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August 2012

Graphic Novel Friday: Rio Rides Again

When publisher IDW announced their hardcover collection of Doug Wildey’s Rio, I immediately recalled a favorite television show from the late 1980s, Paradise (later renamed Guns of Paradise). The western drama starred Lee Horsley, and here he was on the cover of a comic book! Well, maybe not quite. Artist and writer Doug Wildey began chronicling the adventures of his outlaw-turned-presidential-pardoned-special-agent Rio in 1983 and worked on the character until his death in 1994, so perhaps the producers of Paradise were influenced by Rio or perhaps grizzled, bearded men in the Wild West look similar under a cowboy hat.

What IDW has done, however, is produce something unique. Several of the Rio tales contained herein have been in and out of print across multiple publishers for years, but two stories, “Red Dust in Tombstone” and “Reprisal” see publication for the first time. But here’s where things get very special: “With the exception of 10 story pages, all the images in this volume were scanned directly from Wildey’s original artwork.” In addition to 272 pages of incredibly rendered fisticuffs, ambushes, and gun fights, the reader is treated to a glimpse at the true process of creating a comic book, along with Wildey’s smudges, hand-corrected letters, and yellowed corners. Rio’s adventures feel authentic because now they are; this is as close to experiencing Wildey’s method as I can imagine.

Rio is a man trailed by friends and enemies. His relationships tumble across his boots and through his sights. Wildey doesn’t spend time explaining backstories or narrating motives; the blood spills as it may, and the storytelling on display is never formulaic. Panels are lively, riddled with bullet lines, rain streaks, and occasionally shaped like a torn photograph when the narrative calls for it. Rio escapes by foot, horse, and boat, surrounded by rich vistas and handsome characters. As Mark Evanier notes in his introduction, even Wildey’s illustrative methods were unique. A self-taught artist, Wildey freely mixed media, including oil, acrylics, Magic Marker, and more, giving his pages a sense of surface and terrain.

Longtime fans will want to quickly flip to the two new stories—“Red Dust in Tombstone” is one of the strongest stories in this collection and “Reprisal,” in its unfinished state, is a rare look at an artist at work. The result is a book that will appeal to comic fans, western readers, and art aficionados—in short, just about everyone who appreciates great stories beautifully told.



Sneak Peak at the "Team of Rivals: Lincoln Film Tie-in Edition"

Directed by Steven Spielberg, with a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning writer Tony Kushner, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the President, "Lincoln" is shaping up to be one of the biggest movies in recent memory.

The movie is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's masterpiece Team of Rivals, a huge best seller and winner of the Pulitzer. So it makes sense that Simon & Schuster would give the book a new cover... and it's a good one.




Bill O'Reilly Takes on History for Kids

These days Bill O'Reilly is a widely known T.V. personality and author but what many may forget is that he was a high school history teacher before he became a household name. Adapted from Killing Lincoln, his bestselling book for adults, O'Reilly brings the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln to life for young readers in a new book, Lincoln's Last Days.

 This action-packed history has fascinating vintage photographs on every spread and is a great way to introduce the excitement of reading non-fiction to young readers.  In the exclusive Q&A below O'Reilly shares his favorite photo from the book and you can see a couple other images  both after the Q&A and in the video of O'Reilly reading from the book.

Q: What aspects of this story did you discover for the first time when you dug into the research?

O'Reilly: The research for Killing Lincoln turned up some amazing things about the assassin John Wilkes Booth. His fiancée was secretly dating the president's son Robert Todd Lincoln, and this might have caused Booth to fixate on the president even more.  Also, Booth almost got away after the murder and the manhunt for him is a real action drama.

Q: What was your favorite part of American history to teach?

O'Reilly: When I taught high school history to seniors and juniors, I would emphasize the greatness of men like Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Lincoln.  I would tell personal stories about those great men to make them seem as real people to the students, instead of just myths.   That's why I wrote Lincoln's Last Days—so that young Americans could learn about the Civil War and President Lincoln in an exciting way.

Q: There are so many photos in Lincoln’s Last Days – do you have a favorite?

O'Reilly: The profile photo of Abraham Lincoln on page 59 is my all-time favorite of him.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

O'Reilly: As a kid in fourth grade, I read all the Hardy Boy books in school.  But I wasn't supposed to.  I hide them behind the pages of a huge geography book.  So while I was supposed to be reading about Turkey, I was actually reading about Frank and Joe Hardy solving mysteries.

Q: What’s your most prized possession?

O'Reilly: My most prized material possession is a photograph signed by Abraham Lincoln.  The image of him was taken by Matthew Brady, and the president signed it at the bottom.  A superb piece of history.

Bill O'Reilly Reading from Lincoln's Last Days:

2012 Hugo Awards to be Announced Sunday in Chicago

The-Hugo-AwardThis weekend, the Hugo Awards, celebrating excellence in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, will be announced at WorldCon in Chicago. You can even follow it live online through streaming video. Voted on by readers—a percentage of whom also tend to be writers and other professionals in the field—the Hugo Awards have taken on all the pomp and circumstance of events such as the Oscars, if on a smaller scale. Each nominee receives a rocket ship pin and a special ribbon so convention attendees know they are a nominee. Nominees appear on panels and can participate in a special “walk With the Stars.” There are pre-Hugo parties, post-Hugo parties (even a Losers Party for, you guessed it, those who don’t win), and nominees must attend a rehearsal prior to the ceremony.

So we thought, going into the Hugo weekend, we’d take a closer look at the finalists in the best novel category. (You can find the full list of finalists here--and check out our prior Hugos coverage here and here.)

Among Others--WaltonAmong Others, Jo Walton (Tor). As I wrote in a review for the New York Times Book Review, the novel “purports to be the diary entries of 15-year-old Morwenna Phelps, but it is really a strong argument for the importance of books and reading. Set in the late 1970s in Wales and England, the novel follows Morwenna’s adventures at boarding school after a car accident has left her with chronic injuries…Morwenna can see fairies, her mother is really an evil witch, and the car accident that injured her and killed her sister was part of a magical conflict…It’s a brave act to write a novel that is in ­essence all aftermath, but Walton succeeds admirably. Her novel is a wonder and a joy.” Walton does a great job of sticking to the ambiguous with regard to the fantastical elements, and makes the idea of faery folk wonderfully strange. For those voters who love reading—which would seem to include all of them—the novel strongly evokes one’s own memories of encountering beloved books, and for this reason it would seem to have the possibility of winning against the odds.

A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra). Given high expectations, there was never any way that Martin could satisfy all readers with the latest installment in his epic fantasy series, but he has brought back all of the elements that have made him successful: drama and melodrama, intrigue, battles, characters you care about, and a breadth of vision that has always served him well. As I wrote in a review for the Los Angeles Times: “Some reviewers have compared Martin's work to that of J.R.R. Tolkien or even William Shakespeare, but the truth is a little more complex. The Song of Ice and Fire novels work so well because the epic fantasy is grounded in a strong horror element and because Martin skillfully conveys the gritty physicality of the world while moving, with equal effectiveness, between various levels of society. Martin also owes a debt to the dark yet humane cynicism of writers like Jack Vance, even though he cares much more about the inner life of his characters than Vance. Martin's devotion to fully inhabiting his characters, for better or worse, creates the unstoppable momentum in his novels and contains an implied criticism of Tolkien's moral simplicity.” In terms of sheer number of copies printed (not to mention the popular HBO series) and thus potential voters reached, and considering that Martin is largely loved by core genre readers…it might be foolish to bet against A Dance with Dragons winning the Hugo.

Continue reading "2012 Hugo Awards to be Announced Sunday in Chicago" »

Amazon Asks: Laura Lippman

Ten years ago I left my last newspaper job, capping off a five-year gig at the once-great Baltimore Sun. Among the many inspiring reporters and editors I worked with was Laura Lippman, and it's been great to watch Laura's writing career evolve from her early Tess Monaghan novels to the fantastic stand-alone novels of recent years. Laura's latest, And When She Was Good, is one of our Best of the Month mystery/thriller/suspense editors' picks for August. During her Seattle book tour stop last week, Laura and I caught up and talked books over a midday beer.

Lippman1Describe your book in 10 words?

She's the mom next door--and a high-priced call girl.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

Pages away from finishing galley of Ben Schrank's Love is a Canoe. Reading John Lanchester's Capital on my iPad (sorry! I'm a Macophile). Gearing up for annual Marjorie Morningstar re-read, which makes my husband fear for my mental health.

Favorite books of all time?

Lolita, Emma Who Saved My Life, Love Story (not the one you think but a memoir by Ruth McKenney, who wrote "My Sister Eileen," among other things), the entire Betsy-Tacy series.

Important book you never read?


Lippman2Book that made you want to become a writer?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is under-rated, in my opinion. Made me want to be a writer and also taught me some valuable lessons about writing.

Most memorable author moment?

I started as a paperback original writer and one of the first things I ever did to promote my work was have a pizza party with the drivers who put the books in racks at grocery stores, drug stores, etc. One of them asked me if this was my first novel and I swelled with pride when I said yes, figuring he was going to comment on my youth. Instead, he shook his head and said: "And you're already $5.99?"

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

I want to be able to inhabit other people's minds, to feel what they are feeling--but I want to be able to shut it off, too.

Continue reading "Amazon Asks: Laura Lippman" »

YA Wednesday: Exclusive Prequel to "Every Day"

EveryDaySometimes we discover a book that makes us laugh. We read books that make us cry. And there are those books that cause us to think--to pause--and question the smallest experiences. What might a single moment feel like if we were another person?

The main character in David Levithan's Every Day--named, simply, A. Every day, A wakes up in the body of another person and lives that life for only a single day. A is genderless, bodiless, and forever orphaned. Yet not having these things makes A unequivocally human and so very needful of a lasting connection. For interpersonal history. For love.

The novel starts on Day 5994 of A's life. You might cry for A on Days 6005 and 6024. And you might laugh aloud on Days 6007 and 6015. This books somehow provides that much-needed pause, which is just one reason why it has been selected as our favorite teen book of September and one of our Best Books of the Month for September. And the ending is remarkable.

So what happened to A before Day 5994? Author David Levithan has shared an exclusive prequel, Day 5909, with us.Here's a taste of what it's like for A to be Hamilton Keyes, a teenage boy who wakes up each morning at 4:44 a.m. to work out before school:

I am defensive on his behalf. I want to answer every teacher’s question, just to show them that they should not judge a person based on a body. But if I do that now, Hamilton will only have to uphold it in some way tomorrow. It may feel, in the moment, like I am doing him a favor, but really I’ll just be chaining him to an aberration.

Download the exclusive prequel to Every Day: Day 5909

Tweet Land of Liberty: An Original Poem from Elinor Lipman on the Day of her Book's Publication


Elinor Lipman has just published her book of election inspired tweets. Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus charts the daily, hilarious tweets she wrote, starting in June, as she followed the shifting political landscape. The twittersphere went crazy for them--and now they're available in the booksphere(?), too.

She even wrote us a special poem to commemorate the publication of Tweet Land of Liberty.


I made this stupid pledge last June,

It could've been a lead balloon.

Twitter poems are hard to fit,

But there's a lot that rhymes with "Mitt."


Each day I rose at 6 o'clock, 0d1151c88da00cdc0303d110.L._V192467879_SX200_

And felt the strains of writer's block.

It takes a village to amuse....

But then--a gaffe or breaking news!


Who knew these poems were so respected,

That they've been published, all collected.

A book so cute & undersized,

About elections, satirized.


I have to say I'm flabbergasted

How long this Twitter thing has lasted.

I'd like to thank the candidates,

I  just hope they won't retaliate...

Trend Stetting 21: Getting Schooled

SlangI didn’t go in for much slang as a kid, having had like drilled out of me by an academic dad and a serious reading habit centered on Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Anne of Green Gables. Articulate companions all.

Then I spent the summer after high school in Berkeley, and by the time college rolled around I couldn’t make it through a sentence without nice, tight, and sweet (but never hella—even back then, it didn’t feel right to bend grammar quite that far). Eventually my older brother asked me to stop calling him bro, so he morphed into dude instead. I was hooked.

Why those words? And why that summer in that place? Michael Adams, an English professor at Indiana University, considers these questions and more in Slang: The People’s Poetry, out in paperback this week. First he helpfully outlines the distinction between slang and its kissing cousin, jargon. The latter tends to be homogenous across regions and interest groups: the casual restaurant terminology recognized by servers from Jersey to Oregon, for example, or the snowspeak familiar to boarders worldwide.

Slang, on the other hand, has direct links to “social, aesthetic, and linguistic knowledge,” as Adams explains: “It’s a language of being, not of vocation or avocation.” Slang isn’t language at work; it’s language at play. That said, it also does a fine job of demonstrating where we come from (and, in the case of my first Bay Area stint, where we’ve been). If I call it soda and you call it pop, we’ve learned a little something about each other.

Adams' take on Slang is a serious read, if not heavy-handed. You’ll find more hilarity on Urban Dictionary and other wiki-style sites that track the evolution of our twisted, effed-up, gnarly language. But the professor's thoughtful, thorough exploration of why we sling slang waxes much more, like, eloquent. For realz.

A King Named Sue: Picking Perfect (Character) Names

Writersdontcry NamesNames have power. And no one knows the power of names like those in the public eye. Why else would Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta go by Lady Gaga, Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Mark Twain, and Frederick Austerlitz by Fred Astaire? One of the first things you learn about someone, names can help you stand out or blend in. They can be the difference between coming off as authoritative, elegant, or cutesy. They speak to your heritage, and people assume they say something about your character. And as a boy named Sue knows, if you have a strange name, the reactions it causes can have a huge effect on your life.

It’s amazing what a difference a name can make! Based just on a name, we, unfairly or not, get an instant impression of someone. And even though we typically don’t get to choose our own names, what we choose to be called still tells you a lot about a person. Does your character go by one, two, three, or four names? Is a title part of that name? Does he go by a nickname, a nom de guerre, or just his last name? Does he flip the hell out when another character calls him “Mr.” instead of “Dr.”? All of these things tell you something about a character.

There’s a lot to consider when naming your characters. But luckily, if there’s one thing writers have sunk more research into than perfect first lines, it’s perfect character names. So, pulling from the knowledge of the ages, here are just a few things to think about that should help you zero in on the best names for each of your characters.

Is the Name Common?

The Damiens of the world will never escape that evil child’s shadow. The Lancelots all have quite a reputation to live up to. And that knight-errant named Madonna who adventures with a priest named Obama? Forget about it! By virtue of being on the unusual side, and being owned by significantly famous people, those names are now officially off limits. As are the names Drizzt, Belgarath, Katniss, and those of other famous fantasy people. Unless, of course, you are specifically referencing them.

Continue reading "A King Named Sue: Picking Perfect (Character) Names" »

The Beyond Binary Anthology: Editor Brit Mandelo on “We Are Love, Infinite”


How can you resist an anthology that includes work by Nalo Hopkinson, Delia Sherman, Catherynne M. Valente, Kelly Eskridge, Sonya Taaffe, and Sandra McDonald, among others? I can’t—and when the theme of the anthology is thought-provoking and original, that makes it even harder.

Beyond Binary posits some SF what-ifs that have been at times neglected within the field, but which SF is uniquely qualified to explore. As the jacket copy reads: “Speculative fiction is the literature of questions, of challenges and imagination, and what better to question than the ways in which gender and sexuality have been rigidly defined, partitioned off, put in little boxes?” The stories in this reprint anthology star “people who proudly define (and redefine) their own genders, sexualities, identities, and so much else in between.”

I asked Beyond Binary’s editor Brit Mandelo, what she thinks makes science fiction and fantasy ideal for exploring issues related to gender and sexual identity, and she pointed to the “astounding range of possibilities speculative fiction offers for asking vital questions, reinterpreting or discarding contemporary mores, and breaking boundaries is what makes it ideal for exploring issues of gender and sexuality.”

Continue reading "The Beyond Binary Anthology: Editor Brit Mandelo on “We Are Love, Infinite”" »