Friday, September 19, 2014

What Can We Learn From the Century’s Bestsellers 
by Linda Rodriguez

Matt Kahn is a blogger with an unusual idea. He is reading the 94 books that have been listed as the year’s bestseller by Publishers Weekly for each year of the 100 years since PW began announcing the bestselling book of each year. http://www.kahnscorner.com/2013/02/100-years-94-books.html

The list below comes from his blog. It’s eye-opening, I believe, to see what outsold all other books each year. Fifteen books on the list are books that still live, excepting the most recent years for which we have no real knowledge yet of which books will live on and which will sink into oblivion. If we knock off the last ten years’ books for that reason, that still leaves us with only fifteen out of eighty-four. Most of these books are unknown in the present day. Modern readers may know who H.G. Wells and Zane Grey are, but most will never have heard of Mr. Britling Sees It Through, The U. P. Trail, or The Man of the Forest. Other authors, such as Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, A.S.M. Hutchinson, and Henry Morton Robinson, will be unrecognizable to today’s readers.

What can we learn from this list then? One thing we can learn is that bestseller status doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are the best for their time—or even good. A second is that many great books don’t ever make the top bestsellers list. Missing are all of Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s, and they were both Nobel Prize winners. Also, you won’t find Fitzgerald’s, Willa Cather’s, Henry James’, Edith Wharton’s, Harper Lee’s, Truman Capote’s, and Kurt Vonnegut’s titles, to mention just a few writers with major literary reputations. A third lesson is that—witness the books listed for Wells and Grey—a writer may write his finest books without such success and then find a lesser book on the list by virtue of the quality of those earlier volumes.

The final take-away is that all of this is out of the author’s control. All we can do is write the best books we can. When I get discouraged at the difficulty of bringing my books to the attention of readers, I pull this list out and read and note the significant omissions.

Publishers Weekly Annual Bestsellers List                                                                                                          

• 1913: The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill
• 1914: The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright
• 1915: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington
• 1916: Seventeen by Booth Tarkington
• 1917: Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
• 1918: The U. P. Trail by Zane Grey
• 1919: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
• 1920: The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey
• 1921: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
• 1922: If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
• 1923: Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

•  1924: So Big by Edna Ferber
• 1925: Soundings by A. Hamilton Gibbs
• 1926: The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine
• 1927: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
• 1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
• 1929: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
• 1930: Cimarron by Edna Ferber
• 1931: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1933: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1934: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1935: Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1936: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1938: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
• 1939: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
• 1940: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
• 1941: The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
• 1942: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
• 1943: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1944: Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith
• 1945: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
• 1946: The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier
• 1947: The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney
• 1948: The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1949: The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
• 1950: The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
• 1951: From Here to Eternity by James Jones
• 1952: The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
• 1953: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1954: Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson
• 1955: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
• 1956: Don’t Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
• 1957: By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens
• 1958: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
• 1959: Exodus by Leon Uris
• 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
• 1961: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
• 1962: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
• 1963: The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West
• 1964: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
• 1965: The Source by James A. Michener
• 1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
• 1967: The Arrangement by Elia Kazan
• 1968: Airport by Arthur Hailey
• 1969: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
• 1970: Love Story by Erich Segal
• 1971: Wheels by Arthur Hailey
• 1972: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1973: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1974: Centennial by James A. Michener
• 1975: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
• 1976: Trinity by Leon Uris
• 1977: The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
• 1978: Chesapeake by James A. Michener
• 1979: The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
• 1980: The Covenant by James A. Michener
• 1981: Noble House by James Clavell
• 1982: E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle
• 1983: Return of the Jedi by James Kahn
• 1984: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
• 1985: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
• 1986: It by Stephen King
• 1987: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
• 1988: The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
• 1989: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
• 1990: The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
• 1991: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
• 1992: Dolores Clairborne by Stephen King
• 1993: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
• 1994: The Chamber by John Grisham
• 1995: The Rainmaker by John Grisham
• 1996: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
• 1997: The Partner by John Grisham
• 1998: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
• 1999: The Testament by John Grisham
• 2000: The Brethren by John Grisham
• 2001: Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
• 2002: The Summons by John Grisham
• 2003: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown**
• 2004: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
• 2005: The Broker by John Grisham
• 2006: For One More Day by Mitch Albom
• 2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**
• 2008: The Appeal by John Grisham
• 2009: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
• 2010: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson
• 2011: The Litigators by John Grisham
• 2012: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
• 2013: To be determined…

* Publishers Weekly did not include the Harry Potter books in its listings. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was the bestselling book for 2003, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the bestselling book of 2007.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Linda Rodriguez’s third Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear, was published in May 2014. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” has been optioned for film.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bake, Love, Write—3 Stiletto Gang Members Contribute to Dessert Cookbook -- NEW!

By Kay Kendall

Bake Love, Write is a brand new cookbook full of delicious desserts. It is the brain child of Lois Winston, a USA Today
bestselling, award-winning author who currently writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

Authors from the US, UK, and Canada contributed their favorite recipes. Of the participating 105, three are Stiletto Gang bloggers. We are Lynn Cahoon, Debra Goldstein, and me—Kay Kendall.

Here is information about this unique cookbook that may tempt you to buy it soon, available online. Lois writes, “What do most authors have in common, no matter what genre they write? They love desserts. Sweets sustain them through pending deadlines and take the sting out of crushing rejection letters and nasty reviews. They also often celebrate their successes—selling a book, winning a writing award, making a bestseller list, or receiving a fabulous review—with decadent indulgences. And when authors chat with each other, they often talk about their writing and their lives. Recipes. Writing. Relationships. In this cookbook 105 authors not only share their favorite recipes for fabulous cakes, pies, cookies, candy, and more, they also share the best advice they’ve ever received on love and writing.”

I contributed the beloved family recipe of my Aunt Martha from Texas. Her recipe for Oatmeal Cake is given below. But, to read what I advise on Love and Writing, you’ll have to buy the cookbook! 
Aunt Martha’s Oatmeal Cake
Deliciously moist cake that keeps and travels well, handed down through the Texas side of my family for decades. If you can’t eat nuts, then omit them and double up on the coconut for the topping.Note: This cake is easy to mix by hand. Does not require an electric mixer.
 Ingredients for the cake:
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup oatmeal (uncooked) 
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 2/3 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon soda
Dash of salt
 Ingredients for the topping:
6 tablespoons margarine or butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons canned condensed milk (Pet, Carnation, etc. NOT sweetened condensed milk)
1 cup chopped nuts (pecan or walnut—can be toasted ahead of time too before baking as a topping)
1 can angel flake coconut
 Instructions:
1. Turn oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9X13 inch pan.
2. Place oatmeal in a bowl and pour hot water over oats. Let stand while you do next steps.
3. Blend brown sugar, white sugar, and cooking oil in a large bowl.
4. Add eggs, sifted flour, cinnamon, soda, dash of salt to the sugar mixture. Blend with a large spoon.
5. Now add the water-oats mixture and stir until all ingredients are well blended.
6. Pour into greased and floured pan.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove from oven.
8. Make the topping. In a saucepan combine margarine, brown sugar and canned condensed milk. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add chopped nuts and coconut. Blend.
9. Before cake cools, spread the topping (from step 8) thinly over top.
10. Turn oven up to 500 degrees. Return cake-with-topping to oven and bake for 4-5 minutes. Watch that nothing burns since the heat is now so high.
11. Remove from oven and cool.
 This cake is delicious immediately, but even more moist and yummy on the next day. If kept tightly covered with foil or clear wrap, this cake stays moist and lovely for many days. It never lasts a week at my house, but I bet it would be good even then.
Bake, Love Write will sell in the major e-book formats at 99 cents and will be available on Amazon also in paperback. Watch this space for more news.
 *******



Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968 in an anti-war group. The sequel is Rainy Day Women, set for 2015, and this time her amateur sleuth Austin Starr must convince police her best friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the perilous 1930s–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. Kay is also an award-winning international public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.  
 *******







Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Good, the Odd and the Ugly of a Library Event

Actually the event itself was great.


The Burbank Library has a wonderful meeting room--and they made beautiful flyers which they'd been handing out to patrons. And refreshments were furnished--and enjoyed.

We had a wonderful moderator, and a great group of panelists, all members of the L.A. Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

The topic: Cozies.

Here is where it gets odd. After we all chimed in on what constituted a cozy, we realized none of our books really fit the criteria.

The cozy is supposed to have an amateur sleuth. In both of my series, the sleuths are professionals in law enforcement. Both are set in small towns--another criteria.

None of that really mattered though because we had a good time and so did the audience.

Because I am a member and never get to participate in much with this chapter, I agreed to be on this panel even though I live far away (a 3 hour drive.) Not wanting to turn around and come home afterwards, I booked a hotel room in a place that was near the library. No longer driving in L.A. or at night, I talked my middle daughter into being my driver.

This is where the odd and ugly begin. The first room we were given had not been serviced. The linens were not clean at all. Called the desk and the manager brought us a new key for the room next door.
It needed to be vacuumed, but the bed lines, though dingy, were clean.

Though the event was at 7, we decided to leave at 6 just in case we ran into traffic or got lost. I put the address into my GPS and we laughed when it told us we were only 1 mile away from our destination. A good thing we left at 6--the GPS took us up the hill, over a bridge, to the left, to the right, back over the bridge, down the hill, on another long street and finally to our destination and we got there at 6:30 p.m. Good time to get set up and meet my fellow panelists.

One funny thing, the panelists really wanted to know what the F stood for in F.M. Meredith. I didn't tell them, though I did give them the clue that it was an old-fashioned name. they had a lot of fun trying to solve the mystery, coming up with many, many names beginning with F.

Later I received an email from the moderator who guessed the right name. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it is.

After the panel, we headed back home, this time it only took about 10 minutes.

We settled down in our room, watched a little TV and went to sleep.

I woke up to my daughter looking out the window and saying, "This is our room." Someone had a key and was trying to get in. They finally left.

Back to sleep. Again someone woke us trying to use a key to get in.

Both times the key worked, they didn't get in because we had the night latch on.  This time we called the front desk. Of course it had something to do with the manager not changing our room assignment.

It wasn't easy to go to sleep after that.

When we woke in the morning we decided to try Frank's Coffee Shop which was on the premises of the hotel. It turns out that this cafe has been used for several movies.
Notice the picture of the owner and Tom Hank's on the wall.

Larry Crowne starring Tom Hank's is one of many movies and TV shows that have used Frank's Coffee House for scenes.  It was not odd or ugly, though the restaurant has been around for years, the breakfast we at there was outstanding!

So this was another good.

Despite the bad and the ugly, daughter and I enjoyed the panel and our time together.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith
Quite a bit of seating room and the…Frank's Coffee Shop

Friday, September 12, 2014

PEEVISH by Debra H. Goldstein

Peevish by Debra H. Goldstein

Peevish is my word of the day.  The dictionary says it means “cross, querulous, or fretful, as from vexation or discontent,” but that doesn’t begin to describe my present mood.  Put out, frustrated, angry, tired, and a word that begins with b and rhymes with witchy are ones that easily come to mind.  The funny thing is that I have no one reason to be feeling like this.

Oh, sure, my newest full-length work in progress (that’s finished) hasn’t sold yet, but I signed two contracts yesterday for short pieces that will be appearing in the next six months, along with one that was previously accepted, in two anthologies and one online magazine.  I’m having a kind of writer’s block but it isn’t from not having an idea, it is from having too many and not being able to focus on one.  My time doesn’t feel like my own, but that is because I’m overscheduled with lunch and dinner engagements with good friends, visiting the kids, exercising, and attending 2 weeks of kick-off meetings for the charity organizations I’m involved with.

Obviously, a lot of things going on are point counter-point of my own doing, but there are some things that nothing can offset a desire to pull my hair out.  For example, the telephone calls that come in for surveys, solicitations or proclaiming I’ve won something despite my number being on the no call list; my mother telling me what her doctor said and then doing the opposite because she knows best; or, a the neighbor dog leaving a deposit on my lawn during its walk that its owner fails to pick up.

I really blame my mood on a series of things that happened last night. Tired, I went to bed early. Being a person who doesn’t need much sleep, I found myself awake, but not in the mood of doing anything productive, in the middle of the night.  From that point on, my sleep was intermittent.  It was made worse when Joel took most of the blanket (too much info, I know…. but it was a major cause of my present dissatisfaction).  Joel then woke early and his cheerfulness was almost unbearable.  I thought about murdering him, but decided that would probably put me in a worse mood so, instead, I took back the blanket plus.  It wasn’t enough to change my mood.  Stymied, I got up and went to make coffee while I read e-mails, but the Keurig was too low on water to heat up. Annoyed, I opted to run errands and buy a cup of coffee.  As I turned into the fast food place’s parking lot, I had to pause while a black cat sauntered across the driveway in front of my car.  It was beautiful.  At that moment, watching the cat move with grace and poise, I didn’t think about bad luck. Instead, I decided I could wallow in pity or make my peevish mood work for me.

Funny thing, as I write these final words, I realize I found my focus this morning and I’m beginning to feel a lot calmer.  Can’t wait to see what I accomplish after I meet a friend for lunch.