Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's Happening to Reading?

(Photo by ridolfo on Flickr.com)

A while back (so far back, I may have already posted and forgotten about it), a NY Times article raised the question of whether an e-book was still a book.

A mere five months later, the paper ran an article about how a major publisher was working with a multimedia partner to produce four vooks (or e-books that have videos embedded within the text), with other publishers expressing an interest in doing the same. The production of multimedia books was expected to rise.

Now, a recent article from The Washington Post asks the following question: How will the proliferation of multimedia books affect reading? And will all this lead inevitably to the novel's demise?

Hey, it's no accident that vooks are largely being produced for children--the next generation of readers. Or are they readers?

Reading a text-only book requires one to pay attention and use something called the imagination. Along with the usual hand-wringing about sapping our imaginations, the article raises the all-too-familiar specter of diminishing attention spans.

Why do I get the feeling they were saying things like this when movies and television were invented? And as for those doomsday scenarios about attention spans, anyone remember the hubbub about Sesame Street? I mean, hello!

Despite the video games, iPhones, TV, Internet and other competition for their attention, kids still read. (Just ask J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket.) And the idea of using visuals in children's books is hardly new.

I suspect we'll all look back on this stuff one day and laugh.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Guess Who Got a Kindle for Christmas

Just so you know, I've personally and professionally benefited from Amazon's Kindle. Why? Because I've published my novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, as an e-book for Kindle. And as of last night, I'd sold nearly 700 downloads of the book for Kindle alone (more than 700, counting downloads through other sites), since June 2, 2009, when I put it up on Amazon's digital text platform.

But up until now, I've only been able to say that I'm a Kindle author, not a Kindle user. This has made me feel a bit weird, frankly. Here I am benefiting as an author from a product I don't use. (Whether that should make me feel weird or not is a subject for another post.)

Anyhow, the issue has been rendered moot as of yesterday. For as I was opening my gifts, what to my overjoyed eyes should I see, but a Kindle for Christmas!

So now, I too can travel without having to lug all those books around. I can get thousands (more? I don't even know) of books at the touch of a button, for a more-than-reasonable price, no less. The shelves in my house will be relieved to know that Kindle has helped lighten their burden and manage at least some of the clutter.

Don't get me wrong. I'll still buy and read print books. At least, I think so.

Anyhow, today I registered myself as a Kindle user. I have 30 days to return it, if I don't like it. I suspect that won't happen, but it'll be fun to play with this new toy and see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Interview with the Incomparable Sue Grafton

Okay, I'll say it. I'm in complete awe of Sue Grafton. She's managed to create a great protagonist, Kinsey Millhone, and write 21 stories about her. The latest one is U IS FOR UNDERTOW. And she plans to go the distance, alphabet-wise, all the way to Z IS FOR ZERO.

Grafton was recently interviewed by Sarah Weinman, who put a link to the interview on her blog. Grafton talks about how hard it was to write her latest book, which like many of her later works deviates from the "first person only" perspective and jumps around in time. She says the story was difficult to structure and, at times, she got so frustrated with the writing process, she "nearly burst into tears."

I guess it's true that fiction writing never gets any easier, no matter how long you do it. (And now I can't wait to read this!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Sound of Colors, Singleton Hippie Art

I wandered incowboy booted and free,natty little threadbear wings tucked in a blue jean pocket,crumpled and folded,and loved....And smiled hugely at the martini moon,already drunk,and plunked on his side,teeter tottering in the sky...I giggled to myself,the best company in the bar,and parked myimaginationandpeace~love hoo~hahnext toa man who didn't want to be thereanddidn't see what I saw...The

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Announcing My Book Promotion

Since this is a book blog and all, I feel it's not stepping outside the bounds of its purpose to announce my own book promotion on my author blog, My Life on the Mid-List.

You could read about it on the latest post, but I'll do a brief recap. Starting Monday, Dec. 21, I will post a chapter a day for five consecutive days of IDENTITY CRISIS to my blog, My Life on the Mid-List (that's five free chapters). I can think of no better way to promote the book than by giving out free samples. And I hope some of you will be interested enough to buy the book and keep reading.

And, yes, an increase in sales would make a great Christmas gift. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trouble is an Old-Style Detective's Business in 'Red Planet Noir'

Review: RED PLANET NOIR (Brown Street Press 2009)
Author: D.B. Grady

The science fiction and mystery genres are hardly strangers. Several authors notable in one genre have crossed into the other's territory from time-to-time. (Think sci-fi author Isaac Asimov's "Robot" series or sometime mystery author Sharyn McCrumb's Jay Omega books.) RED PLANET NOIR has the distinction of taking an old-fashioned 1940s-era private eye and placing him in the context of a post-apocalyptic Earth, in the city of New Orleans.

When we meet Mike Sheppard, he's answering the phone "half-drunk, half-dressed, half-asleep and half expecting it to be the phone company reminding me that the bill was past due." At first glance, he's a typical hardboiled private eye. However, as one reads further, it turns out Sheppard is much more than that. He is, in fact, a deeply wounded man. His ex-wife left him (under less-than-ideal circumstances) and he's all over the news for fingering the wrong person in a high-profile case. In short, Sheppard has plenty to feel bad about, and author D.B. Grady conveys his pain with great empathy.

So when Sofia Reed asks Sheppard to investigate her well-connected father's death on Mars, he has little to lose. But he has no idea what he's getting into, either. For as it happens, Mars is under martial law, its economy is dominated by a major corporation, and both the government and corporation have Mob connections. (It's also a "no smoking" planet, which doesn't go over well with the chain-smoking PI.) So, when Sheppard goes to Mars and starts poking around, it rubs a few people the wrong way. And this causes him major problems (ones that dwarf even his perpetual need for a smoke – a rather endearing running gag).

The story is told, for the most part, from the detective's point of view, as most PI novels are. However, Grady inserts a chapter of backstory about the history of Mars and one family in particular that's written with such a heartfelt sense of tragedy, readers may find themselves laughing at Sheppard's ongoing quips one minute and weeping at the tragedy the next. This detour from the narrative is virtually seamless and adds a vivid layer of detail to the Martian context.

For more: http://detective-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_of_red_planet_noir

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Librarians Get the Last Laugh

The next time someone raves about their Kindle, think about this cartoon (via The Irreverent Freelancer). I know e-readers can be great for any number of reasons. They make traveling easier, by allowing you to carry plenty of books with you on a trip without over-stuffing your luggage. Hell, I've benefited from e-book sales. At this point, I've sold 510 downloads of my novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, through Amazon alone (and 28 through other sites).

Still, I think there's a lot to be said for printed books. They're extremely user-friendly, for one thing. They never have to be upgraded or have their batteries replaced. They also never break. They're made with biodegradable materials, unlike e-readers which can contain toxic materials. And recycled electronics tend to get shipped overseas, where they contribute to pollution and hazardous working conditions.

Even though libraries are adapting to the digital publishing revolution and a great deal of research can be conducted online, I still think of libraries as book depositories. In any case, whether printed or digital, libraries have so much to offer in the way of content--for free!

So support your local public library!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Writer Ends Up in Over His Head and 'Breathing Water'

Review: BREATHING WATER (William Morrow 2009)
Author: Timothy Hallinan

BREATHING WATER is set amid the honky-tonk, flash and squalor of Bangkok. Told from multiple points of view, the main character is an American ex-pat writer named Poke Rafferty, who gets stuck between a rock and a hard place after winning a poker bet. Rafferty has a family consisting of – of course – a drop-dead gorgeous wife, Rose, who used to work as a stripper (but never a prostitute!) and an adopted street child named Miaow (precocious, naturally).

Other characters include a girl working for "the man" begging for money on the streets of Bangkok, because her village was destroyed after a dam diverted water from it. The girl – named Da – is given a baby, because people will give more money to a girl with a kid. She eventually falls in with a group of street urchins led by Boo (also known as Superman, for reasons best understood by reading earlier books in the series).

Rafferty is, for lack of a better description, a man's man. As such, he likes to play poker, which is what he's doing when the story opens. Rafferty is winning big against a weighty (both physically and politically) and famously jealous-of-his-privacy opponent named Khun Pan. When Rafferty wins Pan's permission to write his biography, this seems like a major coup, at first.

However, Rafferty starts getting threats from mysterious sources who tell him not to write the book, on pain of death or perhaps worse to himself and his family. At the same time, Rafferty is pressured by other forces to write the book – a negative one – or else. (Or else what? Well, bad things. To himself, his family, etc.) Events spiral out of control as Rafferty is kidnapped, threatened, beaten and struggles to protect himself and his loved ones from both sides.

Part of what makes this book enjoyable is not only Timothy Hallinan's intimate knowledge of the place he's writing about and the way he makes Bangkok both a colorful backdrop and a character in the story, but his depiction of Rafferty, who's streetwise and funny – but not perfect. Watching Rafferty muddle his way through his "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation keeps one turning the pages to find out how he'll deal with the next problem.

For more: http://thriller-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_of_breathing_water

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A BSP Moment: I'm Holding a Sale on Amazon E-Books

Forgive this interruption in our regularly scheduled blogging, but I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I'm running a holiday sale on the e-book version of IDENTITY CRISIS on Amazon.

The version of my novel that you can download on Kindle (and possibly other devices, for all I know) is available for the low, low price of .99 per download. That's really dirt cheap. That's far cheaper than The Atlantic is proposing to charge for short stories. (Hmm. The Atlantic wants to charge $3.99 for its short stories and I've been charging $1.59 for my novel. What's wrong with this picture?)

The sale runs until the end of the month, which also happens to be the end of the year. So act fast, because prices will be going up in 2010.

Thank you. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'The New Girl Friend': A Ruth Rendell Anthology of Psychological Suspense

Review: THE NEW GIRL FRIEND (Pantheon Books 1986)
Author: Ruth Rendell

It's probably safe to say that Ruth Rendell is best-known for her novels, particularly the Inspector Wexford series. However, Rendell has also written her share of short stories, including the ones in THE NEW GIRL FRIEND, named for the Edgar-winning short story.

The anthology is comprised of 11 stories, all of which are suspenseful, but have more than that going for them. They are studies in human nature and how our foibles can sometimes lead to disastrous results.

Despite being somewhat uneven in quality, most of the stories make engaging reading. Whether it's a woman's nagging guilt over a stolen clock, a man who likes (a little too much) to dress up as a wolf or someone who's obsessed with his ex-wife (years after breaking up), Rendell does masterful work exploring the human psyche, while creating a sense of dread over what will eventually happen.

The title story is a good example. In it, a woman strikes up a friendship with a man – keeping it secret from her husband – but not for the reasons one would assume at first. The story builds to a violent climax that, rather than being an unexpected turn, seems almost inevitable.

For more, go to: http://mysterycrimefiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_of_the_new_girl_friend

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