"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

I came across this book in Target last week, attracted by the cover design and title, the description made me curious.
Erin Morgenstern has succeeded in providing readers with a beautiful tale that is both as magical and enchanting as her circus. I enjoyed this book. This historical story proved intriguing, captivating, and the descriptions of the circus itself are amazingly beautiful.
However, the main characters don’t even have much interaction for nearly 300 pages. Their interaction consists of manipulations of the circus itself, not each other. While this is appropriate to the purpose of the story, I would have loved to see more interaction directly between Celia and Marco, especially toward the end of the tale.
Morgenstern did a wonderful job of jumping around in time and keeping my interest. The characters were believable and engaging, and the setting beyond compare. Motives and sequence remained clear for me, but something was still missing. I expected a bigger bang at the end and I felt let down.
I’m still glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone.
Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Western Roundup Winner!

And the winner of my Western Roundup Giveaway is....

David Posser - Elmore Leonard collection.

Congratulations David! I'll be in contact soon.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and left a comment. I look forward to visiting and reading more from my new followers. HAPPY WRITING!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Western Roundup Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Western Roundup Giveaway Hop! More than 20 blogs have teamed up to give away books with a western flair. To see what the others are giving away, please visit: http://mkmcclintock.blogspot.com/2012/05/western-roundup-giveaway-hop.html

And the winner is.... here.
For a free western read, check out my short story Broken Angel.

I am giving away one of the following:

1.      You don’t have to be a follower to enter, but it would be nice.
2.      Leave a comment below telling me which book you want to win, if you prefer print or ebook format AND your email.
3.      If I reach 750 followers I will give away one of EACH - so spread the word!
4.      Winner(s) will be drawn and announced on July 27, 2012.
For more free western reads: http://www.ropeandwire.com/

Monday, July 16, 2012

5 of the Worst Author Traits

1. Bad-Mouthing – Whether it’s the agent, editor, publisher, or publishing in general, this is one trait that can damage a writers career. What most authors don't understand is that the squeaky wheel does not get the grease. A company may only publish 10 books a year, and everyone -- publicist, copywriter, editor -- makes decisions regarding how they are going to spend their time and money. With so many choices, they WILL NOT back someone with a bad, ungracious, or unprofessional attitude.

2. Shyness – Most writers are solitary creatures who struggle with placing themselves at the center of attention. The industry needs an author who is going to be out there acting as an advocate for his/her book both online and in person. A publicist can get reviews for your book if you're not good with strangers, but you still need to be active on listservs, at conventions, and so forth. They want to know you can help sell your product.

3. Arrogance- Authors who talk about themselves incessantly can be a turn off. When pitching an idea, or making industry connections be sure to start with conversation "How are you?", "What are you reading these days?", "Can you give me a sense of what you like and dislike?" etc. It won't hurt to ask them where they live or how many kids they have, instead of just telling them about your manuscript and how fabulous it is.

4. Adversarial or Lying – Editors and agents will walk away from contracts with authors who decide to play hard ball or who outright lie. There are too many good books in the world to deal with such nonsense. Remember, they are signing someone they hope to work with for years if not decades. Why would they want to sign someone who's going to make them miserable for that length of time? And never forget editors, agent, publishers all know each other and talk. So if you burn bridges with one, the word will spread and you could potentially burn ALL bridges. 

5. Obligation – Writers mistake obligations. First, you have an obligation to meet all deadlines and any other promises made to your agents, editors, and publishers. If there is a problem doing so, keep in touch with them and let them know what is happening or why BEFORE the deadline, not after. Subsequently, don't mistake a publisher’s obligation. It is NOT to publish everything that's submitted. Just because they published one piece by you does not mean they will automatically publish everything you submit. If anything, they may actually hold writers to HIGHER standard with each subsequent work.

Friday, July 13, 2012

10 Reading Venues Worth a Visit

1. Vancouver Public Library (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

The beginnings of the Vancouver Public Library date back to the beginnings of Vancouver as a whole, back in 1867. This year marked the construction of the area’s first sawmill, the Hastings Mill. Over the years, the area around the Hastings Mills became the location of the Hastings Literary Institute. A Central Library was constructed at 750 Burrard Street. This building, however, became outdated and overcrowded, and eventually led to the creation of the Library Square, a new central library. Architects Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault and Barry Downs won the design competition for the new library, which was opened in 1995. Today, the Vancouver Public Library, which includes the Library Square, is the third largest public library system in Canada. It has over 373,000 cardholders, who borrow more than 9 million items annually. Vancouver Public Library is accessible to all citizens of Vancouver and moreover, has an extensive virtual library collection. You can find information on visiting the Central Library, including opening hours, here.

2. Royal Danish Library (Copenhagen, Denmark)

The Royal Library in Copenhagen is the largest library in the Nordic countries. It serves both as the national library of Denmark, as well as the university library of the University of Copenhagen. Its collection includes various historical treasures. To be exact, all the books that have been printed in Denmark since the 17th century are archived here. The first Danish book, which dates back to 1482, is also deposited here. In 1906, Hans Jorgen Holm constructed the first building, located at the Slotsholmen site. This building’s central hall is a copy of the Charlemagne’s Palace chaped in the Aachen Cathedral. The newer building (pictured above and located adjacent to the old one) is called the Black Diamond. It was designed by Danish architects by Schmidt hammer lassen. It holds the name of “Black Diamond” because of its outside cover of black marble and glass. In addition, it is worth noting that it contains a concert hall in addition to the library, both of which are open for visits.

3. Austrian National Library (Vienna, Austria)

The Austrian National Library is the central academic library of the Republic of Austria, and as such, spans a rich history and tradition that dates back all the way to the 14th century. Its mission is to serve as a “centre of information and research oriented toward serving the public, as an outstanding national memory institution and as a many-side centre of education and culture.” The part especially worth visiting is the Baroque State Hall, which prides itself as being one of the world’s most beautiful historic libraries. It was Emperor Charles VI who ordered it to be constructed as his Court Library. Architect Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach planned its construction, and it was built from 1723 to 1726 by his son Joseph Emanuel. Court painted Daniel Gran, in turn, can be thanked for the beautiful ceiling frescoes. Admission prices and opening hours of the State Hall are listed here.

4. National Library Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)

 The National Library of Singapore dates back to 1823. At that time, it was very much linked to the founding of Singapore’s first major educational institution, The Singapore Institution. Much time has passed since then, and this institution is now known as the Raffles Institution. The National Library, too, has undergone great evolution; at the beginning it only served the needs of a privileged few but nowadays it is aimed at reaching out towards all Singaporeans. The National Library Building houses the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library and the Central Public Library. Opening hours are listed here.

5. Law Library of the University of Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)

Some libraries are known for the great architects that built them. The Law Library of the University of Zurich is one of them. It carries the famous name of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has his main office in Zurich. The library was opened in 2004, after 15 years of planning and construction. The original building dates back to 1908, and Calatrava’s extended version cannot actually be seen from the street. The library’s collection itself holds about 170,000 books and 700 magazines.

6. Great Court and Reading Room, British Museum (London, United Kingdom)

If Calatrava is the name associated with the Law Library of the University of Zurich, the architect that made the Great Court famous is Norman Foster. He and his team of architects transformed the British Museum’s inner courtyard into the largest covered public square in Europe. Enclosed by a spectacular glass roof, we find the world-famous Reading Room at its centre. Since the Reading Room is officially part of the Museum, it is open for visits. You can find opening hours and admission prices here.

7. Philological Library of the Free University (Berlin, Germany)

The Philological Library of the Free University in Berlin is another work of Foster and Partners. Since the end of World War II, the Free University has been not only of the city’s symbolically most important institutions, but also one of the leading universities in Germany as a whole. It occupies a central role in the capital’s intellectual life. Its redevelopment, in turn, includes the restoraction of the university’s Modernist buildings and the construction of the new Philology Library, which was built from 1997 to 2005.

8. Lello Bookshop (Porto, Portugal)

A bookshop is not a library per se, but it certainly qualifies as a place where books are stored (and sold). The Lello Bookshop, called Livraria Lello in Portuguese, is notorious for its windy staircase and vibrant pink color. It was built in 1906 by an engineering professor, Xavier Esteves. Packed with old and new books, it provides a wonderful experience for book lovers and architecture aficionados alike.

9. Bibliothèque Nacionale de France (Paris, France)

National libraries are national landmarks. In France, the National Library is located in the capital: Paris. Its origins trace back to the royal library founded at the Louvre by Charles V in 1368. In 1998, the French president Francois Mitterand ordered the construction of a new building, which contains more than ten million volumes. An exhibition space is also part of the new building.

10. Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

The National Library of Spain didn’t always carry the name of National Library. It was founded by Felipe V at the end of 1711 and opened its doors in March of 1712 as the “royal public library.” In 1836, it passed from being royal property to belonging to the government, and then, first became known as the National Library of all of Spain. As is the case with the national library in Paris, this building is also an exhibition space and houses temporary exhibitions that are open to all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

7 Literary Locations to Visit With Kids

These seven literary locations introduce kids to some classics and may help them find new favorites.

1. The Edward Gorey House, Yarmouthport, Massachusetts

Few kids are aware of Edward Gorey’s work, but they should be. Long before A Series of Unfortunate Events became a phenomena, Gorey wrote and illustrated The Gashleycrumb Tinies, An Appalling Alphabet Which Introduces A Gallery Of Enchanting Tots And Produces A Gasp Of Involuntary Mirth When They Attain Their Dreadful Demise. Creepy and funny, it’s everything kids love most. Gorey’s house is a delightful glimpse into his whimsical, macabre imagination.


2. Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

Over 100 years since Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables came out, the book continues to win new generations of fans around the world. The book is so popular in Japan that the historic site on Montgomery’s old stomping grounds has become a destination wedding site for Japanese couples. Green Gables, home of Montgomery’s relatives, demonstrates what life was like during the times in the Anne books. The site holds a children’s festival every August.


3. Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, Missouri

At age 65, Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing the Little House on the Prairie books at Rocky Ridge Farm, the place where she finally settled after many moves in her pioneer youth. The site features many of Wilder’s possessions and photos. You can also visit the Ingalls family dugout site in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr, Iowa, where the family lived after the “Plum Creek” period.

4. Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen, California

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Sea Wolf have all the elements that keep kids turning the pages, even a century after they were written. London’s own life was full of adventure and intrigue, too, and kids can learn about it on the ranch he called home. While many of the buildings are in ruins (and fun to climb on!), the House of the Happy Walls, built by London’s widow, is now a museum that highlights the author’s life. The ranch also includes London’s “pig palace,” hiking trails, and gravesite, making it a perfect afternoon trip that combines history, literature, and the outdoors.

5. The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London, England

With wax figures of Holmes and Watson and Victorian furnishings, the Sherlock Holmes Museum recreates the fictional world of the famous detective rather than the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who created him. It’s a fun introduction to the books for kids who may not yet be fans.

6. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to James and the Giant Peach to The Witches and Matilda, Roald Dahl’s stories are known around the world and loved fanatically by kids of all ages (and grownups, too). Younger kids especially will love the hands-on activities and walk-in giant peach at the Roald Dahl Museum, and older ones will enjoy learning about their favorite author’s life.

7. Moomin World, Naantali, Finland

You’d be hard pressed to find a Scandinavian under the age of 50 didn’t grow up reading and loving the Moomin books by Tove Jansson. While they have more of a cult following in the US, the hippo-like family of trolls are huge in Northern Europe and Japan, and are national icons in their native Finland, where they’re celebrated at the literary theme park, Moomin World in Naantali. The Moomin World park features a recreation of the Moomin’s beloved Moomin Valley and roaming costumed characters.

What authors would your kids love to learn more about?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Five Writers’ Homes for Literary Vacations

I've been enjoying some vacation and travel time with friends and family. I'm also planning several future vacations. I'm trying to squeeze as much travel time as possible in before school starts.

I know many of you are planning vacations as well. If you’ve ever wanted to be inspired by the same views your favorite authors enjoyed as they created classic works of literature, try these. Not every famous writer’s home has been preserved, but the following are five ideas for literary-themed vacations in the United States and across the pond:

1 – Louisa May Alcott: Concord, Massachusetts

In humble Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott quietly created one of the most beloved novels in American literature, Little Women. She based the main characters on herself and her sisters and the March family home on this boxy house on Lexington Road; indeed, no major structural changes have altered the appearance of the house since the Alcotts lived there from 1858 to 1877. Now the house is full of original family possessions and mementos such as the family china in the dining room where the Alcotts enjoyed vegetarian meals and discussed women’s suffrage, paintings by Louisa’s sister May in Louisa’s bedroom chamber where she wrote at a half-moon desk built by her father between the windows, and family portraits on the wall of the parlor where guests sat to watch as the sisters performed theatrical productions. The kitchen also holds many pieces original to the house, including a soapstone sink, a hot water reservoir, a mortar and pestle, and wooden bowls.

2 – The Brontë Sisters: Haworth, England

In just one stop in Yorkshire, you can see the old stomping grounds of three of the most celebrated 19th century authors of British literature. Charlotte, Emily, and Ann Brontë (writing as Currier, Ellis, and Acton Bell) composed beloved novels like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall at the dining table, which you can still see at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on Church Street in Haworth. Much of the original furniture, family photographs, letters, and the sisters’ manuscripts adorn the modest house, and be sure to venture a bit away from Haworth, as well, and you’ll find yourself in the haunting moors made famous by Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights. As of February 1, 2009, the grounds will also feature a permanent exhibition on the Brontës’ lives and works and will also include interactive activities for children.

3 – Ernest Hemingway: Key West, Florida

Ernest “Papa” Hemingway is one of America’s most admired and fascinating authors—and the Spanish Colonial home where he lived and wrote for 10 years in Key West holds just as much intrigue as the writer himself.  His writing studio, converted from a carriage house, remains today as it was when he was writing novels For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and Have Not and short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” complete with a Cuban cigar-maker’s chair and Royal typewriter; the entire property is dotted with international accents from Portuguese and Spanish tiles to a hand-blown glass chandelier from Murano, Italy outside of Venice. Also be sure to stop and pet the 60 or so cats that roam the grounds, most descendants of Papa’s six-toed cat that had been the gift of a sea captain passing through the Keys; you might find them gathered at the cat drinking fountain, fashioned from an old Spanish olive jar from Cuba and a urinal from a local bar adorned with decorative tile.

4 – William Shakespeare: Stratford-upon-Avon, England

Although he passed away hundreds of years ago, the world’s most famous playwright lives on in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was formed in 1847 when it bought William Shakespeare’s childhood home; it then snatched up four other houses closely related to Shakespeare’s life and also takes care of the Harvard House, home of The British Museum of Pewter. In Stratford, founded in 1200, you can walk through Shakespeare’s home as it might have looked when he was just a boy drawing inspiration from the world around him; Tudor artifacts abound as well as priceless First Folio editions of his plays. Other properties run by the Trust in the charming English village include Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife; Hall’s Croft, the house of Shakespeare’s daughter; and Mary Arden’s House, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, which provides an excellent taste of rural life in the English countryside.  While you are there, visit the rebuilt Globe Theater.

5 – Mark Twain: Hannibal, Missouri

One of America’s greatest authors, Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Hannibal, Missouri—the town on the Mississippi River that inspired Twain throughout The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now the town honors him with The Mark Twain Museum, a collection of eight buildings, each an important part of Twain’s early life and six of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. If it wasn’t marked as such, you might walk by Twain’s small frame house at 208 Hill Street, which has been recreated with period furniture in each room, but it’s hard to miss the more lavish Hawkins house across the street, where Laura, the inspiration for Becky Thatcher, lived. Indeed, walking through Hannibal is a true stroll through the life of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and you can also see many Twain artifacts like one of his famous white jackets, his writing desk, chair, typewriter, and first editions of his major works. Just be forewarned: you might be tempted to find a raft and float down the Mississippi for the rest of your vacation.

Do you have any literary vacation suggestions? How are you spending your holiday/vacation time this year?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

In honor of America's celebration of Indepedence, try a writing exercise using some or all of the words on this patriotic list!

America, United States, Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Philadelphia, independence, July, fourth, holiday, republic, democracy, land, country, nation, states, thirteen, original colonies, government, citizen, patriot, freedom, history, liberty, ideals, truth, beliefs, justice, heart, foundation, war, revolution, battle, army, soldier, veteran, musket, gun, fight, Yankee Doodle, red, white, blue, statue, monument, band, banner, bunting, balloons, confetti, parade, grand marshal, flag, stars, stripes, fly, wave, snap pledge, salute, patriotic, loyal, free, brave, proud, grand, honor, defend, respect, march, cheer, clap, celebration, speech, poem, national anthem, song, hymn, play, baseball game, fans, stands, Fireworks, display, show, firecracker, sparkler, ground flower, pinwheel, Roman candle, rocket, skyrocket, flare, fountain, black snake, explode, pop, bang, hiss, sputter, burst, twinkle, sparkle.