Authors Battle for November Contest

Sharp Barbs, Nasty Insults

Feb. 28, 2016: Greenville, NC—
"I saw him back stage piling makeup on with a trowel," AUTHOR Marco Rubiat said of rival author Don d'Triumph.*

"Who cares. I KNOW WORDS. I have the BEST WORDS," d'Triumph responded. "Everybody LOVES MY WORDS." *

"Doesn't matter. You've still got one of those sweat mustaches," Rubiat retorted.*

National Book Awards
We're still months away, but authors have already begun a slugfest to see who will win come November.

* Actually spoken by the candidates.

November is when the coveted NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS are announced. This year stakes are high with tempers running even higher.

Never this bad

"I've never seen it get this nasty," said Reagan Eagan, awards jurist. "Authors typically behave with greater decorum."

True. Still, it's hard not to feel a twinge of guilty pleasure listening to these Olympiads sling their polished insults.

Charge of elitism
One debate had best- selling AUTHOR Bernie Sandbag calling rival Hillary Clinchpin a sellout.

"You don't give a hoot for the average reader," Sandbag said. All you care about is Goldman Smacks.
Tedino Cruz chimed in that people are a lot more interested in Hillary's emails than her books.

"Pipe down," Tedino. Nobody likes you," Hillary said. "Even your editors don't like you."

Their novels

"OMG!" said one book critic. "This beats any of their novels. The language is poetic ... the characters so believable.

Another critic agreed: "No one could write this stuff. No one would even try."

Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

generic-mystery-questionsWe get lots of mail asking for Discussion Questions for mysteries, and there've been a lot of them lately—emails AND new crime novels (all claiming to be the "new" Gone Girl).

Sadly, for book clubs, authors or publishers don't often issue questions for mysteries—for a couple of reasons:

Specific questions tend to give away the plot, ruining the element of surprise. Remember, mysteries depend on withholding information.

Bestselling crime novels aren't considered "book club" material. They're all about plot and don't necessarily open themselves up to discussions about character dynamics or weighty social issues. Major serial authors like James Patterson, Michael Connelly, J.D. Robb, David Baldacci write for different reasons and audiences.

So we've got our own questions below. Feel free to use them or access them here.

Questions for Mystery - Crime - Suspense - Thrillers

Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead us astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

a. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?

b. Are they plausible or implausible?

c. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

a. Is the conclusion probable or believable?

b. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?

c. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?

d. Perhaps it's too predictable.

e. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Point to passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing, that somehow struck you. What, if anything, made you stop and think? Or maybe even laugh.

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Or does it somehow fall short?

10. Compare this book to other mystery, crime, or suspense thrillers that you've read. Consider other authors or other books in a the series by the same author.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)


We love books, and we love movies. And we REALLY love movies that come from books.

Book clubs say, over and over, that a favorite club activity is attending movies based on books—especially if the book is a club selection.

That's why LitLovers has decided to partner with Screen Thoughts.

hollister-otoole1SCREEN THOUGHTS takes the book-to-movie connection a step beyond. They read the book . . . see the movie . . . then create a 20-minute podcast about their impressions.

Hollister and O'Toole, the voices behind the mic, are smart, knowledgeable, and engaging. They review the films and ask the questions we care about:

Is the film true to the book?
Are the actors right for the book's characters?
Do you prefer the book to film . . . or film to book?

Click HERE for Screen Thoughts podcasts—or go the top of the LitLovers homepage. Listen on your own . . . or listen as a group in your book club—they're sure to spark discussion.  Who's right—Hollister or O'Toole? Both? Neither?

Each month you'll find a new book-to-movie podcast. So be sure to listen in.


By Molly Lundquist, LitLovers.
Who doesn't want to be cool? Well, my friends, THIS is what cool looks like … and what it doesn't.

six-of-crows1I'm a wanna be. Just when I deluded myself that—after all these years—I might be getting close, here comes LEIGH BARDUGO, author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, etc.)

And now Leigh's got a brand new fantasy novel—Six of Crows, published to rave reviews. Think Oceans Eleven with a bunch of adolescents.

Not only is the book cool, but take a look at the photos of Leigh and friends on Instragam. Top row is Leigh. Bottom… guess who. Me. Cool? Not even close.

bcblues-kindleThis just in: A Facebook friend wrote asking about the use of Kindles and other e-book devices in her book club.

A good friend and I are starting a book club, and someone has asked if she can use her Kindle. Although I don't see a problem, my co-founder says, "Definitely not." What are your thoughts? Any advice would help.

The problem the friend has with Kindles, apparently, is her fear that e-readers are putting bookstores out of business. So a compromise was reached: use your Kindle at home, but just don't bring it to the book club.

Wanting to save bookstores is a laudable concern. But the club's solution—use your Kindle, just don't let us see you do it—is like closing your eyes against a tsunami: if you don't see it, maybe it's not happening.

Tough issues—preserving tradition vs. moving into the future. But both the future and technology are unstoppable—technology IS a tsunami ... and it WILL engulf everything in its path. One need only took to history:   ♦ scroll book  buggy auto   movies tv   ♦ mailbox inbox.

Still, there's room for books and e-readers. Scroll down to the blog post right below this one, BOOKSTORES MAY STICK AROUND AFTER ALL. The past five years it seems have seen real growth in their numbers.

So what do you think? Do your book club members use Kindles?

phewIt might be time to remove BOOKSTORES and LIBRARIES from the list of endangered species!

Over the past several years, those dealing in print books were preparing themselves for extinction. With ebook sales skyrocketing, it looked as if end times were on the horizon. But that may have changed.

According to the Association for American Publishers (AAP), digital ebook sales have dropped—by about 10%. Okay, that's not a lot, but it's enough to give books-on-shelves some wiggle room...and booksellers some hope. *

Adding to the good news, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) says its member bricks & mortar bookstores have increased their numbers over the past five years—from 1,400 to 1,700.

Moreover, some surveys show that young readers, the ones in love with digital devices, still prefer reading on paper.

Not that we readers are leaving our digitial devices behind: it's more like we're becoming "hybrid readers," toggling from hard copies to ebooks. I'm a hybrid—I love my Kindle but also enjoy the feel of a print book. You can read more in the New York Times.

So what about you? Are you a hybrid reader, strictly ebooks, or strictly paper ones?

* This just in . . . Publishers Weekly reported that April, 2016, book sales rose 8.8% over March—which means bookstore sales have risen every month this year compared to 2015. Even more impressive, bookstore sales have outpaced growth for the entire retail segment for the first five months of 2016.

best-places-read6Ah, Pinterest—all those lists and photos of the BEST PLACES TO READ...inside, outside, in cities around the world. But the novelty's wearing thin.

And that
got us to thinking—perversely—about where you DON'T want to be caught with a book. So we put together our own list. This one is about . . .


1 — Job Interview
Terrific resume. Great experience. Top-notch references. And there you sit, peering down at a book—just to prove you can multi-task. Gee, how could they not hire you?


2 — Lunar Landing Craft
You wanna screw this up? Your one big shot at making history? The world is watching, so put the book down—now—and land this baby.


3 — Parent-Teacher Conference
You think you're showing off your reading skills—which have rubbed off on your gifted kid. But while you sit there with your nose in a book, the teacher?...well, she thinks differently.


4 — Speeding Traffic
Eyes on the road; hands on the wheel. Do we really need to explain this one?


5 — Tax Audit
That's right, just keep on reading. Nonchalance implies innocence. He'll see right through you.


6 — Real Bedroom
This isn't on Pinterest—because this is LIFE. Picture yourself curling up here with a book and a Pinot. You can't, can you?


7 — Empire State Building
You could accidentally drop your book from the Observation Deck—you would see it accelerate at (32 ft. per sec.)2, hitting the ground in 15 sec. at a terminal velocity of 50 mph. And THAT would crack the book's spine—which everyone knows is a crying shame.


So, dear reader, you tell us...what's YOUR worst place to read?

stephen-king-jumpha-lahiriHardy (or hearty?) congratulations go to STEPHEN KING and JUMPHA LAHIRI, who are to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Arts by President Obama. The presentation will take place at a White House ceremony today.

The National Endowment for the Arts awards medals each year to a wide range of individuals in the arts—actors, authors, dancers, film makers, musicians, and visual artists (painters and sculptors)—recognized for their "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."

A (tiny) sampling of previous recipents includes such luminaries as Saul Bellow, Rene Flemming, Clint Eastwood, Earnest J. Gaines, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Bradbury, Jacob's Pillow Dance, Roy Lichtenstein.

Below is what the White House has to say about the choice of King and Lahiri:

Stephen King for his contributions as an author. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have terrified and delighted audiences around the world.

Jhumpa Lahiri for enlarging the human story. In her works of fiction, Dr. Lahiri has illuminated the Indian-American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging.

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

This year's winners also include theater director John Baldessari, choreographer Ping Chong, actress Miriam Colon, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, actress Sally Fields, visual artist Ann Hamilton, composer and singer Meredith Monk, tenor George Shirley, the University Musical Society, author and educator Tobias Wolff.


Top Authors Admit to Drug Use

        Drugs Wreaking Havoc

New York, NY
— Bestselling author Ken Fowlett's latest—the fourth volume of his new trilogy—exceeds 2,200 pages.

"I've never felt so good," chirped Fowlett. "I've got cleaner key strokes and more staying power than ever before."

Fowlett isn't alone. Dozens of celebrity authors—joining their peers in sports—have turned to performance-enhancing drugs to increase their output.

No Sweat
An unnamed New York editor said the drugs enable authors "to pound out longer and longer sentences—without breaking a sweat."

"The result," she said, "is stupefyingly longer books."

A question of quality
Yale's Harold Bloom spoke for many when he raised the question of length vs.quality. "Longer is not necessarily better,"he said in his typically cryptic fashion.

Authors defensive
"That's grossly unfair," said best selling author Donna Tartly. "We're giving readers a hell of a lot more than they pay for. They're lucky, damn lucky."

Ms. Tartly's latest, "The Goldfish," came in at 2,600 pages.

Supersized books
"We used to think of Jim Michener as excessive," said Random Haus CEO Don Doubleknopf. "Now we consider his books quaint novellas.

Worried publishers
The publishing world is concerned about a public backlash.

"It's ironic," said Gordon Gorden, a marketing director at Simon & Shooter. "Books are getting longer just as attention spans are getting shorter."

"Some of us worry that readers have already parked the car at Twitter," he said.

Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

By Molly Lundquist
Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter just came out in paperback, so given the hype (see NY columnist Liz Smith's review for one) I took a look...and I loved it.

The novel centers on a romantic triangle populated by actual historical characters: an Austrian empress, British heiress, and dashing cavalry captain. Some of Goodwin's story is true, some imagined. Sound like fun? It is.

Young Charlotte Baird is heiress to the Lenox fortune and considered quite a catch during her debut in London. Like many a good heroine, Charlotte defies convention much to her family's dismay. Yet it's that very independent streak that attracts the eye of handsome Captain Bay Middleton.

bay-charlotteUnfortunately, Bay himself catches the eye of visiting royalty: Empress Elisabeth of Austria who has come to Britain for the hunting season. Famed throughout Europe for her beauty, Sisi, as she is known, intoxicates Bay, who is now torn between two women. (Photos left: Charlotte? and Bay)

The story, though, offers more than a standard romance: we get an insider's view of the Victorian class system and the burdens it imposes, not on society's lower rungs but, in this novel, on the upper ones—even on royalty.

empress-sisi For as much as Americans are titillated by all things Downton Abby, Goodwin shows us a darker side. We see the demands for mindless conformity, especially for women. We watch how those not quite up-to-snuff (the untitled) face stinging humiliation by their "betters" (the titled). And we're privy to the tacit understanding that women are mere commodities in a cynical marriage market.

The book holds a particular interest for me. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a 1962 movie with Romy Schneider (anyone remember her?) as Sisi, the lovely 16-year-old girl who captured the heart of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. (Photo right: Empress Sisi)

The Fortune Hunter picks up 22 years after that romantic coupling to show the toll that royal life—with its sycophantic courtiers and stultifying dullness—has taken on Sisi. That part is true, too, and so is this—unhappy at home, Sisi traveled a good deal to remove herself from the rigid confines of the Austrian court.

This is an engaging read and an easy one, too. Goodwin has drawn her secondary characters broadly; they're somewhat cartoonish, which only makes them more fun to loathe. The author has taken more care with her leads, however, lending them a greater degree of depth. She also writes in rich detail when it comes to riding to the hunt, the new-fangled photography, and the beauty regimes of royalty (which involve slabs of veal...I'll say no more).

Read and have fun. I did. Oh, and don't miss our Reading Guide for The Fortune Hunter, complete with discussion questions.

* This review is sponsored by St. Martin's Griffin, publishers of the Fortune Hunter. The content of the review is an objective opinion by LitLovers.

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