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Books, authors and all things bookish

Category: authors

Stephen R. Covey, '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' author, dies

Stephen R. Covey book cover
Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling self-help book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died Monday, his family announced. Covey, 79, had been injured in a major bicycle accident in April.

Covey's signature work was published in 1989 and became a lasting bestseller — in 1994, it had been on the New York Times bestseller list for 220 weeks. Currently its sales are tallied at more than 20 million copies. He went on to write a number of sequels and spinoffs, including "The Third Alternative" (2011) and "The Eighth Habit" (2005). He was also a sought-after management advisor.

Covey was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He got an MBA at Harvard, then returned to Utah to get a doctorate from Brigham Young University, where he taught business management.

The Salt Lake Tribune writes:

Covey’s management post at BYU led to "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," which launched a second career as management guru for companies and government agencies, among them Saturn, Ritz Carlton, Proctor & Gamble, Sears Roebuck and Co., NASA, Black & Decker, Public Broadcasting Service, Amway, American Cancer Society and the Internal Revenue Service.

The books have legions of adherents in corporate America who swear by its principles. But critics tend to see it as part of a cult of the self-help American frenzy of past decades or so that tends to trivialize big problems.

Covey founded a Utah-based management training center that sold books and videos and held training seminars. In 1997 it merged with FranklinQuest, a deal from which Covey was said to have made about $27 million in cash and stock.

"We believe that organizational behavior is individual behavior collectivized," he told Fortune magazine in 1994. "We want to take this to the whole world."


'Encyclopedia Brown' author Donald Sobol has died

Nora Ephron, 71, has died

Science fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury, 91, has died

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Stephen R. Covey in 2003. Credit: Ric Feld / Associated Press.

'Encyclopedia Brown' author Donald Sobol has died

EncyclopediabrownDonald Sobol, author of the beloved children's book series "Encyclopedia Brown," died Wednesday in Miami. He was 87.

Sobol was born in New York and served in World War II. After going to college at Oberlin, he worked as a journalist in New York, then left to pursue a writing career in 1951. Although he was having some success, his "Encyclopedia Brown" manuscript was turned down two dozen times before it found a publisher. 

The first book, "Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective" was published by T. Nelson in 1963. It proved so popular that Sobol was soon following up with more stories about the 10-year-old Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown and his partner, tomboy Sally Kimball. Eventually, there would be almost 30 books in the series, which has never gone out of print.

A fund in memory of Donald Sobol has been set up at the New York Public Library.

Sobol had moved with his wife and family from New York to Florida in 1961; the "Encyclopedia Brown" series was set in the fictional Florida town Idaville. Sobol tried to retain a measure of anonymity; he did not grant television interviews and preferred not to be photographed. "I am very content with staying in the background and letting the books do the talking," he told the Oberlin alumni magazine  in 2011.

Before "Encyclopedia Brown," Sobol had been publishing historical nonfiction aimed at children, with titles that included "The Double Quest" and "The Lost Dispatch: A Story of Antietam." He had a hit with the short column "Two Minute Mysteries," which was syndicated by newspapers from 1959-68.

Sobol, who continued writing into his 80s, used his own experience as a lesson for aspiring writers. "Persevere, and don’t take no for an answer," he said. "And if you really think [the publishers] are right, then look over the manuscript and polish it a little more."


Nora Ephron, 71, has died

Science fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury, 91, has died

Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where the Wild Things Are,' dies at 83

 -- Carolyn Kellogg

Neil Gaiman signs a 5-book deal for the kids

Neil Gaiman signs book deal
Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman has signed a new 5-book deal with HarperCollins, it was announced Wednesday. But adult fans of the author will have to wait for another Gaiman book written specifically for them.

HarperCollins will publish three middle-grade books -- "middle grade" refers to books for children ages  8-12 -- by Gaiman. One will be a sequel to 2009's "Odd and the Frost Giants," based on Norse mythology. One is as yet unannounced; the other is tentatively titled "Fortunately, the Milk," and will feature art by Skottie Young.

Gaiman is also creating two picture books for the publisher, both featuring Chu, a little panda with a big sneeze. The first, "Chu's Day," will be published in January 2013. Gaiman, who has an active Internet presence, posted an image of Chu online in February.

Always prolific, Gaiman has a book for adults on deck, tentatively titled "Lettie Hempstock's Ocean." In June he wrote on his blog:

On the plane to the UK I finished writing the new novel. I'm not sure right now if it's going to be called Lettie Hempstock's Ocean or not. I think it's a good book -- or at least, I think it's a real book, and I'm proud of it, and whether it's good or not will be up to other people to judge. Despite the protagonist being about 7 years old for most of the novel, it's a book for adults. Or at least, I think it is.

Now I'm doing things to it, including worrying that there's a better title and rereading it and making it better and clearer and scarier wherever I can. But it's a new book for adults, one I didn't even know I would write until February, and it makes me happy that it exists.

Gaiman has had success writing for all ages. He won the prestigious Newbery Award for "The Graveyard Book" (ages 10 and up), as well as winning Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards for "American Gods," a novel for adults. "The Sandman" graphic novel series also brought a number of awards Gaiman's way.


Neil Gaiman charms at UCLA

Neil Gaiman sings (sort of) "The Problem with Saints"

Neil Gaiman: From 'Doctor Who' to blog to 'Doctor Who'

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Neil Gaiman with wife Amanda Palmer. Credit: Pixie Vision Productions

Pithy posters for writers


Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner once said, "Civilization begins with distillation," and now you can have that on a poster. It's one of several pithy sayings by authors that have been given visual representation by New York-based artist Evan Robertson.

Robertson has created 15 illustrations to go along with literary quotations. There are novelists, poets, a philosopher, quippers and criticizers. One poster has Molly Bloom's soliloquy from the end of "Ulysses" (spoiler alert!). Here is a selection of quotes:

All truths wait in all things. -- Walt Whitman

That's not writing, that's typing. -- Truman Capote

Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form. -- Vladimir Nabokov

Poets are always taking the weather so seriously. -- J.D. Salinger

Have you ever heard the earth breathe? -- Kate Chopin

How embarrassing to be human. -- Kurt Vonnegut

How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless. -- Paul Bowles

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. -- Edgar Allan Poe

In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile. --  Hunter S. Thompson

The appropriate response to reality is to go insane. -- Philip K. Dick

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Write drunk. Edit sober. -- Ernest Hemingway

Robertson has done his homework; he describes the literary context of each quote on the sales pages of his Etsy shop, Obvious State. For example, Capote had some specific writing (or was it typing?) in mind: He was criticizing the work of Jack Kerouac. Which gives his quote a little extra edge.

Previously, Robertson also had posters with quotes from Mark Twain and Kerouac, but those aren't currently being offered for sale. These are. The digitally created illustrations are, by turns, witty and elegant. Each poster comes as a 13-by-19-inch giclée print with a white border. They're for sale, unframed, for $24 each.


Visions of scripturience (say what?)

Here's a dictionary for warped minds

Considering tweeting about working on your novel? Think twice.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Images: Posters created by Evan Robertson. Credit: Obvious State shop on Etsy

Happy birthday, Carolyn Keene!


Carolyn Keene, the author of the Nancy Drew mysteries, was not a real person. It was a mantle worn by 28 different women and men during the series' 73-year run. The first, most enduring Carolyn Keene was Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books. Benson was a stunningly prolific writer, publishing more than 130 books, mostly for children and young adults, frequently under pen names. She was born Mildred Augustine in Ladora, Iowa, on this day in 1905.

Girl detective Nancy Drew, as some of her fans know, was a 16-year-old with strawberry blond hair, a sky-blue roadster that matched her eyes, a rather boring boyfriend named Ned, and best friends tomboyish George and pretty, plump Bess. Other fans will be perplexed by this description because as the decades wore on, and the girl detective remained popular, she underwent some changes. Nancy Drew got older, her hair changed color, and she even got a new car. Although I haven't read the latest editions, I hear she now drives a Prius.

The editions I read, thanks to a sympathetic babysitter, were the originals written by Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson. She wrote the first Nancy Drew book, "The Secret of the Old Clock," published in 1930; her last was 1953's "The Clue of the Velvet Mask." Many have connected Benson closely to Nancy Drew -- in our obituary of Benson, who died in 2002 at age 96, The Times wrote, "Benson and Nancy Drew shared many interests: Both flew planes, golfed, participated in archeological digs and radiated self-confidence in the man's world of the early 20th century."

Benson had conflicting feelings about the character she brought to life. "I always knew the series would be successful. I just never expected it to be the blockbuster that it has been. I'm glad that I had that much influence on people," she told the Associated Press in 2001. Eight years earlier, on her way to the first-ever Nancy Drew conference, she had said, "I'm so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit."

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6 Twitter rules for authors, from Twitter (beginner edition)

TwitterbirdI admit, I'm a chronic early adopter. When my friend Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) insisted I try Twitter, I signed up. That was back in 2008. I didn't get it at first -- it seemed like so much chatter -- but now I truly enjoy the bookish conversation that can be found there.

But not everyone is like me (be glad: that means you don't sleep with your iPhone next to the bed). And so for those writers who are just girding themselves to jump in, Twitter has posted a list of six Twitter rules for authors. Who could be more authoritative about how to use Twitter than Twitter? Here's an abridged edition of their list:

1. Be authentic, be yourself. Twitter offers a direct, instant connection between you and your readers — they want to know what you’re up to.

2. Share your process. Twitter is a place where fans get a deeper connection to artists, performers, scholars ... and authors. Your readers are interested in your process. Tweet a bit about how your work. Invite your followers to a local book signing.

3. Engage with your readers. Twitter is also a place where your fans can directly engage with you, however much you want (it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time). You can see messages from other users in the “Connect” tab on your Twitter homepage. Is there a question in there for you? Answer it.

4. Find influencers. Twitter allows you to send a public message (via the @reply) to anyone else using Twitter. Just use the Search section on Twitter’s homepage to find other users. An idea: Who is your favorite living author? See if they’re on Twitter and tweet a "hello" to them.

5. Search Twitter. Just type what you’re looking for into the search tab to see what people are tweeting about right now. An idea: Is anyone tweeting about a book you wrote? Type the title into Search and find out.

6. Above all, have fun. Twitter is an exceptionally flexible platform that is ripe for creative use. Play around with it. You can live-tweet an event as it happens, or live-tweet a fictional world. You can interview another author or create a completely fictional account based on a character you dream up.

It's true, Twitter can be fun. It's the kind of place where on a lazy summer weekend, people all over might just start altering book titles so they read like drinks. Yesterday #bookdrink titles were so popular that they were a trending topic across the network; some popular fake book titles were "James and the Giant Peach Schnapps," "Tequila Mockingbird" and "Beer and Loathing In Las Vegas."


The New Yorker tries Twitter fiction with Jennifer Egan

The birth of a Twitter trend: #replacebooktitleswithbacon

Twitter is full of readers: 'Why I Read' makes trending topic

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Gabriel Garcia Marquez unable to write, brother says

Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2006Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez is suffering from dementia, which has made him unable to write, his brother says. "Dementia runs in our family, and he's now suffering the ravages prematurely due to the cancer that put him almost on the verge of death," Jaime Garcia Marquez, the author's younger brother, told students in Cartagena, Colombia, the Guardian reported Saturday.

"Chemotherapy saved his life, but it also destroyed many neurons, many defences and cells, and accelerated the process," Jaime continued. "But he still has the humour, joy and enthusiasm that he has always had."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is now in his mid-80s, is best known for his novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude," first published in Spanish in 1967, which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. With it, he ushered in the genre known as magic realism, which combined fantastical elements and the real, and became closely associated with literature from Latin America.

"He has problems with his memory," Jaime said. "Sometimes I cry because I feel like I'm losing him." Jaime is head of the Ibero-American New Journalism Foundation, founded by his brother. As a young man, Gabo worked as a journalist in Colombia, Rome, Paris; Barcelona, Spain; Caracas, Venezuela; New York; and Mexico City.

During his life, Marquez has been overtly political in his life -- he fostered a friendship with Cuba's Fidel Castro -- and his writing. The novel "The General in His Labyrinth" caused an uproar when it was published in Colombia; it presented an ailing, delirious Simon Bolivar. Calling the book "anti-patriotic," Roberto Belandia, secretary of the Colombian Academy of History, told The Times, "He uses history to darken the prestige of our institutions and heroes." Marquez disagreed, telling The Times, "I haven't tried to destroy anything but to show the man. All the veneration and all the respect that he gets as a myth are greater if he is seen as a human being." It's sad to think that Marquez himself may be facing a similar fate.

Marquez's other major works include the novels "Love in the Time of Cholera," "The Autumn of the Patriarch," "The General and His Labyrinth" and the novella "Chronicle of a Death Foretold." He has written one memoir, "Living to Tell the Tale," intended to be the first book in a series. His brother says that he does not expect he will be able to complete the story.


Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Big in Iran

Happy birthday, Gabriel Garcia Marquez!

Papers reveal Gabriel Garcia Marquez was under Mexican surveillance for years

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2006. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Jane Austen ring goes up for auction

A ring once owned by author Jane Austen will be auctioned by Sotheby's later this month. Austen, the author of the much-loved novels "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma," never married or had children, but the ring has remained in the possession of her family since her death in 1817. Scholars had been unaware of its existence, and it is expected to sell at auction for $31,000 to $46,000.

The ring is made of gold with a cabachon blue stone of natural turquoise. It is, as Sotheby's auction house notes, in a simple style Austen wrote of sympathetically in her work. In "Mansfield Park," Fanny Price is given a gold chain by her cousin Edmund, who tells her, "I consulted the simplicity of your taste."

The jewelry is given to Fanny "in all the niceness of jewellers packing," just as the ring remains in its original box. It comes with letters dating back to 1863 describing its provenance: The ring was passed from Jane Austen to sister Cassandra Austen to sister-in-law Eleanor Austen to niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen to niece Mary A. Austen-Leigh to her niece, Mary Dorothy Austen-Leigh, then to her sister, Winifred Jenkyns, who passed it to her descendants.

The ring will be offered at Sotheby's English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations auction on July 10. The auction includes many sets of letters, and superb copies of the "Shakespeare Fourth Folio" (est. $124,000 to $186,000), Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" (est. $93,000 to $124,000), and Charles Darwin’s "On the "Origin of Species" (est. $77,000 to $108,000). It also includes fine first editions of Jane Austen's novels "Mansfield Park" (est. $4,600 to $7,700), "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion" (est. $3,800 to $5,400), "Emma" (est. $15,500 to $23,000) and "Pride and Prejudice" (est. $31,000 to $46,000).

Hat tip to the Paris Review blog for spotting Jane Austen's ring for sale.


Jane Austen's unfinished manuscript goes up for auction

A Jane Austen memento. Pricey? Creepy?

Literary letters for auction at Sotheby's

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jane Austen's ring and a note about it, written by Eleanor Austen. Credit: Sotheby's


J.K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' cover revealed

Jkrowling_casualvacancyMove over, Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling has written her first book for adults, and it's coming soon. "The Casual Vacancy" will be released worldwide on Sept. 27, and publisher Little, Brown revealed its cover Tuesday morning.

Little, Brown describes the novel, which is 512 pages, as "a big book about a small town." Here are a few more details:

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

Rowling was a single mother struggling to make ends meet when she wrote "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," published in the U.S. in 1998 as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The book and its sequels were huge bestsellers; readers staged overnight vigils at bookstores in order to be among the first to buy the next installment. The series has sold more than 450-million copies worldwide, and Rowling has become one of the world's most successful authors.

As the success of the Harry Potter series grew, its seven books were read by adults as well as children. "The Casual Vacancy," however, is Rowling's first book written specifically for a grown-up audience.


Harry Potter "Book of Spells" by J.K. Rowling launches Wonderbook

JK Rowling's new book will be 'The Casual Vacancy'

Harry Potter e-books join Amazon's Kindle lending library

— Carolyn Kellogg

Image: "The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling. Credit: Little, Brown

Remembering Bukowski with Harry Dean Stanton on Saturday

A parade of Hollywood stars who are fans of writer Charles Bukowski, led by Harry Dean Stanton, will pay tribute to the author at a celebration on Saturday. The free show, at the Grand Performances outdoor stage, begins at 8 p.m.

Bukowski, who died in 1994, was a celebrated writer of L.A.'s gritty side. A longtime post office employee, Bukowski was a hard drinker who lived on the edge. He wrote a column, "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," which was published by a handful of underground newspapers in the late 1960s. In 1969, at age 49, he quit his day job to write a book for Black Sparrow Press; that novel was "Post Office."

While not a bestseller, Bukowski was a favorite of the underground (and the French). He wrote six novels, including "Factotum" and "Ham on Rye," and dozens of poetry collections. Disinclined toward capitalization and with a fondness for raw language, he wrote poems like "i wanted to overthrow the government but all i brought down was somebody's wife" and "a 340 dollar horse and a hundred dollar whore."

Bukowski's work reached the mainstream after the 1987 release of the movie "Barfly," which starred Mickey Rourke as the Bukowski-like character Harry Chianski. It was set in dive bars and the seedy parts of Los Angeles.

Downtown L.A. has been cleaned up considerably since Bukowski's time, featuring cultural celebrations like Grand Performances. On Saturday, the reading series Tongue & Groove takes over the stage to present a tribute to Charles Bukowski.

Hollywood stars Harry Dean Stanton and Rebecca De Mornay headline the evening. Other readers include writer Dan Fante, whose father, John Fante, was an inspiration to, and rediscovered by, Charles Bukowski. Poets Jack Grapes, Kenneth Sonny Donato and Chiwan Choi, and writer Wendy Rainey will also read. Two writers who knew Bukowski, Joan Jobe Smith and Gerald Locklin, will also take the stage, so in addition to readings there may well be reminiscences.

Bukowski died at age 73 in 1994. His papers are now at the Huntington Library.


Charles Bukowski at the Huntington

Slake does Bukowski for (almost) Valentine's

Charles Bukowski: writing, drinking, writing

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Left photo: Harry Dean Stanton in 2006. Credit: Robert Lachman / L.A. Times. Right photo: Charles Bukowski from the documentary film "Bukowski: Born Into This," released by Magnolia Pictures. Credit: Michael Montfort


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