Saturday, November 30, 2013

First Review of 'The Count of the Living Death' by BIT'N

So excited--the first review of my book has appeared, by way of my friends at BIT'N Book Promoters.  Read the review below which is far more eloquent than any plea of my own to buy the book (it's only 99 cents)!  Click below to read the review (thanks Ell!)

Remember, you can find a few sample chapters of the book at the bottom of this site, as well as a link to the book on the right (the skeleton icon).  

About Bit'N: Bit'N Book Promoters are a team of passionate, friendly and feisty individuals who are here to help you get your books out there. We're all authors and know how hard it is to get books noticed, so we want to give a helping hand to others like ourselves.  
We provide book promotions, reviews, author interviews and kindle freebies. Our blog mainly focuses on reviews and author interviews and detailed book promotions. Both our Twitter and Facebook pages provide book promos, updates and links to what we're doing on our blog. We also regularly post kindle freebies only available on our Facebook page, along with pretty book & film quote boxes, which we design ourselves. 
If you'd like our help, you can find us here: 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Elephant in the Classroom: Teaching Anthologies in a Lit Survey Course

As an English professor, I’m faced with teaching these grand old classes called the “surveys,” which are either invoked with reverence, dread, or disdain, depending on where the speaker went to school (and how long ago).  These courses, typically British/American Literature I and II, World Literature/Humanities I and II, invite the widest possible approach and for this very reason are often avoided by professors.  Indeed, for decades now many academics have written these courses off as touting an elitist point of view, stressing “dead white males” over the just-as-significant marginal writers who were shut out because of their sex, race, or eccentricity.  A literature survey (they claim) of any kind bows to the idea of a “canon” of accepted writers, which all students must read, discuss, and struggle with as the basis of one’s education.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Forgotten Composers, Part 2: Vasily Kalinnikov

Levitan, "The Quiet Abode"
Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov is one of the tragic might-have-beens of Russian classical music.  Born at a pivotal time in Russian musical history (1866), he was poised to become part of the second generation of great Russian composers following the Mighty Five (Rimsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky, etc.).  Instead, tuberculosis laid him low at 34 with only a handful of works to his name.  Nevertheless, in his brief lifetime he found champions in Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninov, the latter of whom particularly helped him financially (and posthumously helped support his wife).  Given a normal lifespan, he may have developed into a second Rachmaninov, or abandoned tradition entirely and embraced modernism like his contemporaries, Scriabin and Stravinsky.  Even Stravinsky, after all, began in a very traditional manner, with his early Symphony in E flat giving absolutely no hint of the sumptuous melodies of The Firebird, much less the earth-shaking rhythms of The Rite of Spring.  Most likely, however, Kalinnikov would have continued in the vein of Borodin and Tchaikovsky, writing haunting, folk-inspired works that would make even McCarthy nostalgic for Russia.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Read TCOTL on Wattpad

To help expose my novel, I’m going to publish it serially, a few chapters at a time, on Wattpad.  Feel free to follow along...and if the temptation becomes too great to read the entire thing in one gulp, you can always buy it on Amazon for 99 cents!  Here’s the Wattpad link:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Austen Reboot Needs the Boot!

Austen without airbrushing (by Cassandra)
There was a big discussion going on at Mobile Reads recently about Harper Collins’ ‘Austen Project,’ where 6 modern authors “re-imagine” Austen’s work for a contemporary audience:

The implication being that despite the universal appeal of her works, Austen could use a little primping, tucking, and updating so that our multimedia, hypertext YA audience can appreciate her.  Joanna Trollope’s reboot of Sense and Sensibility (which retains the same name as the original) features two sisters connected by earbuds, ostensibly Elinor and Marianne.  On the book jacket, Trollope writes that this is “not an emulation, but a tribute.”  I read a few pages from the preview and the result is pretty much what I expected.  It’s a YA novel using all the characters and situations from the original, but pared to the bone: social satire, reflections on class and education, and discussions of sensibility and the picturesque have been largely replaced with ‘cool’ references and sly winks at the original.  A tribute?  Or simply a postmodern way to make a buck? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Top 10 Best (and Cheap!) MP3 Classical Downloads from Amazon

When I was younger I couldn't afford to explore and collect classical music as I might have wanted, so I relied on my local library (which luckily had a fine media department).  Unfortunately, the technology to copy CDs was a few years away, so I had to cram my favorite finds on tapes, which was awkward and often impossible for 2/3 disc recordings.  These problems all seem laughable now, when you can download all of Beethoven's Cds in one go--for a few bucks.  Of course, the irony is that less people probably care about classical music and the only place you can find it nowadays is on-line.  Oh well, when one civilization crumbles another is born--no need to lament the lost world of records, tapes, and Cds (I guess).  So with this spirit in mind, I wanted to offer what I think are the best MP3 downloads currently available on Amazon in terms of quality (both of recording and ensemble/performer), quantity of music, and price.  I spend hours a week scouring Amazon for the best deals, and not much makes it through my net--though if you've found something, please let me know!  Here is my top 10 for 2013 (in order of price, least to greatest):

Click below for the list...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Enigma of Education

I recently gave a wonderful talk on the tradition of science fiction dystopias in conjunction with the Tulsa County Library's wonderful series, Novel Talk: Smart Conversations for Serious Readers.  Despite a cold Wednesday night (a church night in Oklahoma!), we had an impressive audience, along with a large group of high school students.  My talk was cobbled together from various works I've taught over the years--The Time Machine, 2001, Planet of the Apes, even More's Utopia--as well as my time-honored notions of science fiction in general.  The audience followed with interest, laughing, nodding, and even asking questions now and then.  My talk lasted about 40 minutes, and with each minute I felt more and more excited to explore this topic, and reading my audience, I could tell most of them were with me, some even taking notes.  Afterwards, many people came up to chat with me, asking some really fascinating questions and astonishing me with how much they cared about the subject (even if, as some suggested, they didn't care for science fiction in general).  In short, it was a wonderful evening and I felt completed validated as an educator: I shared my knowledge in a way that was visible--I could see people responding right before my eyes.  That is, they listened and wanted to do something with the information themselves--read the books, discuss the ideas with me and others in the room, etc.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Forgotten Composers, Part 1 : John Field

I recently stumbled across a wonderful Brilliant classics compilation of Field's complete piano concertos--all 7 for only $7.99.  John Field, the Irish composer/pianist, is perhaps best known for inventing the Romantic form of the "nocturne," which Chopin took to greater heights, and of settling in Russia, where he influenced the emerging composer/pianist Mily Balakirev.  But what of his music?  Sadly, he remains more or less a musical footnote; I've heard his music referred to as verbose Chopin--or worse, Chopin without the melodies.  Many critics also cite the truism that, quite often, those who invent forms are not the ones who make them 'stick'--as with Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, perhaps; as the first Gothic novel, it created a new genre out of thin air (almost), but was certainly no match for Mary Shelley or even Ann Radcliffe's novels.  Reflecting on this, it dawned on me that I didn't own a single piece by Field, and certainly couldn't hum--or name--a single one of his melodies.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bit'n Book Promoters--a great site for readers and writers

Bit’n Book Promoters are a team of passionate, friendly and feisty individuals who are here to help you get your books out there.  We’re all authors and know how hard it is to get books noticed, so we want to give a helping hand to others like ourselves.

We provide book promotions, reviews, author interviews and kindle freebies.  Our blog mainly focuses on reviews and author interviews and detailed book promotions.  Both our Twitter and Facebook pages provide book promos, updates, and links to what we’re doing on our blog.  We also regularly post kindle freebies only available on our Facebook page, along with pretty book & film quote boxes, which we design ourselves. 

If you’d like our help, you can find us here:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review of Respighi's Orchestral Works, Vol.2 (conducted by Francesco La Vecchia)

I usually write self-contained reviews on my blog, but this one made it to Amazon first, so I thought I would post the link here.  Respighi is a wonderful Italian composer, unfairly dismissed as a "technicolor marvel," or a composer of surface charm.  This disc suggests the incredible range of his talent, from musical evocations of Church Windows to a quasi-Baroque violin concerto.  Read the review and buy the MP3 album for only $5.99!

Tulsa Novel Talk, Nov.13th, "Surviving Utopia"

Next week, on November 13th and 7pm, I'll be presenting at the Tulsa Central Library's upcoming Novel Talk series, "Surviving Utopia: Fear, Hope and Place in Dystopic Science Fiction."  Also on the panel is Laura Raphael, who will be discussing Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Collins' The Hunger Games, followed by a a round able discussion on science fiction in general.  If you're in the Tulsa area please stop by--the Novel Talks are some of the most rewarding series I attend and it's an honor to be invited once again (I previously presented on Dracula and Jane Austen's novels).

Click here for the poster and more information: