Dipping the toe in

Just time for a quick toe-dip tonight before my reeling head gets a break from the screen.

Since seeing the intriguing posters for it all over the tube for ages, I’ve read quite a bit about The Thirteenth Tale and people seem to like it. Karen at Euro Crime posts here; Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. has read it and likes it, but so far (I think!) has not reviewed it; and the Guardian’s Culture Vulture has a swipe at the publisher’s strategy of "bribing bloggers". Personally I think that the (huge) advertising and marketing budget has a lot more to do with the book’s initial success than what the bloggers say about it. But nevertheless, it sounds like a good one.

While on the topic of the Guardian, Lyn Gardner has posted the second entry of her Culture Vulture blog about her book Into the Woods. She writes about the whole business of publishing a children’s book being dominated by adults, and the thrill of her first actual fan (aged 10). Actually Jenny read the book the day it was published, but as I said in Lyn’s comments, she probably does not count as the first fan as she didn’t review the book on her blog or write to the author about it. Shucks.

Back on-topic, Debi Alper posts about Mystery Women, a magazine for the promotion and enjoyment of crime fiction. Sounds as if it is worth a subscription — my only hesitation is acquiring yet more titles of books I want to read. But I agree completely with Debi’s heartfelt sentiments.

Speaking as a sub at heart, I love this Critical Mass post "The Unsung Copyeditor" (and links therein). Some good examples of how that sub saves the day – every day. There is no substitute for a good editor.

And a couple of "blog advice" posts I quite liked: "Be honest: how good are your entries?" at 9 rules network blog — I’ve read quite a few blogs like the one described in this post, but not for long. And manic Problogger: "How do you manage your blog?" — you can probably guess that the answers are to do with things like good time-management skills, prioritising skills, etc. Well, Darren’s answers, anyway — there is no reason why you can’t enjoy blogging by doing it all day in an unfocused, undisciplined way I’m sure (not that I’d know!).

And a couple of off-the-wall articles to finish off: Larry Page’s phone call from outer space (an astronaut phones you and you ask her what she forgot to pack?) and top 100 celebrity baby names, posted by Tom of Random Thinking. Can "Raspberry Danish" and "Venus Flytrap" actually be real?

Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis

Harrius_potter Jenny’s recent purchase of Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis has elicited some interest. You can read the blurb over at the publisher’s site.  Here’s an excerpt from the chapter ‘Speculum Erisedii’:

Harrius iam tam propinquus erat speculo ut naso imaginem paene tangeret.

‘an tu es matercula?’ susurravit. ‘an tu paterculus?’

ei tantum eum spectabant, subridentes. et lente, Harrius vitus ceterorum in speculo inspexit et alia paria oculorum viridium similium suis vidit, nasos alios similes suis, etiam homunculum senem qui videbatur genua nodosa Harrii habere — Harrius familiam suam spectabat quam nunquam prius tota vita viderat.

Potteri Harrio subridebant et manus iactabant et ille esuriens respiciebat, manibus planis contra vitrum pressis quasi speraret se recta per id lapsum ad eos perventurum esse. intus habebat desiderium magnum, quod erat mixtura gaudii et meastitiae terribilis.

quamdiu ibi staret, nesciebat. imagines non evanuerunt et usque spectabat dum sonus longinquus eum in mentem pristinam revocavit. non poterat ibi manere, via retro ad lectum ferens ei ivenienda erat. oculis a matria facie avulsis, susurravit, ‘redibo’, et e conclavi festinavit.

Translation of this passage into English is at Loopholes of Retreat, my commonplace book blog.

Book links, etc

I’ve managed to return to bring you the second "half"of the posts that I’ve enjoyed over the past week or so — with a bookish theme.

Shameless reviews one of the Macmillans New Writer books, Selfish Jean, a rather derivative title (think Richard Dawkins), and cover art that is a mash-up of DNA helix and chick-lit. Despite these poor omens, the book sounds both good and short — so one for the list on both counts, perhaps.

Moving from the nascent to the fully matured, here’s a link to Powell books on Echo Park, Michael Connelley’s latest. Sounds fab. It will come out in paperback before I’ve got my act together to get to the library and order it, so I’ll have to wait a year or so to join in the fun.

Despite what anyone says about him, I’m a long-term fan of Mel Gibson. Even though he hasn’t got a clue about William Wallace, I still think Mel is OK. Here is a brave library that won’t take his picture down. Good on you, Illinois.

I posted a while ago about Into the Woods, Lyn Gardner’s first novel for "8-12 year olds". Big A little a posts about it here, including a link to Lyn’s "Culture vulture" Guardian blog for the book. Some pretty upfront comments to Lyn’s post –bit of a dilemma, what to do if you get a novel published and you are a Guardian journalist. Do you post on the blog or not? Damned if you don’t, damned if you do, it seems.

Hastily moving on, Anecdotal Evidence ruminates on that most admirable of explainers, Charles Darwin. Although Patrick Kurp is right to agree that some of Darwin’s sentences may have been as convoluted as a folding protein, plenty were not. If Darwin had not had his bulldog (Thomas Huxley) to promote his radical agenda on his behalf, would the Richard Owen fraternity have prevailed? I’ll post some of Darwin’s comments on this topic at Loopholes of Retreat if I can.

"Today more novels are published in one week than Samuel Johnson had to deal with in a decade." So says M.J. Rose, in her post Storytelling. And while on the subject, if you like interviews, or even if you don’t, read Elaine Flinn’s latest "on the bubble" on Murderati, with M.J. herself. A real treat.

If you can make head or tail of this article by Marylin Stasio in the New York Times, let me (and the Rap sheet) know. Crime (detective) fiction isn’t an academic subject, it is a slippery octopus, just like any other genre. Best not to try to pin it down, as they’ll always be exceptions. Still, gotta sell those newspapers, I suppose.

And while we are at genre definition, are Britons from Christie, Americans from Chandler? if you know, let Detectives without Borders have the benefit of your views.

Kimbofo of Reading Matters has completed John Baker’s longstanding meme.

It’s a Crime! has news of the latest awards.

Last  but by no means least, see here for Frank Wilson’s blog and link to his review of a new translation of The Three Musketeers.

Thanks for reading — I hope you’ve found something of interest in my magpie collection of the week.

Technolinks for the weekend

As you may have noticed I have had a bit of a computing marathon this weekend, so what follows is a rather quick list of links to what caught my interest among my mushrooming blog subscriptions. (A look at my full blogroll will reveal that I’ve now had to make a special category for crime fiction in view of the new blogs I’ve discovered in the past week).

I’ll cover technology-ish links in this post and (if I’m lucky enough to quarry the time), book-related links in a second later on.

First up, Geeking with Greg predicts the demise of Froogle, Google’s shopping channel. I’ve tried Froogle a few times but never found it that useful, probably because I live in the wrong bit of the physical world for it.

Bloggers blog asks whether Facebook, Technorati or YouTube be the next big Web 2.0 sale, the story being pegged to Yahoo’s interest in buying Facebook. I quite like Technorati at the moment as Petrona is now in the top 3 per cent of its indexed blogs, but I have no intention of buying it, so Rupert Murdoch and co can rest easy.

Barry Graubert at Content Matters has given the New York Times reader a test drive. I wish Malcolm would do something like that instead of going out and giving cars a test drive, which he’s doing at the moment. Sadly, the prospect of buying a new vehicle is rather more likely than that of me buying YouTube et al.

Eva of the scientific blog Easternblot has found a museum of scientifically accurate brain art which features knitted brains. There is a picture at the link (on Eva’s blog) for the curious.

Eva also draws attention to the upcoming triangle science bloggers’ conference next month, for anyone interested and who is in striking distance of North Carolina.

And the geekiest of all the science bloggers, MarkCC (quite an achievement), asks whether we should miss Basic? Ah, takes me back. Mark’s blog is called Good Math Bad Math, with a subtitle that is one of my favourites even if I can’t always or even often understand the content of the blog itself: "finding the fun in good math; shredding bad math and squashing the crackpots who espouse it".

More later.

Family blogging update

Beta blogger has stimulated Cathy and Jenny to update their blogger blogs, which have fallen into some disuse owing to other attractions on the Internet (MySpace and Millsbury, respectively).

Oasis now has a moody blue new look, and Little Hibiscus Fairy has migrated into trademark turquoise.

I’ve played around a bit myself with beta blogger, but because I don’t have a blogger blog any more I had to create a new one. It is still a work in progress, but it is a ‘commonplace’ book called Loopholes of Retreat (title idea from Hazlitt via Patrick Kurp) .

Comments, advice, opinions welcome — Cathy and Jenny love to receive comments on their blogs.

Typepad book author promotion

A nice new feature from Typepad, hoster of Petrona: a website dedicated to authors of books written by Typepad bloggers. From the Typepad newsletter:

"After our great conversations with Chris Anderson and Seth Godin about their new books, we decided it was time to make a home to show off all the great books that come from TypePad bloggers: books.typepad.com.  It will collect biographical information, interviews and the podcasts we record all in one place.  We also used Amazon’s new aStore feature to put together a simple bookstore that makes it easy to browse and buy books by TypePad authors."

A different book (and author) will be featured each month, and you can sign up for an rss feed to be alerted when the site is updated. The current featured author is Shari Caudron, author of Who Are You People?, a look at fanatical obsession across the United States.

Dumbeldore the Greek

I think I went on holiday fairly recently, didn’t I? One of the many unwritten posts in my head arising from about that involves Harry Potter. Regular readers of Petrona may remember an optimistic posting about Cathy’s and my hopes that Dumbledore is not, in fact, dead. These hopes were fairly soon afterwards snuffed out by J K Rowling herself, via a post on her website.

Well, I have to report that Cathy and I are both now convinced. (Cathy has already posted about it on Oasis.) Professor D is definitely no more. It’s all in the book (6, that is).

Because we had many hours of driving to look forward to on our trip to France, I had prepared by obtaining the CD of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (aka HP6). As predicted, Stephen Fry’s wonderful reading of the book had all four of us utterly absorbed for every moment it was on (and it is a long book, there are a lot of moments). Even though, of course, we had all read the written version previously.

The rest of this post follows on the continuation sheet, partly for length reasons and partly because although it gives away as little as possible, it does reveal some bits of the plot of this and previous HP books.

Continue reading

Among the new influencers

I seem to be one of the "new influencers". I received an email the other day from a Mr Paul Gillin Communications to thank me for taking part in a bloggers’ survey in June, and to offer me a look at the results, which you can see at this link. Of course I have forgotten ever taking part in the survey, but I suppose I must have done. At least one of the respondents is as old as me (150), so it is certainly possible.

What is not possible, of course, is to say much if anything from the results; 159 completed responses from bloggers were received (that’s low in survey terms) but I don’t know how many invitations were sent out or the response rate.  Nevertheless, a few snippets: 99 per cent of respondents allowed comments on their blogs; 94 per cent always or nearly always respond to comments and none never respond;  60 per cent have met or telephoned someone they encountered by blogging; and 27 per cent read more than 100 blogs a week.

Paul Gillin himself (sans "Communications") has his own blog to promote his book The New Influencers, preliminary chapters are available there — but I’m not reading them online. The book, which will be published in Spring 2007, has chapters on social media and other ways in which the Internet is evolving, as well as what Gillin calls "influencer profiles" of people such as Steve Rubel and Robert Scoble.

Despite its strong marketing orientation, I found Paul Gillin’s blog quite sweet, and am even mildly considering buying the book when it is published. At the top of the blog, Gillin says: "Thanks for looking at these draft chapters of The New Influencers, to be published by Quill Driver Books in the spring of 2007. New chapters will be posted as they come together. Please comment on content, style, direction and anything else you wish. Except typos. There are many, some introduced by my own fingers, other attributable to a semi-functional voice recognition system. Those will be fixed. Be brutal. I have until mid-September to pull everything together and I’d rather learn the error of my ways now :-). Use the comments section or send your comments to me" ]email address provided].

I like the typo "except typos" for "expect typos". And I especially like the part about the typos due to the voice-activation system.

How physics killed Spiderman’s girlfriend

Me linking to a post on Boing Boing is like J K Rowling asking the Kingston local news for some publicity. I gave up reading Boing Boing a while back as there is too much of it, too frequently, but I came across this posting via an aggregate service (Finderoy). It made me smile, not least because the formula is given at the link. You can also go to a video clip on YouTube via the Boing Boing entry, if you are a youtuber (I’m not, I’m just a potato).

Link: Boing Boing: How physics killed Spiderman’s girlfriend.

Good things come in threes

Three great new (to me) crime fiction blogs.

Detectives without borders ("because murder is more fun away from home") has an interesting perspective on the David Montgomery "10 best crime books" challenge. Interesting not least because I haven’t read any of the selections, which causes me to raise an eyebrow at myself. I found this blog courtesy of Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. — it is written by a colleague of Frank’s.

The other two discoveries come by way of Euro Crime (a lovely blog originally discovered via Its a crime!):

International Noir Fiction –"reviews and ideas on crime fiction, most outside the US". Lots of great reviews by Glenn Harper, who has even done me the honour of visiting Petrona — thanks, Glenn.

And Crime Scraps — " a few comments and thoughts about crime books set on the mainland of Europe, with titbits about real eurocrime. We hear constantly about crime in the USA that many people imagine Europe is a crime-free zone". (I know, the grammar!) Crime Scraps has some interesting postings but falls foul of Blogging 101 — does not allow comments. Huh!

All three of these blogs exclude the USA crime fiction in their mission statements, although inevitably this is a rule that has been broken.  I wonder why — perhaps there is a view that US crime fiction dominates the genre, I don’t know. Personally I am happy to enjoy a good detective novel wherever it is set and whatever the nationality of the author. But there may be reasons for the European emphasis of which I’m unaware. Maybe I’ll be enlightened via the comments.

But one thing is for sure, with these three crime fiction blogs as well as Euro Crime and It’s a Crime!, I am never going to be short of recommendations of books to read or places to discuss them. And that’s without all the other excellent review blogs (The Rap Sheet, Paperback Mysteries, etc). Just let me clear a few decades in my diary.