Exclusive Author Interview...

Irish American, Agatha Award-nominated author Sheila Connolly (GSA ’79) gives LitVote an exclusive author interview for St. Patty’s Day…

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Literary Scene

  • Living Dangerously

  • “I knew that if people discussed the movie instead of what the movie was about, we’d have failed. I wanted all the script’s banality to work for me, to entice the audience past our subject matter until they were drowning in it,” says director Nicholas Meyer (The Day After).

    The new Showtime seriesYears of Living Dangerously, is anything but banal, to judge by the first episode. It uses a brilliant technique of going around the world to explore carbon-releasing activities and extreme weather, through the eyes of celebrities who act as surrogates for the audience. In the initial episode, for example, Harrison Ford discovers mass deforestation in Indonesia, Don Cheadle talks to victims of persistent drought in Texas, and Tom Friedman ventures into Syria and finds that the civil war there was caused, along with other factors, by an absence of rain, then an absence of government response.

    These correspondents come off not as experts but as investigators. They ask some of the questions we care about, and listen as we would. Except they are, for instance, Matt Damon (of the Bourne series) , Lesley Stahl (of 60 Minutes), and Ian Somerhalder (of Vampire Diaries), plus many others. They model the process not of already knowing, but of being open to learn.

    (via Huffington Post)

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  • Easter Free eBook Hunt

  • Free today:

    Voice from the Planet
    Voice from the Planet, a collection of extraordinary voices that will transport you on a globe-trotting adventure from the trauma of African earthquake to a lush glimpse of love in the jungles of Peru. Break through to war-torn Congo, to American rebellion of the 1960s, to fire dancing in the mountains of Bulgaria, to high finance on 9/11. You’ll find the unexpected wit and intelligence enthralling in this second anthology edited by Harvard alumni.



    Sazzae, winner of the eLit Gold medal, Sazzae opens the door to a wondrous cityscape where Japanese and American youth find each other in Tokyo. Discover the machinations of a lovers’ triangle, a painter’s inspiration, and an Untouchable’s dark secret through sensuous and evocative language. The pain and pleasures of Japan are remembered with lyric passion.


    At last, a humorous novel that takes on the corruption plaguing the financial services industry. With wit and irony, Trading Dreams unmasks the forces that have contributed to the recent economic devastation affecting millions of average Americans. The riveting story of a young woman trying to assimilate into the old boy world of Wall Street. Jerry is elated when she starts working for a prestigious bank, but excitement turns into disgust when her villain CFO sets her up as a scapegoat for ‘robo-signing’ mortgages with no paperwork. It seems that nothing escapes his greedy clutches. The young career woman teeters spectacularly between life as a trading-floor cyborg and as a revolutionary battling Wall Street corruption . . . as if she didn’t have enough to worry about running from a murderer.

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  • Virtual Writers Workshop – May 4th

  • Drum Circle 3

    Virtual Writers Workshop at the Etopia Island drum circle

    The Virtual Writers Workshop brings published authors together with writers for synergy and exchange one Sunday a month at 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 a.m. Pacific time. Get writing for the next meeting on Sunday, May 4th!

    The group offers useful feedback on original fiction, poetry, and lyrics. Writers read their work in the magical ambiance of the Etopia Island in Second Life to the beat of conga drums. After each reading, participants type their real-time reactions in the chat box and discuss each work.

    Etopia Island’s virtual venue is the ideal place for this kind of writers’ focus group. Participants as far flung as the Brussels Writers Circle  and Brazil regularly attend. (more…)

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  • Popular Books by State

  • Ebooks-map-largeScribd, the exhaustive eBook library, monitors popular books by state. It counted how many times 
    registered Scribd users read a book. The results are all over the map.

    Horror and fantasy top the list in the Midwest, while hilarious and poignant memoirs won the coasts (Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter tops New York and Patti Smith’s Just Kids is big in California).

    Alaska remains an enigma.  Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book was their number one read. Stay tuned to find out what people living in sub-arctic temperatures do with ice cream.

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  • Is the Universe a Simulation?

  • code-man


    IN Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita,” the protagonist, a writer, burns a manuscript in a moment of despair, only to find out later from the Devil that “manuscripts don’t burn.”

    While you might appreciate this romantic sentiment, there is of course no reason to think that it is true. Nikolai Gogol apparently burned the second volume of “Dead Souls,” and it has been lost forever. Likewise, if Bulgakov had burned his manuscript, we would have never known “Master and Margarita.” No other author would have written the same novel.

    But there is one area of human endeavor that comes close to exemplifying the maxim “manuscripts don’t burn.” That area is mathematics. If Pythagoras had not lived, or if his work had been destroyed, someone else eventually would have discovered the same Pythagorean theorem. Moreover, this theorem means the same thing to everyone today as it meant 2,500 years ago, and will mean the same thing to everyone a thousand years from now — no matter what advances occur in technology or what new evidence emerges. Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. Its truths are objective, necessary and timeless. (more…)

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  • Amazon Publishing’s advances move ahead of the market

  • William Lashner‘s latest novel, the Kindle-only thriller The Barkeep, topped last week’s Digital Book World ebook bestseller chart with two more Amazon Publishing titles coming in at four and 11. Not bad for a company which George Packer characterises as having no real interest in books.

    The way the money is moving … dollar bills being minted in Washington. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

    William Lashner‘s latest novel, the Kindle-only thriller The Barkeep, topped last week’s Digital Book World ebook bestseller chart with two more Amazon Publishing titles coming in at four and 11. Not bad for a company which George Packer characterises as having no real interest in books.But why would an author who wants to break out into “the true mass market” limit herself to the Amazon universe? It seems that it’s all about the future, with Amazon offering terms for digital royalties which Quinn’s agent described as “decidedly more generous” than those offered by traditional publishers.

    According to new figures from the self-publishing champion Hugh Howey, ebooks may account for as much as 90% of current sales in bestselling genre fiction and signing with Amazon unleashes the shopping site’s “incredible ability to market their own works”. Amazon Publishing puts out only 4% of bestselling genre ebooks, but those titles manage to snag 15% of daily sales. As for the big five, they’re converting 28% of these titles into just 34% of daily unit sales.

    (via The Guardian)

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  • Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity

  • Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity
    A memoir about growing up before, during, and after the height of the disability-rights movement, Ben Mattlin’s Miracle Boy Grows Up: How The Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity (Skyhorse Publishing) has received impressive blurbs from the likes of Jay McInerney, the National Council on Disability, and our own Antje Clasen.

    “I simply could not stop reading [it],” she wrote in her Amazon review.  ”‘Miracle Boy Grows Up’ is an extraordinary book.   It is a literary voice telling a story worth listening to. Ben Mattlin was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that confines him to a life in a wheelchair.  In this memoir, he describes his life in which he beats the odds: becoming a pioneer in his elementary school and his high school in New York and then Harvard. Ben Mattlin is among the firsts to attempt and accomplish a life in a competitive world created for able bodied people.  One cannot but admire his extraordinary courage, persistence and ability to overcome obstacles.  Ben Mattlin describes how he learns to navigate uncharted territory – although he sometimes feels ‘unmoored, lost at sea’ – he succeeds at graduating cum laude, moving to California, marrying and finding his career as a journalist. He also becomes an advocate for disabled rights. Words are certainly his friends – he is an intelligent and perceptive wordsmith. Ben Mattlin has become a fine writer.”

    According to a recent poll, almost half the U.S. population knows someone with a disability, but only a third is comfortable around the disabled. Too often people treat those with disabilities as if they’re doing something heroic or extraordinary for living a normal life.  Miracle Boy Grows Up demystifies disability and educates, as much as it entertains, about the realities of living with a severe, debilitating, even life-threatening disability.  With wit and humor, it skewers stereotypes and misconceptions, showing how in some ways disability is much harder than most people imagine yet in others is very much easier.  It is also a coming-of-age story about one Harvard grad’s learning to cope.

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  • What a Glorious Day

  • by Keith Raffel
    A Fine and Dangerous Season
    Sometimes good things do happen to us writers. In September an editor from Amazon Publishing got in touch. She wanted to buy rights to A Fine and Dangerous Season, the Cuban Missile Crisis thriller I’d published as an ebook on my own last year.
    Amazingly, six weeks later — today! — the book is out in a re-edited version with a new cover in both ebook and trade paper editions.
    Here in Palo Alto, it’s bright and sunny and in the high 60s.
    What a glorious day!
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  • Charles Darwin’s Son Draws Cute Pictures on the Manuscript of On the Origin of Species

  • This article first appeared in the Telegraph

    An original sheet from Charles Darwin’s manuscript ‘On the Origin of Species’, which has been covered in a drawing by one of his children, is to go on display for the first time.


    Darwin created “a mound” of papers whilst he drafted his seminal work but less than 35 have survived.

    Archivists believe the majority of the remaining sheets have only survived because he gave them to his children as drawing paper and kept the pictures.

    Next week one of these sheets is to go on display for the first time with specimens from his Beagle voyage as part of a new exhibition at Cambridge University Library.


    The charming children’s drawing, named the “Battle of the Vegetables” by Cambridge University Library staff, shows two mounted figures facing each other in battle.

    One figure wearing a turban is riding what archivists think could be a stale potato and the other is on what appears to be a giant carrot, crossed with a dog.

    It is not known which of Darwin’s 10 children drew the picture but it is thought the child would have been between eight and 10 years old.

    The picture sheds light on the life of the Darwin and shows him as a man who put a high value on family life and did not work in isolation.

    John Wells, exhibitions officer at the Library, said the story of they survived is remarkable.

    He said: “There are just thirty or so of these original sheets in existence and the vast majority have a child’s drawing on the back.

    “It’s quite amazing to think these priceless historical exhibits have only survived because of a child’s drawings on the back.

    “It demonstrates the importance of his family and brings it home that he surrounded himself with family, and friends, as he worked.

    “The picture is absolutely brilliant. It’s glorious and shows great imagination.”

    A spokesman at Cambridge University said it was believed that this is the very first time the drawing had been put on display to the public.

    Another 23 sheets from the original manuscript are held at the Library and it is thought there are approximately 10 more in existence.

    The new exhibition is to be opened on Monday July 6 by William Huxley Darwin the naturalist’s great-great grandson.

    It brings together items from the Darwin archive, preserved at the Library, and a wealth of Darwin collections held around the University.

    Included in the exhibition will be Darwin’s books and correspondence and a letter offering the 22-year-old Cambridge graduate a place on board the Beagle.

    Curator Alison Pearn (cor) of the Darwin Correspondence Project, said: “This is a wonderful and unique opportunity to share the University’s remarkable collections.

    “Individually, the manuscripts and specimens are invaluable to scholars; together they bring Darwin and his ideas powerfully to life in a way that everyone can enjoy for the rest of this Bicentenary year.”

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  • Kent University – Revisited

  • UniBy Sarah Strange
    I thought they would come back to me
    Those years I lived in Kent
    In the Sixties when both young and free
    A degree was my intent.
    But as the bus came round the hill
    I saw to my dismay
    Though Eliot college stood there still
    There were buildings in its way!
    We strolled around the grounds awhile
    Found a cinema on site,
    And library – modernised in style
    PCs, not books, in sight!
    Even the bus stop is displaced
    And instead of lawns, paved ways
    Of my time there barely a trace
    What tricks my memory plays!
    (c) Poet in the woods 2013
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  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    All at Once

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet.


    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.” (more…)

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Happy Birthday to the Bard



William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday is today, Wednesday,  April 23 (doesn’t look a day over 449, does he?).   Diane Haithman’s birthday [age deleted] is April 26.  Coincidence? 


Yes — but why not celebrate both with a pint of ale, some Shepherd’s Pie and this tasty excerpt of Haithman’s Dark Lady of Hollywood, a mash-up of Shakespeare and the TV biz?


by Diane Haithman


Chapter 1


Since nor the exterior nor th’ inward man

Resembles that it was.

— King Claudius, Hamlet

“See, here’s the thing, Kenny . . .”

I’d forgotten how my immediate supervisor, Danny Gordon, never really shook hands. He’d just put his in yours and leave it there, like a small, limp package waiting for UPS. We’d been holding hands like this ever since he walked into my office to welcome me back. Sweet.

“The thing?”

“The . . . thing.” Dan nodded then fell silent. I decided it was up to me to end the non-handshake and gentlly disengaged myself from it. Dan still said nothing. The pause was clammier than his hand. “Say whatever the fuck it is you have to say, Dan,” I suggested pleasantly.

Danny winced; he tended to take profanity very personally. His small brown eyes had been fixed on the floor. Now, as he looked up, they darted every which way behind the narrow glasses — furtive weasel eyes trying to escape from his desperately hip green rectangular frames, from his head, from my office. From me.

“The thing is, Kenny, I’ve been in communication with the writers, and they don’t think they can work with you anymore, Kenny. Kenny, they say they just can’t . . . sing under these conditions. I mean, your condition. Trust me, if we had time to find comedy writers who can function when they’re depressed, I would. I just don’t know what to say, Kenny.”

That was three too many Kennys. I willed myself to stay calm but my heart began to rocket around inside my ribcage like the metal pellet in a pinball machine. I pressed one hand against my chest in the guise of straightening my tie. It probably wanted to get away from me too, my heart — even my heart wanted to leave me now, and you know what, I couldn’t blame it.

“They . . . know, Ken,” Dan said.

“Know?” I asked, keeping my heart in my chest with my hand.

Dan’s thin fingers played over the nascent bald spot in his dark hair. Swear to God he had less hair than when he came in. “This isn’t me talking, Kenny. It’s the network.” The apologetic whimper had come crawling back into Dan’s nasal voice. That bottled spider, that foul bunchback’d toad. “Do me a solid, Kenny. Patty’s Going Out and He’s on the Force both got canceled, and it’s only October.”

“Yeah, saw it on Deadline. At least they sent me an update.” I found myself absently tracing “He’s off the Air” with one finger in the dust on my formerly gleaming glass desk. Not original — some mouth-breathing TV blogger had posted that smug headline on his website. After saying it over and over, week after week, meeting after meeting, I’d honestly begun to believe that He’s on the Force would be the perfect comeback vehicle for former child star Donny — Don — Calder after two years in a minimum-security prison.

“I had . . . concerns about Don,” I said. “But I figured Patty would at least make it to November. I thought she had what we were looking for. People loved her on America’s Got Talent.”

“Yeah, well, fat is fine for competition, where there’s crying. We don’t need it at 9 p.m. when everybody else has thin people.”

Dan was right about that. Patty’s Going Out, our series launch announcement read, would be “the ongoing lament of a young woman’s dating problems in New York City.” It was only ongoing for three episodes. We quickly discovered that people wanted to see an incredibly beautiful, sexy young woman having dating problems in New York City, not a woman who might actually have dating problems having dating problems in New York City.

Now, our only hit was a sophisticated nine-thirty comedy starring white-hot Saturday Night Live veteran Bert DeMarco, another Harvard dropout. Following in the footsteps of his father, Bert’s character had become a veterinarian. Problem was, he didn’t like animals, and animals didn’t like him. It was called Bite Me.

In more recent episodes, developed during my absence, the focus had moved from Bert’s antics in his veterinary practice to his life as an incredibly handsome, sexy young man having dating problems in New York City.

It was my idea to bring Bert DeMarco on board in the first place. Messengers bearing flowers, or spectacular baskets of fruit and cheese, marched for three months between Burbank and CBD Productions in Beverly Hills. The C stood for Bert’s own dog, Coco, who had a small but pivotal role in the pilot episode. The comedy department went ballistic about the bills, but we got DeMarco. We call this process “development.”

“I think that we both know there’s only one thing standing between us and Number Four,” Dan said.

Bite Me,” I replied.

“Correct. The anchor of our Wednesday night comedy block. Perfect demographics: men 18 to 49. Women love him too because he won’t let the dog sleep on the bed during sex. Kenny, we’ve finally stopped skewing old.

“I know. I launched that show, Dan.”

“Reality programming, Kenny. We’re up against reality programming. No freaking writers to go on strike every time someone takes away their sock monkey,” Dan fretted. “And you don’t have to pay real idiots 1.5 mil an episode like we’re paying DeMarco. I’m depleted, Kenny.”

Reality, Danny — I’m up against reality. “If they want reality, they should turn it off,” I grumbled. I lifted the shiny gold nameplate on my dusty desk — Kenneth C. Harrison, Vice President, Comedy Development — and weighed it in my hand. Heavy. You could hurt somebody with this. “Look, Bite Me is crap without my creative input,” I said. “I’m the reason we can say ‘It’s Cable TV for a Network Audience’ on those mugs we give out at the summer press tour. We were the Number Four network for four years. Now we’re barely hanging onto Number Three. You want to go back to picking up the Los Angeles fucking Times and reading ‘mired in fourth place’ every time the goddamned Calendar section mentions our name?”

“I’m not trying to be difficult, Ken, but this is my call, not yours.” Dan squared his stooped shoulders to the extent that they were capable of forming an angle. Then he grinned. “I didn’t like the mugs that much, but I loved the Bite Me candy rectal thermometers.”

Dan was easily distracted. I tried to bring him back into the room. “And without me, you don’t have DeMarco,” I reminded him. Arrogant prick wasn’t working for me nearly as well as it used to, but the door seemed to have opened a crack. My tone turned coaxing. “I’m the one who massaged him. I sent him flowers. I sent flowers to his fucking dog. Bert called me as soon as they arrived to tell me that Coco loved them.”

“Yeah, well, he didn’t call you an hour later to tell you Coco loved them so much, he ate them. Let’s put it this way: you are the main reason the CBD office in Beverly Hills had to order new Berber carpet for the main lobby.” Dan shook his head in lieu of further detail. “Besides . . . this is hard to say, but it’s not just the writers who say they can’t work with you anymore. It’s . . . well, it’s DeMarco.

Bert?” Okay, that was a slap in the face. “But Bert and I . . . we have a relationship.”

“I’m sorry, Ken. I wasn’t going to tell you, but you had to push.” Dan was now actively pulling out strands of his own hair. “You need to learn when to stop pushing, Kenny. Your baby is now our franchise. We own it. We love you, but . . . we don’t need you.”

We love you, but we don’t need you. The opposite of what Alice had told me some eight months ago: “I’ll stay with you as long as you need me.” Her pale, sharp features glowed with the pride of self-sacrifice as she said it. Those were her words, but here’s what she meant: “I’ll stay with you even though I don’t love you — because you need me.” That’s something I couldn’t live with, especially because it was true.

I moved out the next day.

Packing is such sweet sorrow.

I am alone now, I guess you could say. A Nielsen household of one.

The only thing I had left was my job, and I couldn’t afford to lose it. So instead of arguing, I decided to massage Danny. “So . . . I guess I need a new franchise,” I said, my voice on a tightrope. “Your thoughts, Daniel?”

Dan brightened. “I think I’ve got a win-win for you, Kenny. There’s a slot for a development director over in Movies and Minis.” (“Minis” was short for mini-series, which was short for TV that was going to go on way longer than it should.) “We think you’d be perfect for this exciting new opportunity. Writing the press release in my head. In fact, we were just saying the other day that you’d really be a great help to movies, you know, when they do cancer.”

When they do cancer. “Okay” was all I could think of to say.

“It’s the best way to protect our slogan: ’Prime Time Is Your Time.’“ Dan stopped speaking for an uncomfortable moment, then erupted into inappropriate giggles that contorted his thin frame into what looked like a hip hop pose, one karate heel kicking out and splayed fingers crossed in the vicinity of his groin. “Kenny, one of the writers has come up with such a great story line for the next Bite Me. The working title is ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Do you love it? It’s from Shakespeare.”


“How cool is that?” Dan returned to his usual round-shouldered posture as the giggle exorcised itself from his body. “I had to take Shakespeare at Palisades High, but the only thing I remember is the kid next to me having to memorize the line ‘Alas, poor York, I knew him well.’”

 “It’s not ‘York.’ It’s Yorick. And it’s not ‘I knew him well.’ It’s ‘I knew him, Horatio!’ Hamlet’s talking to Horatio. He’s standing next to an open grave with Yorick’s goddamned dried-up skull in his hand, and he’s talking to fucking Horatio.”

Dan stared at me in shock. “Whatever,” he offered warily. I forced a smile and put extra emphasis on his name, hoping it might be helpful in some random way. “Dan. I know, we have our . . . words, sometimes. We push each other hard. We bounce off each other. But in the end I can always count on you to come up with something excellent.” That’s right, just keep on talking. Doesn’t have to make any sense. “That’s why we’ve always had such a sweet collabo going, you and I. Creative tension has always been our franchise.”

Dan responded to this unexpected and illogical praise like a fresh bowl of weasel food. “It is? I mean, it is,” he stammered. “You’re right about our creative partnership, Kenny. Tension is what it’s all about. In fact, in all of our years working together, I don’t ever recall feeling quite this . . . uh . . . tense.”

I nodded enthusiastically. “Could things get any more tense?”

“It’s all good, Ken.” Dan let out a long, shuddering sigh. “Listen, I’ve got to get to the ten o’clock . . .”

“And I don’t . . . kidding.”

“I know, right?” The sigh again. “Anyway, I’ll send someone to the office to move your stuff over to movies. Do you know where it is? In the Hacienda. Right across the way from us.”

“I’ve been with the network for five years, Dan. I know what’s on the other side of the fucking parking lot.” The aging, Spanish-style Hacienda Building stood across from the contemporary, three-story glass box where we were standing now. I’d often heard our building referred to as the “Entitlement Complex,” which seemed a lot funnier before I was asked to move out of it.

Movies and Minis was the only legitimate department in the Hacienda, bounced over there from their suite over here because the network hadn’t had a movie or miniseries hit for fifteen solid years. VOD, need I say more? I was being banished to the land of the dinosaurs, a window office in Jurassic Park, a development hell that still existed but from which nothing ever emerged alive. The rest of the Hacienda was an ant farm of failed, high-level network executives who now had lucrative production deals — “boy deals,” they called them, since the old boys gave them to each other after their short careers crumbled. I always figured I’d have an office there someday, and frankly I was okay with that. Just not today.

“We’ll re-assign you to a parking space in front of the Hacienda.”

“Cool.” I knew this was not so I could park closer to my new office, but because the spaces over there were smaller. I could already see the dings in the shiny silver paint on my Mercedes. “Do I . . . get to keep the plant?” The plant was a gift from Standards, grateful because I’d agreed to cut the word “balls” out of an early Bite Me script. Little did I know how quickly the network would return the favor.

“It’s . . . a little hot and dry over there for a bromeliad, Ken. But do what you think best.”

I nodded.

“It’s going to take them awhile to get you moved. Maybe you want to take the rest of the day off, and we’ll have everything ready for you tomorrow morning?”

“Sure, I’ll take the rest of the day off,” I said. “See, I’d hate to have any of your sensitive comedy writers believe that his latest script is a substantial piece of shit just because he happened to take a piss next to me in the executive men’s room.” I cocked my finger at Dan and used my thumb to fire off a fictional bullet. “Kidding again. Hey, after five years, you know me . . .”

“Hah.” Dan didn’t laugh it, just said it. “Hah. Sure, take the rest of the day off. And if don’t see you on Monday — or, you know, again, ever . . . well, take care, Kenny. I mean, that was stupid. Duh, of course I’ll see you. Oh yeah, and leave your men’s room key with my assistant, okay?” He backed out of my office so fast he ran smack into a passing mail cart.

And whether we shall meet again I know not. / Therefore our everlasting farewell take.

“Later,” I said.

I left my former office and headed for the parking lot. I paused for a second to switch from my regular glasses to sunglasses in front of the corner drugstore, located beside the soda fountain on a street of eerily regular faux cobblestones. A Wright Brothers-style bicycle shop and a peppermint-striped barber pole added to the illusion of some indefinite but comforting period in American history. All it takes is a careful camera angle to keep the shaggy sunburned palm trees, the studio commissary and gift shop, and the Bank of America ATM out of the shot. These plywood storefronts have stood in for the good old days in more TV shows and movies than I can name.

The good old days. A studio tram loaded with visitors rattled by over the cobblestones. I waved. They waved back, in case I was somebody. I took it as a good sign. It was only a matter of time before I returned to my slot as vice president of comedy development, just as soon as everyone here at the network realized what I already knew: I was fine.

I was a straight white male, thirty-six years old, right in the middle of TV’s most desirable demographic: men 18 to 49. I’m our target audience. I’d been in network television long enough to know that the demos don’t lie. But demographics did not explain why the dark gray lenses of my cool new Oakley sunglasses suddenly fogged and blurred with tears.

Since nor th’ exterior nor the inward man / Resembles that it was.

*   *   *

Reviewed by Jill Allen, Foreword Reviews — Spring 2014

Dark Lady of Hollywood
All the world’s a stage when an actress and a terminally ill TV executive meet in this biting comedy.

It takes a special kind of talent to simultaneously skewer Hollywood and Shakespeare while writing a thought-provoking novel, and Dark Lady of Hollywood proves Diane Haithman has this genius. As a former arts and entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times, Haithman’s book explores themes of the ephemeral nature of show business, a human desire to connect, and what really matters in life, while causing chuckles at the same time.

As the story opens, TV executive Ken Harrison’s life and career slide downhill fast. Demoted from his job due to the fickle whims of television ratings, he struggles to find meaning in his life while trying not to think about the aggressive form of cancer that he has which other people seem to think has taken over his life. Fate brings him together with Ophelia Lomond, a biracial thirty-two-year-old wannabe actress who finds herself in a rut. Shakespeare aficionado Ken quickly determines that Ophelia will be to him what the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was to the Bard: his inspiration. However, Ken and Ophelia have decidedly different ideas of what being a muse involves.

In a brilliant coup, the author allows Ken and Ophelia to narrate alternating chapters from the first-person point of view so that the reader gets to know each intimately. In this way, Ken becomes more than a one-dimensional cancer survivor, and Ophelia becomes more than just a biracial beauty.

Both Ophelia and Ken have wry, wise viewpoints on the entertainment industry, which will keep readers laughing along. Additionally, the pair is shrewd and intelligent. They play off each other well, making it easy to root for them and their budding relationship. One can empathize with why Ophelia would change her name and pretend she is from an imaginary island, because the author astutely shows the hoops anyone has to go through in hopes of landing the role of their dreams. It is refreshing to see someone like Ken, who, in the face of terminal illness, goes about stubbornly living his life, even when everyone around him says he’s going to die.

Furthermore, the author gently satirizes Los Angeles and the industry while making the Bard of Avon drolly relevant. She begins every chapter with an apt quote from a Shakespeare play. Anyone who appreciates comedy and either loves or disdains Tinseltown will adore this breezy, biting book.

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Paul Krugman on Oligarchy in the USA


Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Paul Krugman warns that the United States is becoming an oligarchy in his review of blockbuster Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old French economist who teaches at the Paris School of Economics.


Bill Moyers interviews Krugman about his thoughts on the bombshell book:

“Inheritors of large fortune can live very, very well, and still put a large fraction of the income from that fortune aside, and the fortune will grow faster than the economy, so the big dynastic fortunes tend to take an ever-growing share of total national wealth. So when you have a situation where the returns on capital are pretty high, and the growth rate is not that high, you have a situation in which not only can people live well off inherited wealth, but they can actually pass on to the next generation even more, an even higher share. So it’s all in his terms, r, the rate of return on capital and g, the rate of growth of the economy, and when you have a high r, low g economy, which is what we now have, then you’re talking about a situation in which dynasties come increasingly to dominate the top of the economic spectrum. A tiny fraction of the population ends up very dominant.”

Bill: “Do you agree with him that we are drifting toward oligarchy?”

Paul: “Oh yeah. I don’t see there’s any question of it.”

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Savior, by Anthony Caplan

Reviewed by Dianne Bylo, Tome Tender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Coming of Age
Audience: I see no age this would be inappropriate for
Number of Pages: 247
Available from: Amazon

In the literary world, a gem comes along that deserves to be recognized and read. Grab your sunglasses because Savior by Anthony Caplan shines it’s brilliance up there with the rarest of rare finds! Part mystery, part adventure, part psychological thriller, part coming of age, 100% amazing, a non-offensive read for any age!

Al and his son Ricky have lived under the shroud of grief since Mary’s brutal death to cancer, growing more distant, each with their own pain. In an effort to re-kindle a connection, they take a surfing vacation to Guatemala, a place Mary loved, steeped in its ancient lore, beliefs and cultures. Through an innocent purchase of an ancient tablet that reminded Ricky of his mother, father and son are catapulted into the dark world of the Santos Muertos, a cartel bent on global purification and domination. Ricky’s tablet, the Chocomal holds the final secrets that will unleash the Santos Muertos’ diabolical plan.

When Al is taken prisoner, Ricky begins a desperate search to free his father while keeping the tablet safe. Spanning from Guatemala to Canada, his journey is one that legends are made from, his experiences are epic and his ability to improvise grows exponentially. Is there a force watching over him, keeping him safe? Will he find his father before the torture and imprisonment finally end his life?

Using flashbacks and a change of POV, we are carefully guided through this tale of love and sacrifice, determination and the classic good vs evil as Young Ricky takes on a machine far bigger than he to find the father he loves and save the world from devastation and evil dominance.

What can I say, Anthony Caplan has gone above and beyond with Savior by creating a world that is chaotic, frightening, and intriguing all at once! Ricky’s character grows with each page, as you see the love he realizes he has for his father, flawed or not. Al also realizes his mistakes as a father, that he must allow Ricky to make his own way in the world, not living vicariously through his son. Both will do all in their power to save the other, at any cost. Each satellite character is well-defined, fit perfectly into this tale and sometimes provide comedic relief which allowed me to loosen the white knuckle grip I had on my Kindle. Kudos to the talent of Anthony Caplan and his magnetic style as a story teller! If you are looking for something fresh, with dark undertones, yet still filled with love and hope, this is it!

I received this ARC copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

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Exclusive Interview with the #1 Bestselling Author of ORPHAN TRAIN

by Mary Yuhas

Number one New York Times-bestselling author of five novels Christina Baker Kline has spun a tale of neglect that resonates from a forgotten corner of American history to the present day.

LitVote:   How did you come to write about the orphan trains?

Orphan Train: A Novel
Christina:  I stumbled on to the story of the orphan trains a decade ago. I was stunned to learn that more than 200,000 abandoned, neglected, or orphaned children had been sent from the East Coast to the Midwest on trains between 1854 and 1929.  The idea of writing about this little-known part of American history percolated for years. About three years ago, I found the key: an appealingly irascible 17-year-old with nothing to lose who pries the story out of a 91-year-old with a hidden past as a train rider. I read more than 300 first-person accounts and dozens of books, attended train-rider reunions, and talked with half a dozen train riders (all between the ages of 90 and 100), and conducted research in Ireland, Minnesota, Maine, and [New York City’s] Lower East Side.

LitVote: The dialogue in your books is so good.  What’s your secret to creating believable exchanges between characters?

Christina:  Dialogue is hard to get right. It has to sound like natural speech, when in fact it’s nothing like it. When you write dialogue, you have to eliminate niceties and unnecessary patter and cut to the core of the exchange — unless the patter is crucial to the story, conveying a dissembling, depressed, incoherent, or boring personality.  (The writer George Garrett called this “dovetailing.”)  At the same time, it has to sound natural, like something someone would really say.

LitVote:  How do you get into the writing mood?

Christina:  When I’m starting work on a novel I gather scraps like a magpie. (more…)

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Eileen Cronin’s memoir, Mermaid, selected for The Oprah Magazine

second eileen croninby Mary Yuhas

Interview with a woman born without legs about forging your own way

In January, 2014, WW Norton released Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience, and in February of 2014, it was in The Oprah Magazine’s “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”  It was also included on Page One in Poets & Writers.

Mermaid is about growing up in the Midwest as a middle child among eleven, with a mother who fought mental illness, while Eileen battled serious birth defects. Reviewers loved this damaged but hilarious family, and it’s a classic Irish Catholic story from the 60s.

Before Mermaid, she won the Washington Writing Prize in short fiction, and had a notable essay in Best American Essays. She published in the Washington Post and other venues. She practice clinical psychology in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

LitVote:  Did you submit your book, Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience, to The Oprah Magazine to be considered for, “10 Titles to Pick Up Now,” or did the magazine find you?

Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
Eileen:  My publicist at Norton submitted the book. The publicists submit galleys to numerous venues in anticipation of publication.

LitVote:  You faced considerable obstacles growing up. You were born without legs – one ended at the knee and one above it. Your fingers on your left hand were webbed until a plastic surgeon reshaped them. And your mother had serious mental problems. Yet, you never gave up. What influenced you to go forward?

Eileen:  I didn’t see myself as different and that may have been because my family accepted me or because they were too pre-occupied to indulge me, given that there were eleven children. (more…)

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Interview with Vera Lam, author of THE LONELY AMERICAN

Vera Lam

Vera Lam

Inspirational and unforgettable, bilingual novel depicts the American war in Vietnam as it has never been portrayed before. Vera’s novel was just released in March 2014.

LitVote:  How did you, an entrepreneur and executive in Silicon Valley, take up writing novels in the first place?

Vera: I started writing dairy when I eight or nine.  My diary was my best little friend.  I would tell her everything – when I was scared, when I was happy, when I was sad. In many ways writing was a way to channel my feelings and to record incidents that had happened in my life.  The reasons for writing The Lonely American are more or less the same.

LitVote: Was there a particular theme or question that inspired you to write your novel?

Vera: I began writing the book several months after my father died. His passing brought back memories, both happy and sad memories that I had wanted to erase from my mind. My father was a brilliant military strategist. He told us lots of war stories. That was almost all he talked about at the dinner table.

LitVote: How long did it take you to write the novel?

Vera: It took me 6 years to complete the English version of The Lonely American, and one year to translate it into traditional Chinese text.

LonelyAmericanLitVote:  The Lonely American is dedicated to your father and all the soldiers and civilians who died in the Vietnam War. Why?

Vera: The Vietnam war began in 1954 and ended in April 30 1975.  During those 20-plus years, 1.4 million soldiers  and 4 millions civilians died or wounded. I consider myself very fortunate to have survived through that horrific war.

Why I dedicate this book to my father? In my mind, my father was an unsung hero. He dedicated the best part of his life to serve his country (Taiwan) for over there decades. He placed his duties and responsibilities to his country before his own family. I think that’s quite admirable.

LitVote: How much did you know about your father’s true occupation when you were in Vietnam?

Vera: Very little. He disguised as a businessman. He travelled a lot and he had a lot of friends from foreign countries. (more…)

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Church spent $200K to put pastor’s book on bestseller list


Mark Driscoll, photo www.talormarshall.com

By  Published: Mar 7, 2014

SEATTLE  A popular local church – steeped in controversy – is once again under the microscope, following allegations the head pastor may have used church funds to promote his own book.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, leader of Mars Hill Church, reportedly used more than $200,000 to land his book on the New York Times bestseller list. The book, “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together,” appeared on the list for one week in January 2012 and then fell off the list, but Driscoll paid the six-figure sum to a California-based company to climb the charts, according to documents obtained by WORLD Magazine, a publication that covers religion.

“The idea was to make it look like all of these books were spontaneously bought by individuals,” WORLD reporter Warren Cole Smith told KOMO News. “All the major bestseller lists discourage the practice and they put safeguards in place to prevent people buying their way onto the New York Times bestseller list.” (more…)

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Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers

LaptoponvacayConference proceedings removed from subscription databases after scientist reveals that they were computer-generated.

Richard Van Noorden

25 February 2014

The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers. (more…)

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Alice in Wonderland creator loathed fame, letter reveals

Charles Dodgson

Charles Dodgson in 1885: ‘We are not all made on the same pattern.’ Photograph: SSPL/Getty Images

Charles Dodgson is known to have been a shy man, but the author of Alice in Wonderland so hated the fame his fiction brought him that he sometimes wished he “had never written any books at all”, a letter being auctioned next month shows.

The handwritten letter, which is not believed to have been published before, was sent by Dodgson to his friend Mrs Symonds in 1891. By this time, he had been known as the creator of the Alice books – which he wrote under his pseudonym Lewis Carroll – for almost 30 years; even Queen Victoria was said to be a fan. But Dodgson hated the celebrity his writing had brought him.

“All that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and treated as a ‘lion’. And I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all,” Dodgson told his friend.

The author loathed giving out his autograph; the year before he wrote to Mrs Symonds, he had The Stranger Circular printed, a letter he would send to fans seeking his autograph in which he refused to have anything to do with works he had published as Lewis Carroll. “Mr Dodgson … neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under his own name,” it ran. “Having therefore no claim to retain, or even to read the enclosed [letter], he returns it for the convenience of the writer who has thus misaddressed it.”

In his 9 November 1891 letter to Mrs Symonds, Dodgson does admit there are plenty of people “who like being looked at as a notoriety”, and many who do not understand his aversion to being stared at. But “we are not all made on the same pattern: & our likes & dislikes are very different,” he writes.

The letter is due to be auctioned at Bonhams next month, and is expected to fetch up to £4,000. The auction house said there was “no indication” that the missive had previously been published; it does not appear in Dodgson’s collected letters.

(via The Guardian)

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Anatomy of Awards

by Staff at Poets and Writers

In the six issues published in 2013, Poets & Writers Magazine’s Grants & Awards section, the editorial feature announcing both contest deadlines and recent winners, listed 862 winning poets, writers, and translators—a modest increase over the 844 who were listed in 2012.P&W

Together, the 2013 winners received a total of $8,231,160—a decrease of more than a million dollars compared with the previous year’s total. The number of winning poets and translators increased, however, with poets comprising nearly half of all prizewinners, and the number of translators more than doubling. The charts above take a closer look at the numbers behind Grants & Awards.

(via Poets & Writers)

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Memoirs written by a hired pen


© DreamersNight

This article by Emma Jacobs first appeared in the Financial Times

Ghostwriter Andrew Crofts is used to lurking in the literary shadows. If they are very lucky, ghostwriters may be acknowledged on the cover as a co-author. More often they are invisible to the reader. By the standards of most of his peers, Mr Crofts has enjoyed rare celebrity. His guide for aspiring ghostwriters was quoted in the Robert Harris thriller The Ghost, later turned into a film by Roman Polanski.

But it is low-profile work on the whole. “You know the deal of ghostwriting from day one,” he says. “You know your name won’t be on the cover. If you were a speech writer and your speech was delivered by Barack Obama and it got him into the White House, you wouldn’t [be upset].”

As Christmas approaches and booksellers prominently display this year’s batch of celebrity memoirs, the chances are that it is a ghostwriter who has turned hazy memories into eloquent sentences. Celebrity sells. In the UK, for example, the bestseller lists have been dominated by memoirs of the famous, such as the ghostwritten autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, and the life story of The Smiths’ frontman Morrissey, although the latter was written by the singer himself.

Ghostwriters such as Mr Crofts are hired by publishers to write on behalf of actors, sports personalities, politicians, chefs, pop stars, entrepreneurs or Z-list celebrities, whose memoirs are pushed on to the market before the public forgets who they are.

Why do it? One reason is money – the work can prove lucrative. Ghostwriters can make up to $300,000 a year, according to Madeleine Morel, a New York-based literary agent who specialises in representing ghostwriters. Ms Morel has match-made writers with celebrities ranging from “British royalty to Hollywood royalty”. Typically, she says, an author will make $40,000 to $70,000 a book, although a fair few will earn $100,000. (more…)

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50 Shades Tests Positive for Herpes Virus

Herpes virus

Herpes virus envelope surrounding an icosahedral capsid, © Linda M Stannard

Two Belgian professors decided to run bacteriology and toxicology tests on the 10 most popular books in the Antwerp library.

The results? All 10 had traces of cocaine, but only Fifty Shades of Grey tested positive for traces of the herpes virus.

The professors say the amount of virus found was so minimal that it poses no risk to public health — but it’s still undeniably gross, another argument for eBooks… [more Time]

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Inside a Kickstarter Crowd Funding Campaign

CrFundTempleMtHear the inside scoop on author Keith Raffel’s Kickstarter campaign for his fifth novel, currently in progress, Temple Mount. The practice of raising small amounts of capital from a large number of people to finance new business ventures started with the British rock band Marillion raising $60,000 on the Internet to finance a concert tour of the United States 15 years ago. Kickstarter, a leading crowd-funding platform, has launched 45,000 projects, involving 4.5 million investors and has raised more than $700 million. In the past year, crowd-funding platforms such as Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, and Pozible have mushroomed in the US, the United Kingdom and Australia.

LitVote: How did your Kickstarter campaign go?

Keith: Absolutely no complaints. The way Kickstarter works is you set a goal. If you make or exceed it, you get the money. If not, you get none. I set a goal of $18,000 and raised $18,746. Perfect.

LitVote: What are the pros and cons of cloud campaigning — any do’s and don’ts or grains of wisdom?

Keith: Only 2% of the money raised came through people who found the project through Kickstarter. 98% came from fans, friends, and family who heard from me or who heard from one of those fans, friends, or family members. Others may be able to tell a story on Kickstarter that will pull at the heartstrings of strangers. If you cannot, you need to have a solid base of people who are fans of your books or of you or of both to be successful… (more…)

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Book Marketing Doggy Style

Dog Sniff

photo by MFNature

This article first appeared in Book Marketing BuzzBlog

I was at the dog run with Daisy, my nearly four-year old English Bulldog.  She loves it there and I love watching her get her ya-yas out on the field of grass that’s been touched by the paws and hearts of so many jumping, running, and tail-wagging dogs.  It dawned on me that dogs can do a great job of marketing themselves.  

Perhaps authors and book publishers can learn a few things from our canine companions.  For instance:

1.      Dogs are strangers to one another but they instantly meet and greet those around them.  They fearlessly know how to work a room.  You should be just as open and free-spirited as them and just say hi to others and introduce yourself to anyone who will listen.

2.      Dogs are excellent at using body language to convey a point.  We rely so often on our words to communicate with others, but give thought to your body movements, your eye contact, your appearance, and your vibe…[more]

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The Business of Mass Incarceration

Chris Hedges holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. His recent book is Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. He is the author of the bestsellers American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

 By Chris Hedges

This article first appeared in TruthDig

Debbie Bourne, 45, was at her apartment in the Liberty Village housing projects in Plainfield, N.J., on the afternoon of April 30 when police banged on the door and pushed their way inside.


The officers ordered her, her daughter, 14, and her son, 22, who suffers from autism, to sit down and not move and then began ransacking the home. Bourne’s husband, from whom she was estranged and who was in the process of moving out, was the target of the police, who suspected him of dealing cocaine. As it turned out, the raid would cast a deep shadow over the lives of three innocents—Bourne and her children.

* * *
The murder of a teenage boy by an armed vigilante, George Zimmerman, is only one crime set within a legal and penal system that has criminalized poverty. Poor people, especially those of color, are worth nothing to corporations and private contractors if they are on the street. In jails and prisons, however, they each can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This use of the bodies of the poor to make money for corporations fuels the system of neoslavery that defines our prison system…[more]

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Spotlight on the Alternative Justice System

There is a higher probability of doing time in the ‘land of the free’ than in any other country.

On its way to becoming a prison state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. seized the center stage again when it provoked the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.


Wall Street Journal reporter and author Jess Bravin (HC ’87) highlights some of the differences between U.S. prisons and Guantanamo and discusses where to try suspected terrorists in this exclusive author interview.


Jess: There’s one tremendous difference. In U.S. prisons, people are there because they have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of years or life. At Guantanamo, as we know, almost no one there has actually been convicted of anything. They’re being held preventatively.

LitVote: Can you tell me how many are in there for no reason at all?

Jess: Sure. Well, right now there are about 166 men still held at Guantanamo Bay. Congress has imposed a lot of restrictions preventing the president from transferring people out of Guantanamo, and the United States is having difficulty finding places to send them since it won’t accept them on its own soil, so it has to try to negotiate or persuade or pay other countries to take them. Most of the prisoners cleared for release are from Yemen, and U.S. authorities believe the environment in Yemen is too unstable and risky for these men. Other detainees, such as the Uighur Muslims from China, are at risk of persecution if repatriated to their home countries. And the US Congress has imposed restrictions on the president’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo.

LitVote: How come they’re all men? US prisons are 92 percent men and 8 percent women.

Jess: … there don’t seem to be a lot of women who were involved in very high levels or involved in organizing terrorist acts or taking up arms who were fingered in this way.

LitVote: What about the people in the orange suits with the bags over their heads?

Jess: I did see in January of 2002 a military transport plane that was offloaded with detainees coming off, and they had those famous orange jumpsuits, and they were handcuffed and they had on blackout goggles and earmuffs and facemasks and gloves, basically to deprive them of most of their senses. I did not see any abuse, and my visits there have been many, but my visits at Guantanamo have all been under military escort, so I can’t see anything that they don’t choose to let me see when I’m there.

LitVote: When do you expect it to be shut down entirely?

Jess: Well, I have no information on that. The president said he was going to do it when he ran for office the first time in 2008. They recently reassigned the State Department official whose job was finding new homes for the detainees. I suppose the questions is whether President Obama wants to leave off in four years having accomplished that campaign promise from 2008 or having it be one of the things that is a mark on his report card as incomplete. (more…)

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The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment, by Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

On the road with the new generation of college activists fighting for the environment

From Rolling Stone

It’s obvious how this should end. You’ve got the richest industry on earth, fossil fuel, up against some college kids, some professors, a few environmentalists, a few brave scientists.

And it’s worse than that. The college students want their universities to divest from fossil fuel – to sell off their stock in Exxon and Shell and the rest in an effort to combat global warming. But those universities, and their boards, have deep ties to the one percent: combined, their endowments are worth $400 billion, and at Harvard, say, the five folks who run the portfolio make as much money as the entire faculty combined.


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  • Get the Buck Out with over 100 Harvard Faculty

  • Harvard_divestment_protest_1978More than 100 Harvard faculty members just co-signed a letter to the university’s president and fellows, demanding that the Harvard Corporation — which manages the 32 billion dollar educational endowment, the largest in the world — commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry. Now they need support from the climate movement. Sign the petition to support them! If Harvard does it your own alma mater may be next.

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  • What’s On Your Bookshelf?

  • Wilson & Coughlon

    Elliot A. Wilson ’15 and Sarah E. Coughlon ’15 pose with their book collections. They are good friends but like to get competitive about their reading choices. Photo by Theresa Tharakan


    Although many Harvard students find themselves too busy to read for leisure, an affirming amount of the student population collects books and reads for fun, amassing some pretty exemplary bookshelves in the process.

    Competitive Reading

    “We should probably tell her about competitive reading,” Coughlon says to Wilson. It turns out the pair’s massive collection isn’t just a hobby—it’s a full-fledged rivalry. Both friends use the website Goodreads to track what they’ve read. Wilson explains, “I’d started in high school, and was mean to Sarah freshman year about her reading habits, and it just so happened that Goodreads instituted a Challenge Yourself book-reading competition, and so we ended up not only challenging ourselves, but each other. We both read 100 or more books [that] year.” [more via The Harvard Crimson]


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  • Writing Jobs

  • The Sun is hiring

    They’re searching for an Associate Publisher to direct business operations, finance, and personnel. They also have openings for a Manuscript Editor and an Editorial Assistant.

    All three positions are full-time and based in our Chapel Hill, North Carolina, office.

    Click the job titles below for details. (No e-mails, phone calls, faxes, or surprise visits, please.)

    Associate Publisher
    Manuscript Editor
    Editorial Assistant

    More information is available at:

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  • The superstar assigns rights to his song catalog to his own NPG Music Publishing

  • prince

    Courtesy NPG Music Publishing

    Fresh from releasing “FALLINLOVE2NITE,” his latest single on Epic Records, Prince has announced that he is assigning the rights to his catalog to NPG Music Publishing, which means he will be doing it himself with the help of “some of the best talent in the industry,” according to the release.

    Prince’s last publishing deal was with Universal Music, before leaving the company several years ago. He had been inked to Kobalt Music for a label services deal but chose to release his latest single through L.A. Reid’s Epic label.

    The Grammy-winning multiplatinum icon’s songs, which he considers “fit 4 eternal publication,” includes such hits as “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “U Got the Look,” “Purple Rain” and “Diamonds and Pearls,” most of which he played at a mammoth four-hour-plus show at the Palladium in Hollywood last month. NPG Music Publishing marks the first time Prince’s publishing has been independently controlled and administered in more than 20 years.

    (via Hollywood Reporter)

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  • It’s EdEx time again

  • Principles of Written English, Part 3
    Principles of Written English
    An introduction to academic writing for English Language Learners, focusing on essay development, grammatical correctness…
    Starts: April 1, 2014 - Learn moreView All edX Courses
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  • 32 Book Awards Authors Should Pursue

  •  By Scott Lorenz

    “Do book awards matter?”  YES!!

    As a book publicist I am here to inform you that yes, they absolutely do matter! In fact, one of my clients won the prestigious Los Angeles Book Festival award. That then led to a flurry of media interest, which subsequently led to a major New York agent deciding to represent the book and pitch it to all the major publishing houses. Deals are in the offing. This author, needless to say, is happy he decided to enter.

    Pursuing and winning book awards will give you another opportunity to reach out to the media, booksellers and agents. As a book publicist I see the media perk up when an author client has received an award. It’s the added credibility that gives them the assurance that the book is worthwhile. It takes the risk out of the equation for the producer or reporter if it’s an ‘award winning’ book.

    Awards also create interest in your book, which can lead to more sales and other opportunities.  A book award may cause someone to stop in their tracks and consider picking up your book in a book store.  A book award can give you an edge and sometimes that’s all the difference you need to propel your book into bestseller territory. If you win you can say you are an “award winning author.” Doesn’t that sound better? Of course it does, and you get a little magic that comes from a third party endorsement because an authority says your work is worthy, and that’s priceless.

    Most awards charge a fee to enter. Not all awards have a category for your genre and not all of these will work for every book.

    Here’s a list of my Top 32 book awards worthy of your consideration.

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  • FacedIn?

  • LinkedIn just became more like Facebook. Now everyone can write and post articles on LinkedIn, not just well-known business names. The new strategy follows LinkedIn’s disclosure that page views slipped for the second consecutive quarter.

    Now that LinkedIn ‘Influencers’ includes all willing and able writers, the company will use algorithms to distribute the most popular articles.

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  • SelenaGraphic

    Selena, a beautiful young woman, lives with a wealthy family in Washington, D.C. 

    The family falls in love with this soulful, brilliant girl.
    Suddenly — without warning — Selena disappears. Why did she leave? Is she alive or dead?Selena — A play about sexuality, identity and choosing to follow your contract with creation.Written by Susan Rubin, Directed by Mark Bringelson
    FREE at The Road Theatre on Magnolia, Feb 17th @ 8pm, FREE
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  • E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps

  • Three in ten adults read an e-book last year; half own a tablet or e-reader


    By and

    Most American adults read a print book in the past year, even as e-reading continues to grow

    The proportion of Americans who read e-books is growing, but few have completely replaced print books for electronic versions.

    As tablet ownership grows, more use them for e-books

    The percentage of adults who read an e-book in the past year has risen to 28%, up from 23% at the end of 2012. At the same time, about seven in ten Americans reported reading a book in print, up four percentage points after a slight dip in 2012, and 14% of adults listened to an audiobook.

    Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits. Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4% of readers are “e-book only.” Audiobook listeners have the most diverse reading habits overall, while fewer print readers consume books in other formats.

    Overall, 76% of adults read a book in some format over the previous 12 months. The typical American adult read or listened to 5 books in the past year, and the average for all adults was 12 books.1 Neither the mean nor median number of books read has changed significantly over the past few years.

    More also own dedicated e-reading devices

    The January 2014 survey, conducted just after the 2013 holiday gift-giving season, produced evidence that e-book reading devices are spreading through the population. Some 42% of adults now own tablet computers, up from 34% in September. And the number of adults who own an e-book reading device like a Kindle or Nook reader jumped from 24% in September to 32% after the holidays.

    Overall, 50% of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-content. That figure has grown from 43% of adults who had either of those devices in September.

    In addition, the survey found that 92% of adults have a cell phone (including the 55% of adults who have a smartphone), and 75% have a laptop or desktop computer – figures that have not changed in significantly from our pre-holiday surveys.

    People read e-books on other devices, too

    E-book readers who own tablets or e-readers are very likely to read e-books on those devices—but those who own computers or cellphones sometimes turn to those platforms, too. And as tablet and e-reader ownership levels have risen over the past few years, these devices have become more prominent in the e-reading landscape:

    About the survey

    These findings come from a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between January 2-5, 2014. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (505, including 268 without a landline phone), and were done in English and Spanish. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

    (Via Pew Research Internet Project)

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  • For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

  • This article first appeared in the New York Times

    Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.

    That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.


    Photo: Casey Kelbaugh
    Emanuele Castano, left, and David Comer Kidd, researchers in the New School for Social Research’s psychology department.


    “This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”

    “Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries,” she added.

    The 5-Minute Empathy Workout

    Curious to see how you do on a test of emotional perception?

    The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

    The researchers, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City, recruited their subjects through that über-purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com. To find a broader pool of participants than the usual college students, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where people sign up to earn money for completing small jobs.

    People ranging in age from 18 to 75 were recruited for each of five experiments. They were paid $2 or $3 each to read for a few minutes. Some were given excerpts from award-winning literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Wendell Berry). Others were given best sellers like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” a Rosamunde Pilcher romance or a Robert Heinlein science fiction tale…[more]

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  • Two out of three

  • parvis de saint gilles


    by N.C. Hogg


    This morning past, present and hoped-for future

    did I glimpse, in crowded tramcar joined.

    Two young, heavily-beluggaged, strangers,

    Placed together by scheming gods,

    contending with each other to recount

    experiences, on the road, before the prof, of their worlds.

    He, his words strutting with wit and charm,

    Gestures well-controlled and movements careful.

    She attentive with ready question, comment and small laugh

    Then in her turn she told him of her lot

    As circus girl, aspirant clown, an acrobat

    Her last show before cheering crowds

    At this  picture conjured, his eyes grew big

    and in wonder did he smile.

    He touched her shoulder in unmistaken sign

    she reached up to put her hand on his

    in proud conquest, their worlds now one.

    Then there was me, my now was as observer,

    I saw my now hyperbolically glorious past

    when in such conceit I did delight.

    I, too, could amuse

    and generate a warm place she’d want to be

    in an, all too often, brief, yet perfect, company.

    Such chance meetings, way stations on

    a changed for-ever-path towards the future.

    Then I saw a woman of your build

    yet able to give you some twenty of her years

    Small, compact, sinewy, tough

    Ten thousand past joys and tribulations in her face

    hesitantly step on at the Parvis

    aided by a man, her similar in stature,

    her complement companion.

    Frail, slender arm about her

    re-offering the protection of a lifetime

    She muttered something I doubt he could have heard,

    his face lit up, in understanding of the deepest kind:

    her recognition of his presence as she snuggled

    deeper into his warm round

    Looking back and foward  in comfortable glow

    A continuum of the marvels in life’s rich flow.

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  • The Bubble Has Burst

  • bubble-flowerThis poem by Sarah Strange first appeared at Poet in the Woods


    The recession hits us long and hard
    Jobs lost, our spending power is halved
    Utilities that we need and use
    Skyrocket – we’ve all got the blues!
    Some social services close their doors
    And luck runs out for local stores
    We grow our veggies, make and mend
    And where possible – don’t spend.
    The hunt for jobs is fierce and long
    And to succeed you must be strong
    The level of skills is very high
    Just the cream of the crop gets by.
    So, many strike out on their own,
    With business cards and mobile ‘phone
    After wading through a paper trail
    Of tax forms, VAT,  junk mail.

    It isn’t like it used to be
    You can’t retire at fifty-three
    And enjoy two holidays a year;
    The good times simply are not there.

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  • A Moral Atmosphere: Hypocrisy redefined for the age of warming

  • By Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

    This article first appeared in Orion Magazine.


    THE LIST OF REASONS for not acting on climate change is long and ever-shifting. First it was “there’s no problem”; then it was “the problem’s so large there’s no hope.” There’s “China burns stuff too,” and “it would hurt the economy,” and, of course, “it would hurt the economy.” The excuses are getting tired, though. Post Sandy (which hurt the economy to the tune of $100 billion) and the drought ($150 billion), 74 percent of Americans have decided they’re very concerned about climate change and want something to happen… (more)
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  • Cambridge divest from fossil fuel

  • We call on the City of Cambridge Retirement System to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuelcompanies, and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years (more)

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Around Harvard

Brain Pickings

  • George Orwell’s Animal Farm Illustrated by Ralph Steadman
    "I do not wish to comment on the work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure." Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right.
  • Let your LitVote be heard!

  • Vote for your favorite books by giving them some stars: just click on the book cover and scroll down to the “Write A Customer Review” button at the bottom of the book’s Amazon page to improve their ranking.

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by Ben Mattlin (HC ’84)

    The realization came in the course of searching for a new cushion for my wheelchair.  I use a wheelchair every day, all day long, and have my whole life.  Born with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular delight, I've never stood or even tied my own shoes--but I know a thing or two about wheelchairs and have bought cushions before.  This time turned out to be a fiasco.   To be sure, I could easily have purc [...]

Yosem Companys (HKS, ’01) @Liberationtech

Liberationtech: Threat of single autonomous system to both ends of anonymous @TORProject connection greater than previously thought http://t.co/QxP3qJXWV3
13 months ago

by Teresa Hsiao (HC ’07)

  • 36 Hours in Tinder
    With a rich history dating back to September 2012, Tinder is a bucolic escape for pleasure-seekers and romantics alike. Some tourists call it a paradise; others, a place of last resort. Yet you can't truly judge Tinder until you've taken the time to explore its breathtaking scenery.

Sheila Connolly (GSA ’79) – Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  • Simply the Best
    by Sheila Connolly Here at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen we write about food, because we enjoy cooking and we hope that [...]

Tweets From Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

billmckibben: After last year's drought, this year's floods plaguing Midwest farms: too wet to plant http://t.co/DokC5PkBQK
10 months ago