Five Disturbing Trends From 2012 That I Hope Are Not Continued In 2013

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A municipal graveyard near Otley, Yorkshire, Great Britain, from Wikipedia, photo by TJ Blackwell

The Mass Killings

Two mass killings in the U.S. during the second half of 2012 have saddened and shocked the entire nation. The last one in Connecticut was particularly disturbing because of the large number of school children that died and since its occurrence happened so close to the Christmas holidays. I hope that finally universal awareness that over 10,000 handgun deaths a year is way too high for such a technologically advanced country as the United States. However, bringing the number of deaths down in the future, may be not be so simple. The silver lining in this ominous cloud is that the goal has been clearly defined.

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Journey; photo by H. Koppdelaney

Awareness Of Global Warming

The situation with global warming is twice as complicated as the first issue. Awareness of the extent that global warming affects our lives is much more varied. Take for example the current cold snap that has gripped Southern California and the Southwest. Even though weather scientists attribute the root cause of this weather phenomena to unseasonably warm winter temperatures over Greenland, there will be many that see the cold weather outbreak as proof that global warming is a hoax. Please note that unseasonably warm temperatures have also found their way into Alaska.  And then, there still remains the common scenario that even if global warming was more readily acknowledged, the solution to the problem may still prove to be very elusive.

ravens
photo by H. Koppdelaney

Fifty Shades of Anything

English author E.L. James (Erika Leonard in real life) got this ball rolling with Fifty Shades of Grey. The popular piece of erotic fiction quickly sold millions of copies and soon thereafter morphed into the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which now includes two new volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. So far the bundle, which is somewhat derivative of Stephanie Meyer’s characters in the Twilight series. So far, Miss James has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, making her one of the most popular modern authors.

Stylistically, Fifty Shades of Grey has fallen under the slang of “mommy porn”, due to the age and gender of a majority of its readers. The trilogy definitely falls under the catch-all category of erotica, but more specifically is labelled as BDSM or dominance/submission erotic fiction. Critical reception has varied widely, as many authors have joined the bandwagon and put out their own version of Fifty Shades. These titles range from 50 Shades of Alice In Wonderland to 50 Shades of Obama (or Romney)…..your choice.

Self Published Erotic Authors

Sites like Smashwords are filled with the works of amateur erotica authors, who now due to the ease of self-publishing an e-book, are putting out one title after another. Presumably following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Anais Nin, Erica Jong, Anne Rice (alias A.N. Roquelaure), Henry Miller, Mark Twain, Marquis de Sade and Susie Bright, these budding authors will all probably be millionaires by year’s end.

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Movie still from The Life of Pi

Loss of Biodiversity

The biological diversity of our planet has been decreasing, as of late. This sad fact has been well documented by many scientific organizations and more often than not the root cause is closely related to man’s economic activities on the planet. Some good news is out there, in that conservation efforts are still quite numerous and their practitioners are often very optimistic and dedicated towards this issue.

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“All The Rains Down In Africa”

Pierneef_1935_South_West_African_Landscape_with_Termite_Hill,_Umbrella_Trees_and_Mountains_in_the_Background
Painting by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, entitled South West African Landscape with Termite Hill, Umbrella Trees and Mountains in the Background; from Wiki Commons

24 Million Dollar Book Deal Is Awarded to Popular English Author

An octogenarian English Author by the name of Wilbur Smith has just earned a six book deal worth 15 million pounds….. or about 24 million American dollars. And the weird thing is that Smith is not going to write the entire manuscript for all six books. He will merely provide the basic outline or treatment for each novel and other writers, including his wife,Niso, will complete the manuscripts. In fact, it is definitely possible that Smith may not be around to see all six books published. According to his publisher, Harper Collins, the last book will be published by the end 0f 2015.

Kibo summit of Mount_Kilimanjaro
Kibo summit of Mount Kilamanjaro, photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Smith’s Background

This man is named Wilbur Smith and he has a been a popular English adventure writer for 50 years, though not as many in the U.S. are familiar with his lexicon of African tales. During his writing career, Smith has penned over 30 novels, accounting for 120 million pounds of sales. His first book appeared in 1933 and was called When The Lions Feed. His latest novel, Those In Peril, was released in 2011. Though born in Rhodesia (now called Zambia), Wilbur now lives in London. Nine of his stories have been adapted to film or television.

Wilbur Smith signing books, from Wikipedia photo by Richard001
Wilbur Smith signing books, from Wikipedia photo by Richard001

Wilbur Smith’s Worldview

Having been born and raised on the African continent, Wilbur Smith has always claimed that this place of vast vistas and stunning herds of wildlife has always been his greatest inspiration. Nonetheless, Mr. Smith has  sometimes been criticized for having an “old school” vision of Africa which might be a bit sexist and racist. However, his readers obviously enjoy his storytelling and do not seem the least bit bothered by his viewpoints on life.

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A Student of Southern Literature

Live oak tree in Rockport, Texas - by Larry D. Moore from Wikipedia
Live oak tree in Rockport, Texas - by Larry D. Moore from Wikipedia

As the second month of my southern visit comes near to an end, I find that I am enjoying my winter in Dixie very much.  This is happening, despite the unusually cold winter and week of snow-covered ground that I have experienced. Nonetheless, one of my favorite moments is listening to the radio comments of Walter Edgars on the local NPR affiliate. His program, called Walter Edgar’s Journal, is intriguing potpourri of local clor and history.  Actually, Dr. Walter Edgar is the proper title of the host, who holds a doctorate in history from the University of South Carolina, where he currently teaches.

Walter’s most recent guest was Jan Nordby Gretlund, a Danish associate professor of American literature at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense (Denmark).  Currently, Jan Gretlund is a visiting professor at the USC at Beaufort, where he recently hosted a symposium on Southern literature.

Like Dr. Edgar,  Gretlund is  an author and college professor.  His most recent book, entitled Still In Print: Southern Fiction Today” is a literary sampler that deals primarily with contemporary Southern fiction published since 1997. Missing are the big names of Faulkner, Welty and Percy and in their place you will find such modern writers as George Singleton, James Lee Burke, Josephine Humphreys and Barry Hannah. In this book Mr. Gretlund attempts to show how the Southern writing tradition is still alive and providing rich material for both leisure readers and academics. In fact, the popularity of Southern writers in Europe somewhat mirrors the success that the various Scandinavian crime fiction authors now enjoy in the US.

In Denmark, Jan Gretlund runs the Center or American Studies at the Odense college. His involvement with the American South actually began in 1962, when enlisted in the US Army and served for several years at an Air Force base in Mississippi, despite being a native of Denmark. Not a bad way to begin one’s academic career.

A Word From Stieg Larsson’s Translator

view from Kebnekaise, highest point in Sweden
view from Kebnekaise, highest point in Sweden

Steven T. Murray is not a household name, but he is the English to Swedish translator for Stieg Larsson, a title that comes with just a little bit of clout. According to his blog, which is titled Stieg Larsson’s English Translator, Steven is capable of translating from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and German to English. Now that’s an impressive list of languages. I always tune into his blog every now and then to see what is going on in the literary world of northern Europe.

Recently, I found a particularly interesting item posted by Steven, telling of a recent vampire novel that he had just put into English from Swedish. Now, I’m about the last person world to get interested in a vampire reading. I think I once read 50 pages of Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire” and have yet to watch any vampire movies, unless you consider The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be one of that genre.

However, Murray’s most recent blog caught my attention so here’s the gist of it. Steven has just finished the translation from Swedish to English of a novel called “Nephilim”, by Asa Schwarz. The storyline is kind of humorous and very entertaining all at the same time. According to Steven, the plot goes like this: “these fallen angels, one of whom stowed away on Noah’s Ark when God was trying to wipe them out with the Flood, then interbred with humans and created a new race that has survived to the present day.” I hope that’s not enough words to count as plagiarism, but you had read the whole post at this link.

And while you’re at it here are a couple of more pictures of Sweden, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Sweden to Denmark Öresunds bridge, Jonas Ericsson, courtesy of Wikipedia
The Sweden to Denmark Öresunds bridge, by Jonas Ericsson, courtesy of Wikipedia
Swedish palace by Kim Hansen, courtesy of Wikipedia
Swedish palace by Kim Hansen, courtesy of Wikipedia

P.S. The book is due to be published in Australia and the UK in 2011 by Sibling Press.

There May Be a New Stieg Larsson Book On the Way

Girl Who Played With Fire images
Girl Who Played With Fire

This book is not written by Stieg Larsson and though it may mention the writer in the title and throughout the manuscript, it is more about the process of grief. When the book is actually published (August in France is an educated guess), it will be Eva Gabrielsson’s story of how she dealt with the sudden and unexpected death of her common law husband.  Details are sketchy on the books release, mainly because of the immense popularity and financial success that has now surrounded the story of The Millenium Trilogy.

In a twenty minute interview done with a reporter for Swedish National Television (English subtitles are supplied) Ms. Gabrielsson actually reveals the plans for two books. According to the soon-to-be author, the other book will concern common-law marriages in Sweden. No title for the common-law book was mentioned, but the other title might be called “The Year After Stieg”. Again Eva seems to be deliberately vague in order to avoid too much advance publicity. Visit this site and watch the interview for details. It is well worth the time.

In fact much valuable information is presented in the interview concerning Mr. Larsson’s feminism and some insights into what early events in his life might have spurred him on to write the three novels with the female heroine.

Eva Gabrielsson

More On Stieg Larsson and the UK Release of Girl With The Golden Tattoo

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Red-Eyed-Tree-Frog from Australia by Liquid Ghoul courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC Magazine just ran another article on Stieg Larsson, this time with quotes and comments by a Anders Hellberg, who believes that Stieg Larsson was not capable of writing the Millennium series. Another colleague of Larsson’s, Kurdo Baksi, has just published a book questioning his journalism reputation. I guess all this is expected for someone, who has sold 26 million copies of a trilogy and who is not around to depend himself. Maybe the fact that Stieg Larsson began in the publishing business as a graphic designer has something to do with this.

Even so things are going well for Mr. Larsson in the film department for the film, Girl With The Golden Tattoo, is about to be released in Britian (complete with American voice-overs), but you can see the You Tube version here. You’ll have to link over to You Tube to watch it. Maybe one of these days  I’ll upgrade with wordpress and start embedding videos, but not today. The American adaption is due out later this year.

The first book (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is now available here in the states as a paperback, so American audiences are getting a good read on the author and will continue to do so as the other two books are released. Crime fiction always a popular read here in the states is now getting taken a bit more seriously, as are some of its related fields such as horror. Stephen King, who had his own close encounter with death not too long ago courtesy of a hit and run driver is gradually finding acceptance in more and more places. I think just last year he was invited to edit a popular short story collection by American Editions. This popular book can be found under the heading of Literary Fiction (whatever that is), all over America – a definite improvement for Mr. King.

So long for now,

E. Autumn

jacket montage
jacket montage for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy

NaNoWriMo Continues

sombrero galaxy
Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared, Credit: R. Kennicutt (Steward Obs.) et al., SSC, JPL, Caltech, NASA

Today I managed to find a little time to continue working    on a novel-length piece of fiction, even though the deadline that I set for myself during November, when NaNoWriMo (that stands for National Novel Writing Month) was going strong has long since past.

To qualify for Na NoWri Mo certification, one needs to complete 50,000 (hopefully coherent) words within the 30 day period, we call November. I barely managed 10,000 during last month, but it looks like I might reach 25,000 by the first of the year. Not the fastest pace in the world, but I do kind of like the way the story is developing.

This is my second attempt with this organization. Last year I sat down and cranked out 40.000 words for a manuscript that still sits in a drawer, half finished. However early last year, I did manage to forge a large group of related short stories into a workable novel, which I thoroughly shopped around this past summer to no avail. Maybe this year’s effort will go better. I hope so, for I would like to think that experience amounts to something.

For those of you, who like myself are struggling through the never-never land of novel writing, you are in luck.  “TheWriter” magazine has just published a list of its most favorite literary websites and there are several that may be of help to aspiring writers, like myself. Most obvious is a site called How To Write A Novel (you have to give them credit for honesty in advertising). There first suggestion is to write one word at a time; can’t go wrong there!

Another intriguing site is Advanced Fiction Writing, which features the snowflake method. Seeing that today is the first day of winter that might be a good idea also.

Also of importance is a place called the Fiction Factor. This is an informative site that has articles in the form of an online magazine, as well as a listing of markets and contests. Looks like another good choice!

And then last but not least is a place on the internet called “Chapter One“. This website is put up by the Washington Post and it is place where you can go to read (for free) the first chapter of recently published books that have been reviewed by the Post newspaper. Be aware that there is a lot to choose from, as the Washington Post book reviewers are a busy lot.

So there you go. No need to procrastinate, the time to write is now.

house in winter
pastel drawing of a house in winter

Have a happy solstice,  and enjoy the fact that the days will start getting longer from now on.

Best wishes,

Everett Autumn.