Sometimes the power of the written word to do a good deed is impressive, as in: For the ninth year, best-selling romantic-suspense writer Brenda Novak of Carmichael is sponsoring her online auction benefiting diabetes research. It was inspired when her youngest son was diagnosed with the disease at age 5. It runs through May at http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com.
Up for bid are nearly 2,000 items starting at $3, many aimed at aspiring and established writers. They include lunches with best-selling authors Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, Diana Gabaldon and Sylvia Day; consultations with and writing critiques by editors and literary agents; website development; and an advance reading copy of Nicholas Sparks' next novel, due this fall.
Also: a meet-and-greet with rocker Bret Michaels before he takes the stage for his next concert; trips and stays at B&Bs around the country; and jewelry, art and clothing.
Novak has written 45 titles in three genres. The first in her new gothic- historical series, "Through the Smoke," is due Oct. 15. Meanwhile, she is continuing with her "Whiskey Creek" contemporary romance series, set in a small town in the Gold Country.
The 'Inferno' riddle
"Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown on Tuesday will bring back his ingenious main character, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon, in "Inferno" (Doubleday, $29.95, 480 pages). Preparing for its inevitable best-sellerdom, the publisher ran a first printing of 4 million copies. This is Langdon's fourth outing after "Angels and Demons," "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Lost Symbol."
The adventure is set in Italy and involves "one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces, 'Dante's Inferno.' "
Brown's books involve riddles and puzzles that Langdon must solve to move ahead. Readers get involved in solving them, too, and can look for clues on the "Inferno" dust jacket.
To add intrigue, a Doubleday senior vice president points out that, when written backward, the calculated publication date of 5-14-13 "is the value of (the mathematical constant) pi 3.1415." The number will be a key to unlocking the book's mysteries, but exactly how remains a, well, mystery.
Meanwhile, social media tracking company CoverCake reports that "Inferno" was the most-discussed book on social media in April.
All things 'Gatsby'
For months, the buzz leading to last week's film release of "The Great Gatsby" has had everyone turning (or returning) to F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel. For an expanded perspective, try this trio:
"Gatsby Girls" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (BroadLit, $14.99, 300 pages): The collection of eight flapper-era short stories originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. At the time, Fitzgerald said the stories were inspired by his wife, Zelda.
"Z" by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin's, $25.99, 384 pages): The Zelda theme continues in this novel concerned with the party girl's search for an identity other than that as a hard-drinking Jazz Age celebrity's wife.
"Call Me Zelda" by Erika Robuck (NAL, $16, 352 pages): Still more Zelda in this fictitious "memoir" reimagining the relationship between Zelda and the nurse who tended her during Zelda's commitment to a psychiatric facility in 1932.
The envelope, please
The Mystery Writers of America recently announced the winners of its Edgar Allan Poe Awards, "honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television in 2012." Here are highlights; for the complete list, go to www.mysterywriters.org.
Best novel: "Live by Night" by Dennis Lehane
Best first novel by an American author: "The Expats" by Chris Pavone
Best fact crime: "Midnight in Peking" by Paul French
Best critical/biographical: "The Scientific Sherlock Holmes" by James O'Brien
Best short story: "The Unremarkable Heart" by Karin Slaughter (who will appear July 11 for the Bee Book Club)
Best young adult: "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein
Best teleplay: "A Scandal in Belgravia" by Steven Moffat ("Masterpiece Theatre").
If you're looking to add to the stack of books on your nightstand, take a look:
"Body, Mind and Solo" by Teresa Rodriguez (BalboaPress, $28.95, 114 pages): The travel expert offers a seven-stage plan to help empower women traveling alone and show them how to discover their "divine voice, personal freedom and creative imagination." Rodriguez is the author of "Fly Solo: The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone," and created the website www.tangodiva.com, a travel network for women.
"How To Be Interesting" by Jessica Hagy (Workman, $10.95, 272 pages): Why make the effort to be more interesting to yourself and others? As Hagy puts it, "To limit your regrets and banish boredom." Among her advice: "Have no shame. Capitalize on your quirks. Don't be shy. Lead the mutiny."
"The Book of Nice" by Josh Chetwynd (Workman, $8.95, 444 pages): This "nice book about nice things for nice people" rounds up fascinating factoids and trivia from history and pop culture. Superstitions, the art of smiling for the camera, giving flowers, sending greeting cards and other topics get their due.
"Stuff Every American Should Know" by Denise Kierman and Joseph D'Agnese (Quirk, $9.95, 144 pages): Surprising and fun pieces of Americana are the focus, including the origin of Mount Rushmore, the history of blue jeans and 10 foods "invented in America" (including the corndog and chop suey). Question: What was served at the first Thanksgiving on Dec. 13, 1621? Answer: Maybe turkey, but definitely oysters, geese and venison.
See the authors
Upcoming author appearances
Friday: Marci Nault for "The Lake House," 6 p.m. at Face in a Book, 4359 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-9401.
Saturday: Samuel S. Ortega and Robert B. Hernandez for "Viva Villa," a look at the life and times of Mexican bandit-revolutionary Pancho Villa; 7 p.m. at Zócalo restaurant, 801 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 441-0303.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.