My Books, Reading, Real Life, Writing

Big news week!

My author activity this past week was about as opposite of my usual as possible. First I announced the publication of my new novel An Illusion of Trust in ebook and then in print. I also announced a two-day giveaway of The Brevity of Roses ebook. So my first full week of not writing still had a lot of writing-related activity.

I also made the pair of earrings pictured, went to a concert, brushed up on my knitting skill, and read two books that have been on my Kindle forever. Maybe this week I’ll get to some of that much-needed blue_earhousework. And I need to weed the flower beds. I’ll definitely continue my reading spurt. And if I could get some drawing done this month, it would be a perfect hiatus.

Speaking of reading, if you’re a member of Goodreads, I’m sure you received notice that it’s “joined the Amazon family.” The social media world went crazy with that news. I’ve read a lot of pros and cons on this now, but I don’t understand the merger implications enough to take sides. Though, since my books are sold at Amazon and I own a Kindle, I think whatever changes might occur at Goodreads will be in my favor.

Since I’m not writing, but can’t help thinking about writing, I’ve been asking myself why I want to write and then why I want to write specific stories and ultimately why I want to publish what I write. I know the simple answers to those questions, but I’m hoping to reach a deeper level of understanding. If I succeed, I’ll share my reasons in a future post.

elle

Books, Reader, Reading

How do you use your reading device?

The topic of this post came to me as a question while responding to a comment on my last post. I confess, I rarely learn all the functions of my electronic devices, and sometimes, even when I know about them, I forget to use them. It doesn’t help that most of these devices no longer come with print manuals. Having to access an online manual annoys me.

Anyway, the electronic device in question today is the e-reader. I have a Kindle, a Kindle 3 to be exact, the one with the old-fashioned button keyboard. I’ve used it for almost two years, but I’ve not used it fully. I know how to open and page through a book, of course. I’ve tried the read-to-me feature, but the robotic voice drives me nuts.  I even know how to send documents to my Kindle by email.  But there are other features I’ve never used.

I’ve used the Menu button mainly to access the Wireless function and the “Go to” function, but only to go to the beginning or end of the book. I have never used: Search This Document, Add Bookmark, Add Note or Highlight, etc. Until two days ago, I didn’t even realize the progress bar that appears at the bottom of the screen as you read shows tick marks indicating chapter beginnings. And then I found out you can skip forward and backward through these chapters by clicking.

Yeah, I’m an electronic doofus.

The thing is, I read e-books differently than I do print books. I prefer the print version of reference books and books I will likely read more than once—like those of my favorite authors. Those are the books I add bookmarks or notes and highlights to. I use my e-reader mostly for easy, quickly read fiction. I don’t believe publishers will cease printing books in my lifetime, though I do expect to see a steady increase in books published in digital format only.

Now, here’s my question—rather, series of questions—for e-reader users. How do you use your e-reader? Do you use all its features? Do you add notes and highlights the way you do in print books? Of the books you’ve read in the last year, what percentage were digital? Do you read all types of books on your reader or do you prefer to read certain books in print? If you’d like to answer an e-reader question I didn’t ask, have at it.

Fiction, Memory, Reading, Writing

Alone in our heads

In my earliest memory, I am lying on my stomach in the kitchen looking through the square holes in a grate. I am eighteen months old. My parents and I live in the upstairs apartment of an old house converted into a duplex. Our kitchen lies above the kitchen of the downstairs apartment. Our only heat source is radiant, meaning the heat from downstairs rises into our apartment through open grates in our floor. My mother warns me not to drop anything through the holes, but that was never my intention. The family who lives downstairs is eating dinner, their table is directly below the grate, and I am watching them and listening to their conversation. That’s the extent of that memory, but I now see it as an early indication of my interest in observing people, what they do, what they say, how they act and react.

Yesterday, I followed a link to a video interview with John Irving. In one segment1, he mentioned an early indication he knew he could be a writer: he desired and needed a lot of alone time. Aha!, I thought. Sometimes, when I look back on my childhood, it seems sort of like those Charlie Brown cartoons where adults are unseen and their voices are muted. I had parents, two sisters, and a fair amount of friends, but I preferred to spend a lot of time alone with my imagination.

At this point, I can’t say if that choice was strictly my nature or if it had been enhanced by circumstance. I was labeled early in my school career as one of the “smart kids.” That designation sets you apart in ways both good and bad. You may be given free time while other students work on a subject that you breezed through. You may also be assigned extra work. In both cases, you’re alone.

If you’re a writer, then you are a reader. And I presume, like me, as a child you gobbled up books like candy. I don’t know about you, but reading time was alone time for me. And then, inspired by what I read, I wanted to act out my own stories in the backyard with my baby dolls in my “covered wagon” or behind the living room sofa where I sat up an “apartment” for my Barbies. Alone. Whole conversations carried on in my head.

Of course, I played games with other children, but I preferred make believe to sports or most physical activity. I would try to act out some of my stories with friends, but it was frustrating for us all. I always wanted to be the star and director—“now you say this and then you do that and then I say …” It was just easier to play alone.

When I got a little older, the ultimate isolator struck—illness. I spent only nine months of my seventh, eighth, and ninth grades actually in school. The rest of that time I was either bedridden, in the hospital, or recovering from surgery. Except for three months with a visiting teacher, I taught myself and took tests by phone. Needless to say, I didn’t fare well in the social skills usually developed during this period of life. But I can remember only a few times feeling lonely. And never was I bored. I had my imagination.

In light of all this, do I mind that writing requires me to spend a lot of time alone? Of course not. I think I was destined for this life. Only now, I don’t lay on my stomach. I just close my eyes to watch and listen for the story to unfold.

1 The whole interview is here: http://bigthink.com/johnirving  If you want to hear just the portion I referenced, click the segment titled: How to Tell if You’re a Writer

(Previously published on this blog on 7 November 2009.)

Publish, Reader, Social Media, Writing

Dear Author, You’re a Slacker

Attention writers: if you publish one book a year, you’re a slacker! So says this article in The New York Times. It says, in this age of eBooks, readers require more, more, more. Publishers advise their authors to produce short stories and novellas between full-length novels if they want to remain competitive.

Also, the article says, readers now expect to connect with their favorite authors on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more. Long gone is the reclusive author of times past. It seems authors today need to be writing, writing, writing as well as socializing 24/7.

How is that possible?

I know writers who’ve dropped out of the social media circus to concentrate solely on writing. I don’t believe I know a writer who hasn’t considered doing that. So, if these drop-out writers feel their work suffers when they don’t give it their full attention, what does that mean for the work of writers who are trying to do it all?

My reading has slowed quite a bit since I started writing seriously. I now consider it a good month if I read two novels, so I’m not tapping my foot waiting for a few favorite authors to crank out two or more books a year. I suppose, if you’re a voracious reader and limit your reading to the works of only three or four authors, you might often be at a loss for something new to read. Then again, you could give some new authors a chance and possibly discover additional favorites.

Your turn: Do you demand more than one book a year from your favorite authors? If you’re a writer, have you stepped up production? Do you think, in this era of “impatient readers”, writing quality will suffer—or already has? Could these “impatient readers” be mythical creations born of publishers’ desperation for increased profits?

Reading

How to Be a Better Goodreads User

Actually, the title of this post is a little ambitious because I’m still learning how to use Goodreads. For a couple of years, I’ve used Goodreads to catalogue the books I read. Of course, my shelves don’t include all the books I’ve read in my lifetime. Wouldn’t that be fantastic if I had such a list? My shelves show many of the books on my home shelves, plus books I don’t own, but remember reading in the last few years.

I haven’t caught up on rating all my books, and I don’t list books I couldn’t give at least three stars or didn’t finish. I haven’t reviewed most of the books on my shelves. It’s something I never gave much thought to until I became a published author. I thought reviewing should be left to professionals. Now, I realize I value more the opinions of readers like me.

Sometimes I’m incredibly slow to catch on. Personalized shelving is one thing I just caught on to at Goodreads. By default, your account has three bookshelves: Read, Currently-Reading, and To-Read. Until recently, I shelved my books only under these choices, but I noticed that readers had placed my book on other shelves. Finally, it dawned on me I could do the same thing with all the books I’d read.

When you look at your list of all books (My Books) you’ll see a list of your default bookshelves and below that the words add shelf. Duh! So now I have twenty-six specialized shelves and I’ll add more if needed. I’m in the process of sorting my books on these more descriptive shelves. You can place a book on several shelves. For instance, I shelved Anne Tyler’s latest, The Beginner’s Goodbye, as Read, Contemporary, and Literary.

If you haven’t done this, and would like to, just add appropriate shelves, then click on the book title. In the section labeled My Review, you’ll see where you’ve shelved the book already (probably read or to read) and you’ll also see the option to edit shelves. Click that and a drop down menu will show you all the shelves you’ve created. Select as many as appropriate.

There are other fun things to do on Goodreads. Befriend or become a “fan” of your favorite authors, attend author Q&A’s, enter book giveaways, join groups, vote for your favorite books on Listopia lists, compare your book lists with others, etc. Someday, maybe I’ll discover it all and be an excellent Goodreads user.