Monday, October 23, 2017

Birth of the Paperback

Books Designed for Soldiers’ Pockets Changed Publishing Forever 

Prior to WWII, Americans didn’t think much of softcover books.

A hospitalized soldier passes the time with an Armed Services Edition.

In September of 1940, as the U.S.’s entry into World War II began looking more and more likely, President Roosevelt reinstated the draft. Hundreds of thousands of new recruits soon found themselves in basic training, an experience that, due to a lack of available facilities, often included building their own barracks and training grounds.

Within a couple of years, many of them—along with hundreds of thousands of others—had been deployed. As Hackenberg writes, the U.S. military now consisted of “millions of people far from home, who found themselves in a situation where periods of boredom alternated with periods of intense activity.” In other words, they were the perfect audience for a good paperback.

It didn’t take long for the Army, too, to come to this conclusion. As Molly Guptill Manning writes in When Books Went to War, although books were already considered an important source of troop morale—the Army Library Services had been established during World War I—Nazi Germany’s embrace of book-burning, propaganda and censorship imbued them with new wartime significance. In 1940, after word got out that the newly built camps were starved for books, the Army’s new Library Section chief, Raymond L. Trautman, set out to change that.

Libraries across the country independently organized book drives. This quickly mushroomed into the nationwide Victory Book Campaign, or VBC, a collaboration between the Army and the American Library Association that aimed to be the biggest book drive in the country’s history.

Many of the books donated—like How to Knit and An Undertaker’s Review—were rejected, as it was assumed, fairly or unfairly, that they’d hold no interest for soldiers. On top of that, the bulky, boxy hardcovers proved bad battlefield companions. In 1943, the VBC was officially ended.

Trautman had to try something different. Over the course of the preceding years, he had consulted with publishers, authors, and designers about how to quickly and efficiently increase the number of books that made it to the troops. In 1943, together with the graphic artist H. Stanley Thompson and publisher Malcolm Johnson, he officially proposed his idea: Armed Services Editions, or ASEs.

These would be mass-produced paperbacks, printed in the U.S. and sent overseas on a regular basis. Rather than depending on the taste and largesse of their overextended fellow citizens, soldiers would receive a mix of desirable titles—from classics and bestsellers to westerns, humor books and poetry—each specially selected by a volunteer panel of literary luminaries.

They were a huge and immediate hit. “Never had so many books found so many enthusiastic readers,” Cole later wrote. As Manning tells it, “servicemen read them while waiting in line for chow or a haircut, when pinned down in a foxhole, and when stuck on a plane for a milk run.” Some soldiers reported that ASEs were the first books they had ever read cover to cover. Troops cherished their shipments, passing them around up to and beyond the point of illegibility. “They are as popular as pin-up girls,” one soldier wrote. “To heave one in the garbage can is tantamount to striking your grandmother,” quipped another.

From the beginning of the production process, he continues, the publishers involved felt “a sense of pending triumph and of crossing a new threshold.” After the project’s end, in 1947, this instinct was borne out: by 1949, softcovers were outselling hardback books by 10 percent.

So the next time you dog-ear a page of your pocket paperback and slip it into your jacket to accompany you on your commute, think of a soldier. They’re a big part of why it fits.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

NEW from Story Merchant Books

The Meander Tile
of Lisa Greco

A Romance of Mythic Identity

By Andrea Aguillard

Los Angeles, CA—The newest release from Story Merchant Books and the second book in Andrea Aguillard’s Romance of Mythic Identity series brings you the inspiring story of second generation Italian-American Lisa Greco. She’s about to receive the reward she's worked her head off for—but she's not sure it's what she wants anymore.

When she's offered her boss's position at a prestigious New York publishing firm—a position she's worked her entire career toward—she asks for time off instead. Because it suddenly hits her: this is it. No more vacations, no more dreams of doing her own writing. And as for her love life, so much for fantasies. She might as well just take it off her bucket list. She's been judged ready to assume great responsibility over others, but it's come at a great cost: she hasn't been responsible to herself.

She's always postponed exploring her creativity, and discovering her Neapolitan origins. So, she throws the dice, and goes to Naples.

Only, her Greek-Italian heritage is not what she expected. It's much, much more—and her exploration of the enchanting city is only enhanced by a mysterious Japanese-Italian professor of mathematics and itinerant tenor, Ichiro Negroponte, who's in search of his own roots. This leads her to do something she's never done before. She takes his hand as he leads her into the darkest recesses of the ancient excavations of Cumae that reveal the key to both their identities.

Books 1 & 2 both available now in print and eBook formats.

To request a review copy of either or an author interview, please email

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Literary Love Triangle: The Making of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway was busy in 1926. He’d just written his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, based on a trip to Spain he’d taken the year before. His new pal F. Scott Fitzgerald loved it, and was working on getting it published by Scribner’s, the same house that had published Fitzgerald’s breakout work, The Great Gatsby. But Fitzgerald wanted Hemingway to cut the opening of the book, which would produce a major shift in tone. Fitzgerald had to broach this subject lightly, as Hemingway took criticism like a spoiled six-year-old.

First chapter aside, they also had to figure out how to get Hemingway out of a previous commitment he’d made to another publisher. They managed to do this by offering them a mean-spirited satirical novel called The Torrents of Spring which they knew would be rejected, thus freeing Hemingway to seek publication elsewhere. Scribner’s was willing to buy the satirical novel just so they could get Sun. Hemingway vacationed with his wife and little son in Schruns, Austria, then went to New York to sign with Scribner’s. On his way back to Austria, he stopped off in Paris to see Pauline Pfeiffer, with whom he was having an affair. He may or may not have fallen in love with Pauline because she might have been the only one who thought Torrents of Spring was any good.

As Mary V. Dearborn tells it in her new biography of Hemingway, the affair with Pfeiffer was no casual thing. Hemingway’s gotten a reputation as a womanizer because it seems to fit the image of him as a macho, swaggering, marlin-catching, rhino-shooting man’s man. In fact, Hemingway was tortured by his love for Pauline, and wanted desperately to figure things out. Not that he had a mature way of working through it: when his wife Hadley confronted him about it, he flew into a rage, blaming her for even bringing it up.

Today being Hemingway’s birthday, I’ve been reading Dearborn’s book and found the events around the time of the writing and publication of The Sun Also Rises ripe for a graphic interpretation. I don’t know if Hemingway liked comics, but fans can consider this a posthumous birthday gift for Papa, who was born today in 1899.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's in a name... Warner Bros. Retitles "MEG to "The MEG"

Director, Jon Turteltaub‘s (National Treasure). Starring are Jason Statham (Spy, Furious 7, The Expendables films) and award-winning Chinese actress Li Bingbing (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Forbidden Kingdom, The Message). The Meg will swim into theaters on August 10, 2018.

A deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.

Rounding out the international main cast of Meg are New Zealander Cliff Curtis (The Dark Horse, Risen, TV’s Fear the Walking Dead), Rainn Wilson (TV’s The Office, Super), Ruby Rose (xXx: Return of Xander Cage, TV’s Orange is the New Black), Winston Chao(Skiptrace, Kabali), Page Kennedy (TV’s Rush Hour), Jessica McNamee (The Vow, TV’s Sirens), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The BFG, TV’s The Missing), Robert Taylor (Focus, TV’s Longmire), Sophia Shuya Cai (Somewhere Only We Know), and Masi Oka (TV’s Hawaii Five-0, Heroes).

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Musicologist and Author of Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton, Dr. Warren Woodruff Attending CHOA Tower of Talent

Joseph DeBlasi, Angelica Hale, Dr. Warren Woodruff

So happy to be reunited with my darling Angelica and to be a part of such a wonderful fundraiser for CHOA. Great job everyone!

Yannie Tan and Laura Zhang

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writers and Authors Interviews Ken Atchity about The Messiah Matrix

Why Did You Write Such a Heavily-Researched Book as a Novel?

by Jo Linsdell

 I've been asked that question numerous times in interviews and emails, and it's a good one. As a former professor, I wrote more than a handful of scholarly books, and certainly could have expanded on the premise of The Messiah Matrix as nonfiction instead of in the format of a romantic thriller.

My main reason for choosing to write it as a novel is that, to quote Muriel Rukeyser, "the universe is made of stories, not of atoms." I wanted this story to reach its maximum audience, and knew it would never do that as a nonfiction "study" of the origins of Christianity in imperial Rome. Even contemporary quantum physicists would agree that without our perception and report reality would not be all it's cracked up to be. If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one to tell the story it simply doesn't matter whether it fell or not. We humans lead our lives through stories, depending on them as coping mechanisms and guides through the labyrinth of possibilities that face us every day—relying on them as inspiration for continuing the struggle and as consolation when the struggle comes to its inevitable end.

Once in a blue moon an idea comes your way that's worthy of Herman Melville's observation, in Moby Dick: "to write a mighty book you must have a mighty theme." When I started putting together the parallels between Julius and Augustus Caesar and Jesus, I knew no one would take them seriously unless they were presented as part of a contemporary tale of relevance to our world today. I'm not comparing my novel to Moby Dick, nor claiming it's a mighty tale—but its premise was powerful enough to compel me through the forty-something drafts I went through in the four years it was on the drawing board. I'd still like to do some more revising, and will no doubt do so on its way to the screen.

Storytelling is such a privilege that the ancient Greeks put the story teller, teknos, on a par with kings when it came to honoring his appearance in the polis. He was the center of attention because in the preliterate world his songs brought heroic behavior and insight into the human condition to a populace hungry for meaning, for figuring out what life is all about. Today's novelist, making his way from blog to blog in the new frontier that is the Internet, is like that ancient teknos. He is welcome if he tells a story that provokes us, that makes us laugh, or weep, or think.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Even in the 1700s, Book Clubs Were Really About Drinking and Socializing

And “a considerable element of boisterous good humor.”

Parties where playwrights like Moliere read aloud were precursors to rowdy book clubs.
Parties where playwrights like Moliere read aloud were precursors to rowdy book clubs. ullstein bild/Getty

In theory, book clubs are supposed to be about reading and discussing books. In practice, they are often more about hanging out with a group of people, drinking, gossiping, and generally having a nice evening. Depending on the percentage of the group that has actually read the book, it may be discussed, or it may not. The book is the excuse, not necessarily the point.

It turns out it’s always been this way.

Ever since the advent of book clubs in 18th-century England, when books were scarce and expensive, these organizations have been about more than reading. Book clubs were organized to help members gain access to reading material and to provide a forum for discussion of books the club held. But they were also about gossip and drinking. As the University of St. Andrews’ David Allan writes in A Nation of Readers, “In most cases, food and alcohol in copious quantities, accompanied we may suspect by a considerable element of boisterous good humour, played an important part in the life of the book clubs.”

Book clubs were part of this literary culture. In book clubs today every member might buy his or her own copy of a book, but in the 18th century, part of the point of the clubs was to pool resources in order to buy more books. Belonging to a book club meant having a larger personal library than you might otherwise have access to—you just had to share. There are few records of the activities of these early book clubs, but those that survive indicate that, as with today’s book clubs, members intended to get together and talk about books, but social aspects were key selling points.

One club, for instance, had 22 members (including Branwell Brontë, the sole brother of the literary siblings) and met for monthly dinners. “A broad hint of conviviality is given in the rules,” writes Kaufman, “which imposed fines for swearing, for being drunk ‘so that a member be offensive to the company,’ and for unseemly scrambling for books to borrow!” Another society, founded in 1742, lasted for decades, and the dinners were a key feature for it as well. “Article XV of the Regulations emphasizes in detail the monthly dinners, specifying—with elaborate exceptions—the Tuesday before the full moon,” Kaufman reports. A member who missed the dinner had to pay a shilling. For other misdemeanors, which included letting a dog into the club room or revealing his vote for or against a potential new member, members had to contribute a bottle of wine.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Why I Founded Story Merchant Books

My representation company, Story Merchant had reached a point, about four years ago, when I knew something was wrong. I’d founded Story Merchant, a literary management company, to find books I could set up as films or television. But the flow of movie properties was slowing drastically because we were selling fewer and fewer books to the traditional publishers.

Assessing the situation, we realized that traditional publishing had officially changed from the visionary entrepreneurial world it once was. Now nearly all major imprints were part of one or another of five big conglomerates. Hachette, CBS Viacom, Penguin Putnam Random House, Harper, and Holtzbrinck were all different, but they had one thing in common: the new international corporate owners cared primarily for the bottom line. They were allowing editors to take fewer and fewer chances on unknown new voices. It was breaking my heart to see outstanding books get kicked to the curb because they couldn’t prove they would sell, and because their authors didn’t have a national or international “platform”—that word that suddenly became as much a buzzword as “sustainable” is today.

Then I got an invitation from a friend at Amazon, to attend a meeting of select literary reps—agents and managers—in New York. I was introduced to the prospect of working closely with Amazon, to pass along worthy books for direct publishing. Worthy books meant well-written, well-edited, well-designed, and well-launched books.

I instantly decided to form my own imprint, Story Merchant Books, to have books I could hand across the breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables I frequented in my Hollywood producing world. And it worked. Since the imprint began we’ve assisted nearly 200 titles in being direct-published, and have set up nearly twenty of them already as feature films, television films, or series.

Every setback is an opportunity in the new frontier of the story marketplace.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

More Story Merchant Books October Amazon eBook Deals

FREE October 12 - October 16 

Upon This World of Stone, The Paladin Trilogy Book 2 by James A Hillebrecht 

THE PALADIN TRILOGY:Three Novels of Heroism Darius Inglorion, a holy warrior known as a Paladin, is summoned to rally the divided states of the Southlands to fight a terrible invader while overcoming treachery and accusations of heresy.

FREE October 16 - October 20 

Death Dives Deep by Michael Avallone
An Ed Noon Mystery 

Is there a genuine Bermuda Triangle Menace? Sexy sirens, submarine suspense, and a sinister plot to torpedo America. A red-hot assignment tossed in the lap of the President’s top-secret man, detective Ed Noon.

FREE October 20 - October 25!  

Warren Woodruff​'s 
Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton

“Music begins where language ends."

A unique children's fantasy about the beauty and power of music.

Tyler and his sister Christina face a bone chilling mystery. Only Dr. Fuddle offers them help--and a dangerous challenge. They must leave earth and enter Orphea, and save it from the evil Jedernann’s rule of chaos and cacophony.

Can they and their friends survive the journey and reclaim the legendary gold baton that will restore harmony to the earth?

FREE October 25 - 29!

Thomas J. Mitchell 's 
Light & Shadow

LIGHT & SHADOW is a heart-warming, rib-tickling, and inspirational collection of poetry. No one can read these pages of versified profundity without being the wiser for it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Kings River Life Magazine Feature: Dennis Palumbo’s Dr. Daniel Rinaldi: A Good Man to Have on Your Side

Be content with what you have: rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. —Lao Tzu

Employing a psychologist or a psychiatrist as a part of an investigative team makes perfect sense. It has worked well for Val McDermid and her Dr. Tony Hill. Even Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, though insane, had professional insights that helped Clarice Starling find “Buffalo Bill” after all. Enter Daniel Rinaldi, Dennis Palumbo’s clinical psychologist based in Pittsburgh. Rinaldi, no stranger to trauma and personal loss himself, is the therapist we dream of: worthy of trust, adept at his job, and flawed just enough to make him interesting but not enough to damage any of us or his patients. He is pulled into Pittsburgh’s Police Department for more than one reason and shoulders his way through resentment and obstructions to help both patients and friends involved in or with law enforcement.

bookMirror Image (2010) introduces police consultant, trauma specialist, and therapist Daniel Rinaldi who finds himself a murder suspect when one of his patients turns up murdered. His personal and professional jeopardy increases when a contentious colleague wants Rinaldi brought up on charges but turns up murdered. Rinaldi tries to treat the survivor of a brutal bank robbery in Fever Dream (2011), but she keeps vanishing. The investigation is further compromised by one (or more) of the police detectives who is busy going off the rails. And since profilers spend their professional lives studying the worst criminals among us, when one of them needs a therapist, in the spirit of law enforcement inter-department co-operation, Rinaldi is shanghaied to assist in Night Terrors (2013).

Although patient treatment usually falls into recognizable categories, therapists may have conflicting views on what is benign enough to be ignored in their patients’ behavior and what should be directly addressed. In Mirror Image the murder of one of Rinaldi’s patients outrages one of Rinaldi’s colleagues to the extent that violence ensues between the two doctors. Events progress even more dangerously so that Rinaldi becomes a murder suspect twice over. The hits just keep on coming for the good doctor when he crosses a magnate wealthy beyond our ken who is determined to ruin the doctor’s reputation in a national media campaign.

bookRinaldi’s personal experience with trauma has made him a better therapist, but he isn’t immune to conflict surrounding survivors as they cope with the aftermath of violence. Fever Dream blurs the line between his own desires and the reality of the crime itself as well as his unwilling entanglement in a public official’s political ambitions. As if the doctor weren’t tasked enough, he seems helpless as one colleague shuts him out for personal reasons while another is busy blazing a self-destructive path through Pittsburgh. The death threats meant to muddy the waters even more have the opposite effect on Rinaldi as he begins to see the pattern of how it all fits together.

bookImagine what it must be like to have violent, aberrant behavior as the focus of your profession. Such is the case for Lyle Barnes in Night Terrors. Years of exposure to the worst individuals civilization has to offer has taken its toll on the veteran profiler in the form of the sleep disorder, night terrors. That he is also the focus of an assassin ups the stakes. Barnes disappears from protective custody before Rinaldi can begin to help him, complicating all of the above. As always, Rinaldi becomes more involved that he would like doing his best to help the mother of a killer she affirms is innocent—all evidence to the contrary.

These first three Rinaldi novels are so full of plots and characters that readers are kept busy indeed. Not only does Dr. Rinaldi have his hands full with patients in various stages of psychological health, he is finding his way back to a love life after years of mourning and is the go-to therapist for local and national law enforcement. What keeps me reading despite sometimes wanting a flow chart is that Rinaldi is a man we would all like to know. Despite conflict he is centered and innately positive. As a colleague, a friend, or a lover Rinaldi is a man to have on your side. Despite his often clouded vision or because of it, the doctor is immediately likable and one cares for him and for what happens to him. I look forward to the next Rinaldi novel, Phantom Limb (2014). I’m late to the party in reading these novels, but the party is still going on!

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