May 7, 2013

Ghost Burglar Wins IPPY

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:13 pm by The Word Jar

Ghost BurglarWay back last year before my blogging hiatus, I posted about Ghost Burglar: The True Story of Bernard Welch – Master Thief, Ruthless Con Man, and Cold-Blooded Killer by Jack Burch and James King. Well, we just found out that Ghost Burglar has won the bronze medal in the True Crime category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards (or IPPYs, as they are known in the industry).

According to the IPPY website, “[t]he Independent Publisher Book Awards were conceived in 1996 as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles produced each year, and reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.”

So, I offer a grand huzzah to the authors. Their hard work paid off. As any writer knows, writing is such a solitary endeavor (even with co-authors), and it’s nice to receive recognition from the outside world for your effort. And now they get to go to NYC for the awards ceremony and cruise around BookExpo America. Color me jealous!

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May 3, 2012

My (Editing) Mark on True Crime

Posted in Publishing tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:55 pm by The Word Jar

I love true crime books. It’s really a strange fascination, to love true crime books. They aren’t written as instruction manuals. If you read The Stranger Beside Me, it’s not likely to keep you from falling into the clutches of the next Ted Bundy. I guess it’s a voyeuristic venture. Peering into the minds and lives of those who are so utterly different than who I am. Unless I become an unfortunate victim, I doubt I’ll be written about in a true crime book. I don’t even eat grapes at the grocery store.

But, I will be leaving my mark on a true crime book. I’m currently editing Ghost Burglar: The True Story of Bernard Welch—Master Thief, Ruthless Con Man, and Cold-Blooded Killer by Jack Burch and James King. Ghost Burglar chronicles the life and crimes of Bernard C. Welch, who stole millions of dollars of goods from the elite in Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s. Co-author James King lends an insider’s knowledge to the book, as he was one of the detectives hunting Welch at that time. He was the first to identify Welch as the suspect, even as police struggled to locate and apprehend him. Welch was finally arrested on December 5, 1980, after murdering Dr. Michael Halberstam (brother of author and journalist David Halberstam) in a botched burglary. Even though he had been shot multiple times, Halberstam ran over the fleeing Welch with his car on his way to the hospital. And as if being a thief and murderer wasn’t enough, Welch also successfully (for a time) escaped from prison twice.

It’s been a fascinating experience to edit a true crime book. The authors did a wonderful job with the writing. The majority of the work I’ve done is to structure the book so that it flows smoothly, weaving between Welch’s lavish life on the lam and the police desperately pursuing him.

Ghost Burglar is also my first attempt at being more than just an editor. I’ve been put into a sort of publishing coordinator role for this bookcreating the publishing schedule, designing marketing materials, setting up a blog, creating and sending out ARCs, as well as trying to gather reviews. As the editing process winds down now, Ghost Burglar will go for layout and design next week, and then ARC distribution will soon follow. It’s off to the printer in June and into bookstores in September.

If you’d like to review Ghost Burglar, let me know. I’d love to hear what you have to say. I’ll have a few ARCs to distribute here, and I’m also trying to set up a giveaway through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

Check back soon for more Ghost Burglar updates!

June 7, 2011

Teaser Tuesday June 7: Half a Life by Darin Strauss

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 9:50 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

Hundreds turned, a mass, bovine shift: this was the school’s first sanctioned, public mention of Celine in front of me. How would I react? Warm-faced, I focused hard on my thighs.

A change of pace from the books I’ve been reading recently, Half a Life by Darin Strauss is a memoir. When he was eighteen, Strauss accidentally hit a bicycling classmate with his car and killed her. He describes what he went through in the aftermath of the accident, and how this event–especially how he is declared “blameless”–affected his life and still affects it today.

I’m waffling on this book. At times I find it heartbreaking, what everyone–Strauss, his parents, Celine’s parents–are going through. At the same time, it all has a sort of self-indulgent (and I hate to use that word, but I can’t think of anything more appropriate right now) feel, like all of this should be journaled or part of a private therapy session. I kind of feel like a creepy voyeur.

But I know that many memoirs like this can help others who have gone through similar situations. Strauss mentions that he never had anyone to talk with about the accident, as he didn’t know anyone who had gone through this as well. So he kept the accident a secret and tried to deal with it himself after he left his hometown to go to college.

Half a Life is a slim volume, probably a few hours’ read, tops. I should finish it soon, and I do hope that Strauss is able to find some peace for himself by the end.

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

May 23, 2011

Book Review: S’Mother by Adam Chester

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , at 10:08 am by The Word Jar

When Adam Chester left his mother in Florida to attend the University of Southern California, he intended to leave all traces of his mother behind. He would finally be free of the woman who’d bring his forgotten sweater to him while he was still changing in the boys’ locker room. But Joan Chester would not be left behind. Not while her son needed her protection. And so she began to send him letters. Lots of letters. And Adam kept every one. Now he gets to exact his embarrassment revenge in the appropriately titled S’Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed Him, a collection of the best Joan Chester letters he received.

Joan Chester did not send run-of-the-mill “How’s college? Miss you lots!” letters. These missives were filled with such sage advice as “[I]f you buy U.S. Savings Bonds, you have to keep them in a safe deposit box at the bank so no one can steal them” and “Have a good time next weekend and take your stomach medication with you in case you eat onions again.” Valuable life lessons. But this correspondence was not all fun and games for Joan. She repeatedly reminds Adam—as she’s “getting on in years”—where her will and insurance policies are located if he should ever need to find them.

The letters continue throughout Adam’s adult life—after graduation, after he meets his wife, after he’s hired as an Elton John stand-in. The short collection highlighted in S’Mother jumps from letter to letter with only the shortest setup or reaction from Adam. While the letters (some complete with reproductions) are highly entertaining, this quick read could have easily fit in more backstory without slowing down the pace.

Chester freely admits that this book was meant to help readers feel better about their moms, but he has a genuine gift in all this material. For all of her mundane and inane information, Joan has provided her son with a tangible stash of motherly love. In this age of trite texts and tweets, a whole generation is growing up not knowing the joy of opening the mail box to find not only bills and solicitations, but also handwritten letters. That you can keep. Without the fear of losing them if your computer crashes or your phone ends up in the pool. Chester wrote and compiled this book for the entertainment of others, and perhaps to poke a little fun at his mom, but I’d also bet he realizes just how lucky he is.

Joan Chester may not win any Mother of the Year awards, but she can’t be accused of not caring about her son. She practically wrote a book for him. Adam cashed in on this valuable material in S’Mother and so does the reader.

(Review copy source: Abrams via NetGalley)

April 12, 2010

A Literary Workout Before Beach Read Season

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , at 2:42 pm by The Word Jar

Summer beach read season is just around the corner. Before you gorge yourself on those trashy romance novels, try a diet of lean, mean literary greatness.  Add one (or two) of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winners to your reading plate. (Even if you don’t feel like actually reading one, you can always make yourself look more literary, and feel less guilty, by hiding your real beach read between the covers.)

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists

Fiction Winner
Tinkers by Paul Harding

Fiction Finalists
Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

General Nonfiction Winner
The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman

General Nonfiction Finalists
How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy
The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

History Winner
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

History Finalists
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City
by Greg Grandin
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
by Gordon S. Wood

Biography Winner
 The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles

Biography Finalists
Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey
Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper Jr.

Poetry Winner
Versed by Rae Armantrout

Poetry Finalists
Tryst by Angie Estes
Inseminating the Elephant by Lucia Perillo

Find the complete list of Pulitzer Prize winners here.

April 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: April 7

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , at 9:33 am by The Word Jar

Teaser TuesdaysTeaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser this week comes from When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

Someone says this, and you naturally look down, or at least I do. The woman’s feet were tiny, no longer than hot dog buns.

I wish someone had sat me down earlier to tell me how funny David Sedaris is. I could have been enjoying his work so long ago! So many laugh-out-loud moments. Now I guess I have that many more books to look forward to!

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

February 18, 2009

Book Talk: Book Snobbery (or Are Graphic Novels Really Novels?)

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 8:00 pm by The Word Jar

I’ll admit it. I was a book snob. For so long I looked down my oh-so-refined literary nose at *those* things. You know what I’m talking about. Those books with all the cartoons in them. That’s right, graphic novels.

I couldn’t possibly understand how a novel could consist of so few words, and quite frankly, I thought I’d outgrown picture books in elementary school. I figured graphic novels were all “Pow” and “Zounds” like the superheroes or lame humor like Archie. Oh, how wrong I was.

I had my mind changed about graphic novels when I became a faithful reader of Pop Candy. I initially found this blog while searching for a good Lost discussion, but I stuck around for all the other worthwhile pop culture tidbits wonderful Whitney brings to my attention. As a big fan of graphic novels, she compiled an extensive list of graphic novels that would be good for first-timers to read. She even included a “For Fans Of” reference for each book, so you can see which graphic novel would suit you according to your other pop culture interests.

I started with The Complete Persepolis. I was interested in the story about the girl who grew up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. I love history, but sometimes I just can’t slog my way through history books, try as I might. It was my hope that the graphic novel format would hold my attention better than a traditional book on this subject. So far, so good.

To my surprise, I quickly grew attached to the narrator who is growing up in a new world she doesn’t fully understand (Why does she suddenly have to wear a veil to school? Why does the family have to keep their curtains drawn?) but desperately tries to. I feel I have the same emotional attachment to her that I would if this were a traditional book, if not stronger. And I guess that’s what it comes down to for me. As long as the format can provide storytelling that gets me emotionally involved in the characters, that’s enough for me.

And when you can blow through the pages so quickly, that doesn’t hurt either.

February 8, 2009

Book Review: How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , at 1:46 pm by The Word Jar

How Not to Write a NovelHaving trouble writing your novel? Are you drowning in rejection notices from agents and publishers? Maybe the book you should have written is How Not to Write a Novel. Too late now. Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman beat you to it.

Endless books and classes tout strategies and exercises to help writers with everything from developing plots to curing writer’s block. But these authors and instructors don’t realize it can sometimes be just as useful to know what not to do. Mittelmark and Newman have blessed the writing world with just such a tool. Culling tips from their own experiences as both writer and editor, they offer 200 “observations” that, if heeded, will guarantee your manuscript never sees the inside of a bookstore (unless you smuggle it in while browsing for real books).

No element is left out of How Not to Write a Novel. Plot, character, style, setting, and theme all get the unroyal treatment. Although little attention is paid to how writers can remedy the missteps discussed, the authors graciously offer examples (which they seem to have taken great pleasure in writing) to illustrate their points. These excerpts provide humorous running stories throughout the book, and the reader can only hope the authors have greatly exaggerated any material that might actually have crossed their desks.

This book is a must-read for both writers and book editors. Writers may recognize some of their own earnest, yet misguided, attempts at novel writing. Book editors will give a knowing chuckle, while kicking themselves for not writing this book first.

(Review copy source: Public Library)