Friday, July 4, 2014

Book review: A CURIOUS MAN: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert 'Believe It Or Not' Ripley

From a poor, inept, buck-toothed boy who loved to draw, to one of the highest paid cartoonists in history—and in 1936, one of the highest paid men in America—Leroy Ripley traveled a long way, in both miles and fortune, from his birth in the small town of Santa Rosa, CA.

Born in 1890 and called Roy by family and his few friends—he didn't add the Robert until later—Ripley never fit in as a child and dropped out of high school. At one of the many lucky turns that peppered his life, he got hired to draw 'a cartoon a day' for the San Francisco Press Democrat at eighteen, in the days when photos were too expensive. But it wasn't until he moved to New York and his cartoon 'Champs and Chumps' morphed into the soon-to-be world famous 'Believe It Or Not' that his fame skyrocketed.

Ripley traveled extensively, racking up visits to an impressive 200+ countries, and spent all his time looking for oddities, both human and otherwise. He drew and wrote about them, collected artifacts relating to them, and never got over his gee-whiz, small-town-boy fascination for them.

Author Neal Thompson's biography is a clear-eyed investigation of one of the most interesting men of the early 20th century. Ripley the man was as unusual as some of his finds. His fascination with the uncommon, the strange and the bizarre resonated in his own life. He lived for over fifteen years in a single-room apartment in the New York Racket Club—he once beat a nationally-ranked champion at the sport—even while his empire grew. Then, when he decided he really should unpack the crates of artifacts he'd been collecting on his travels, he bought his own island, complete with mansion, to showcase them. The Odditoriums followed next, plus radio shows and even television, and his catchphrase, 'Believe It…or Not' entered the language.

Well written and meticulously researched, THE CURIOUS MAN is a fascinating description of this odd and child-like man who had such an enormous influence on travel, reporting, comics and more. I highly recommend it.
A CURIOUS MAN: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert 'Believe It Or Not' Ripley
by Neal Thompson   Three Rivers Press. ISBN: 978-0-7704-3622-3

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Novellas Are the New Black...or Are Sequels?

I like writing novellas. They're long enough to explore characterization and plot, without being so long that they bog down midway. Writing in the 17-40K range gives you room to move around, room to really get inside the minds of your characters. And a novella can be read in far less time than a 100K novel, with just as much pleasure, at least to me. Sure, you can feel a little short-changed, a bit of 'but what happens to them next?' when you invest in characters, but that's what sequels are for.

Ah, sequels. When I was a kid, I wasn't familiar with the glory of sequels. I read anything that fell into my hands, everything in the school library and that ultimate pleasure: books for birthdays and holidays. But when I left these characters, I left them. They were gone, and the only way I could visit with them again was to reread the book. Not something I ever balked at, certainly, but sometimes you just want to know more about 'em, right?

So, I read THE TIME TRADERS by wonderful, awesome, amazing Andre Norton. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Then I found GALACTIC DERELICT. Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay! The same characters were in both! Gordon Ashe and Ross Murdock were there, doing their time-travel stuff, only this time they were in space too! Sequels…the Universe's gift to rabid readers. I love sequels! And prequels! And 'stories set in the same universe'!

Bringing me back to novellas. The bloated word count in a lot of modern science fiction and fantasy ranges well over 100K. Back in the 50s and 60s, books in these genres came in at a leaner, meaner 50-60K. I like writing in that range myself. But I never knew I'd enjoy writing novellas as much as I do.

My friend, brilliant writer J. Kirsch, aka Jon, has recently begun a fabulous series of novellas which began with THE PRINCESS WHO WOULDN'T DIE. It's free for a while, so go get it and read it now. Go ahead: I'll wait.

Now that you're back and all full of Princess goodness, did you notice the length of Naji's story? Under 16K and still, you got a full, clear, exciting, great story. And Jon is working on a sequel too, so try to hold down your impatience. If you can, mwhahahaha…

I've got a steampunk novella coming out soon from Pulp Literature called BLACKTHORNE AND ROSE: AGENTS OF D.I.R.E. And, guess what? I'm working on a sequel.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer sale at Smashwords!

All my books, novellas and short stories are free at Smashwords for the month of July! Go, splurge, binge read--you won't even hate yourself in the morning!

Click here to go to my author page. Scroll down and see all my stuff. Did I mention FREE?

Go know you want to!