Wyrdwend

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

THE YEAR OF CHARACTER

THE YEAR OF CHARACTER

I’m sitting here tonight (last night actually) working on the major characters that will be a part of my fictional book and novel series. I’ve spent much of the past week doing the same.

One invaluable thing I learned from James Patterson’s Master Class on commercial fiction is the importance of ongoing, serialized characters that others adore. I’ve known this intellectually for a long time based on my own reading history both as a youth and throughout my life (John Carter, Tarzan, Spock, Jesse Stone, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Batman, etc.) but looking back on my fiction writings I’ve realized that it hasn’t really sunken in until now. It had sunken into my mind long ago, but not into my soul. Not until now however. But now, finally, I am fully getting it.

I’ve always been a “Story-First” kind of guy and looking back upon it all I suspect I very much now know why. I was trained and self-trained to write stories through D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and through game writing in general and D&D was indeed the very most excellent practice and training for story-development. But because I so rarely played and was almost always the DM or GM (Dungeon or Game Master) and was always the one creating worlds and writing the stories I never concentrated much at all upon “Character Development.”

That is to say I always let my players develop and run their characters with as little possible interference from me as I could ever get away with. Therefore almost all character development was in their hands and I become STORY AND PLOT AND WORLD FIRST and in many senses, I just habitually adopted the idea of STORY ONLY. Character-Work was for them, I was the World Man.

Not that I couldn’t write or develop characters, I did have several characters of my own I played and I developed some very complex Non-Player Characters (NPCs) but that kind of thing happened rather rarely compared to my World Building and plot and background elements development and so Character Development became a secondary and almost a background issue to me as a fiction writer and story teller. I realize now that I have for most of my life had this sort of subconscious psychological habit of developing stories in complex detail but sort of letting Character Development handle itself in a laissez-faire fashion when I did not outright ignore the issue.

But now that I realize this fault and oversight in my own writings, and the way I go about writing, I have decided that for me this will be the Year of the Characters. This year Characters and Serialized Characters become equally important to me as Story and Plot and World Building.

This is to be my Year of Character, and the genesis of the development of the Great Characters of my Fiction Writing Career.

This year I build Men and Characters and not just Worlds.

MASTERING THE MARKET – HIGHMOOT

An Accomplished Writer Takes a ‘MasterClass’ From a Gargantuan Selling Writer

What James Patterson had to teach me about writing—and selling—books

Web_MasterClass2_Morgan Schweitzer

The MasterClass ads started popping up in my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago. Evidently I fit the demographic of a person who might be willing to cough up 90 bucks for three hours of online lessons taught by a famous person, imparting wisdom on how he or she got that way and how, presumably, I might even do the same, once I mastered the lessons in the MasterClass.

Knowing how scarily well Facebook appears to understand my life, it is unlikely that anyone there (man, or machine) saw me as a candidate for the Serena Williams MasterClass in Tennis, or the Usher MasterClass in the Art of Performance. Back in 11th grade, I played Lady Macbeth in the Oyster River High School production of Macbeth, but I doubt Facebook was aware of this fact, or had me pegged as a possible buyer for the Dustin Hoffman MasterClass in Acting.

It was the James Patterson class they must have recognized as right up my alley—the one titled James Patterson Teaches Writing—a class described as offering advice on how to write a best seller. No doubt this one was offered to me because I am a writer, myself. Just not the type whose name tends to show up on the bestseller list.

I, too, could be one of those writers whose books the person on the seat next to you on the airplane always seems to be reading.

In the 42 years I have worked full time—day in, day out—as a writer, producing, so far, 15 books (a couple of memoirs, a collection of essays and a bunch of novels). I have made it onto The New York Times list for a lifetime total of four weeks—back when the movie version of my novel Labor Day sent the novel that inspired it very briefly onto the charts. Other than that one heady moment, I have labored, like most of my writer friends, in one level or another of financial challenge. But I have held onto the undying faith that any day now, things might change, and all those readers out there who have been buying books by people like Jodi Picoult and James Patterson would suddenly realize what they were missing, and pick up one of mine, instead. And then I, too, would be one of those writers whose books the person on the seat next to you on the airplane always seems to be reading.

Meanwhile, I continue to drive a 1995 Honda Civic and clean my own bathroom. And, in my ungenerous moments, I confess to having harbored a certain not-particularly-attractive level of bitterness over the success of writers like John Grisham and—above all others—James Patterson, a man who holds the title as the world’s best-selling author, publishing so many novels a year that he needs a whole stable of collaborators just to keep up with the demand.

But when this MasterClass announcement showed up in my feed, a new thought came to me. I could hate the man for selling so many more books than I do. Or I could humbly acknowledge that maybe the guy knows something I don’t, and sign up for his class. Which I did.

PHOTO CREDIT: Micke

Confession: At the time I plunked down my $90 for James Patterson’s class, I had never actually read a novel by James Patterson. This didn’t keep me from having a low opinion of the man’s oeuvre. He was pandering to the masses, I told myself. Churning out schlock.

But here’s where another voice piped up in me. Over my many years of publishing my work (novels that may sell 5,000, or 10,000, or if I’m really on a roll, 20,000 copies, to James Patterson’s millions), one thing I’ve acquired is respect for readers. Readers may not be the ultimate arbiters of what makes great art, but they can sense a good story, and even more so, sense when something is inauthentic or written from a place of cynicism or contempt. If a writer approaches his or her story with the simple goal of selling a lot of books, the reader is likely to smell it, and stay away. Something in the work of James Patterson has kept readers ponying up their dollars over the course of a career that now includes 76 best sellers. Maybe I could learn a thing or two about what this quality might be. Maybe I could even acquire it?

So the other day I sat down to the first of the 22 lessons in the James Patterson MasterClass.

Now, just to be clear, I didn’t get to confer personally with my instructor. I also didn’t have to drive anyplace, or show up at a specified time. Paying the fee gave me access to an extremely well-designed website where, at any hour of day or night, I might tap into James Patterson’s lectures—pausing when I wanted, to work on one of the assignments that accompanies each lesson, in the hope that my words might even catch the eye of James Patterson himself. I could have taken as long as I wanted to absorb those 22 segments, but given that I’m not getting any younger here—and that 42 years is an awfully long time to have one’s books not showing up the bestseller list—I decided to get on with it.

I could hate the man for selling so many more books than I do. Or I could humbly acknowledge that maybe the guy knows something I don’t, and sign up for his class.

Just over three hours later, I officially graduated. And though I entered into this project with a large measure of skepticism—worse, even: I entered anticipating that his lessons might offer up some great comedy material—by the time the last lesson was over, and Mr. Patterson (Jim, to me, now) had set me loose to write my best seller, I had developed genuine respect for the man. Even affection. If I met him at a book festival some day, and the opportunity arose, I’d greet him like an old friend.

What changed? For starters, Mr. Patterson possesses an abundance of good, solid common sense and some genuinely valuable wisdom. Not necessarily about the art of writing, mind you. But about storytelling. And at the end of the day, if you ask me (and more importantly, if you ask readers and book buyers), that’s what matters most. A person can write the most beautiful, lyrical sentences (as James Patterson will be the first to tell you, he does not), but if the story doesn’t grab a reader by the throat, and—having grabbed on—hold her there, none of the rest may matter all that much.

Some of the topics Mr. Patterson covers in his MasterClass: Where he gets his ideas. How he designs his characters—and what makes a character compelling. Villains. Creating tension. Dialogue. Here he goes into some detail about the importance of writing dialogue that doesn’t sound like real life—which would be tedious. But rather, writing dialogue that’s wittier, tighter, more filled with dramatic tension and suspense, than what actually happens around the dinner table, or anyplace else in the real, not-particularly-exciting lives people try to escape when they pick up a James Patterson novel.

My friend James Patterson is a big believer in the importance of a great outline. These days, in fact, the outline may be the main thing he actually writes, while he turns over the actual writing to his stable of co-authors. This is how he manages to turn out three or four novels a year, and still fit in a few holes of golf most days.

Still, James Patterson believes in hard work. Seven days a week, in his case—though Mr. Patterson doesn’t call writing work, because he loves it so much. This is a man with an unmistakable passion for what he does.

Some other things James Patterson believes in: Research. Surprises. Action. (If a story isn’t galloping along, it’s sinking. Fast.) He’ll tell you that your first sentence had better be a killer. And that every page needs to contain a measure of drama and intrigue; suspense and excitement that keeps the reader in her chair. (I say “her chair” because it turns out that the vast majority of James Patterson’s millions of readers are women. A fact I might not have anticipated.)

James Patterson came to writing from the world of advertising, and he remains (as I, sadly, am not) a businessperson. “Don’t set out to write a good thriller,” he says. “Set out to write a No. 1 thriller.”

It’s a refreshing aspect to the man, that he harbors no illusions about his gifts. “Let’s face it,” he tells us. “I’m not writing War and Peace.”

“I’m not that concerned with style. …Don’t think about the sentences,” he advises. Just keep that train roaring along.

His stories may be unlike anybody else’s, but his MasterClass is hardly free of clichés: Writing is “a great ride.” A character’s dialogue “fits him like a glove,” and above all else, we should avoid “two-dimensional characters.” A big plot development is “an ‘aha’ moment.”

Screen shot 2015-08-03 at 3.01.01 PM

Never mind all that. The man understands dramatic storytelling. When he tells us to write in such a way that our words “turn on the movie projector” in a reader’s head,” I could not be more with him. I even say the same thing, almost word for word, to my own writing students, in the classes I teach, whose modest enrollment numbers (I now realize) probably have something to do with the fact that not once in all the years I’ve taught writing, myself, have I ever promised I could help anyone write a best seller.

Can James Patterson’s MasterClass accomplish that? Not if a person doesn’t have some natural instincts. (And from the writing samples submitted online by some of my fellow students, I can attest to how many do not.) The MasterClass has not been created—nor will it be—that can impart talent, or originality, or simply a good ear.

Still, James Patterson’s MasterClass is in no way a rip-off. Even if a person never finishes her novel, or finds an agent, or gets her work published, James Patterson will no doubt leave her feeling fired up to write a story. It will inspire people, and make them happy. It will not put them down. What James Patterson is selling here, as much as anything is a glimpse at the dream, and the feeling that it might actually be possible. (Among the segments in the MasterClass is one covering that age-old dilemma: “What to do when you sell your novel to Hollywood.” Now there’s a problem…)

As my friend Jim says, we should reach for the stars. There are worse things an individual might do than to nourish hope and enthusiasm for creative expression, or simple entrepreneurship. James Patterson is great at that. For the three hours it takes to listen to all 22 segments of his MasterClass, students may actually get to feel like writers. They can even post a few sentences of their work up there, and if they are among the lucky ones, James Patterson himself may actually offer up a response. One woman wanted to know how she might protect herself from the danger that someone, seeing her writing on the site—including Mr. Patterson himself, perhaps—might rip it off. Having seen her work, I might have told her not to worry.    

See how mean I can be? James Patterson would never say anything like that to one of his students, or dampen, in any way, their aspirations. To James Patterson, any one of us out there taking this class may be the next James Patterson. And if we aren’t… well, you don’t have to become Jimi Hendrix to get some joy out of fooling around on the guitar. And let’s not forget, Buddy Holly only played three chords.

100

I’ve read the vast majority of these books. A few, about seven, I have not.

Some I regret having read at all, they were a complete waste of my time, like Catcher in the Rye, and I’d never read them again.

Some I have read more than once, such as Crime and Punishment or One Hundred Years of Solitude, some I read annually because they are that good, such as the Odyssey, and some I read continually and in different languages, such as the Bible.

This would not be my list, certainly not my order, but it is a fairly good list.

100 books everyone should read before they die (ranked!)

woman reading on bed with a dogjamelah/Flickr

Happy National Reading Month!

To celebrate, start working your way through this list of 100 Books To Read in a Lifetime, as voted on and ranked by users of Goodreads, the largest book recommendation site on the web.

Amazon, which owns Goodreads, had its editors agonize over their own list, but the two turned out very different.

Here’s the full, ranked list:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  2. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  3. “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank
  4. “1984” by George Orwell
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
  6. “The Lord of the Rings” (1-3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
  9. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  11. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  12. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
  13. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  14. “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
  15. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  16. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  17. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
  18. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  19. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  20. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wadrobe” by C.S. Lewis
  21. The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  22. “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  23. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  24. “Night” by Elie Wiesel
  25. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
  26. “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  27. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
  28. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
  29. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
  30. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
  31. “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  32. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
  33. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  34. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  35. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
  36. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
  37. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  38. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
  39. “Wuthering Heights” Emily Bronte
  40. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
  41. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
  42. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
  43. “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
  44. “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larrson
  45. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  46. “The Holy Bible: King James Version”
  47. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  48. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
  49. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
  50. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
  51. “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
  52. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
  53. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
  54. “The Stand” by Stephen King
  55. “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
  56. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
  57. “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card
  58. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
  59. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
  60. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  61. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
  62. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin
  63. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
  64. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
  65. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (#3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  66. “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
  67. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
  68. “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
  69. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  70. “Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge” by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
  71. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
  72. “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett
  73. “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
  74. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
  75. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
  76. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
  77. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
  78. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  79. “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
  80. “The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver
  81. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  82. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
  83. “The Odyssey” by Homer
  84. “The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)” by Pearl S. Buck
  85. “Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)” by Suzanne Collins
  86. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
  87. “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough
  88. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
  89. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
  90. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  91. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  92. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  93. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  94. “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
  95. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  96. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
  97. “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese
  98. “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
  99. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  100. “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller

THE SCI-FI LIST

I would agree with most of this list, though my order of choices would definitely vary. Of course, I fully understand that to a degree this list is merely a marketing tool.

17 science fiction books that every real sci-fi fan should read

artificial intelligence robotSean Gallup/Getty Images

Science fiction makes you think.

Although sci-fi pushes past the boundaries of reality, it paradoxically allows readers to think about questions that hit closest to home.

Technology, society, war, existence, family — these main sci-fi themes are things that we all deal with every day.

No literary list is exhaustive, but we’ve put together a list of 17 that any real sci-fi fan should definitely read.


“Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

isaac asimov foundation science fictionAmazon

“The first Foundation trilogy (…) won a Hugo Award in 1965 for ‘Best All-Time Series.’ It’s science fiction on the grand scale; one of the classics of the field,” wrote Brooks Peck.

Paperback: $7.19
Kindle: $4.99

The Foundation trilogy (paperback): $16.91


“Dune” by Frank Herbert

dune frank herbert science fiction bookAmazon

“Herbert created what was, in 1965, the most complex backdrop of politics, economics, religion, science, philosophy, and culture to inform an [science fiction] novel to date,” wrote Tomas M. Wagner for SFReviews.net.

Paperback: $7.99
Kindle: $5.99


“Ringworld” by Larry Nivel

science fiction bookAmazon

200-year old human Louis Wu, 20-year old fellow human Teela Brown, and two aliens set out to explore an unknown world, Ringworld.

Paperback: $6.00


“Daemon” by Daniel Suarez

science fiction book saurez daemonAmazon

“Suarez’s riveting debut would be a perfect gift for a favorite computer geek or anyone who appreciates thrills, chills and cyber suspense… A final twist that runs counter to expectations will leave readers anxiously awaiting the promised sequel,” writes Publisher’s Weekly.

Paperback: $6.68
Kindle: $6.35


“Avogardo Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears” by William Hertling

avogadro corps science fiction bookAmazon

“An alarming and jaw-dropping tale about how something as innocuous as email can subvert an entire organization.  I found myself reading with a sense of awe, and read it way too late into the night,” writes author Gene Kim.

Paperback: $9.58
Kindle: $2.99


“I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov

science fiction book asimov i robotAmazon

The Will Smith movie version is nothing compared to the actual book.

This nine-story collection is a mind-blowing read. Trust us.

Paperback: $11.46
Kindle: $5.99


“Contact” by Carl Sagan

science fiction book carl saganAmazon

“Who could be better qualified than the author of the highly successful Cosmos to turn the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, and humankind’s first contact with it, into imaginative reality?” according to Publisher’s Weekly.

Paperback: $7.19
Hardcover: $14.76


“2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke

science fiction book 2001 space odysseyAmazon

“Brain-boggling,” according to LIFE.

Paperback: $6.00
Kindle: $6.00


“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick

science fiction bookAmazon

“[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities… that other authors shy away from,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Paul Williams.

Paperback: $9.75
Kindle: $5.95


“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

science fiction book ender's gameAmazon

“Intense is the word for Ender’s Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the arts of war,” according to the Amazon.com review.

Paperback: $6.00
Kindle: $7.99

The whole Ender Quintet: $22.88


“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adam

science fiction book hitchhiker's guide to the galaxyAmazon

“You’ll never read funnier science fiction; Adams is a master of intelligent satire, barbed wit, and comedic dialogue. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads,” according to the Amazon.com review.

Paperback: $13.48
Kindle: $11.99


“Pandora’s Star” by Peter F. Hamilton

science fiction book pandora's starAmazon

Astronomer Dudley Bose sees a star disappearing one thousand light-year away — and goes out find out what’s going on.

Paperback: $8.99


“Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut

science fiction book kurt vonnegutAmazon

The Sirens of Titan — a lacerating satire that undeniably influenced Douglas Adams — gives humanity the brutal message: You are not in control,” according to the SFreview.net.

Paperback: $11.57
Kindle: $5.99

Leather-bound: $150.00


“Neuromancer” by William Gibson

science fiction bookAmazon

“…the novel is not much interested in character and plot. Instead it is dedicated to creating the feeling of a transformed reality, where a new vocabulary is required to describe how perception itself has been changed by computers,” writes John Mullan in The Guardian.

Paperback: $7.19
Kindle: $5.99


“Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

science fiction book hyperionAmazon

“Simmons make up a single thousand-page novel about the last days of a vibrant yet self-destructive galactic civilization called the Hegemony,” according to Gerald Jones in the New York Times.

One of the most thought-provoking moments in the novel is when a character says, “Sometimes, dreams are all that separate us from machines.”

Paperback: $7.14
Kindle: $4.99


“1984” by George Orwell

science fiction book 1984 orwellAmazon

“Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is,” Aldous Huxley wrote in a letter to George Orwell regarding “1984.”

Paperback: $6.00
Kindle: $5.70


“War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells

science fiction book war of the worldsAmazon

“… true classic that has pointed the way not just for science-fiction writers, but for how we as a civilization might think of ourselves,” writes Ben East in The Guardian.

Paperback: $6.99


 

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BOOKS ON THE MARKETS

Just finished ordering the latest copies of the Writer’s Market and the Songwriter’s Market.

Only cost me seven bucks. Because I had Christmas cards I had never used.

Now all I have to do is order the Agent’s Market and I’m set for the year.

INFOGRAPHIC – SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR BOOKS

A SUPERB METHOD OF VISUAL ENCODING

Again, another superb effort and a great methodology of graphic encoding. This would have also made a very nice espionage technique. With the pictures being both unnoticeable to most and even when apparent the visual images themselves could have passed encoded information for messaging. And what better way to pass those messages than steganographically? As a matter of fact the very uniqueness of the encoding of the graphic images would have probably deflected attention away from their subliminal use as an espionage technique.

The discoverer would probably immediate concentrate upon (or be channeled to concentrate upon) the mastery and skill required to create the artistic images rather than assume those same images possessed encoded messages – without an extremely good reason to be suspicious. Hence double camouflage.

These techniques are definitely going into my research files for my New Media Project.

Secret Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Winter by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Spring by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

Secret Fore Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa seasons painting illustration fore edge painting books
Summer by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.

When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here. Above are photos of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter which were donated to the University of Iowa by Charlotte Smith. How much fun are these? Keep an eye on the University of Iowa’s special collections Tumblr as they unearth more artificats from the archives.

Update: Because this post is getting so much attention, here are some more amazing fore-edge paintings found on YouTube.

E-ASING UP

Do Readers Really Prefer Their Dusty Old Paperbacks To E-Books? The E-Book Industry By The Numbers

Today, 23 percent of all male adults and 33 percent of all female adults in the United States read e-books. In fact, the global e-book industry is worth a whopping $8.5 billion.

This still pales in comparison to global print’s $53.9 billion so it’s little surprise readers still prefer holding those dusty old paperbacks. 46 percent of U.S. Internet users said they only read printed books while 15 percent read more e-books than printed books. A mere 6 percent of Internet users said they exclusively read their books in electronic format.

What does all that mean for the industry? Are e-books going to be the final nails in the coffin of conventional brick and mortar bookstores in the near future? Far from it. The pace of the digital revolution has slackened with e-book sales growth falling to just 5 percent in the U.S. 2013. Revenue has also stagnated at just over $3 billion…

NEW HOMESCHOOLING STUDIES

My children have begun their new year of homeschooling. Although my oldest daughter graduated High School this past summer in this (her gap) year she will be informally continuing her education with the same books my other children are using.

For this first quarter they will be reading:

TEN GREAT MYSTERIES by Edgar Allen Poe
ARCHAEOLOGY: THEORIES, METHODS, AND PRACTICE – we almost never use textbooks, almost always only original sources, but this textbook was so superb I decided for it
THE BIBLE – they will continue their study of the Bible in English and in Greek
THE DICTIONARY OF SCIENTIFIC LITERACY
INVENT IT, SELL IT, BANK IT by Lori Greiner
THE CELTS by Gerhard Herm

This of course does not include their lab-work (which will be primarily chemistry and biology this year), their musical training, sports, or field trips. This list includes only the books they are reading for the first quarter

PREFERENCES AND PARADOXES

I suspect the answer to this conundrum will be The New Media Project.

Ebooks v paper

By Julian Baggini

Which do our brains prefer? Research is forcing us to rethink how we respond to the written word

Choosing books to take on holiday has got more difficult in recent years. Now it is a question not just of what to read but how – on paper, tablet, e-reader, or perhaps even a phone – and people have strong opinions on which is best. But is there any more to the decision than cost and convenience? On this question, the answer suggested by numerous studies into the neuroscience and psychology of reading in different formats is an emphatic yes.

There is no shortage of people warning of the risks attendant on the rise of “screen culture”, as the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield calls it. Greenfield has repeatedly expressed concern that, as technology takes us into unknown territory, “the brain may be adapting in unprecedented ways”. Though she tends to stress that these changes might be good or bad, that hasn’t stopped her more negative speculations being picked up in the media and amplified in far more strident terms.

On the other side of the two cultures divide, the novelist and critic Will Self recently argued that the connectivity of the digital world was fatal for the serious novel, which requires all the reader’s attention. Looking ahead 20 years, he posed a question: “If you accept that by then the vast majority of text will be read in digital form on devices linked to the web, do you also believe that those readers will voluntarily choose to disable that connectivity? If your answer to this is no, then the death of the novel is sealed out of your own mouth…”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/53d3096a-f792-11e3-90fa-00144feabdc0.html#axzz35aHbiOmj

FREE BESTSELLERS

I’m no fan of the Da Vinci Code but a bunch of free Bestsellers sounds fine by me.

“In most cases, the deals can be purchased for any eReading device, including Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo, Sony and Android. Additionally, BookBub allows readers to select which genres they would like to receive, so each email is matched to subscriber preferences. With over 2 million readers already using BookBub’s service, it’s clear that this type of promotional concept is one that resonates with both publishers and readers alike…”

http://thebookinsider.com/publishers-giving-away-bestsellers-free/

IF YOU WILL NOT from HUMAN EFFORT

If you will not take accurate, careful, and unflinchingly honest notice of your own defects, faults, and limitations then how can you possibly hope to over come those same defects, faults, and limitations?

Only the weak man will not make honest observations of his own weaknesses.

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