Monday, August 30, 2010

Bookworms, you are cool (again)

Bookworms, check it out. You are it, my friends.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, (in the Fashion & Style section, no less!), the rising popularity of E-Books is completely changing the way people read.

Not only are more and more people reading this way, but even more folks are watching them read.

See, everyone is so intrigued with the mobile gadgetry used, reading is no longer a solitary sport. When you're using your e-reader (according to those interviewed) people tend to stop by and check it out, ask you questions, see if you like it and enquire what you're reading.

We're talking Kindles, sure - but it's the new and different iPads (also capable of holding E-Books) that are really turning heads.

"Buying literature has become cool again," said Professor Paul Levinson of Fordham University, quoted in the article.

Go figure. I never knew it was uncool. But if that's what it takes to get folks reading, then I'm all for it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Publishing newbie appreciates the help

I wasn't going to spend the day worrying about writing, blogging and selling my book. I wasn't. I had the day off. It was a beautiful morning. I thought I'd clean the house, watch the end of that romantic comedy I kept missing, and maybe go shoe shopping. I want to check out some of those new winter shoe-boot things, you know?

But then a couple of things happened. First, I checked my e-mail, because no matter what, you have to check your e-mail, right? But before I even got there, I was distracted. I noticed that on Yahoo, one of the trending topics was E-Books.

And since Death on Deadline, the aforementioned tome that I wouldn't be worrying about today, happens to be an E-Book, I felt somewhat obligated just to take a peek.

That's where it all started. You know, one article leads to two, and that leads you to something else interesting, and then before you know it, you're sitting at the computer typing up a blog entry when you really should be shoe shopping. But this time, I think it was worth it.

Because all my E-Book research - more on that later, since I've been told my posts are too long - led me to the blog of author JA Konrath, who, if you don't know, is the author of the best-selling Lt. Jacqueline Daniels "Jack Daniels" thrillers.

Well, he was writing about the rise of E-Books and the uncertainty they were causing in the publishing industry, and he mentioned that he sold 100 books a day on Kindle. I paused when I read that. I thought, "I'd walk across broken glass to sell 100 books a day on Kindle." But my book isn't even on Kindle yet. Oh, it will be - but I'm still figuring out how to put it there. Sure, it's other places -, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. - but I want it on Kindle. I want it everywhere. But I'm still learning. And it's hard. So when I realized Konrath had a blog called A Newbie's Guide To Publishing, I about jumped for joy. (

I'm sure I'm not the only newbie who feels lost most of the time and has no idea where to turn for help. I can't wait to start reading. Mr. Konrath, thanks for the help.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dark, gloomy weather perfect for writing

It's gray and grim outside, and I'm starting to accept that summer will truly soon be over.

But there is one bright side - I find these gloomy days particularly inspiring when it comes to writing. Somehow, when the sun is shining and the garden is calling and the pool is open ... it seems my motivation falls to the wayside.

Now I know there are some writers - well, I don't know them, but I've heard of them -who are bountiful, bottomless fonts of energy who never run out of ideas or lose their focus. Their ideas flow effortlessly from their fingertips to the page, no matter what's happening in the real world.

Unfortunately, that's not me. I must be far more easily distracted. The cooler, darker weather calms me, helps me focus somehow.

So today, as I ran out to do errands and saw the dark clouds piling up in the distance, I had to smile.

Bring it on. I could feel a few good ideas percolating already.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Judging this book by its cover paid off

So how do you choose what you'll read next? Now, I'm not talking about the sure thing - a favorite author you've been reading for years, or that bestseller you've been waiting for weeks to open. That's too easy.

I'm talking about those days when you're a bit at loose ends, and you find yourself either at the library or the bookstore, trying to decide what next to place on your nightstand. Maybe you've finished all your favorites; maybe you're just in the mood to try something new. How do you decide?

I have to admit - the other day, I most definitely judged a book by its cover. Most of the time, I'm probably like you. I have my favorite authors, my favorite topics, and I tend to get a little set in my ways. But this past weekend, I was trolling the aisles at the local bookstore, and ... I just couldn't decide. I knew I wanted a mystery, but I really wasn't in the mood for anything in particular. But I wasn't not in the mood for anything in particular, if that makes sense.

So I just walked slowly, taking my time, studying all the titles. One book was a little askew, and the sky-blue spine caught my eye. I picked it up. The title was "A Timely Vision," and the authors were Joyce and Jim Lavene. Hmmm. I'd never read anything by them before. But the book cover was so ...beguiling. In the forefront were the reeds of a sandy bluff, and in the background, atop a hill, was a Victorian mansion. In the distance was a deep blue ocean, touching a nearly cloudless sky. And down by the authors' names, in front, nearly buried in the sand, was a woman's diamond watch.

I couldn't stop looking at it. Maybe because it looked so cool and comfortable, and it was a steamy, sticky 89 degrees outside the bookstore doors. Or maybe it's because I've always loved Victorians. Or heck, maybe it was just a pretty watch.

Whatever the reason, I read the first page. Then the second. By the third, I knew I'd buy the book, and by the end of the first chapter I knew I'd be looking to find out a little more about the authors. (You can, too, at

I know, not very scientific, right? But in this case, it paid off. I love finding new authors, and it was a great read. Sometimes, you just have to go by instinct.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is writer a title we should have to earn?

Are great writers born or made? And is there such a thing as a "true" writer?

I started thinking about these questions recently after I read a heartfelt essay in a literary magazine from a woman bemoaning the fact there were so many so-called writers around today. Just writing, she countered, simply stringing words together, doesn't necessarily make you a writer.

You only deserve the title if you truly understand the craft.

True writers had great passion, she said, a desire that shone through in their work. They loved words; they harnessed the power of language. They couldn't not write. In fact, she went so far to say that true writers (and I'm presuming she was talking about herself in this instance) actually felt pain when they were kept from writing.

I wasn't so sure about that last bit, but the rest of her words gave me pause.

I wonder about the inherent skills needed to become a writer. Do you have to be born with them, or can your desire to succeed overcome any obstacles you might encounter? And at what point can you bestow the title of "writer" upon yourself?

I once worked with a reporter who went through such agony every time he put together a story, I wondered why in the world he did it. Writing was truly work - physically and mentally. He'd squirm and sweat, mutter and swear. Ironically, he was a great reporter and an excellent interviewer. But when it came time to putting those words together and telling a story, he just didn't have that rhythm, that understanding, that lyrical cadence inside to make his stories sing.

He tried, but his end results didn't deliver. The words were there, but not the writing.

But he was a writer, was he not? He had the passion and drive - did his end results matter? Does a lack of skill negate the title? Is writer a title we should have to earn?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The quest of finding childhood favorites

Years ago, I began trying to find my all-time favorite childhood books.

I'm such a hoarder, I'm surprised they ever got away from me in the first place. But somehow, over the years, they did. I guess I just stopped reading them. Maybe they ended up in one of those dreaded basement boxes. Maybe I gave them away. Somehow... they just disappeared.

A few years ago, I decided to find them. There was no real reason for my quest. My kids weren't particularly interested. I just wanted them. For comfort, maybe. Nostalgia, perhaps. Or maybe I just needed a good challenge.

Some of them were easy. Those "Misty of Chincoteague" books by Marguerite Henry? Piece of cake.

"Ghosts Who Went to School," by Judith Spearing? Well, my sister found that for me online. She tried to find a few others, like "The Nine Lives of Opalina," by Peggy Bacon, one of my favorite tales, about a ghost cat, and she succeeded - but it cost $250. "I wouldn't pay that for a real ghost cat," she informed me. "Sorry." So for that, we're still looking.

On other obscure favorites, we were lucky. "Go to the Room of the Eyes," by Betty K. Erwin? That was a toughie. But I found it, just lying on the floor of the bookstore section in my hometown library. I practically jumped up and down. The cashier was hardly as excited as I was - and I was never so happy to fork over 50 cents.

But one of my very favorite books comes with one of my favorite stories. The book is called "Mine for Keeps," by Jean Little, and I loved, loved, loved it when I was growing up. My obsession with it drove my family crazy. It was about a little girl who was handicapped who bravely made her way through a regular school. Something about that book just caught my imagination - I was that little girl. I made up imaginary games about her with me in the starring role. One time, I even took off with my grandmother's crutches for about an hour, completely forgetting she, um, really did need them. Mom lectured me. Grandma forgave me. But I still loved that story.

But the book was out of print - not even the libraries had it.

So when I was a reporter, a few years ago, I was doing a story on the expansion of a homeless shelter. I was waiting for my contact to meet me, and I was just nosing around the shelter's main area, a children's play area and social room. Naturally drawn to the bookshelves, I started reading the titles. And there it was, right in front of me: "Mine for Keeps." Oh, my goodness. What to do?? Offer to buy it?? And take a book from a homeless shelter? Um, no way. So I just stood there, holding it, lost in memories. The director walked up behind me and looked at me questioningly.

"This was my favorite book growing up," I said, my face turning red. I put it back on the shelf.

He took it out and looked at it. "Take it," he said. I stared at him, horrified.

"Um, I really couldn't," I said, and I meant it. He just laughed.

"It's pretty old," he said. "I don't think any of the kids here read it. They prefer 'Clifford' and 'Blues Clues' and 'Pokemon.'"

So we made a deal. I left my beloved book - and bought a few more modern favorites. I came back, and then we traded. Now "Mine for Keeps" is just that.

But I haven't made off with anyone's crutches lately, I swear.