Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

28 October 2017

Uses for a Kindle (from a book addict) (Okay, Bad Girl)


by Melodie Campbell

Kath: Have you got a Kindle?

Me: Of course I have a Kindle!

Kath: Do you like it?

Me: It’s very pretty. It has a pink cover. And it makes a great paperweight.

Kath: But do you actually use it?

Me: I used it once as a flashlight during a power outage. Everyone should have one.

Kath: Why not get a flashlight for that?

Me: Flashlights make lousy paperweights. They roll off the table.

I am a Dinosaurette. In spite of that, I have a Kindle. It wasn’t my idea. People keep foisting them on me at Christmas. It’s the 21st century version of fruitcake.

Not only that, they multiply. The first died within months, probably from neglect (I didn’t kill it – honest.) The second was a prize from my publisher for top sales. I also have a Kobo. It was a Christmas present. It’s around here somewhere.

As you can see, I am not addicted to my Kindle. In fact, it is my opinion you have to be barking to be emotionally attached to a slab of machinery that displays words. That would be like being addicted to a printing press.

But Lord Thunderin’ Jesus, how I am addicted to books! Real books, that is. I see a pile of books on my bedside table, and I get excited. (Men, take note.)

Oh, the delight of holding a real book in your hand. The tactile feel of the paper, the visual lure of the cover… And the smell of the glue that binds each little paper together…(minty is best)

Bliss.

The trouble with an eReader is that every story you are reading on it looks and feels exactly the same. And that changes the experience for me.

I realize that a lot of people love to read on Kindles. I might even like some of them (people. Not Kindles.) But I highly suspect they are the same sort of people who actually like salad.

Thankfully, there are alternate uses for eReaders. (If you like salad, stop reading NOW.)

BAD GIRL’S USES FOR A KINDLE:
  1. Kindling. (okay, not really, despite the similar sounding name. Probably not the best way to start a fire. A Samsung phone is much better.)
  2. Murder weapon. (Whack the cheating bastard over the head with it. Continue whacking and alternately reading from 50 Shades. That should do it.)
  3. Frisbee. (see Murder weapon above.)
  4. Hockey puck (I live in Canada, eh.)
  5. Dog Toy (leatherette covers works best for this.)
  6. Fly-swatter (editor’s note: works great on spiders)
  7. Plus all the obvious uses: flashlight, paperweight, hot pad, furniture shim, bookmark, ruler, rolling pin, cutting board, door stop.
Finally, I would like to point out that you can’t decorate with Kindles. “Oh look at that beautiful bookcase of Kindles, Gladys!” said no one, ever.

Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup. People usually sit down to read her funny books. Sometimes they fall down. The latest:

26 September 2017

Favorite Books of 2017


by Barb Goffman

I love reading, but I can't ever seem to find enough time to do it. And when I do read, I'm often playing catch up. When it's time to pick up a new title, instead of going to my personal library and picking one of the hundreds of unread books on my shelves, I'm going to a list of books and stories published in the prior year and nominated for awards.

Agatha teapots
If it's February, March, or April, I'm reading a work nominated for the Agatha awards that year. I don't vote in a category if I haven't read all the nominated books and stories, and between best novel, best first novel, best historical novel, best children's/YA novel, and best short story, my reading dance card is full. (Some years the nominated books are announced and I've read several of the finalists, but I still usually have at least a dozen books to read. And yes, there's a best nonfiction category, too, but I never get to those books.)

So Malice Domestic comes, the Agatha awards are given out, and then I have a month or two to choose my own reading. Heaven! Until the Anthony and Macavity award nominees are announced, and it's off to the reading races again. I read Anthony- and Macavity-nominated books, stories, and novellas until Bouchercon, which occurs in September or October. (And this is a perfect time to give a shout out to my fellow SleuthSayers Paul Marks and Art Taylor, who are up for the Macavity Award for best short story this year, and to Art once more, as he's up for the Anthony for best short story. And let us not forget the wonderful late B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens, who is up for the Anthony for best novella.)

Anyway, Bouchercon eventually ends and the awards season is over and I get to read what I want to read. YAY! Not that there's anything wrong with the books and stories I read for the Agathas, Anthonys, and Macavitys (they're usually great--that's why they're nominated), but there's something to being able to pluck a book off the shelf just because I want to read it. And that period is coming. I'll get to choose my own books!

But what should I choose? There are so many options.

In preparation for making my choices, I reached out to some friends and asked them what books they've read recently that they loved. I asked them to focus on newer books that I might not yet have purchased. There's always room for more books on my shelves. Here are their recommendations:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz -- my friend described it as "a treat for any tea-drinking, Anglophile, Agatha Christie fan--or anyone who enjoys a traditional mystery."

The Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah -- the new Poirot

Pulse by Felix Francis -- this book comes out next month, but my friend got an early copy.

The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace

The Good Byline by Jill Orr

Double Up by Gretchen Archer

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Later Gator by Jana Deleon

The Ex by Alafair Burke

I've already read The Ex and recommend it heartily. How about you, dear reader? What books have you read recently that you adored? Bonus points for books published this year. I'd love to get ahead on my awards reading for next year!

12 March 2017

International GoodBooks


by Leigh Lundin

I love Looking Glass Alice and good books and well-done animation and charitable causes. When they come together, that's Wonderland. Check out this lovely Alice clip from the land of Stephen Ross— New Zealand.


The good folks at International GoodBooks (GoGoodBooks.com) can apparently deliver pretty much anything worldwide through Amazon channels. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you use their portal rather than Amazon’s, purchases are supposed to work the same but they get credit.

Brilliant, both the sentiment and the advert. Let me know how you make out.

For fans of the surreal Alice like me, Disney’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland is delightful and much better than the 2016 Through the Looking Glass follow-up. I also admired the computer game America McGee’s Alice for its brilliant music and surrealism.

Before leaving New Zealand and the phantasmagorical, check out this 1967 NZ classic by House of Nimrod, Slightly-Delic. (Page includes a free download.)

04 November 2015

Bouchercon 2: I whine, others talk


by Robert Lopresti   Updated 11/4/ 7PM PST.

UPdated
photo (at Bcon) by Peter Rozovsky


When I wrote recently about the World Science Fiction Convention I talked about the controversy over the Hugo Award.  What follows could be considered my attempt to gin up a kerfuffle at Bouchercon.  But I think it is worth mentioning.

Ready for the controversy?  They gave away too many free books.

Yeah, I know.  Too many free books sounds like a contradiction.  But hear me out.

Those of us who write books are supposedly trying to sell the damned things.  If everyone is handing them out for free like campaign brochures, who's going to buy them?

Every registrant found six or so books in their bag.  The several hundred people who attended the librarian's tea each collected seven more.  And Sisters In Crime Smashwords - (see the Comments below) gave everyone a flash drive with - seriously - over 400 free books on it.  I suspect a lot of those were stories or novellas, but when the total is over 400 that hardly matters, does it?  No one is likely to buy books if they have hundreds of freebies on a stick, even though when they get home they may find that most of them are ones they have already read, or don't care to try.


Full disclosure: I had books on consignment with one of the dealers in the book room, and none sold, so you can call this sour grapes.  But really I am most concerned about the dealers themselves, some of whom traveled thousands of miles for the privilege of competing with people handing out free copies of the same books they were trying to sell.

At some point, enough is too much, and the Tragedy of the Commons takes over.  I understand that the people working on next year's Bouchercon in New Orleans are already thinking about this issue.  I wish them luck.

Finally, and if you read this blog at all you knew it was coming, here it is:  my quotation file from Bouchercon.  All of these were jotted down on the fly so apologies for any misattributions or misquotations.  And as for context, sorry.  I left it in my other suit.

"If I could write one book in first person it would be The Big Sleep." -Bill Crider

"The amateur sleuth restores the social order."  -Leslie Butewitz

"You are everybody in your book."  -Don Bruns

"I'm the most Jewish atheist you'll ever meet."  -Reed Farrel Coleman

"I dream about Philip Marlowe.  That's really embarrassing, which is why I'm telling this large group of people."   -Megan Abbott

"The best experience for someone who wants to write is not reading the masters but reading works by amateur, inferior writers."  -Lawrence Block

"I don't like Harry Potter.  I wouldn't have minded if  Voldemort got him on page three."  - Chantelle Aimee Osman.

"If I have one skill as a writer it is that I am really good at thinking of bad stuff."  Diane Chamberlain.

"Second person narrator isn't modern.  It's radio."  - Bill Crider

"Getting a thesis on Agatha Christie past the people at Harvard is not simple."  -Julianne Holmes

"Always invite dead authors to dinner parties.  They have no allergies or other dietary problems."  -Lawrence Block

"The best characters could go good or bad depending on the circumstances."  -Rhys Bowen


"I still haven't finished reading Orlando, and a teacher in college is waiting for the assignment."  -Karin Slaughter

"In hardboiled fiction you have the psycho ex machina."  -Reed Farrel Coleman

"When I started writing all the southern books were southern gothics, and the pigs ate mama."  - Margaret Maron

"Don't steal the reader's crayons."- Chantelle Aimee Osman.

"It took me about five minutes to sell out."  - Bill Crider


"I'm reaching the age where I can read a book again for the first time." -Lawrence Block

"Diehard is an example you can use for almost anything in life."- Chantelle Aimee Osman.

"You might say I'm on a mission to show that not all Canadians are as polite as we're cracked up to be." -Rob Brunet

"Some short stories make the mistake of thinking a short story is just a novel, but shorter." -Sean Doolittle

"While writing my novel in the library I felt a strange kinship to the man at the next desk who was talking to fictional characters."  -John Hart

"What causes despair and desolation in an academic setting?  Accreditation."  -B.K. Stevens

"I got a letter a long time ago complaining that I put a period after the Dr in Dr Pepper."  - Bill Crider

"Mysteries are worried about the past.  Thrillers are worried about the future." -Alexandra Sokoloff

"Quebec is not in the south?  Maybe you can  draw me a little map."  -Hank Philippi Ryan

"The woman I interviewed called herself a sociopath, rather than a psychopath, because it sounded less stabby."  -Mark Pryor

"Three out of four readers of my first book did not know who done it after they finished." - Catriona MacPhrson

"I write fantasy because I like doing the research."- Karen McCullough

"The author who started creating antagonists as rich and colorful characters was Ian Fleming." - Don Bruns

"This is the third panel at this conference on pace.  Are we not writing fast enough for you?"  -Alexandra Sokoloff

"I usually have a dead body in my books, but they've usually been dead for a few thousand of years." - Elly Griffiths

"I'm trying to find a properly smart-ass way to answer that."  -Lawrence Block

06 June 2015

Proper Care and Feeding of Authors – in which our writer tries to be serious for a few minutes…


by Melodie Campbell

Here’s part one of the series (reprinted with permission):

What NOT to ask an author… (especially a Crime Writer who knows at least twenty ways to kill you and not get caught)

There is nothing I love better than meeting readers, both those who already know my writing, and those who are new to my books. But recently, I was asked to talk about those things that are touchy for an author.  So here goes…a short list of No-Nos!

1.  Do not ask an author how many books she has sold.

Trust me, don’t ask this.
Really, you don’t want to.  It wouldn’t help you anyway.
Because honestly, I’ll lie.

I’m amazed that complete strangers regularly ask this.  Would you ask a lawyer how much money he makes?

Because here’s the bottom line: most of us with traditional publishers make about a buck for every book sold, whether paperback, trade paperback or ebook.  Sometimes, it’s less than that.  (Yes, we were shocked too, when we found out.)  So by asking how many books we’ve sold, you can pretty well figure out our income.  And frankly, I don’t want you to.  You see, I write comedies, and it would depress both of us.

Also:  our royalty statements are at least six months behind (at least mine are.)  We don’t KNOW how many books we’ve sold to date on new releases.  Which is probably a good thing for our egos, if we want to keep writing.

Dare I say it?  The supreme irony is: the only ones likely to make a living in the writing biz are those on the business end.  The agents, and those editors and others employed by publishers, booksellers and libraries.  Sadly, you can't expect to make a living in the arts if you are a creator.

2.  Do not ask an author to read your manuscript and critique it for free.

So many times, I’ve been asked to do this, in a public place, with people overhearing.  Sometimes, by people who don’t even have the decency to buy a single book of mine first. 

Why this is bad:

First: I am in a place that has been booked for me to sell my books and meet with readers. That’s what I’m there for.  You are taking precious time away from me and my readers.  Believe me, my publisher won’t be happy about this.  Ditto, the bookseller!

Second: Every hour I spend critiquing an aspiring author’s book is an hour I can’t spend working on my own books and marketing them.  Like most novelists, I have a day job.  That means every hour I have to work on my fiction is precious.  Most of us do critique – for a fee.  And many of us teach fiction writing at colleges. 

I’m happy to critique my college students’ work.  I’m getting paid (mind you, meagerly) to do so.  And that’s what I always recommend:  take a college course in writing.  You’ll get great info on how to become a better writer, and also valuable critiquing of your own work.

3.  Do not ask an author to introduce you to her publisher or agent.

Want to see me cringe?

Similar to number 2 above, this puts the author in a very awkward position.  You are in fact asking for an endorsement.  If the author hasn’t read your book, she cannot possibly give it (an honest endorsement.)

Second: You are asking the author to put HER reputation on the line for you.  Do you have the sort of close relationship that makes this worthwhile for her?

4.  Do not ask an author: where do you get your ideas?

Okay, be honest.  You thought I was going to lead with this one.
Actually, you can ask me this.  I’ll probably answer something fun and ridiculous, like:
From Ebay. 
Or: From my magic idea jar.
Or: They come to me on the toilet.  You should spend more time there.

Because the truth is, we don’t know exactly.  After teaching over 1000 fiction writing students at Sheridan College, I have discovered something: some students are bubbling over with ideas.  Others – the ones who won’t make it – have to struggle for plots.  It seems to be a gift and a curse, to have the sort of brain that constantly makes up things.

I’ve been doing it since I was four.  My parents called it lying.  That was so short-sighted of them.



Opening to THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE (Orca Books) winner of the 2014 Derringer (US) and Arthur Ellis (Canada)

    Okay, I admit it. I would rather be the proud possessor of a rare gemstone than a lakefront condo with parking. Yes, I know this makes me weird. Young women today are supposed to crave the security of owning their own home
     But I say this. Real estate, shmeel estate. You can’t hold an address in your hand. It doesn’t flash and sparkle with the intensity of a thousand night stars, or lure you away from the straight and narrow like a siren from some Greek odyssey.
     Let’s face it. Nobody has ever gone to jail for smuggling a one bedroom plus den out of the country.
     However, make that a 10-carat cyan blue topaz with a past as long as your arm, and I’d do almost anything to possess it.
    But don’t tell the police.
 
On Amazon

03 June 2015

There's a contract out on me


by Robert Lopresti

I did something unusual this week.  I signed a publisher's contract.

Well, technically I have signed a lot of such agreements over the years.  Mostly for short stories, a few times for books.  But this one feels different.

First of all, it's for nonfiction, a book related to my day job, not to the world of mysteries.  But that's not the important difference.

You see, every contract I have signed in the past has been an agreement that a publisher would put out something I had written.  This time I am agreeing to write something.  In other words, I am committing myself to have a book that meets certain specification finished by a certain date.

That's right.  I have a deadline.

I wrote a rather cranky piece many years ago about fellow authors who complain about the tyranny of deadlines.  My point was that some of us would be thrilled if an editor was waiting for us
to write THE END.  When you are having a bad day at what Rex Stout called the alphabet piano it is depressing to realize that no one but you gives a damn whether you keep pounding away or go outside and fly a kite.

Be careful what you wish for, because there is now a big publishing house at the other end of the country where, I like to imagine, an editor is standing with his arms folded, one foot tapping, watching the calendar pages slowly turn, and waiting for my masterpiece to arrive.

So, excuse me if I keep today's missive short.  I have fifteen months to crank out 110,000 words.  Wish me luck.

07 April 2015

Because Something is Happening Here But You Don’t Know What it is, Do You, Mister Jones?


by Paul D. Marks

One of the things that scares me most as a writer is an illiterate society. Not only illiterate in the sense of people being unable to read and write. But “illiterate” in the sense that, as a society, we have touchstones that everyone or at least most people are familiar with. Or I thought we did at one time. I’m not so sure anymore.

Let’s start with plain literacy on a personal and anecdotal level.

When my wife and I were looking for the house prior to our current house we noticed something odd, at least odd to us. We’d go in various houses in different parts of Los Angeles. But, unlike some of the shows on HGTV, you could still see the real people’s stuff in their houses. Their junk, ugly sofa, hideous drapes and kids’ toys strewn all over, laundry baskets, cluttered closets, etc. One thing we didn’t see much of were books. Sure, a house here or there had them, but the majority didn’t. And if they did they had a coffee table book or two of some artist they thought would make them look chic or intelligent or maybe a book of aerial views of L.A. One place we expected to see lots of books was in kids’ rooms or a potboiler on their parents’ nightstands. But, alas, the “cupboards” were bare.
This was twenty or so years ago, so well before smart phones, Kindles and e-readers. So, it’s not like all their multitudinous libraries were in e-form. No, there just weren’t many books to be seen.
We found this odd, as we have books stuffed to the rafters, as do most of our friends. Here, there and everywhere, in the living room or the dining room, library, the hallway, and even shelves upon shelves in the garage.

Flash forward: Cultural Literacy

29291When we went hunting for our current house, about ten years ago it was more of the same. By then there might have been some e-books and the like but the real revolution still hadn’t hit full bore yet.

Again this seemed odd. But more than odd, it’s scary. Especially for a writer. Because a writer needs readers. And if people aren’t reading, I’m out of a job, and maybe likely so are you. Even scarier though is the fact that, imho, we are becoming a post-literate society. And we are losing our shared background, some of which is gotten through books. Aside from the greater implications of that in terms of the country, it makes it harder as a writer because when we write we assume some shared cultural background. And we make literary or historical allusions to those ends. We mention composers or songs or symphonies. Books, authors, “famous” or “well-known” quotes that we assume most readers will be familiar with, some foreign phrases, even biblical references. Hemingway and even Bob Dylan songs (and I’m talking those from the 60s before he found religion in the 70s), as well as other writers, are filled with them. But often these days readers are not familiar with these references, so they miss the richness of the writing. So then we begin to question whether or not to include these references and sometimes end up writing to the lower common denominator. And that diminishes our works and our society, even if it sounds pompous to say that.

Maybe people won’t know who Rudy Vallee is, and that's understandable, but many also don’t know who Shakespeare is in any meaningful way.

743625500929_p0_v1_s600When I would go to pitch meetings in Hollywood I would often have to dumb down my presentation. I would try to leave out any historical or literary allusions. Hell, I’d even leave out film allusions because while these people may have heard of Hitchcock, few had seen his movies. And they were mostly from Ivy League type schools, but they didn’t have much of a cultural background. So when you have to explain basic things to them, you’ve lost them. They don’t like to feel stupid. And sometimes they’d ask me to explain something to them about another script they were reading by someone else. One development VP asked me to explain to her who fought on which sides in World War II, because she was reading a WWII script someone had submitted. The writer of that script already had points against him or her since the development VP didn’t even know the basics of the subject matter. And I would have thought before that incident that just about everybody knew who fought on which side in WWII. And this is just one example. I have many, many more experiences like this.

After college, the stats show that many people never—or very rarely—read another book. Literacy rates in the US are down. A lot of young people aren’t reading, but they think they’re smart because they look things up on Google. But looking something up on Google isn’t the same as knowing, though it’s better than nothing, assuming people do look things up. See: http://www.salon.com/2014/10/12/google_makes_us_all_dumber_the_neuroscience_of_search_engines/
Hw-shakespeare2
I’ve seen several authors, some very well known, ask on Facebook if they should include X, Y or Z in a novel because their editor says no one will get the references, even though the references aren’t that obscure. But even if they are, what’s wrong with using them and having people (hopefully) look them up. Isn’t that how we expand our knowledge? But nobody wants to challenge anyone in that way anymore. We’re dealing with generations now that have been told how wonderful they are without having earned it. So when we unintentionally make them feel stupid by using references they’re not familiar with, they turn off. Is it just me or does our society seem to have no intellectual curiosity, no interests or hobbies other than texting or watching the Kardashians? They don’t have the will to look further than the screens of their smart phones?

I know I’m generalizing and that there are pockets of intellectual curiosity (like the readers of this blog!), but I feel like we are becoming a minority.

And when you do a book signing or a library event, do you notice the average median age and hair color of the audience? More times than not they’re older and grayer. And where are the young people? That’s scary.

I wish more people would make New Year’s resolutions to improve their minds as well as their bodies, to exercise their brains as well as their muscles. So maybe we should do yoga for the brain as well as the body.

At this point I’d even settle for grownups reading comic books or graphic novels as long as there’s words in them.

All of this scares me, not just as a writer, who might not have an audience in the future. But for society as a whole. We need to have a shared background, a common knowledge, a literate society of people who are engaged. Not everybody can know everything, of course. But there should be some common background that we can all relate to.



Shakespeare picture: Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hw-shakespeare2.jpg#/media/File:Hw-shakespeare2.jpg
Blonde on blonde album cover: "Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bob_Dylan_-_Blonde_on_Blonde.jpg#/media/File:Bob_Dylan_-_Blonde_on_Blonde.jpg

17 December 2014

Any Flat Surface




by Robert Lopresti

Still thinking about Bouchercon.  (When you only blog every other week this kind of postmortum can take time.)

Attached you will find a photo of Catherine Dilts, standing in front of a mountain of carrier bags.  This picture was taken at Bouchercon, and is used by her gracious permission.

You see, upon arriving at one of these hootenannies you receive a specially made goody bag (just like the Oscars!) containing information and a whole bunch of free books.  Different bags get different books, all random. Inevitably some of the books will not match up perfectly with your reading preferences.

I heard one conference-goer asking: "Will there be a swap table for books?"

The volunteer replied: "Any flat surface."

Which brings up the odd phenomena of the book as physical object at these events.  Upstairs there is the Dealers' Room, filled with wonderful people who have traveled, in some cases, thousands of miles for the chance to sell you books. At least one had a long, lovely display of old and rare volumes. 

But all around the hotel there are publishers eagerly giving away books, in the hopes of getting you to read the rest of a series. 

Many years ago I visited a publisher's office and an editor asked "Have you read so-and-so?"  He took me into a little storeroom and started piling books into my arms, like I had won the grand prize on some quiz show.  I was flabbergasted.  Weren't they supposed to be trying to sell the things?

Back to the recent Bouchercon.  Someone did set up a few swap tables and, to my astonishment they did not fill up.  A dozen books would appear and then, a few minutes later most would be gone.  I expected that on Sunday, the last day of the fest, there would be a stack-up as people decided which books fit in their luggage for the plane.  But it hadn't happened by the time I left.  I am guessing that this conference (in Long Beach, an hour from L.A.) had a higher than usual percentage of attendees traveling by car.  So they had plenty of room for another dozen or so extra titles.

There was a mailing service there, as well, happy to box up your books and ship them home.  I took advantage of that. All the illustrations in the blog today are books that were giveaways - except one gift -- Thanks, Kate Thornton!

Last time I went to a Bouchercon the swap table was piled with tomes on the last day.  As I was shuffling through them I found an ARC (advance reader copy) of the new unpublished Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block.  As I grabbed it up I remember thinking: 1) who didn't want a copy of that? and 2) where the hell was I when they were giving them out?

It's weird how we feel about these remnants of dead trees.  Almost every day I bring one to put on the freebie pile in my library, hoping some college student will enjoy it.  Others I cherish and have carried along with me since high school.  And some books I am happy to read on my tablet and never own in a tangible form.

Back when I was even younger than I am now I remember buying a hardcover book at an event and taking it to the author to be signed.  His proud publisher was standing next to him.   "Oh, you'll enjoy that one!" said the publisher. 

"I know," I said.  "I already read it."

They stared at me. 


"I don't buy a hardcover unless I know I want to keep it."

Well, money was tight in those days.  And by God, I still have that book.

How about you?  Which ones do you keep and which do you give away?



05 November 2014

Sinking in the Amazon


by Robert Lopresti

About a bad habit (one of many) new authors can get into.  For a tune: think sea chantey.

I'm so proud I can hardly speak
My new novel came out last week
At the web I took a peek
To see how the sales went on
    They were low but began to rise
    I thought I was in for a sweet surprise
    All of a sudden, right before my eyes
    I was sinking in the Amazon
  
Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Where have all my readers gone?
I was sinking in the Amazon

My friends swore they would buy my book
Critics said it was worth a look
These sales figures have got me shook
This duckling should be a swan
    Some bad novels are doing well
    But my little masterpiece does not sell
    And while it drops toward the pits of hell
    I am sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Fiction should outsell non-
I am sinking in the Amazon

I stared so hard I began to squint
I wished these numbers would take a hint
I act like the sales race is a sprint
When I know it's a marathon
    Buy my book and the numbers lift
    Pass me by and the patterns drift
    Maybe my Uncle Ed needs a gift!
    I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Is my career a con?
I am sinking in the Amazon

I know that I should be writing more
But now I really can't tell what for
If my books just squat in the big e-store
When they ought to fly hither and yon
    How can I make  my brain gears mesh?
    The spirit's weak and so's the flesh
    I slip to that site and I hit refresh
    And I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Deader than Babylon
Sinking in the Amazon


09 March 2014

Book Posters


by Leigh Lundin

Once again, today’s article was suggested by a note from a reader: What if book blurbs read like movie posters?

The idea grew out of a web page which poses such teasers as: “This Guy Didn’t Tell His New Governess About His Secret Wife In The Attic. What Happened Next Really Burned Him Up,” and “A Guy With Two First Names Proves ‘Nymphet’ Is The Grossest Word In English.” (Don't want to guess? Here's the full list.)

Since my colleagues are all Very Serious Writers who’d never stoop to such shenanigans, I began to ponder. Yes, I think I can really help the publishing industry.



Alice would eat and drink anything, especially anything psychedelic. It would become her undoing. Alice
Cinderella She took her secret shoe fetish a step too far.
A boy with a shadowy past, no future, and a mean right Hook, meets Wendy, the girl of his dreams. Peter Pan
Star Wars You’ve devoted your entire life to consolidating your rule over the universe, only to be thwarted by your own son. Kids!
A teenage angst-ridden rebel-with-a-cause finds his dad is a real pain in the a––… Arm? Star Wars
Harry Potter A British Lord one step from conquering the world has to handle one small boy with an unusual birthmark. How hard could it be?
Political advisors both heartless and brainless guide one girl onto a bloody path of destruction. Wizard of Oz
Snow White Seven men couldn’t satisfy one white girl’s unnatural cravings; it would take an eighth.


What would your ads look like?

08 July 2013

Computer in a Box


Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Do you over research things? I do. Especially when I'm going to spend some money. I've been trying to decide on what computer to buy for over two months. Okay, I haven't spent everyday on it, but every few days and at least twice a week. Do you have any idea how many different laptops there are? Seems every company in the electronic businesss makes a laptop. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Panasonic, Lovoto, Lenovo, Toshiba, Samsung, and of course Apple's MacBooks and their iMac. I'm sure I've left out a half dozen more. There are laptops and notebooks and Idea Books and something called Twist and Shout, I kid you not.

So my idea was to find a lightweight machine with a bit of fast power, a fair amount of HD memory and a price I could handle. I determined a reasonable amount that I could afford and my top figure was five hundred dollars. I knew when I added tax and product insurance protection and perhaps some tech support insurance, that $500 would quickly run up to seven, eight hundred. And I'd still have to get software programs. Most don't come with software installed anymore, except perhaps anti-virus.

Now there're things like i3, i5 and i7 Intel processors. There's 5 GB this and 740 GB that and touch and no-touch and other things with strings of letters and numbers for CDs and DVD and ways you can burn those and USB ports galore and gaming whatevers and HD webcams with dual tone microphones. Not to even mention Windows 8 which people say is so hard to use and a few computer which still use Windows 7.

Before long my head was spinning like that girl in The Exorcist. Surely you can understand why I couldn't research every day because it was absolutely confusing, One day this past week, I managed to chat with a Question and Answer person at Dell who after two hours helped me decide which of their laptop would be just exactly what I needed. I then tried to order it and had trouble getting shipping address set up. One of the main reasons I thought I'd go with Dell is I've had 3 Dell laptops and before that a Dell desktop. I've had excellent luck with all of them and the tech support has been wonderful. But after another hour online and I couldn't get a laptop ordered I got tired of the whole thing and gave up for that session.

Then a funny thing happened this morning after a late night conversation with my Nashville daughter, and she kept bragging about her Toshiba laptop, I got an e-mail from one of those big box stores, telling about a sale they were having. As luck would a very nice Toshiba laptop that fit all my criteria was on sale within my price range. Even better we have one of those stores in our town of Marble Falls which made their geek guys readily available. I drove over there about 5 pm and about an hour later I drove back home with a computer in a fairly small box.

I'm excited although I know the learning curve will take me twice as long since I'm computer challenged. Yet soon I will be ankle deep in Windows 8 alligators trying to understand exactly what to do.

To make this all more or less on topic of writing, I'll have you know that I've got the third in my Zoe Barrow policewoman series about half-way through its first draft and I came up with an idea for a short story this week and was just waiting for the new laptop to get involved with either project.

It's probably okay to research like crazy if you're planning to spend a chunk of money, but when you're researching for your book or story, don't get too carried away. If you fall in love with your research you'll have a hard time going cold turkey. And if you use too much of your research in your story you can get bogged down. Just do the necessary research and then use it sparingly.

Now off to open this new computer in a box.

03 July 2013

Nine lives of the catalog


by Robert Lopresti


I seldom write here about being a librarian because I hate to brag, but  I recently attended a lecture that seems relevant to us as readers and writers.  Lori Robare of the University of Oregon spoke on "RDA for Non-Catalogers."

RDA is Resource Description and Analysis, a new set of rules for cataloging library material.  (And here I should hasten to say I was at that meeting because I am not a cataloger, so I may be about to get a lot wrong.  Don't blame Lori!)  Until RDA arrived in 2010 library books were cataloged under Anglo-American Catalog Rules (AACR2), which was (were?) created in the 1970s.

Now, think about what libraries were like back then.  The purpose of AACR2 was to cram as much relevant information about a book as possible onto a small card which would go into a cabinet and probably never be seen by anyone outside that library.

How many of the words in that last sentence are still true today?  "Relevant information" is probably about it.  You don't have to cram information into a card because today's catalogs consist of computer records which can be as long as necessary.  So RDA says forget about using abbreviations.  (And while we're at it, throw out Latin.  Few users understood it back in the seventies.)

And why assume you are cataloging a book?  Maybe you are trying to catalog a DVD, a software program, a website, or realia, which in my library could be a jigsaw puzzle, a figurine, or lord knows what else.

Of course, the fact that the catalog is on a computer means that readers -- and librarians -- all over the world can see it, as opposed to that hermetically sealed wooden case that existed in each individual library back in the seventies, so consistency suddenly becomes much more important.

It was in response to changes like this that catalogers decided not to keep revising AACR2, but to try a whole different approach: RDA, which uses a system called FRBR--

Okay, don't sweat it.  I'll make this easy.  Let's say you want to find a book: Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  In FRBR that would be called the work.

So I hand you a copy of the work.  It is titled Män som hatar kvinnor, Men Who Hate Women.  Oh, you didn't want it in the original Swedish?  You would prefer English?  No problem!  But which translation do you prefer:  the English English or the American English?  In FRBR each of these versions is called an expression.  For another example of expressions, think of different recordings of the same song.

You've decided on the popular American translation.  Great!  Hardcover or paperback?  Maybe large-print?  By now you know FRBR has a name for this: it's the manifestation.

Good news!  The library has two copies of the version you want.  And in FRBR each of these is an item.

And somehow  the cataloger has to indicate in the catalog record the work, expression, manifestation and item under discussion.

Easy peasy, no?  What about the movie version of Larsson's book? Is that an expression or a different work?  How about an illustrated edition?  A graphic novel version?

And this brings me to the main reason I am inflicting all this on you.  Lori showed us a diagram made by Barbara Tillett who was, at that time, at the Library of Congress.  She attempted to capture on one page everything that can happen to one little piece of writing.  See if it doesn't blow your mind.


I suppose the only works that have most, much less all of the above, are a small number of  literary classics.  Something we can aspire to, anyway.

30 June 2013

A Totally Digital Library


by Louis Willis

I think I’ve written at least two posts on libraries. I’ll probably write a few more before I am able to give it up because each time I read an article about a library closing or trying to change to keep up with the digital age, I worry. The thought of not being able to hold a paper book unsettles my mind. Of course, a world in which there are no paper books and in which a library goes completely paperless is not likely to happen in my time, but I still worry because I’m a natural worrier. I worry despite the good news that libraries are trying to remain relevant in the coming digital age. One is in fact trying to be the first to go completely digital.

Image courtesy of adamr
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
County leaders in Bexar County Texas are planning to launch the first completely digital public library system called BiblioTech (from Spanish biblioteca). While other libraries have tried to go totally digital, none has succeeded because the users complained about not having access to paper books. Many libraries now lend both paper and ebooks.

BiblioTech will lend ereaders so that users will be able to download the book they want to checkout. They will be allowed to borrow only one book at a time. If they fail to return the ereader, the book will be deleted and the ereader will become just another piece of electronic junk. And, as a county leader noted, the library will have the resident’s name, phone number, and address. Imagine the library police showing up at his or her home to retrieve the purloined ereader. Good luck to Bexar County.

I can’t imagine not being able to hold a paper book in my hands and marking passages I admire. Yet, experience with my nine-year-old grandson tells me paper books might become a thing of the past in a few years. He uses his iPad to read, play games, and do research on animals because he wants to be a zoologist. I sometimes imagine my great grandkids going to a museum to see what a book looked like back in the golden age of paper books.

Two Interesting Library Tidbits 

While reading about libraries, I came across an article on the NPR website about a unique way the town of Basalt, Colorado is trying to save its public library. In addition to books, residents can check out seeds, yep, seeds.

Here in Knox County our public library is battling an interesting problem. Recently a reader found a bedbug in a book, prompting library officials to take action to have the main and all branch libraries inspected to make sure they are free of the little bloodsuckers. Such an extensive inspection will be expensive, so, to save money, they plan to contract with a “canine pest detection service.” Yep, they’ll use dogs to sniff out those little varmints.

Maybe a digital library will not be so bad. No bedbugs. And the books last forever in cyberspace.

26 December 2012

Boxing Day Special


by Robert Lopresti

It is December 26th, Boxing Day, the Day of Christmas Past, and I am guessing you are not looking for intense intellectual stimulation.  No, you are suffering from figgy pudding bloat and egg nog hangover, and would probably prefer something light.  I aim to please.

Take a look at the wonderful gifties your friends have provided you this holiday season.  Perhaps you are now thinking "before next year I have to get a better class of friends."

Now, now.  Behave yourself.  Consider what they could have imposed on you instead.  At these pages here and here you will find hundreds of actual books that are (or were) available for purchase.  And yet they didn't give you any of them.  For example:



Looking at these classics you did not unwrap may make those chartreuse socks look better by comparison, I hope.  Happy holidays, folks.