Wisdom of Kammbia 3.19: Who Is The Best Novelist? (March Madness Style)

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Who is the best novelist?  

Who is the most beloved novelist?

Well, I wanted to have some fun and see if I can get an answer those two questions. Since it is the month of March and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is coming in the next few days.  I thought of getting those aforementioned questions answered with a Sixty-Four Novelists March Madness Bracket Style Tournament.

Here are the rules for the Novelist March Madness Tournament:

–I have chosen 64 novelists and divided into 2 brackets.  32 Novelists for the Pop/commercial Fiction Bracket  and 32 Novelists for the Literary Fiction Bracket.

For this week’s blog post, I’m releasing the Stephen King Bracket and that covers genre fiction (science-fiction, mystery/thriller, horror, romance, and Christian Fiction) and mainstream pop fiction.  

For next week’s blog post, I will release the Cormac McCarthy Bracket and that covers Literary Fiction.

The authors in each bracket are seeded one to thirty-two.  And the match-ups like the NCAA Tournament are created to get one winner from each bracket.  Then the winner from the Stephen King Bracket will meet against the winner of the Cormac McCarthy Bracket to determine who is the best novelist and winner of the tournament.

Now the readers will select the winner for each matchup in the corresponding bracket. For example, Stephen King is the 1 Seed and he will face Terry Brooks who is the 32 seed as the first match.  Whoever gets the most votes from that match will win and go to the next round called the Sweet 16. 

Then those winners from the Sweet 16 will go onto the Elite Eight for the next round.  The Elite Eight Winners will go on the Final Four after that and then the Final Four winners will go on to the Terrific Two and so on until we get the tournament winner and crown the best novelist.

Readers can vote on the match-ups as many times as they want within the time range selected by the tournament chairman (yours truly).  You can place your votes here, Goodreads, or Library Thing, or email me at kammbia1@gmail.com.  

The Round of 32 matches starts today for the Stephen King Bracket and I will need all votes for the matches by Tuesday March 19th at 11:59 p.m.  I will release the Sweet 16 from the Stephen King Bracket on Saturday March 22 and the Cormac McCarthy Bracket Round of 32 at that time.

Here are the match-ups:

1 seed Stephen King vs 32 seed Terry Brooks

2 seed John Grisham vs 31 seed Lillian Jackson Braun

3 seed Dean Koontz vs 30 seed John Saul

4 seed Mary Higgins Clark vs 29 seed Tony Hillerman

5 seed Ray Bradbury vs 28 seed William Gibson

6 seed Tom Clancy vs 27 seed Terry McMillian

7 seed Anne Rice vs 26 seed Francine Rivers

8 seed Nora Roberts vs 25 seed Frank Peretti

9 seed Nicholas Sparks vs 24 seed Sidney Sheldon

10 seed Sue Grafton vs 23 seed Elmore Leonard

11 seed Robert Heinlein vs 22 seed Ursula Le Guin

12 seed James Patterson vs 21 seed Anne McCaffrey

13 seed Robert Jordan vs 20 seed Michael Connelly

14 seed Danielle Steel vs 19 seed Richard Paul Evans

15 seed Jan Karon vs 18 seed Karen Kingsbury

16 seed Gillian Flynn vs 18 seed Dennis Lehane

Let’s have some fun and vote often!!!

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.18: Resolutions Don’t Work!

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I agree with this header.

My 2013 Reading Resolution has changed significantly since I posted it at the beginning of the new year.

My resolution got off to a bad start when I didn’t finish reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell  until the middle of January. And if you’ve read my list, I was supposed to read In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin for that month.

I did read my February book, The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton.  However, I got sidetracked when I starting reading the Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison after The Unspeakable. I read one hundred forty pages of Song of Solomon and couldn’t finish it.

Instead of reading In Sunlight and In Shadow, I went to my local library here in San Antonio and bought a copy of Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe for a dollar and started reading that for the rest of February and now into March.

Whew…..I can see why resolutions don’t work.   It is so easy to get sidetracked and once you get off that highway you can never get back on.

However, I’m determined to get back on track and have revised my resolution list:

March’s Book-Vale of Laughter by Peter De Vries: This novel was recommended me to by someone on Library Thing.  De Vries was considered one of the funniest American novelists and compared to authors like Evelyn Waugh and Mark Twain. However, all of De Vries’ novels are currently out of print and there’s a push to have his work republished.

April’s Book: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

May’s Book: The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene

2nd May Book: Culture Making by Andy Crouch

June’s Book: Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

July’s Book: Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

August’s Book: The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells

September’s Book: Arena by Karen Hancock

October’s Book: The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald

November’s Book: River Rising by Athol Dickson

December’s Book: The Little Country by Charles De Lint

I’m determined to stay on course until the end of year. However, I’m done with resolutions after this year.

Has anyone else gotten off track with their resolutions for 2013?

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.17: Reading Rules

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Do you have reading rules? 

Are there guidelines that will make you decide on what you are going to read?

I’ve noticed in the last few years that I have developed a certain pattern to my reading habits.

1) I Will Read From Any Genre: I have never understood folks who read from only one or two genres.  I only read Literary Fiction. I only read Mysteries. I only read Christian Fiction and so on.  I thought reading (like most of art) takes you to new places, different cultures, and the imaginative powers of that author’s mind.  The only criteria there should be: is it a good or bad novel.

My other hobby is listening to music.  I listen to good music from any genre.  Whether it’s Earth, Wind, & Fire or Sting or Van Morrison or Tito Puente or Miles Davis or Chris Tomlin or Israel & The New Breed. It is good music or not.  Heck, I just started listening to the Zac Brown Band this week after someone recommended that I should check them out.  Good music.

I have that same mentality when it comes to reading.  My bookshelf has Jorge Amado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip K. Dick, Greg Bear, Paul Auster, Toni Morrison, Mark Helprin, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Athol Dickson, John Grisham, P.D. James, & Stephen King all on the same shelf.

I believe the publishing industry while creating genres has been good for selling books, the downside it causes readers to stay in the neighborhood they are comfortable with and not venture into other neighborhoods.  I thought art is supposed to the ultimate barrier breaker and you can venture into other neighborhoods without fear or backlash.  Hmmmm…

2) I Must Read One Novel a Year Published Before 1950: I started this rule a few years when I read Madame Bovary by Flaubert.  And I have read David Copperfield by Dickens, Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl by Steinbeck, Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright, & Snow Country by Kawabata over the past few years.

Reading novels published prior to 1950 helps me get out of the mood of thinking about the world around me through a contemporary perspective. Also, it takes me into the past and makes me realize that human nature is basically the same.  It reminds of this verse of scripture: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, See, this is new? It has been already in the ages before us.”  {Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV Bible}

3) I Don’t Read A Novel in Bed.  This is pretty simple.  It will put me to sleep.  I have to read at my desk.  I’ve heard so many people say they read at bedtime.  I don’t think that’s a good way to read.  Your mind and body are in a relaxed state and ready for sleep.  Reading requires concentration and engagement and the bedroom is not the place for those things.

So there are my reading rules.  What are yours?

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.16: Do Book Endorsements Actually Convince You To Buy A Book?

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“I loved BAG of BONES. It’s Stephen King for the new millennium, with all the heart and wit showing through the suspense.” (Anne Rivers Siddons on Bag of Bones by Stephen King)

“Greg Bear’s most ambitious novel yet…..an extremely dense and complex work about nothing less than the nature of consciousness.” (Washington Post Book World on the Queen of Angels by Greg Bear)

“Rapturous….astonishing….GILEAD is an inspired work from a writer whose sensibility seems steeped in holy fire.” (Elle on Gilead by Marilynne Robinson)

“If Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man went underground, Toni Morrison’s Milkman flies.” (New York Times Book Review on Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison)

Those endorsements came from novels I have on my bookshelf.  It got me to wondering that I have never bought a book from any kind of endorsement. I’ve bought books from recommendations of friends, other blogs I read, book reviews, and even taken chances on a whim.

Has anyone else ever bought a book from book endorsements?  If you have, how did it convince you?  If not, why?  And should new writers seek endorsements for their novels.

Looking forward to reading your responses.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.15: You Sure Do Read A Lot of Fiction For A Man?

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Someone made that comment to me a few weeks ago. The person was surprised and thought it was unusual for a man to mostly read fiction.

Last year, I posted a blog entry explaining why I read fiction. I’ve considered this current blog entry as part two of this topic.

I looked back into my childhood and realized the love of reading didn’t take hold until I was teenager around thirteen or fourteen. I had some friends who were into comic books at that time. X-Men, Batman, & Spider-Man were their favorites and wanting to fit in, I became interested in those same comic books.

They would catch the city bus in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, to the comic book store across town to pickup their monthly subscription of comics. Well, I had to get my own subscription and within a year I had close to five-hundred comic books. I was hooked. I read comic books as fast as I got them and talked with my friends about what read and relived those stories. It was the first time in my life, I felt truly connected to someone outside of my mom and a couple of my sisters.

Growing up the last of eight children and having a different father than my half brothers and sisters, I didn’t believe I had ever fit in with the family. I always felt like an outsider and as a teenager when your hobbies were reading comic books and listening to music like Earth, Wind, &  Fire, The Isley Brothers, and Herbie Hancock instead of rap music, you were considered different.

I didn’t read my first novel until I was seventeen years old.  I was going through the latter stages of puberty, dealt with family issues, and flunked out of high school. (I ended up getting my GED the next year.) Reading The Chronicles of Thomas  Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson rocked my world. I read both trilogies that year and was enthralled by the anti-hero Thomas Covenant who had turned the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia fantasy archetypes on its head. I had a friend at that time whom recommended those books to me and we would long, thoughtful discussions after I read each novel in the series.

In my early to mid 20’s, I worked at a couple of mom-and-pop bookstores as well as Borders Books. Since I attended only one year of college, the bookstores became my undergraduate and graduate courses in contemporary fiction. I discovered authors like Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Paul Auster, Jorge Amado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Greg Bear, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Dean Koontz.  I became fascinated when women would come into to the store to buy multiple copies of novels like The Bean Trees by Barbara KingsolverSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden for their book club.  They would have these great discussions and I felt connected to them even though I had not read those novels.

My first recommendation of a novel was The Little Country by Charles DeLint.  I had recommended that book to probably every customer that came into the fiction section of Borders. I sold the most copies of that book for several months in a row and it delighted me greatly. People would come back to the store and tell me how much they enjoyed reading that novel.  They would have never read a fantasy novel until my recommendation.  Again, I felt that connection and a little closer to humanity as a whole.

Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’ve looked back on those years and recognized that reading fiction has been the saving grace in my life. It has made me compassionate, empathetic, and given me a different outlook on life. Also, I believed that reading fiction led to become a follower of Christianity. It was reading the Parables of Jesus and the Wisdom Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that grabbed my attention like reading fiction did.

Most people want to feel connected to something bigger than themselves or something outside of themselves. Some find that in religion, others find that in politics or humanitarian causes, many find it in the lives of athletes and celebrities.  But, I found that connection from reading fiction and I’m eternally grateful. I’m glad this love of reading fiction was put there by God and I believe this is the avenue he wants me to give back to humanity.

There’s my answer on why as a man I read fiction.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.14: What Is The Novel You Would Buy And Give Away To Others?

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After reading and reviewing my latest book review, The Sparrow, I have bought several copies this past week and given them away to friends urging them to read this novel.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who posted kind words about that review.  Getting encouragement like that really makes doing these book reviews worthwhile.

Moreover, the last novels I bought copies for and gave away to others was Lost Mission by Athol Dickson and The Testament by John Grisham.  I got positive responses from those friends after receiving those books as well.

I remembered when I work at Borders Books in Albuquerque, NM in the early 2000’s seeing many customers buy multiple copies of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver to give away to their friends or members of their book club.

My question to the readers is what novel would you buy multiple copies for and give away to others as a must read?

Looking forward to your responses.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.13: An Inspirational Message For the New Year

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Since, this is the first blog post of the new year. I thought I would share an inspirational message.

I heard this on a radio interview a couple of nights ago:

“Graham Greene, the great novelist, wrote a page a day everyday. After he wrote his page, he spent the rest of time living his life. Even though Greene didn’t write long novels, he published twenty-six novels during his lifetime.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from his philosophy is that predictability and routine are just as important as inspiration and passion.  For some reason, predictability and routine get a bad reputation in our modern culture.

However, predictability and routine in a reverse psychological way actually increases and enhances inspiration, passion, and creativity.

My hope for anyone this new year whether trying to become the next Graham Greene, finishing their college degree, becoming an entrepreneur or anything else that you want to achieve is that you find a routine and stick to it.  And just like Graham Greene, you will be surprised on how much you can accomplish in a lifetime.”

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.10: For Those Who Are Angry At God After Yesterday’s Tragedy

There are many people who are angry with God today.  Both believers and non-believers are angry with the Lord because of what happened yesterday in Connecticut. The atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers are saying, “How could we believe in the God of the Bible that would allow twenty innocent children to be killed like that. If this God is so good, He should never allowed something like that to happen.”

Well, let me write that I don’t have a high-falutin’ theological answer or a common “Christanese” phrase to persuade or convince you after a disaster like this. However, as a believer I have realized that we must turn towards Him even more and to pray asking that He give those grieving parents comfort and strength through this horror they are dealing with right now.

Irrational…..yep

Illogical…absolutely

Crazy….to some I guess

What atheists, agnostics, other non-believers, and even many Christians miss or overlook is that God doesn’t spare us from witnessing or dealing with tragedy at some point in our lives.  I have always said that the Bible we read and study is not a G-rated book.

The capacity of human beings to do the unspeakable comes back to dealing with our sinful nature. Uh-oh….I just wrote the “s-word” that nobody uses in our culture anymore.  The word “sin” is antiquated or outdated and only used by those old-time firebrand preachers that believe God is angry at humankind all the time.  Shucks, our current preachers even avoid that “s-word.”

Nevertheless, if we keep avoiding the ugliness that humanity can show often or our sinful nature, we will keep running to our “Lets get rid of all the guns corner” or “The government is not going to take all my guns. I have a right to bear arms corner.” or “He just snapped corner and his bad childhood made him do it corner.”  or ” He was influenced by comic books, violent movies and video games corner.”  Then we will always want to diagnose the symptom from a societal standpoint but never cure the disease from a moral and human nature standpoint after such a catastrophe.

In closing, God knows that there are many people who are angry with Him or curse His name and will refuse to have anything to do with Him. But, He will keep holding up a mirror to show ourselves in all our warts, blemishes, and ugly spots to reflect back on why we need Him more than ever in the hope that you will choose Him to lean on, to draw on, and to ask for his strength especially after a tragedy like this.

Wisdom From Kammbia 3.8: Marion’s NBA Season Preview

Well, tomorrow begins the NBA regular season again. Pro Basketball is my favorite sport and I’ve decided to write a preview for the upcoming season.

Coming off a sixty-six game strike shortened season where the Miami Heat won the championship last June over the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, I’m glad the full eighty-two game season has returned for the 2012-2013 campaign.

Here are the major storylines I will be looking at this season:

1) Will the Miami Heat repeat?: The ringless king, Lebron James, finally won his first championship last season and the weight of the basketball world has been lifted off his massive shoulders. Is this the start of a new dynasty on South Beach? Will Lebron add another championship to his legacy? Will D-Wade be content as Robin? Will Ray Allen (once a villain and now a teammate) make clutch shots for them in playoffs?  Will the Heat have that hunger to repeat? (Look what happened to the Dallas Mavericks last season.) Repeating is not easy (just ask The Spurs) and the last team to do it was the Lakers from 2000-2002 with Shaq and Kobe.

2) Will The Lakers return to glory and get title number 17?: As usual, the Lakers made the biggest off-season splash by signing Steve Nash as a free agent and trading for Dwight Howard in the 4-team blockbuster trade that included sending Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and Andre Iguodala to Denver Nuggets while the Orlando Magic received draft picks and journeyman players.

Can Kobe, Nash, Dwight, and Gasol co-exist and make a smooth transition? The last time the Lakers tried a superstar lineup with Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton, & Karl Malone in 2004 where it got them to the finals when they got exposed by the Detroit Pistons.

Will The Lakers get production from the bench?  Their bench has been an Achilles heel for them the past few seasons.  But the signings of Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks should help.

As always, The Lakers (like The Yankees and The Cowboys) will receive all the media attention and be interesting to follow the entire season whether you like them or not.  Not…..in my case!

3) Will The Oklahoma City Thunder take a step back after trading James Harden to Houston Rockets?: The Thunder, the league’s newest small-market darlings, made to the NBA Finals last season with the big three of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden leading the way. Now, Harden is gone.  How will it affect the rest of the team?  Will Kevin Martin be able to replace him?  Will their chemistry take a hit as a result of the trade?

I will get to see them up and close on November 1st against the Spurs here in San Antonio. I’m looking for a little revenge (I will admit it won’t be the same now that Harden is gone.) and hoping they meet again in the playoffs to return the favor after spoiling the Spurs great season.

4) Can The Spurs return to glory and get title number 5?: The San Antonio Spurs, the most overlooked, underappreciated, but well-respected team in all of pro sports are still hanging around as a title contender even though its been 5 years since they’ve won their last title. As usual, they didn’t make any big splash free-agent signings or blockbuster trades. They decided to resign their free-agents: Duncan, Danny Green, and Boris Diaw and are hoping a full training camp will get them closer to number 5.

Can Green and Kawhi Leonard grow enough to help more in the playoffs?  Can Spurs return to being a defensive-oriented ballclub after doing their best Phoenix Suns imitation for the past several years? Can Tim, Tony, and Manu remain healthy?  (Well, Manu is already out for the season opener against the New Orleans Hornets.)

Of course, the pundits will pronounce the Spurs are officially over and good riddance to the most boring team in the league.  Only to see they are right there at the end of the season one of the best records again and forcing their way into a national discussion (We have overlooked the Spurs again. They’re not sexy. They’re not front page news. But they are effective.)  As a Spurs fan, I have come to expect this kind of reaction now.  LOL!

5) Can The Boston Celtics make one run at the title?: I guess what I just wrote about the Spurs could apply to the Celtics.  Well, the Celtics are not considered boring like The Spurs.  Anyway, can KG, Paul Pierce, and Rondo will their way back to the Eastern Conference Finals?  How will Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee incorporate themselves into the team? Will Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo have an impact this season?  Will the Boston fans ever forgive Ray Allen for signing with the Miami Heat?

The Celtics-Heat rivalry is the best in the NBA and I can’t wait to see how the city reacts when Ray Allen returns to town as a visitor.  Also, I’m looking forward to another playoff battle between these two teams.

6) Will there be a new team emerging out of the shadows of the best teams in the league?:

Can the Los Angeles Clippers continue from last season’s playoff run and make it a true rival with the Lakers for city hoop supremacy?

Can the Indiana Pacers learn from their defeat against The Heat in last season’s playoffs and take that next step towards the Eastern Conference elite?

Can the Brooklyn Nets (with their new arena, new uniforms, and a Russian billionaire owner) join the Eastern Conference elite?

Can the most overrated team in basketball, the New York Knicks, finally be relevant instead of all hype because they are in NYC?

Can the Memphis Grizzlies or Denver Nuggets make noise the tough Western Conference?
These are the major story lines, I will be looking at all season.  I’m glad my favorite sport is back and I hope the Spurs can bring home title number 5 next June.

Wisdom From Kammbia 3.7: In Honor Of The Upcoming Presidential Election

I have kept this blog free from politics on-purpose and will continue to do so.  However, I have watched three debates, attack ads from both sides, Fox News and CNN declaring their candidate as the winner, and listened to talk radio to know that politics is unavoidable in our culture.

But instead of declaring of which side I’m for (read my Facebook posts for that…LOL!) and criticizing the other side, I thought this song will sum up how I feel no matter who wins:

Enjoy!