Friday

13 Ultra-Creepy Books To Avoid Before Bedtime



by:  
Author, 'A Different Bed Every Time'




Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Let's kick off this list with the trilogy of books I've revisited most in my life, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Sadly, these books have been re-released without the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell, but enough copies of this edition existed that you can still regularly find them in used book shops, and don't compromise: it's those illustrations that make these stories come alive. These books kept me up when I was eight years old, and still do now,. The best tale by far, "Maybe You Will Remember," is featured in the third volume. Based on the reportedly true story of a hotel covering up an outbreak of the plague by hiding a body and lying to the deceased's relative, I was especially enamored of the endnotes which explained the "facts" behind the story and made the whole volume seem verifiable and plausible. I like an element of truth to my horror.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich
This book is an onslaught of vivid imagery and ambivalent, yearning horror. I lose the details of plot rather easily, but remember the way a book made me feel. The Orange Eats Creeps haunts me with a manic, trapped feeling, crushed and frantic. Like a hawk stuck in a canary cage. My mind still fixes on the image of a young woman sleeping on the floor of a convenience store, enough so that I can't rediscover her in a nightmare, but am instead stuck awake and dreaming of her.

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl
Let's take a moment to acknowledge what a sick lunatic Roald Dahl was. Let's put aside, for a moment, the fact that he was a horribly mean person: insulting and bullying those nearest and dearest to him. Forget even the children's books despite their genius ability to pull out that wicked streak and imbue it with delight and moral import. Instead, let's imagine that Dahl had been delivered his due as a master of the macabre in adult literature. I dare you to pick up this collection and begin reading, "Man from the South," and dream of putting the book down before finishing it.

Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz
Say you decide to bike across the country one summer with your college roommate and, one night, while camping, a pick-up truck levels your tent (with you in it), and then the driver gets out and attacks you and your roommate with an axe. Miraculously, you both survive, but no one is ever arrested or tried for this horrific crime. You go on with your life and fifteen years later you decide to look for an answer. When you return to the scene of the crime, everyone in the small town knows who it is that did it, and the fear of this criminal is only trumped by the terror at everyone who stood by and allowed it to happen.

Hell by Kathryn Davis
Holy god, this masterpiece needs more people talking about it. Three homes exist in the same house simultaneously, each one haunting the other two equally. The dog of a 1950s house barks in the ears of the figures in a dollhouse. A young anorexic girl wonders why the community is blaming the stand-off-ish neighbor for the murder of her friend, while, in another era, an expert on domesticity tried to forget her daughter wasting away in the next room. This book pushes the limits of narrative layering to such an extreme it can be hard to parse which story a sentence or even clause is adding to, but it's this compounding that makes the story such an eerie amalgam.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I know. You were forced to read it twelve times between high school and college, and that's a shame because you analyzed it to death, but take a break and revisit it, perhaps especially after you've had a crisis where you wonder how much of your misery is of your own making and how much is the world working against you. Then, return to that attic room and take a peek behind the wallpaper again.

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville
I'm including this book mostly for the final novella in this collection, "The Machine of Understanding Other People." It is both my sincerest hope and greatest fear that I might truly understand others consistently and well, and this story serves up a helmet that allows the person wearing it to do just that. It's a story with an immense amount of heart and warmth, but also a paralyzing sadness that pulls me back to consider its implications regularly.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Please don't bother with the movies -- Swedish or English. Read the book. It is so much fuller and smarter and more vividly told. You're allowed more fear and imagination and beauty and grief. I can be less keen on stories centering around solidly fantastic beings and creatures, like zombies or vampires or mummies, but the humanity is so plain and affecting here, even skeptics will get invested.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Link's story "Stone Animals" is one of the scariest I've ever read ever. Ever. Someone make a movie of "Stone Animals." Do it, and do it right, please. In a gentle and evenly paced way, show how every detail of one's wildest dreams can come true and then fossilize before your very eyes. Take all the Technicolor away, and show the world in its greyed out mourning.

Nylund the Sarcographer by Joyelle McSweeney
Is there anything better than a detective haunted by his own demons as he investigates a case? McSweeney dresses up this story to the nines with language thicker than poetry and philosophy that cuts much deeper than the surfaces the protagonist is focused on in this exquisite noir: "The Grandson walks a beat before, and as he passes under the brainpan of each streetlamp his silver hair lights like a fuse or like a pyramid of powder like a roomful of gas going up. They work down the long street: whump, whump, whump."  

The Museum of Dr. Moses by Joyce Carol Oates
Are you the type that was floored by "Where are you Going, Where Have you Been?" a long while ago and you've been looking for that perfect balance of muted horror from her ever since? You're in luck, there's a collection just of her most mysterious and suspenseful stories. Who knew a random stranger saying hello could be so terrifying? Or that it would be so hard to prove your morals when trying to navigate the mind games of your junky son? I haven't read much Oates, but this book made me think I may be making a big mistake.

Something in the Potato Room by Heather Cousins
A poetry book that keeps you awake: now that's something! But what is the "something" in the potato room? You'll find out, but that won't be the end of it. The book thrums, like a steady pulse, a shadow behind every heartbeat.  

One D.O.A. One on the Way By Mary Robison
If I were putting together one of those invite-any-five-living-people-to-dinner parties, I wouldn't invite Mary Robison because she most certainly would be sharper and wittier and prettier than me, and I'd end up in the kitchen, shedding tears into the dishwater while I listened to the other guests lose it with laughter. I love all of Robison's work, but this one has the sinister feel of staring at the writing on the wall and living with the threat of that impending doom. Can we all agree that anticipating a catastrophe is far worse than the catastrophe itself? Try going to sleep while waiting for that other shoe to drop.

Keep reading here.

Thursday

Missing You by Harlan Coben Book Review and Some Critical Elements




Missing You 
by Harlan Coben 
(Dutton/Penguin Books 2014)

            Harlan Coben’s most recent story is masterful, as always. The path of Kat, the detective protagonist, to solve a perplexing disappearance of a mother (brought to Kat’s attention by the missing woman’s son) is quite an adventure. At the same time, Kat is, oddly enough, connected to her long lost love, who disappeared almost 20 years earlier. In the end, the sleuth discovers an ingenious crime spree developed by a longtime pimp to earn more money in the internet age from those seeking love connection on-line.

I am an aspiring thriller writer. I find it instructive to synthesize the critical elements of the work of the masters of our craft in the hope of finding keys for my own success one day. In this quest, I have identified elements that I believe to be critical for such success (for me or, probably, a writer in any genre though my focus is on thrillers in their broad scope), as follows:

1.         Readable Style: regardless of the presence of other elements, the story must be
easily read and digested. If it is dense, hard to follow, scattered, or otherwise not readily readable, it is not likely to succeed. Harland Coben gets an A+ in this category, perhaps the best in the business.

One endearing element of Coben’s style is an often almost conversation dialogue as if he is narrating a story in his own words. This is certainly an element of creating an easily readable style.
           
2.         Early Hooking: the reader needs to be hooked by about the first 10% of the story,
when the elements should have been established. In Missing You, it took longer for the hook to set, but once it did it was off to the races.

3.         Sympathetic Characters: readers want and need to be able to identify with the
lead character or characters in the story. Kat could be any of us, as could the victims of the ultimate crime spree. Heroism is found in many of the characters.

            4.         Plot: the story needs to be intriguing in and of itself. As noted, the storyline of
Missing You is clever and engaging

5.         Engaging: these elements need to be connected in a manner to make a
page-turning bestseller. √. Fear Nothing is a great story, well told. I will pick up the next installment, as will hundreds of thousands of other fans!

            6.         Emotion: Another element that is important to me as an aspiring writer is
becoming involved in the emotions of the thriller characters. Frankly, most thrillers have little engagement with emotion, almost in the spirit of a James Bond character. Action, glitz, romance and suspense are all critical elements of a great story. For me, enjoying the emotions of the critical characters is the frosting on the cake. Coben does a fine job of exploring the emotions of Kat and the other critical characters.
           

Onward!

-CYM

Tuesday

Taylor Swift Joins Scholastic to Talk to Kids About the Power of Reading - October 29th, 2014!!




PRESS RELEASE:

Taylor Swift Joins Scholastic to Talk to Kids About the Power of Reading

Register now to view the “READING OPENS A WORLD OF POSSIBLE” exclusive video with Taylor Swift on October 29, 2014 at 1 p.m. ET

New York, NY (October 21, 2014) — Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books will present an exclusive video featuring an inspiring, personal conversation with Taylor Swift the global superstar and seven-time Grammy® winner about how reading and writing can open a world of possibilities for children. Taylor will also share with young viewers the books that have most influenced her and a never before seen clip from behind the scenes at one of her recent music videos.
As part of Scholastic’s new reading initiative, “Open a World of Possible,” the 30-minute exclusive video will air on Scholastic.com beginning on October 29, 2014, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. Registration to watch on 10/29 is open now at http://www.scholastic.com/taylorswift.
In a nod to her multi-week No. 1 international smash hit single, “Shake It Off,” Taylor will discuss how music helps her shake off the tough moments in life.  Following the video, students can enter Scholastic’s This is How I Shake it Off” writing contest* for the chance to win tickets and a meet-and-greet for two at an upcoming Taylor Swift concert, along with accompanying flights and accommodations. Additional prizes for runners up include a signed guitar and signed copies of Taylor’s new “1989” CD. Students in grades 3-8 attending a U.S. school can enter the contest by submitting a one-page creative essay or poem about how they shake off mean comments and hard times. More details, Official Rules and the contest entry form can be found at:  www.scholastic.com/taylorswift.*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter by December 11, 2014. Void where prohibited.  
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a great time to approach the subject of bullying with kids.  In support of this observance and the video with Taylor,Scholastic has curated a collection of resources that address bullying, building resilience and fostering a love of reading in kids:
Through the ongoing Open a World of Possible initiative, Scholastic has begun a conversation for teachers, parents and children to share ideas and advice about simple ways to incorporate independent reading into busy classroom days and family time. Scholastic invites people to continue joining the conversation and connecting with peers on social media channels using the hashtag #SharePossible.

For more about Scholastic, visit our Mediaroom at:  http://mediaroom.scholastic.com.

About Open a World of Possible
Open a World of Possible is a new reading initiative and campaign that reaches out to teachers, parents and children across all of Scholastic’s books, magazines, websites, instructional materials, consulting, customer service and delivery systems serving almost all of the schools and families in the United States and many more throughout the world.  For more information, please visit: http://www.scholastic.com/worldofpossible/.

About Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, who writes all of her own songs, is a global superstar, seven-time GRAMMY winner and the youngest winner in history of the music industry's highest honor, the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year. She is the first artist since the Beatles (and the only female artist in history) to log six or more weeks at #1 with three consecutive studio albums. Taylor has an album on Rolling Stone's prestigious The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time (by women) list, Time magazine has named her one the of the 100 Most Influential People in the world, and she is Billboard's youngest-ever Woman of the Year and the only artist to have been awarded this honor twice. Taylor has career record sales in excess of 30 million albums and almost 80 million song downloads worldwide, and has had singles top both the pop and country radio charts around the globe. Taylor's album RED, released almost two years ago on Big Machine Records, has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide to date, including more than 1.2 million copies in the U.S. in its first week, scoring the highest first-week sales debut of any album in over a decade. Taylor is the only female artist in music history (and just the fourth artist ever) to twice have an album (2010's Speak Now and 2012's RED) hit the 1 million plus first-week sales figure. ”Shake It Off” is the first single off her fifth studio album 1989 (Big Machine Records), which will be released on October 27, 2014. The single has topped Billboard’s Pop, HotAC and Hot 100 charts and has already earned double Platinum-status by the RIAA for exceeding sales of two million downloads. 
Media Contacts:
Sara Sinek 
212-343-6899

Michael Barrett
212-343-6570

Deanna Kugler
212-601-8267

Suggested Tweets:

@TaylorSwift13 & @Scholastic team up to show how reading + writing can help kids be more resilient – http://bit.ly/1yQETny #SharePossible

Thursday

Ten Ways for Authors to Fail on Social Media






KJ Charles


There’s been a lot of social-media career immolation going on this week. It may be the full moon. People making idiots of themselves is not a particularly edifying sight, so I’m not linking specific cases, but here are my basic principles of How Not To Do It for authors.
1) Interact online if you’re no fun to interact with.
Everyone tells you to be out there. Have a Goodreads or Facebook group, chat on Twitter, have a community, let them get to know you. But what if they don’t like you? I’ve had the experience of disliking an author’s online personality so much that it’s seeped into how I regard their books. I’ve chosen not to pick up books that would have otherwise been autobuys.
Obviously, authors have been unlikeable throughout history. This is why we have to sit alone in small rooms with our imaginary friends. But in previous years, it was reserved for their long-suffering loved ones and their editor. Now fans can get a share too.
This is a tricky one to judge, since most people don’t set out to be jerks. And I’m certainly not suggesting anyone should be silent, or a doormat. There are things we all need to stand up for, and stuff that shouldn’t be let go. Some people make their, uh, bracing interactive style a positive part of their brand (i.e. forceful without being a jerk). But if you’re getting into thin-skinned sulks, insulting your own fans, or picking fights with potential readers, you’re probably better off backing off.
2) Be vile.
Right. If you, the author, post a hilarious video/meme or an amusing blog post or whatever, and the response is, ‘wow, that is really racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic’, the correct approach is as follows:
  • Look again at what you posted.
  • Consider why the objection has been raised and if it is valid. If you can’t see what the problem is, ask, and listen to the answer with an open mind. You might learn something.
  • If you have caused real offence, even if you had no intention of doing so, apologise, and try to learn from the experience. If you think saying it was worth the offence caused, or that you’ve been misinterpreted, try explaining why and listening to the responses. Again, you may learn something.
  • Click here for the rest of this great article.

Sunday

Do Authors Obsess Too Much About Book Reviews?



by Anne R. Allen

Whether we're newbies or superstars, traditional or self-publishers, pretty much all authors stress about reviews: getting them…and surviving them.

Getting Reviews is Tough  


From the time our first book launches, we're told our number one job is to get reviewed. We send out ARCs, desperately query book bloggers and give away as many books as possible in hopes that some kind soul will write a few lines saying how they liked the book.

Some authors also use the new pricey book review sites—the ones where you have to pay $30 a month to be listed on a site that gives away free copies to people who probably won't review anyway.

Or they pay to get reviewed at Kirkus ($400-$550) or Publisher's Weekly($149). (These are not illegal like paid online "customer reviews," but many experts, like Joel Friedlander, consider them a bad idea.)

For a report from the review-chasing front, here's a great post from Molly Greene that includes her experiences with one paid review site. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't all Kumbaya and rainbows.)

We start out hoping for a bunch of rave reviews from big name book blogs or prestigious print journals, but after 100s of rejections from overwhelmed sites, we're grateful for a lukewarm mention on a blog with a readership of two people and a parakeet.

And then there's the biggie: getting reviews on the all-important retail and reader sites.

Nothing looks sadder than a naked, unreviewed book on Amazon or Goodreads. So we plead for people to accept free copies of our pricey, expensive-to-mail paper books on Goodreads and give away as many ebooks as we can on Amazon and Smashwords.

Some desperate authors even cross ethical lines. This is dumb and can get you kicked off Amazon permanently, so don't succumb to temptation to do stuff like:
  • Paying review mills or somebody at Fivrr to churn out generic one-line 5-stars. 
  • Trading reviews. 
  • Establishing "sock puppet" accounts for ourselves so we can review our own books and/or trash other people's. 
People do these things because they're told they gotta, gotta, gotta get those reviews. They've probably heard that they need a certain number of Amazon raves—maybe it's fifty, or a hundred, nobody's quite sure—to make the bestseller lists and get promoted by the algorithms. (A myth: more on that below.)

But we all try to reel in as many reader reviews as possible, begging everyone we meet to read the book and write something. Anything. Preferably something nice.

Only mostly they don't.

Most sales and giveaways generate very few reviews. Lots of scammers use Goodreads and other sites to get free hard copies they can sell on EBay. And the few who do write reviews can be downright nasty.

There's a bizarre reviewer subculture in the Amazon-Goodreads jungle that revels in giving nasty reviews to books they haven't read. It's a game for them. They'll glance at a few lines in the free "look inside" sample or simply reword other negative reviews. They often buy and return an ebook within minutes so they can get a "verified review" stamp on their one-word one-star.

The motivation of these people isn't entirely clear to me, but apparently some are competing to rack up a lot of review numbers—some write dozens per day—which can make them eligible to get free products to review. Others are playing Amazon like a videogame. The rest are just mean people who must be having terrible lives.

But the thing is, none of this stuff is helpful to readers looking for their next read. The abuse also hurts the reputation of genuine reviewers and sends authors into despair.

Surviving Bad Reviews is Tougher


Keep reading here....

-CYM

Friday

14 Amazing Bookish Halloween Costumes for Children

BY BECKY COLE

Halloween approaches, fellow book nerds. Do you know what you’re going to wear? Neither do I! Let’s get our creative juices flowing by cooing over some photos of adorable little nuggets in bookish Halloween costumes.
I may not have a baby of my own to play dress up with, but I’m fully amenable to appreciating the wee bookish Halloween costume efforts of others.
(Also: beware, friends and relatives who have recently reproduced. I am scheming.)
I cannot contain my glee when I look at this little hobbit. He’s ready for second breakfast. Look at his furry feet!