Chapter 11 Books: Your Neighborhood Book Blog


Chapter 11 Bookstore is an independent bookstore chain with 4 locations in Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding cities. Our online site is Customers can browse our inventory, order books, CDs, and DVDs online, and read details about author appearances. Visit our blog for reviews, opinions, and news about books, music, and movies.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Work to do!

We're changing some things around the blog.

Give us a moment, and pardon our dust.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Guest Blog From Karen White

Enter to WIN one signed copy of The Color of Light or Pieces of the Heart.

E-mail with your NAME and MAILING ADDRESS to be entered to win!!! Contest runs through October 10th. The winners will be announced a few days later.

I have just finished writing my eighth novel and have started on a new novel which will be due May 1st. My first novel was published in 2000 and I've basically had a book out every year.

Now, back in the day when I was young and stupid, um, er, innocent (and that would be pre-first book publication) I always thought that when my first book was published I would automatically be propelled into the stratosphere of Nora Roberts stardom. (It's ok to laugh--I am). In my delirious imagination, I pictured Barbara Cartland wearing her feather boa while dictating her next bestseller to her secretary. I saw Margaret Mitchell wearing fur as she stood outside the Fox Theater for the premiere of the movie they made out of her book. Well, heck, I'm still doing laundry so what does that mean?

To save myself some pride, I will admit that the publishing industry today is nothing like it was when Barb and Meg were penning their prose. There weren't as many writers vying for increasingly smaller shelf space at increasingly more and more mega stores that would prefer to stock a guaranteed bestseller while selling you coffee and muffins than take a chance on an unknown author. No, I'm not knocking the big stores--just mourning the demise of so many great independent stores with their wonderful handselling of great books as well as telling you that it's different to be an author today than it was even twenty years ago.

I've had some successes--I mean, I've sold eight books, right? I've won awards and one of my books became a national bestseller. However, nobody ever asks for my autograph at the meat counter at Kroger. And people still feel completely comfortable walking right by my signing table at a bookstore without a mere glance (or they simply ask me where the bathrooms are). Is this disconcerting? Sometimes. Do I bang my head against the wall in sheer frustration when I know that I'm writing better and better books but I'm still allowed to walk down the street without recognition? More than I'd care to admit.

So why do I do this? I've got two kids that require a great deal of my attention as well as friends and an extended family, a mortgage, a husband, and a new puppy. Wouldn't my life be easier to just stop this writing thing and devote my attention to other things? You bet! But I would feel like half a person. As much fulfillment I get from my role as mom-of-all-hats, there's a part of me that is stamped WRITER. I love creating characters and putting them in a story that I would love to read if I were just a reader. I love pushing my writing skills more than the last book. In other words, I love what I do. It's who I am. I couldn't stop being a writer any more than I could stop being a mom.

I guess I'm relegating myself to more sleep deprivation by signing my next book contract, but maybe sleep is overrated anyway. And I don't discount how very blessed I am to be able to pursue my dreams. Life is very fluid, changing constantly, and in not-so-very-long my children will be living elsewhere and I'll have more time to devote to writing. I guess for now, I'll just keep plugging away at my keyboard, and growling as my puppy attacks yet another mound of the interminable laundry. But I won't let my sight stray from my goal of being a NYT bestseller. It won't happen overnight, but I still like to think that it might. And if it does and you see me bagging my groceries or sitting in the carpool line, give me a thumbs-up. Clint Eastwood could probably say it better, but you would really make my day.

Karen White is the author of several novels, including her two most recent, The Color of Light and Pieces of the Heart. She lives in metro Atlanta, and her first ever book signing was at Chapter 11*. Her website is To learn more about Karen, read the interview below.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Around the South with Karen White

WIN a signed copy of Pieces of the Heart
or The Color of Light!
Instructions at end of interview.

Karen White's books have been called, "Warmly Southern and deeply moving," by Deborah Smith, author of Charming Grace. Her two most recent novels, The Color of Light and Pieces of the Heart, have won her more fans and brought her national recognition. Karen lives in metro Atlanta and has been a friend of Chapter 11* for a long time. I recently caught up with Karen and asked her questions about her books and being a Southern author.

Chapter 11: Did you know you always wanted to be a writer?

Karen White: Not really. I've always been a voracious reader, and I was always told by my teachers that I could write. But the physical act of writing (not the creating side, but the part about putting the words on paper) was excruciating for me. It's weird, because it's not really hand-to-eye coordination because I've played the piano quite well all of my life. It's just that I have a really hard time physically writing and to this day my horrid handwriting is a testament to this fact. It wasn't until I learned to type when I was a sophomore in high school that I finally found a way to write the words as quickly as my mind could come up with them. That was really a turning point for me; when I discovered the joy of writing. I was a business major in school and then worked in the business world until I had my first child. It wasn't till after that when I discovered that now I could physically write that I actually had time to write, too. And thus my first book was born.

Ch11: What’s your earliest memory of a book?

KW: When I was in third grade, my family moved to Venezuela (my father was with Exxon). There was a small, English-language library at our club (right next to the pool) and I discovered it by accident one afternoon. The librarian introduced me to Nancy Drew--and I think I read through the entire library's collection of them within a week. I was addicted! The first one I read was The Bungalow Mystery, and I don't think I came up for air once I'd started on the first page until I closed the book! It was very frustrating to have to wait for our next trip to the States for me to buy another book since the library didn't have every copy, but that was the beginning of my book addiction that hasn't (thankfully!) abated to this day.

Ch11: What authors do you find really inspiring?

KW: That would be a very long list! At the top would be Pat Conroy, Margaret Mitchell, Diana Gabaldon. I would also have to add Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper). Both of these hugely talented authors get added to my 'hall of fame'--these books stayed with me long after I'd closed the last page---a sign of a truly remarkable book and a gifted writer. I'm in awe.

Ch11: Your books all have southern settings that are important to the plot (The Color of Light in the South Carolina low country and Pieces of the Heart in the North Carolina mountains). How do you choose your settings?

KW: I write what I know (isn't that the advice all writers are given?). My parents were both born and raised in Mississippi, and my father's family has lived in the South for over two hundred years. Despite having lived all over the world because of my father's job, I have always considered myself a Southerner. Even while living in Europe, I would look forward to my visits to my grandmother's house in Mississippi--to see my aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives. These visits were always a high point in my life growing up. I guess it was only natural that I would write about Southern settings and people since this is what I feel I know best.

Ch11: What defines “Southern?”

KW: Well, it's not Northern or Western. Seriously--read Tom Wolfe, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy and William Faulkner for a better definition of "Southern." I've always tried to write about what I see---and that would be interesting southern characters drawn from real life. I mean, my grandmother's neighbor (a man) was called Honeydew (not his given name). He lived with this moniker his entire adult life because his wife always started her sentences with "Honey, do...." and it stuck. I'm not making this up and he will eventually find his way into one of my books. Southern people have a collective history different from any other region in this country (just like their accents!)---and their idiosyncrasies and beloved peculiarities are testament to this fact. I've lived all over the place and I feel I can make the observation that people down South do tend to be more polite, a tad more eccentric, and a little bit proud of their family heritage (travel to Charleston if you don't believe this). And they don't mind being written about!

Ch11: If you didn’t make money writing, what non-artistic career would you choose for yourself?

KW: Who says I make money from writing? I worked as an operations manager for a software development firm before I left the workforce to stay home with my firstborn. It was one of those multitasking jobs where I had to have a finger in every aspect of the business which I found very stimulating if not completely fulfilling. I suppose I could do that again--but I couldn't imagine not writing! But if I had to start all over, I would do something with historical restoration of old buildings. I'm obsessed with it and all of my books have an old house or building, so I might as well do it!

Ch11: What’s your next book about?

KW: My next book (Learning to Breathe--March 7, 2007) is set in rural Louisiana and focuses on the youngest of five grown sisters, Brenna O'Brien. Brenna lives on the surface of her life, never delving too deeply into it for fear of being disappointed. She collects unopened war letters, liking the way they feel, as if she is holding in her hand possibilities of what might be. When she discovers an entire mailbag filled with old letters from a WWII soldier who still lives in her town, she uncovers an ill-fated love story and unravels a secret from her own past. This sets in motion a chain of events that forces her to examine the assumptions that underpin her life.

Enter to WIN one signed copy of Pieces of the Heart or The Color of Light.

E-mail with your NAME and MAILING ADDRESS to be entered to win!!! Contest runs through October 10th. The winners will be announced a few days later.

Buy a signed copy of The Color of Light

Buy a signed copy of Pieces of the Heart

Thursday, September 14, 2006

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007

I just received a copy of VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007, and I've been spending the afternoon thumbing through it. So many movies, so little time. But this guide will help me sort through the bad and find the good.

VideoHound is a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to movies on VHS and DVD that distinguishes itself from its peers by the quality and comprehensiveness of its entries as as the originality of its index categories. Readers will enjoy a 900+ page list of titles A-Z with over 27,000 reviews, including no-bone-"Woof!" to four-bone rating, as well as alternate title, year released, rating, synopsis/review, songs, run time, black and white or color, format, country of origin, cast, director, writer, cinematographer, composer/lyricist, and awards, enough to satisfy even the most demanding film trivia collector.

What more can a film buff ask for? VideoHound editor Jim Craddock has gove above and beyond the normal call of duty with his comprehensive and witty, inclusive, and innovative indices. For example, you could find Full Metal Jacket under the category "Military: Marines" or "Suicide;" Footloose appears under both "Dance Fever" and "Teen Angst." Some of the quirkier new categories for 2007 include "Grim Reaper," "Female Spies," "Exorcism and Exorcists," and "A River Runs Through the Plot."

Before you go to the video store or purchase your next DVD from Chapter 11*, make sure you consult your new best friend, VideoHound.

Buy VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007 from and save 25%!

- Mike Sussman

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On Glass Books Of The Widely-Shut Eyes, or FORCING IT THROUGH

I’ll admit: I’m a glutton for literary punishment. My favorite books are usually the ones that require three Berlitz language tapes and a serious sense of self-hatred. After all, if the author writes as though the reader’s a wetnap primed for abuse, then I guess, as the reader of said authors, I’m guilty as charged.

As such, when a copy of Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters arrived on my desk, I was hyperactive (even more so than usual). A monstrosity of a book in size and apparently in scope; I don’t know that for fact, though. I plowed my way through several books over the weekend, including Bookslut favorite Small Acts of Sex and Electricity, and shelved (har har a little book seller humor there) reading a few others, including the worship-worthy Kate Bornstein’s newest book (which has me so excited I feel as though I’ve overdosed on Jolly Ranchers and Pepsi Jazz), to begin trudging through the tome. The back cover (at least, the back cover of the Advance Reader’s Copy) quotes author Diana Gabaldon as saying the novel is “deftly executed” and “relentlessly inventive”.

In the course of my weekend, I managed to make it about 200 pages into Glass Books. Thus far, I’ve found a first novel that’s begging to be Proustian in its flowery (ANOTHER literary joke! I kill me!), hallucinogenic prose style, but that, when distanced from the page-to-page minutiae, lacks any real sense of character.

For those unfamiliar, the publisher's summary of Glass Books reads as such:

"Determined to find out why her engagement to Roger Bascombe was abruptly terminated, Celeste Temple disguises herself to follow her erstwhile fianc‚ to forbidding Harschmont Manor, which becomes a terrifying gate into a seductive and shocking world linked to a terrifying conspiracy.

Basically the plot breaks down like this:

Man leaves woman. Woman says “nope not gonna happen” and stalks man. Woman ends up on train with masked people who are, of course, sexual deviants in some form or fashion and who act like she’s been there all along. Someone named Prince is important, and then sings “When Doves Cry”.

All right, the last bit about the song hasn’t actually happened, but I have about 700 pages left to go, so it very well could. All this while, I can’t help but feel that it seems apparent Glass Books is nothing more than an overhyped expenditure of paper-and-ink that just reheats Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” like so much Tuesday night T.V. dinner, and then I remind myself: if a film’s released and no one sees it, copping the plot for a novel isn’t plagiarism.

The problem with being a literary masochist is that, in the end, I have to have payoff. There has to be something that makes coming back for the abuse worth it, and thus far I just feel stupid for sitting in front of my overflowing-with-new-stuff bookshelf, waiting for Colonel Doctor Zelig the Fourth to wear his party mask, or some other such going on in Glass Books.

So then, why can’t I just put it down? I could stop this whole thing in its tracks, move forward and onward and upward to other words. Instead, no, I keep plugging onward, forcing it through page after page of literary marshmallow fluff-topped Diet cola.

What is this need that we, as readers, have to finish a book, even when we KNOW better? What’s the last book you MADE yourself finish, and was it worth it? Leave a comment and let us know, and you'll automatically be entered to win...well, to win a GOOD book. The definition of "good" to be determined.

I’ll tell you when I finish Glass Books. And I’ll be submitting receipts for the days of my life I won’t get back.

--Russ Marshalek

Monday, September 11, 2006

Coffey and Margaret Atwood

Last week, Chapter 11* customer Beth Coffey posted these comments about Margaret Atwood on her blog, A Cup of Coffey. We think you'll find her post and review interesting. Thanks for the plug, Beth!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pinch Me!

I’m going to hear Margaret Atwood tonight night at Emory University. In case you’re unfamiliar with her [and please don't tell me if you've never heard of her], she wrote Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, Surfacing, Cat’s Eye, Lady Oracle, Life Before Man, The Robber Bride, and many more. I’ve loved her books for more than twenty-five years. Tonight she’s going to talk about her latest novel,
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus.

From Publishers Weekly:

Drawing on a range of sources, in addition to The Odyssey, Atwood scripts the narrative of Penelope, the faithful and devoted wife of Odysseus and her 12 maids, who were killed upon the master's return. Atwood proposes striking interpretations of her characters that challenge the patriarchal nature of Greek mythology. The chapters transition between the firsthand account of Penelope and the chorus of maids as listeners are taken from Penelope's early life to her afterlife. Laural Merlington charmingly delivers the witty and perceptive Penelope with realistic inflection and emphasis. Some of her vocal caricatures seem over the top, but most voices maintain a resemblance to our perceptions of these mythic people. The maids are presented as a saddened chorus by a cloning of Merlington's voice. These dark figures speak straightforwardly in their accusations of Penelope and Odysseus, while, at other times, they make use of rhyming. This format works well, though sometimes the cadence and rhyming scheme are off beat. This benefits the production by creating an eerie resonance and haunting demeanor that enhances this engaging tale.

I can’t wait to be in the same room with Margaret Atwood. I need to bask in her brilliance right now. I’ve been working on several short stories this summer, and last week I came down with a nasty case of the I’m-a-talentless-hackitis. I hope that hearing Ms. Atwood talk will inoculate me from my inner demons. I need inspiration and some ass-kicking; too much is riding on these stories.

Margaret Atwood. Isn’t she lovely?

Another night in the presence of literary greatness. T. Coraghessan Boyle in July, Richard Ford this fall. See, folks, we ain’t illiterate and culture-free down here in the South, even during college football season.

The purchase link used for The Penelopiad is for a local bookstore chain. Support the independents and buy a copy — or seven — from Chapter 11 Books. Powell's Books isn't the only independent selling online, kids.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Book Fest Photo Recap Part Two

And we're back with the second and final part of our two-day Chapter 11* Books Decatur Book Festival Photo Wrap-Up. Sure, some other sites and blogs have more amusing photos, but during the festival we were too busy actually working, and we loved every minute of it. Here's the last of our choice photos from the Labor Day gathering of authors and book lovers.

THE man himself, Michael Connelly. His event and signing was SO well hotly anticipated and eagerly attended that it required three security guards for crowd control.

The OTHER man of the hour, Chapter 11* Books infamous webmaster, Mike "The" Sussman. His ongoing quote was "I wasn't even SUPPOSED TO BE HERE today!", after being drafted to work at the Chapter 11* Books tent on Sunday due to overwhelming attendance. He had fun, though. Or something close to it.
Carrie Dumas and Valerie Boyd were just two of the authors whose books we just could NOT keep in stock. For every one we replenished, two flew off the table.

A brief shower temporarily dampens the party. Though it passes quickly, Russ still finds it necessary to run in such a fashion
AJC political cartoonist Mike Luckovich takes a minute to sign some promotional posters we later raffled off.

One of the most anticipated, hot-button authors we had, Ray Suarez, gets into a debate even while signing books.

There you have it. If you came out-it was good to see you! If not-LOOK AT WHAT YOU MISSED! Hopefully you're already marking your calendars for next year's Labor Day-no excuses this time. Thanks for the fun, the conversation, the debates over Dumbledore, and for everyone who bought books based around our recommendations (and then thanked us for them), thank you and you're quite welcome. We can only hope you had as much fun as we did.

Chapter 11* Books would like to wish Steve Berry a speedy recovery and extend the largest thanks possible to the Decatur Book Festival committee and volunteers, the city of Decatur,the AJC, Target (for the free water), all the vendors, every single one of our customers and friends who ventured into the heat to visit us, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY:

the Decatur Square Starbucks.