General · reading

BookExpo America Begins

The BookExpo is this yearly event where the publishers get together, have conferences and do stuff. Today, they were still setting up.

I went with my printed out pass and they registration desk gave me the real thing. The Javits Center is pretty big, but luckily they had people standing everywhere, waiting to give you directions. I’ve never been before, so I needed directions.

Only the Remainders thing was on today, so I don’t regret not staying long. Tomorrow, when it really gets started, I expect I will regret it.

I couldn’t spring for the blogger con so . . . I really, really wish I could have gone. Maybe next time.

I did take some most pics. Sadly, they came out blurry. I didn’t have time to actually focus. 😦

Book Review · General · reading · Writing

Book Review: Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall

From Goodreads:

What do Michael Corleone, Jack Ryan, and Scout Finch have in common? Creative writing professor and thriller writer James W. Hall knows. Now, in this entertaining, revelatory book, he reveals how bestsellers work, using twelve twentieth-century blockbusters as case studies—including The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jaws. From tempting glimpses inside secret societies, such as submariners in The Hunt for Red October, and Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code, to vivid representations of the American Dream and its opposite—the American Nightmare—in novels like The Firm and The Dead Zone, Hall identifies the common features of mega-bestsellers. Including fascinating and little-known facts about some of the most beloved books of the last century, Hit Lit is a must-read for fiction lovers and aspiring writers alike, and makes us think anew about why we love the books we love.

Hit Lit explains or attempts to explains what American bestselling books have in common. It talks about 12 books:

  1. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. 1960. 134 editions, over 140,000,000 copies sold.
  2. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. 1956. 10, 670, 302 copies sold.
  3. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. 1966. About 30, 000, 000 copies sold worldwide.
  4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. 1936. Close to 30, 000, 000 copies sold in the 1990’s.
  5. Jaws by Peter Benchley. 1974. By 1975, more than 9, 275, 000 copies sold.
  6. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. 1992. About 50, 000, 000 copies sold worldwide.
  7. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. 1984. 5 to 6 million sold.
  8. The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 1969. By 1975, over 12, 000, 000 copies sold.
  9. The Firm by John Grisham. 1991. Spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
  10. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. 1971. Four years after publication, 22, 702, 097 copies sold.
  11. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. 2003. 81, 000, 000 copies sold.
  12. The Dead Zone by Stephan King. 1979. King’s first novel to break into year-end top ten.

I have not read any of these books. I cannot say if what he says about them is true. Really, I ought to read a few just to see if I agree with him. I even teased this book yesterday.

He says all of these books have 12 things in common.

  1. An Offer You Can’t Refuse: page-turner
  2. Hot Buttons: something people can’t help but argue about.
  3. The Big Picture: sweeping backdrop
  4. The Golden Country: a lost Eden, the true homeland the MC has lost.
  5. Facts: He says people want to learn about other stuff from novels. I don’t agree.
  6. Secret Societies: secrets about the ocean, about the bedroom, conspiracies and groups no one else knows about.
  7. Bumpkins vs Slickers and vice versa: people move back and forth from the country to the city, from the city to the country
  8. God: the characters have doubts about god and religion.
  9. American Dream/Nightmare: rags to riches, and conversely, riches to rags.
  10. Mavericks: rebels, loners, misfits, trailblazers, free spirits, nonconformists, bohemians. characters who are slightly out of step with their world.
  11. Fractured Families: characters are missing some part their family. parents, siblings, children.
  12. Juicy Parts: sex.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse is basically good stuff that keeps you turning the page. It’s speed, tension, danger and characters you are in love with. It’s something dangerous going on with the character and you can’t look away because you want to know what happens next. It’s everything that makes you turn the page. This, I have no problem with. He also talks about how these books are movie-friendly. They are high-concept. Basically, that’s when you sum up the drama of the book quickly. It helps the marketing, he says, and word of mouth, too.

I suppose it makes sense, but I am not sure I like the idea that for a book needs to high-concept in order to succeed.

I don’t agree with the facts thing. He says people want to learn from novels. Learn about other people, other ways of living, things like that. Like how live in a small town, how you live in a large city, gossip. I don’t agree. I mean, there have been plenty of bestsellers that you can’t learn anything from. He says you learn stuff about gods and feminism, Mary Magdalene and the Hebrew alphabet from The Da Vinci Code. And he says the number of books that have shown saying Da Vinci Code is wrong is just proof of that, but I don’t know. The Hunt for Red October is apparently filled with stuff about submarines and government protocols for this, that and the other.

A writer’s research should be good, but it’s hard to believe facts are a factor in bestsellers. They add details and they are important. But people don’t read novels to learn. Do they? I mean, I don’t. Someone tell me I am not alone.


Also, I do recommend this book. It’s pretty interesting. Also, I got it as an ARC.







Computer shook, computer desk shook, the floor shook and I think I saw the buildings across the street swaying, too. Or maybe I was the one who was swaying!

This was my first quake ever and I am glad it was small. Small, because I am pretty far away from the 5.9 epicenter in Virgina. But, really, I would have been perfectly happy without the experience.

It was scary – I mean, the floor shook! It took a moment to realize what was going on. I mean, NYC doesn’t get earthquakes. This isn’t California where people expect to get earthquakes. So it took a moment to sink in and then I thought: Wow, I lived through an earthquake. I lived through an earthquake.Than, with relief: Glad it was a weak earthquake.

But I am fine. My building is fine (hopefully. Only inspections will tell.) My tomato plant survived it. Everyone is fine!

Virgina and the surrounding area probably isn’t fine though. I can’t imagine how much was destroyed and hopefully no one was badly hurt. Hope everyone is safe!



4th of July

Happy Independence Day people!

Some photos I found googling this event. Aren’t they pretty?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

General · reading · Writing

Text Readability

Today I decided to find out the readability of my short sea story. I copied and pasted the excerpt from Teaser Tuesday into Apparently it is powered by a Google code project. It checks how easy text is to read.

This is what it told me:

Reading Ease

The first score we calculated was the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease (Wikipedia). The text scored 75.10 on this scale (a higher score indicates easier readability; scores go from 0 to 100).

Grade Level

The second set of scores all return a “grade level”, based on the USA education system. A grade level is equivalent to the number of years of education a person has had. Scores over 22 should generally be taken to mean graduate level text.

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (Wikipedia) 5.90
Gunning-Fog Score (Wikipedia) 8.20
Coleman-Liau Index (Wikipedia) 9.80
SMOG Index (Wikipedia) 6.00
Automated Readability Index (Wikipedia) 5.40
Average Grade Level 7.06

Other Statistics

The tool reported that this text contained 34 sentences, with 432 words (12.71 per sentence) made up of 607 syllables (1.41 per word).

If 100 is easy reading (kindergarten level maybe? not sure), than 75 doesn’t seem bad. The average grade level is 7th grade  (7.06 probably means 7th grade, yes?) and I am not sure if that is good or bad. The other tests are more confusing – two are for high school, three are for 5th and 6th grade.  The Coleman-Liau Index says 9.8, almost 10th grade, and this I don’t like. I really, really, don’t think my short sea story is so complicated you have to be 9th or 10th grade to understand it. I will admit I wasn’t aiming for children when I wrote this, but I don’t think it is out of the scope of 6th graders.