Tag Archive | books

For my writer friends

writers-block

It’s one thing waiting for the Muse, but if you’re at your desk the Muse knows where to find you.

This is why I don’t do inspiration or creative blogs. I just do the work, and hope for the best.

Because the difficult thing is to keep yourself open to the moment.

The trick is to keep yourself vulnerable and true, and this can be really tiring after a while. It can hurt, quite literally.

But if you do it properly — and it’s hard to do it properly — then the book will find its mark.

If it’s a real book, written for the right reasons, and with enough skill, then it will find its time and its readers.

It’ll be its own kind of success.

Anne Enright, Irish author, speaking on BBC4 Radio’s The Value of Failure.

The Need to Read

ex libris

These are the book on my 2014 hope-to-read list. They are mostly biography and non-fiction. Novels have to be exceptionally intriguing to get me past the first 2o pages, but the ones on my list I think will pass the test.

I read a lot of poetry and children’s books too, but I usually just trip over those works rather than actively look for them. People often ask why I read these, for the beauty of course. Children’s books always have interesting illustrations and poetry is the peacock of the literary world, at least to me.

Non-Fiction

  1. Breakfast at Sotheby’s by Philip Hook (Particular). About the art world.
  2.  Falling Upwards (Harper Collins), Richard Holmes’ history of ballooning
  3.  Mark Cocker’s  Birds and People (Jonathan Cape). What the title says!
  4. A Sting in the Tale Dave Goulson, (Jonathan Cape), about bees.
  5. Patrick Leigh Fermor   The Broken Road (John Murray) Part 3 of a triliogy. You probably want to read, Between the Woods and the Water, and A Time of Gifts too. It’s about walking through Europe in the 1930s. The author died two years ago.

Biography

  1.  Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig (Jonathan Cape)  About artist Lucian Freud.
  2. Sex and Rockets by John Carter. About JPL founder Jack Parsons.
  3.  Laird M Easton (tr.),  Journey to the Abyss The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (Vintage)
  4. The Poets’ Daughters by Katie Waldegrave (Hutchinson) biography of Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge
  5. Nina Stibbe’s Love, Nina, letters to her sister from the 1980s, about being a nanny.
  6. Hermione Lee’s Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life. About the author.
  7. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (Hutchinson). About the Dreyfuss affair.
  8. Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited by Phillip Buehler (Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc) about the 5 years Guthrie spent in a mental hospital.

Essays

  1. Adam Phillips’ One Way and Another: New and Selected Essays (Hamish Hamilton) & Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life
  2. Italo Calvino’s Collection of Sand: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics)

Novels

  1. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Sourcebooks Landmark) WWII thriller about an architect who designs hiding places for Jews.
  2.  Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Jonathan Cape)  Mystery pre-the internet
  3. Nikolai Leskov’s The Enchanted Wanderer the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
  4. Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard (Faber) psychological mystery/courtroom drama
  5. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s The Mirror of BeautyHamish Hamilton) 19th century India,
  6.  The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker (Blue Door),
  7. Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (Granta)
  8.  JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S. (Canongate) weird little tech novel that’s more about pushing publishing boundaries than the actual story, but still, something writers ought to check out.
  9. Jane Gardam’s trilogy: Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and  Last Friends (Little, Brown).

1 Novel, 30 Days, 50,000 Words.

Real men, Real romance

What these boys don’t know about romance,  you don’t need to know!

Ah, November. Thirty days (and nights!) of literary abandon. Well, that can be true. A lot of people write a lot of words, most of which are not (yet) fit to be read.

Writers abound in my county, but they’re mostly paid professional working writers of some stripe. NaNoWriMo is ignored. We don’t have a single NaNoWriMo group. We’re just a dead space between Santa Barbara and LA counties.

I love NaNoWriMo, in theory, because it encourages people to write everyday and not worry about the consequences. On the other hand, whatever gets written, however wonderful, will need revision and edits and maybe some volunteer readers, before it’s submitted anywhere.

One local-ish library is doing a Write-In on Sunday afternoons this year. That’s not really as exciting a meeting up for an after-dark all-nighter at a cafe. I’d certainly go to that. But I’m already working to deadline on a book that fell behind the curve — because resource material being shipped from Bad Kreuznach (in Germany) only just got here yesterday, so  . . . I’ll have to put off experiencing my first NaNoWriMo for another year.

I do think a fast writer can turn out a good book. I remember once hearing about three men who worked in publishing. They went on a fishing trip, just for a few days, but it rained miserably. After a few beers, they hit upon the idea of writing a romance novel. It was done in by the time they left. They submitted anonymously under a pen name, it was picked up and published, and met with great popular success.

So really, if three men in a cabin, to say nothing of the fish, can write a book, I’m sure you could too.

Good Luck!

The Bad Good Review

diamond star tiara twelve point

When one writes books for a living, a good review can be a godsend. But there is a type of review which is good, but bad.  Allow me to explain.

  • You like a book and give it 5 out of 5 stars. That’s good.
  • You don’t explain why. That’s bad.

A review helps people find books that they will like and avoid books they won’t. I firmly believe that 75% of books written could be successful good books, if they reached the right people. The problem is getting the people to find the book right for them. This where reviews come in.

If I love a book, I tell you why. If I hate it, I tell you why.  Now, you might disagree with my review, but it at least informs you about the book and helps you discern whether it’s a book that’s right for you.

One need not give away plot details to laud or excoriate a read. It doesn’t even take much time to review a book. In fact, you can give any book the perfect 5-point review in 30 words or less. Just follow this template.

  1. I found the pacing (exciting, just right, a bit slow, terrible).
  2. I was (disappointed, interested, fascinated) by the characters.
  3. The plot twists were (predictable, amazing,  ridiculous).
  4. This book would be perfect for (romance, sci fi, history) readers.
  5. This book would be deadly for (feminists,  people who dislike violence/sex/obscene language).

If a book has typos or grammatical oddities, I tend to overlook them because my interest is the story. If they are really bad and seem unintentional, I might send a note to the author. It’s not something I mention in a review because it rarely bothers me. If it bothers another review enough to mention it, I tend to assume that reviewer is a frustrated, unpublished, probably jealous writer (or holds an English degree but is now working a job he/she considers beneath him/her).

Soul Searching Solstice or All Out Apocalypto?

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Personally, I think if the Mayans knew about foretelling the future, they’d have seen themselves dying out 400 years ago. So I’m not too worried that tomorrow might be the end of the world. Besides, as a Christian, I live in a continual state of “the end is near.” It’s sort of who we are as a people. And we actually look forward to the end of the world. Go figure.

For those of you planning on sticking around over the Winter Solstice, I’ve convinced my publisher to give away some free ePUBs. It’s 4 different books with 3 different giveaways running on Dec 21 (Seat At The Feast), Dec 25 (A Goose Is Cooked), and Dec 31 (Lily Does Sweden). The last book (The Extra Man) is given to people who write reviews on any one of the other giveaway books.

I refer to them as the Apocalypse Giveaway; The Reason to Live Giveaway; and The Fiscal Cliff Giveaway. My publisher might have other names, not sure. Don’t really care. If you’re interested in some free ePUB format books, bounce on over to the giveaway page and check it out. The entry page is only live the days of the giveaways.

For great books and art on all things pagan and soul-stice, check out ecoechantments (a great showcase of amazing British artists and artisans). Or, head over to Wendy Andrews place and pick up a copy of her magical Luna Moon Hare. Yeah, that’s right. Christian and Pro-Pagan!

If Steve Jobs Wrote a Book

Lots of things have been written about Steve Jobs, but it’s interesting to note that Steve never wrote a book. I’m guessing that’s because of his production philosophy.

Jobs always advocated releasing a product he knew had flaws, letting people complain, and then letting those people fixing things.

He got consumers to buy a flawed product, tell him what was wrong (testing) with his product (for free), and then figure out the fixes (R&D) for his product (for free), which fixes he then perfected (paid work), patented, and sold to those consumers again.

Brilliant? Maybe. But in theory not the sort of thing you can do with a book.

If you turn out a flawed book, there’s no do over. People don’t keep using the book, tell you where the errors are, and then re-buy the book after you fix them.  Well, not in the past anyways. Today however, things are somewhat different.

If you sell ebooks and discover a flaw, you can immediately correct it and re-upload it for free, so that the next purchaser has a better experience. You still might get bad buzz (on quality from the first few buyers), but it’s a situation a book can recover from rather quickly.

I have to admit to releasing flawed things. Partly it’s dyslexia and lack of stereoscopic vision, I really cannot see the flaw. Partly it’s rethinking things over time. I just re-did my ebook and physical book this week to get rid of errors and correct a few things.

I used to stress out about releasing flawed books, but I don’t anymore. I figure, if someone buys an early flawed edition of a print book, it’s not going to be on the market long, so they get rare first edition.

Less guilt, more happiness. Thanks, Steve! Love you, man!

Is this cover really so bad it should be banned from display?

ePUB Cover

So, this is the cover, for the ePUB version.

I believe a cover and title should tell the reader what to expect from my book, and this cover and title do just that. If you read Lily Does Sweden, you will definitely agree I was 100% what you see is what you got.

Of course, what you see depends on you, just as what culture you come from slants how you see another culture you may visit.* That’s why, on the cover of the hard copy, I had the publisher add “A cross-cultural (mis-)adventure.” (See below.)

Trade Paperback Cover

As for the book’s content, I am totally honest about that too. It’s a departure for the publisher, in that it does have mature themes, a couple erotic escapades, and some frank language. But that being said, the 314-page book (in 6 x 9 format) is primarily a travel adventure mystery/romantic comedy set in Sweden about the perils of thinking you understand something you really don’t — such as another person’s culture. A fact I make pretty clear on the back cover!

Trade Paperback Back Cover

For those of you who have never been to Sweden, it’s very different from other first-world Western countries. This book draws on American vs Swedish cross-cultural disconnects to produce a story that’s both a darn good read and yet humorously informative.

Yes, it’s got erotic escapades. But if you find non-violent, non-sadomasochistic intimacy between two unattached, unmarried, non-religious people of the same race so bad or so controversial you want to ban this book or its cover, you may want to move to a totalitarian theocracy in the Middle East.

Lily Does Sweden is already up for sale digitally ($1.99) through Amazon (click here for Kindle), although Amazon doesn’t yet have a spot for the physical book.

Although Lily Does Sweden was uploaded to Barnes and Noble for a Nook edition, Sept 24th, they are still processing it. I’m not sure why. However, Barnes and Noble has a place holder for the physical book as a pre-order, ($14.99 retail, but about $10.11 through B&N), so . . . apparently they’re willing to sell it.

Lily Does Sweden is also available through third-party ePUB retailers that sell Adobe Digital Editions ePUBs. I have to work on that this week.

The print version went to LSI (the printer) on the 18th of Sept and is also taking an unusually long time to set up. Again, I’m not sure why; however, an email was sent asking for an update. Lighting Source International recently upgraded their computer system and perhaps lost some files or got behind as a result. I’ll keep you posted.

For more details, such as ISBNs, etc. hit the Page dedicated to the book. To voice your opinion . . .

*{When you look at the cover, what do you see? Two naked people? Or two people in bathing suits (which you can’t discern)? Two friends just horsing around? Or two lovers having sex?}

Home, home on the grange

I’m not sure that Nature abhors a vacuum so much as I do, but I do admits to some blank spaces in my book of life which are begging for a good grangering.

In the 18th century, book margins were miniscule and blank pages were unheard of as paper was quite expensive. But in 1769, Rev James Granger, published his Illustrated Biographical History of England with a revolutionary feature: generous blank areas!

Granger thought “modern” readers might wish customize their book by adding all manner of personal thoughts, illustrations, autographs, press notices, whatever. (Try doing that on a Nook/Kindle/iPad!) Granger’s gambled that customizable space was something reader’s would willingly pay for was daring — and paid off handsomely.

Readers went mad for personalization. Indeed, Granger unleashed a tidal wave of creative — some would argue destructive — enthusiasm. Throughout the 19th century and into our own time, “filling up a Granger” was a popular pastime to which all books became subject. (For a modern Grangerite’s work, check out this post on Things To Make and Do, in which a book about Blackpool was grangerised with relevant material.)

Grangerisation was one of the main reasons publishers of books and even newspapers began to print illustrations with blank reverse pages. This way they could be removed  / defaced / “extra illustrated” without the book losing literary integrity or value. Although today, often an otherwise mundane, near worthless, old book found bearing grangerisation, becomes a rare treasure.

Some people thought of Grangerites as vandals, but I prefer to see them as artists, inventors, philosphers, individuals who are unafraid to leave their stamp on something (of their own).   This weed, as we celebrate the freedom of being an individual, I plan to find a little blank space in my book life, and grangerise the devil out of it!