s unrivaled experience would be invaluable.
After listening to McRaven, Panetta and Morell abandoned the idea of a C.I.A. operation. If there was going to be a helicopter raid, McRaven and the SEALs would do it.
Participants walk 75 miles from Sásabe, Sonora to Tucson, from Monday through Sunday, May 27 through June… More