Tag Archives: books

Cold Weather

It’s seventy degrees outside now, up from where it dropped last night, possibly the last chilly hurrah before summer latches on to us for good. I had the windows open last night despite the chill–or perhaps because of it.  It’s like free air conditioning, after all.

I love cold weather.  Love it for the way it makes me feel and the things of which it reminds me.  I’ve never been much for the heat.  In fact, I wilt in humidity.  Cue an image of salad greens and ovens or some such.

Cold weather means cozy sweatshirts and pajama pants.  It means blankets, curled up on the couch with movies and hot chocolate, holding coffee mugs with both hands in order to warm them up, soups and stews, sitting outside on the porch in a beam of sunlight to warm up.

Cold weather means fall, when the temperature drops and the leaves begin to turn orange and yellow, and it means cold, wet, rainy, and overcast days, where the leaves and water and dirt mix into a gritty grime that covers sidewalks, crunches under my shoes, and reminds me just how nice it is to stay inside.  On the tail of the first fall weather means October isn’t far away, and that Halloween–my favorite holiday–will be here soon, so it’s time to get a costume ready.

The cold also reminds me of books and stories. Maybe it’s because I write stories, and so many things remind me so, but maybe it’s also because the cold weather keeps us inside, glued to a book or Harry Potter DVDs, and encourages us to retreat deeper into our imaginations to defeat or escape the grey outside.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the cool while it lasts.  Summer will be long and warm, a relentless mix of humidity and misery that won’t let up for months.  But for now, the windows are open, there’s a chill on the breeze, goosebumps on my skin; and it is amazing.

Books While Traveling

My copy, circa 1995

I spent a fair amount of time during high school shuffling back and forth by plane between states to visit with my mother and father. My ultimate go-to book of all time is Belgarath the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings.

This book wins for a few reasons.  They are one of my favorite authors (I’m glomping them together into one entity; I don’t think they’d mind) and largely responsible for my desire to write fantasy. Their stories have a light, humorous feel to them, and the banter between characters keeps things entertaining.  This book is also a follow-up to the ten-book series, retold from the POV of one of the most major characters responsible for orchestrating the whole shebang across a period of 7000 years, and so it’s a good sampler, so to speak, of parts of the overall story.  It’s also fairly long, which doesn’t hurt when you have to fly and kill time on long layovers.

I once had the idea to make hash marks on the inside cover, once for every time I read it, and am a little sad that I didn’t.  I’d have to put the count up around 20 at least.  You can’t tell in the picture, but the edges of the covers and the spine are covered in tape to make them more resilient. I did this to all of the books I bought in highschool–mass-market paperbacks were cheapest and I had to make them last.

One of the times I can remember where I didn’t read Belgarath was when my girlfriend at the time gave me her hardcover copy of The Dark Half to borrow for the trip.  Now that book is forever linked with her (we moved on, literally in my case, but keep in touch) and that time period. Behold the power of the blog/journal: I hadn’t thought about that in darn near forever.  I can still remember sitting in the airport with it and waiting for my dad to pick me up.

I also love finding used bookstores whenever I travel.  It has to be a used book store–chains are okay, but if you’ve been in one, you’ve been in them all.  And they get bonus points if they have a resident cat or two. I might go so far as to say that any proper used bookstore requires a cat.  Some good stores that come to mind are The Bookshop (Chapel Hill, NC) and Beckham’s Bookshop (French Quarter, New Orleans).

A habit I’ve fallen into is to search for Jonathan Carroll books while I’m there. Of course, I could just buy them from Amazon or the local place here at home, but there’s something pleasing in the ritual, in the hunting and finding of that trade paperback copy with a hand-penciled price, and in delaying the procession through the backlist of one of my favorite authors.  The only problem is figuring out how to support him directly. (Please oh please, support your favorite authors)

Like many others, I have a Kindle now, and so the interesting thing will be to see how it integrates into my travel reading.  Alas, Belgarath isn’t available in ebook form.  Would it still feel the same if it was?

* * * * *

How are books and travel linked for you?  Are there memories associated with the two?  What’s your go-to book for travel?

Note: I originally wrote this in mid-July, thought it was scheduled, found it wasn’t, and got too busy for a while to do anything about it.

Books and Guilt–Borders Declares Bankruptcy

Since I have an interest in the book industry (on account of liking books and writing my own), I’ve been following the news about Borders lately, and found the news that Borders filed Chapter 11 just a few minutes ago as I came back to the surface of the internet after a large push on MOROCCO.

Overall, I’m fairly sad about the whole thing.  I never like to see a business close, though I know it’s part of the law of the (consumer) jungle:  you eat or get eaten.  I mostly feel sorry for the employees who will have to go elsewhere for their work.  I’m sure the higher-ups will be fine.  Seems like they always are.

I’ve always liked going to their store–it felt the friendliest and calmest of places here on my side of town.  Yet as I think back, I haven’t bought anything from there in quite a while.  Part of the reason is due to finances. Part of it is catching up on a massive tbr pile that I already have, and yet a third part is no longer feeling like I need to own a copy of every single book I’ve ever read (thus borrowing or library-ing).

So I feel like I have a hand in their closing.  But I know it’s not my fault.  It’s a changing industry, is it not?

Yet that doesn’t really help the little flicker of guilt.  Plus, hey, I like books, so any excuse to buy some, right?

On the other hand, I’ve been meaning to go spend some time (and money) at my indie bookshop just a few blocks away, too, and haven’t.  So then it would become a choice: who to support?  While I’d love to have the cash on hand to do it, I can’t support both.

I need to stop by the store later today, buy something, and mention how much I appreciate the booksellers themselves.

Maybe today needs to be “Hug a Border’s Bookseller day.”

On The Fate of Paper Stories

Readers are passionate people who care about what they love. As such, the proliferation of ebook readers and ebooks has stirred up the readership side of the publishing industry as well.  People seem fairly divided along the spectrum: some have adopted ebooks whole-heartedly, others mix them in, and still others have drawn a line.  With the latter, the implication is that you can have their paperware books when you pry them from their cold, dead hands.

But what these people I think are missing–and like I’ve explained to people who have asked me about my Kindle and what I think of it–is that paper isn’t going anywhere. For some books, I read them and forget them, and they stay on my shelf, sometimes shoved into the back or with other, newer books stacked on top of them.  These are the books that I can’t remember when I read it last, only somewhat remember what the story was about, and can’t see myself reading again any time soon.  This is one of the sweet spots for ebooks: the joy of reading it, immediately and at hopefully lower cost (here’s looking at you, publishing industry), and then it doesn’t clog up your shelves.

Then there are the books that I remember very well:  those old friends who I’ve read time and time again.  These are the books that ebooks will never replace, the ones with dog-ears, underlined passages, scuffs and scrapes, and so on, memories of buying it in high school or as a gift from a college romance, books where I’ve taped up the spines just in hopes that they’ll last longer.

As the future grinds on, bookshelves will become a showcase.  Not like the ones like Michael Nye mentions (bookshelves for show, to project a cultivated image), but rather an honest showcase of the stories and authors we hold most dear.  Our homes are full of the things that matter to us and the space we give to our books no less so.  The same drive that motivates readers to drive hours to visit an author signing or to locate and buy an old first-edition copy is the same drive that will ensure the acquisition of a paper copy of our favorites.  I have books that I would never consider an ebook copy “enough” and will always keep a paper copy.  There will always be a market for these paper stories, and where there’s a market, there’s a profit to be made and a company to fill it.  Papers books might just be tomorrow’s collector’s edition.

After all, I don’t own every single movie I’ve ever watched.  But I do own a copy of my favorites.

It’s Not About Sides–Until You Make It So

The world of publishing is in turmoil.  In the upheaval, two different and fairly antagonistic factions have come about: the New York publishing houses (referred to as “traditional publishing”) and the independent/self-published authors.

Both have their benefits and their drawbacks.  Both also have their fierce proponents.

But it’s not about sides.  Nor should it be.

I’m an “indie” author only because I have a book that I published myself.   Yet I haven’t joined the Association of Independent Authors or planted my flag in the indie soil.  I’ve refused to come down on one side or the other for one simple reason: my writing is a business.

I’m trying to build a career.  To do that, I’ll do whatever I think is best for both my career in general and each specific work in particular.  I published Norton’s Ghost myself because it was an overly long first novel with a strange premise by an author with zero publishing credits to his name.  Odds of it being picked up?  Slim at best.  The nature of the story also suggested a more DIY approach, but I digress.

Is the independent route the best for my next work (which, shameless plug, will likely be MOROCCO)?  Who knows.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Maybe I’ll shop the next one around.  Who knows?

But it’s not about sides.  Independent authors need to remember this because they’re railing against a huge industry, one that has far more money, power, reach and experience.  It’s also comprised–at least on some level–of people who like and love books.  People just like you and me.  Maybe even people who will buy, read, edit or design your next book.  Burning your bridges over ideology or because you had one too many manuscript rejections does no one any favors.  It reinforces too many stereotypes.

Also, when we see headlines like “Author X moves away from Traditional publishing and goes indie!,” everyone points to them as proof of concept, as an example that they so desperately want, to show that this works.  This puppeteering is also a mistake.  It hurts the independent movement and it’s based on false grounds.   It’s often the traditional industry they eschew that got them their start in the first place.  Of course you’re going to do well when you already have an audience.

I also ask myself: “Who cares?”  Good for them.

You should go the indie route because you feel the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  I don’t care if you’re a beginner with a *.mobi file or someone with a back catalog 20 pages long.  Just spare me the flag-planting and name-calling.

To the publishing industry, I ask:  What in the hell are you doing?  Self-published authors have long labored under a yoke of demonization by the traditional industry: the idea was that if someone self-published, it was slop that they paid someone to print because no one wanted to buy it.  The same thing happened when Print On Demand technology became widely available: the industry turned its nose up at those authors.  Self-published books are still often rejected by reviewers and booksellers.

Yet look who’s coming late to the party and desperately trying to find a date?  It used to be the traditional publishers were on one side and the scuzzy “vanity” and “author services” companies were on the other.  Sandwiched between them were the authors.  The goal was the former, but the temptation of the latter was undeniable. Now, though, the traditional industry continues to turn its nose up at independent authors while using more and more of their techniques and technologies and adapting many pages from the books* of author service companies.  Some examples**:

  • Harlequin implemented their POD sister company for their slush pile hopefuls
  • There was that (sci-fi?) press that recently announced they were going to a POD model instead of offset print***
  • Now Publisher’s Weekly wants to charge independent authors $150 for inclusion in a list  separate from the rest of their publication

And so on.

What’s it going to be, industry?  Either you admit that self- or independent-publishing is a viable option, no less equal than the traditional (a you do your thing and we’ll do ours situation), or else you continue to hold yourself above it.  But don’t you dare try to do both at the same time as some of these companies are doing.  Don’t you dare tell me my independent work isn’t good enough and then offer me a spot in a separate publication if I’ll write you a check.

Remember: it’s not about sides.  It’s about making books and getting them to the people who want to read them.

  • *: pun only slightly intended
  • **: I can’t link or double-check names because I’m on lunch at work
  • ***: POD is a good business model as it cuts cost and waste; first example of traditional industry embracing a piece from the realm of the self-pubbed “wanna-be”.  Yet many people said out loud, “well now getting a book out through them is worthless.”