‘How To Write A Bestseller – According To The Formula’

Perhaps I should take the advice presented in this article from The Huffington Post:

Can you write a best-selling novel simply by following a formula?

Creative writing professor and novelist James W. Hall tries his hand at teasing out the magical, alchemical recipe for creating a bestseller in his new book, Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers.

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’10 Famous Authors’ Fascinating Alter Egos’

From Flavorwire:

“Write what you know.” This piece of clichéd, but sage, advice is the basis for some of the most acclaimed novels in history. Some simply explore their native milieu and insert a fictional plot, while others write a roman à clef, skirting the border of fiction and reality. Roman à clef—French for novel with a key—is a fancy term for a fictional story based on real life. It’s a pervasive form, and secrets itself among our beach books (The Devil Wears Prada) and heavy literature (The Bell Jar) alike. It’s not surprising that most writers explore their own lives, often with the aid of a parallel self (much like the famous artists who also employ alter egos). Authors may choose to veil their alter egos with differing qualities, or let their true selves shine through. Which of your favorite characters is secretly the author?

Check out the ten at the Flavorwire link.

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‘Amazon v newspaper: which is the more valuable review?’

From The Guardian:

Academics have charted reviews on social media sites and broadsheet books desks, and ranked their impact on novel sales. The results make for interesting reading

Hmmm…I’m just looking for good reviews wherever they are.

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Book Review— Fighting Bob Shuler of Los Angeles

Fighting Bob Shuler of Los Angeles—God’s Man for the Issues of his Time (2011)

This is an excellent biography of a remarkable man who had great influence in Los Angeles politics during the ‘20s through the 40’s. It was written by Robert P. Shuler III, the grandson of the subject (a fifth-generation Methodist minister), and in the interest of full disclosure, a friend of mine for close to thirty years. I’d often heard about “Fighting” Bob Shuler, but not to the level of detail in this wonderful 469 page book.

Bob Shuler was raised in the South, knew his calling early in life, and became a minister. He was attached to several churches throughout the South, and then was sent to Los Angeles. What he found was a small church (in terms of active members) and a terribly corrupt city. He was a contemporary of Aimee Semple McPherson, the infamous Pentecostal minister during that period. Over time, “Fighting” Bob Shuler grew the Trinity Methodist Church (now a parking lot near Staples Center) to five thousand members, he had a magazine distributed to thousands where he published his opinion pieces skewering those that needed it, and he had his own radio station that reached six-hundred thousand people at its height. The bio traces his humble beginnings, his religious experiences, and his growing theology which could be best described as orthodox Wesleyan Methodism, although one could also say he was “fundamentalist.”

His fervor in attacking vices, corruption, injustices by the powerful, and the growing influence of “modernism” on the Methodist church, meant that he made enemies—lots of them. And he named names! He was hated by most politicians for he got some of them sent to jail, the police department, because he got chiefs fired, the district attorney’s office, the courts, all the Hearst newspapers, Hollywood, and the mob. William Randolph Hearst wanted to destroy him, sending investigators out to dig up dirt on Bob Shuler. They could never find any. His life was threatened, his church bombed, and he spent fourteen days in jail, part of a twenty day sentence for contempt of court, but they let him out early because he was having too good a time making friends with the prisoners and he was using his plight as a backdrop for further attacks on the established order. He also had enemies within the church—the progressives, with their watered down theology—an internecine war that continues today, though weakly. The book covers numerous examples of religious and political battles in detail including the Julian Oil Scandal, which was on par with the Bernie Madoff debacle of recent vintage.

For those interested in a man that was energetic, relentless in his pursuits, an excellent writer, humorous, and theologically grounded in Wesleyan traditions, fighting those forces that always need fought, this is a thorough and well-written biography. My friend, Bob Shuler III, did a nice job telling the story of his grandfather’s exciting life.

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‘Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose – review’

From The Guardian, a review by  of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose.

Reading Like a Writer is a clarion call for aspiring writers to do that most simple, time-consuming but enjoyable thing: their homework.

That sounds like good advice (probably because I claim to do my homework). As for grammar, I do like to use sentence fragments, particularly in dialog.

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‘John Cheever: Master of the short story’

From The Telegraph:

John Cheever’s centenary is being celebrated in America today with the publication of a new edition of his collected stories.

Cheever, who was born on May 27th in Quincy, Massachusetts, was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century and was described by Elmore Leonard as “the Chekhov of the suburbs.”

Cheever was the son of a failed shoe salesman – the writer’s mother ran a “cluttered gift shop” – and he understood the ambition and inferiority complexes of post-war American life. He could be funny about the “crushing boredom” of life in the suburbs with the “stupid, depressed and uncreative” people who populated their tidy houses but he was more than just an angry critic of torpid rural life. As his contemporary John Updike put it: “John Cheever was often labelled as a writer about suburbia; but many people have written about suburbia. Only Cheever was able to make an archetypal place out of it.”

Read the whole thing at the link.

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’10 Epidemically Overrated Books’

From Flavorwire:

Last week, we read a fun article over at PWxyz entitled “We Fix the Top 100 Novels List,” wherein the Publisher’s Weekly staff sounded off on which novels they’d add to the Modern Library’s ubiquitous Top 100 — and which they’d take away. The article got us thinking about which novels we think are lauded entirely too much, whether by the press or the public at large. Now, keep in mind that this isn’t a list of bad books — it’s a list of good books that (to our minds) just seem to get more accolades than they deserve — and it is, and can only be, based on our humble opinion. Click through to read our list of terrifically, epidemically, perpetually overrated books, and add to (or subtract from) our picks in the comments.

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50 Years Ago: The World in 1962

From The Atlantic, a photo essay:

A half-century ago, the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over. Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that brought the U.S. to the brink of war with the U.S.S.R. Civil rights activists won hard-earned victories against segregationists in the American South, and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Algeria gained independence from France and the U.S. slowly escalated its involvement in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Seattle held a World’s Fair called the the Century 21 Exposition, celebrating the themes of space, science, and the future. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1962.

See 50 photos.

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Ten Authors Who Write Great Dialogue

From Lit Reactor (Hat tip: Frank Wilson) Personally, in my writing, I enjoy writing the dialog better than the narrative. Maybe I’ll improve by reading more of the folks listed. And I am pleased to see Elmore Leonard on the list—one of my favorite authors (because of his excellent dialog).

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Science vs. PR—How a piece of journeyman work is turned into patently junk science.

Opening remarks from The American:

One of the major reasons that science is held in low repute among portions of the citizenry is that it has too often allowed itself to become entangled with public relations. The PR connection has nothing to do with peer review, that essential element in the scientific method. The PR connection has to do with institutional politics, funding, and personal ambition.

What happens is this:

1. Some scientists publish a report of their work.

2. An alert PR guy who works for the university or institute notices some potentially hype-able words in the report.

3. He writes up a release, under the impression that he is Arthur C. Clarke.

4. J-school grads at a number of media outlets, whose science education ended in 8th grade, pick up the release, change three words to make it their own, and it is published to an unsuspecting public.

5. The unsuspecting public, which is not as dumb as the PR guy believes, dismisses the story as bushwah and blames the scientists.

Fro details, continue reading at the link.

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