Sunday, September 26, 2010


At the beginning of August, the publishing world was a-Twitter over the news that a major publisher had dropped mass market publishing in favour of e-books.  Apparently ebooks account for 12% of their sales and that number is expected to increase dramatically.

Let's just see if I, a financial imbecile, understand this correctly.  They threw away 88% of their market in order to increase 12%???  Is there a good reason they couldn't do both?  How much does it cost to produce an e-book?  Why does it cost almost the same to purchase an e-book as it does to buy a paperback?

Then there are the e-book readers. One of my friends loves her Kindle.  The convenience of several books contained within the lightweight and portable mechanism is important to her.  Most of her traveling is done with a backpack.

Another friend likes her Kindle well enough.  She was one of the people who had a book deleted from her device when Amazon chose to no longer do business with an author.  While it's true that no one who buys an ebook actually purchases the book, just the right to read it, that practice alone makes me think long and hard about e-readers.  Digital rights are not the same as print rights. Borders and Chapters don't come into my home and remove books off my shelf when the author is de-listed.  Without my personal information, they don't recommend other books to me either.  I don't want my reading habits to be scrutinized by anyone other than myself.

The e-book readers themselves are confusing. They all seem to follow different rules so if you buy an e-book from one place, you might not be able to view it unless you have a specific device. It's like iTunes. It took me awhile to be able to play music I purchased there anywhere other than my laptop. I have since figured out the conversions but why did I have to?

Don't get me wrong. I have several .pdf files of books from authors I like who publish in that format. It seems to be a very creative branch of publishing with a lot of editors willing to take a chance on new authors.  I would likely try more new writers that way if I could read them more comfortably.

For now, I'm going to stick with my trusty paperbacks.  I like the rustle of the pages being turned, the slight scent of pulp and the heft of the spine.  Just to prove I'm not a complete dinosaur, once I find the app for my Blackberry, I'll download it so I can read e-books on that format.  It doesn't require a major expenditure on top of the book's purchase price.

Until such time as it becomes more convenient, comfortable and a loss less expensive to convert, I'll remain one of the 88% still reading mass market.  What about you?  Convince me.

****There is some great information in the comments. Some helpful stuff.

I was able to view my pdf files in my browser window on my phone. That's great for her but won't do me much good on the plane when I need to turn it off so I'll likely take a trusty paperback.

Our library ebook software only supports three readers so that didn't seem like a good source for me to pursue.

My other concern is my propensity to spill things.  Paper can be blotted. Electronics get fried.

I really don't understand the price of ebooks.  Why aren't they significantly less expensive?

I'm not in one camp or another. I think there's clearly a market, and place, for both.  But to bail on 88% of your customers makes no sense to me at all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I always wanted to be a dancer.  My mom used to load the stereo with 5 soundtrack LPs and we'd dance around the house while we cleaned. It was productive if not exactly efficient. I can remember re-enacting the Sharks vs Jets from West Side Story all by myself with hay bales standing in for the concrete jungle.  Alas, my ankles weren't built for that kind of movement.

I went to art school for three years. Our focus was oil painting but I loved the soft flowing lines of watercolours. A couple of my pencil sketches won first prize at the local art show but there are days when I can't even draw a stick figure. It's a fickle medium for me.  How does the talent disappear suddenly one day only to reappear several years later?  I couldn't count on it to make a living.

So I turned to photography. Cinematography actually. I aced all of the photography courses but somehow still got shuffled into "female" production roles. I'm a good organizer and wasn't afraid to keep everyone in line and on deadline. Every once in a while I'd manage to sneak in a few shoots operating the camera but less often than I would have preferred.

I wrote all the time. I may possibly have been born with a pencil in my hand. I wrote stories about my paintings, narrative for the films and built worlds around photographs. I wrote short stories, plays and eventually novels.One day I decided to focus more on the words than the pictures.

There's been an internal shift the last couple of years. I've continued to write ( notes and scenes on the sweater book still pepper my desk) but it's lost a lot of its joy. I've lost my joy.  Stuff has happened and I'm not shaking it off the way I used to do when I was lo so much younger.  Nothing earth shattering ,just a mild erosion that I only started to notice when my toes were dangling off the edge of the cliff.

I'm taking a few steps back. Allowing my creativity to flow in other forms. I still think like a writer. I still take notes and make observations. Narrative runs through my head constantly. I'm just not wrestling any of it into a defined format. 

I'm allowed to do this. I don't have a contract. I don't have a deadline.  The only goal I have write now is to breathe - slowly, surely and repeatedly.  Once I'm centered and secure, I'll give all that creativity a form and let it loose again on the world.

In the meantime, you might be stuck with random thoughts, a few photos and who knows, perhaps even a sketch or two.  Enjoy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Social Networks

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me to explain Twitter to her. I failed miserably.  So many of my writer friends use it, not only to promote their books but, also to keep up with the latest publishing trends. I've tried following along but get hopelessly lost. Nor have I mastered the art of commenting on a link I post.

Add in the fact that I haven't got much to promote, and nothing different or unique to say abou the latest publishing trend, I remain silent.

Facebook, on the other hand, is my network of choice. I know my audience, it's personal, and I can share photos. I can follow not only my comments but those that come after mine.  I'm always aware of the multitude of relationships and keep my privacy settings to friends only.  Still, nothing gets said there that I wouldn't want the rest of the world to know about.

So many dear friendships have grown through the use of the comment window on blogs that I will always have a deep fondness for that medium.  I've learned a great deal about writing, perseverance, and life through the blogs I follow.  Some of them have truly surprised me.

What's your preferred method of communication and why?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Connect the dots

August was a very social month for me.  It started with a wonderful group of online friends who came to visit for an extended weekend. I never thought I could fit ten people in my living room but we did it. Yoda was a fairly quiet bird during that time. I think he was soaking up all the conversation because once the company left he chattered for days. 

One of the recurring conversations we had that weekend was about storytelling versus craft. While not all of my friends are writers, they are all big readers who know what they like and why.   There are some big name highly successful writers out there who are a lacking in the craft department but can tell a tale like nobody's business. We are all willing to forgive many flaws if we're entertained.

Last weekend I was visiting Miz Elen and had a similar conversation.  We're both of the opinion that good writing only improves good storytelling.  She introduced me to season one of Mad Men.  It's sharp, witty, has great dialogue and is a tad less paranoid than my beloved MI5.

Stashaholic came for a visit on the last day of the month. Because we started our viewing with MI5 we expected a character on Mad Men to resolve a conflict with a gun.  Not the most relaxing way to wait out a tropical storm.  We switched to a  WKRP in Cincinnati marathon.  There were moments of sheer hysteria. I couldn't catch my breath from laughing so hard. Perhaps it's the fact that Stash and I met at broadcasting college or the fact that we knew a few Herb Tarleks and Les Nessmans or maybe the writing is that good but we laughed til our sides hurt. It was a touch disturbing when Yoda laughed through the Turkey Drop episode.

What those televisions shows had in common with wonderful visits with good friends was stimulating dialogue. On all three weekends I had the opportunity to take part in conversations that ranged from how to save the world ( mandatory naps) to the price of yarn in Jordan (who cares! it's gorgeous, take two) and all points in between.  It's interesting to see how a variety of disparate political views can be heard and respected when there's affection between all the parties.  I lay in bed one morning after an interesting evening discussing the state of the world with Elen.  My mind alternated between how to resolve the holy wars and designing a shawl.  Somehow I don't think knitting prayer shawls for the religious leaders would do it yet it's fascinating how our minds connect the dots sometimes.

As a writer we do that all the time - take random events and connect them.  It's a big rule - if it shows up in one part of the work, it better show up somewhere else. I think that blows the punchline sometimes.  The world is random and full of coincidence. Life does not always make sense.  I suspect that's the appeal of MI5 for me.  Characters die, disappear or are fired as would happen in real life.  While most fiction is an escape, and I want such over-the-top silliness as WKRP provides, there needs to be an element of realism.  I recognize those characters.  Every radio station has a Dr. Johnny Fever, and Andy Travis and a Mr. Carlson.  The world of advertising is creative and cut-throat. You never know when the Intelligence Services have done their jobs and kept the public safe.  Good storytelling breaks a few rules.

The only rule when it comes to great conversations is to listen to each other and see where that takes you.  If you're blessed with friends like mine, they will make you laugh, tilt your head in confusion and most of all consider another angle entirely. Prayer shawls for everyone.