Novel News: One’s Aspect to the Sun

So far, 2013 is turning out to be quite a rollercoaster of a year, which is why my blog has been conspicuously quiet. It’s been a mix of good news/bad news so far, and it’s only the end of March. For the bad news, I will just say that my mom was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease–currently she’s having treatment and getting along well, so while the future is uncertain, the day-to-day right now is on an even keel.

The good news is the exhilarating part of the rollercoaster ride–my science fiction novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, will be published by Tyche Books, with a tentative release date this fall. The official announcement from their news blog is here. Excitement!

Thus far, Tyche has been a dream to deal with; great communication and response times, a fair and reasonable contract, professional and friendly. Would that all publishers were like this!

 

The Resolution (It Took A While)

books-CRW_5724Resolutions, goals, plans–whatever you like to call them, I do like to make at least one for the new year. My best goal planning usually comes in September, but that’s because my life still largely revolves around the school year. But, yes, January is a good planning time, too.

But I wasn’t sure what to say about that…how to get specific…seems like I’ve made lots of plans and goals (particularly to do with writing) before. Some pan out, some don’t, some get shoved aside by other things and some get forgotten. I didn’t really want to repeat myself, so I’ve been pondering the matter (when this rewrite I’m immersed in gives me time to ponder, which isn’t often).

And then I remembered. I do have one plan for this year. I’m going to publish a novel.

It might be via the traditional route, it might be a Kindle serial, it might be completely self-published, or it might be some weird hybrid that I can’t put a name on right now.

But it’s coming before the end of 2013…so stay tuned.

Influences – L.M. Montgomery

I could hardly come to Prince Edward Island on vacation without taking a few moments to reflect on Lucy Maud Montgomery and her influence on me as a writer, and as a reader.

I grew up reading Montgomery. The big bookshelf at my grandparents’ house, which offered an absolute cornucopia of reading bliss, was well-stocked with Lucy Maud’s books–not only the ubiquitious Anne, but also the Emily books and others. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Anne well enough and read her series quite thoroughly; but it’s the later Anne books I particularly enjoyed, and I think Anne of Windy Poplars is probably my favorite of them.

It was always Montgomery’s lesser-known works that were my favorites overall, though. The Emily series–Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest–they spoke to me far more than Anne did. (And before you ask, no, it’s no coincidence that my daughter’s name is Emily.) Emily is the creative one–the writer, in fact, and probably my very first introduction to the notion of the long, slow path of a writer’s life. I think having that understanding has been a great help in finding my own way as a writer.

The Story Girl was another perennial favorite (and its sequel, The Golden Road), as was Pat of Silver Bush, and A Tangled Web.

Looking back, I think the appeal of the books to me as a younger reader and teenager was Montgomery’s deft hand at characterization. These were not thrilling adventure books with complicated plots (although A Tangled Web has a beautifully complex and interwoven storyline), but the characters came to life on the page with vibrancy and color, and their problems, big and little, mattered to the reader as well. They were, overall, “happy ending” stories, but not syrupy–Anne and Emily are both orphans, to start with, and the stories in all the books reflect both the lighter and darker sides of life in the time periods in which they are set. While the Anne books are more romanticized, many of the other titles explore more realistic themes and aspects of life. They are probably, as a whole, the most re-read books for me.

It saddens me somewhat that these stories have gone out of fashion for young readers with the passage of time. But I guess that kind of sentiment makes me sound old and crotchety, so I’ll just end by saying–thanks, Lucy Maud. You made my reading life much richer, and my writing life easier to navigate.

Book Juggling and Summer Reading

I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was younger (say, in my teens and university) reading was really my first experience with multitasking (see my previous post!). I read while I was getting dressed. I read while I dried my hair. I read while I ate (whenever I could get away with it). I read before going to sleep. I’d have a book on the go in my bedroom, one in the bathroom, one downstairs, and one in my bag. People often commented on this, wondering how I could keep all the stories straight. I wondered how one couldn’t keep all the stories straight. I mean, they were all different stories, right?

If you pop over to my Goodreads “currently reading” page, you’ll see that I’m still the same book juggler. It’s a bit misleading, really–there are more books on that list than I’m actively reading at any given moment. That’s because when I start a book and then don’t really get into it or get distracted from it, I still leave it on the list until I’m quite certain I’m not going to finish it. I have less tolerance now for books that don’t keep me interested–but I don’t like moving them into the “shelved” category until I’m sure. That means my list can get pretty long at times.

My habits have changed in one regard; I still might have four books actively on the go, but it’s likely that no more than two are physical, print books. Another will be on my Kobo, and another will be an audiobook I’m listening to. I like this; it’s tidier, for one thing, and these days, tidy is like a lovely, usually-unattainable dream. I’ve come to love audiobooks–they appeal to the corner of my soul that loves multi-tasking because I can listen to them while I do so many other things. Cleaning. Sewing. Making jewelry. Driving. Gardening. When I got serious about writing, the time I could devote to reading suffered somewhat. Audiobooks have changed that. I might even attain my long-wished-for goal of reading more than 52 books in a year. Well, I know I have done that when I was younger, but not since I became a “grown-up.” I’d like to get there again.

All this is on my mind of late because summer is still my reading season. I read all year, of course, but there’s something about summertime reading that sets it apart for me. It’s easier to allow myself to take a whole afternoon off and just read. Or stay up late into the wee hours with a book I just can’t put down, knowing I don’t have to wake up early and get kids off to school. Summer is my time to read freely, in some sense. There are some books I save for summer reading, because I know the experience will have an extra fillip of enjoyment.

My Goodreads page and my reviews on this site will tell you what I’ve read lately…what else is still on my summer reading list? Stay tuned and I’ll tell you…

Things to do on Goodreads When You’re Bored

Wait, let me clarify that. I am never bored. There are far too many things I want to do and enjoy doing to ever really be bored. The title of this post should really read, “Things To Do On Goodreads When You’re Procrastinating That Editing You’re Really Supposed To Be Doing But You Can’t Get Your Brain In Gear,” but that doesn’t scan as well, nor does it cleverly mimic any movie titles.

Anyway. I love Goodreads. I really like keeping track of my reading there, posting ratings and reviews, and seeing what other folks are reading. The other night, however, I went poking around to see what else you could do for fun over there. Turns out there are quite a few things, and here are just a few:

Compare Books
You can compare books with any of your friends to see how similar (or dissimilar) your reading tastes are. I discovered that one of my sisters and I have read 30 of the same books, and our tastes are 86% similar for those books. Then I looked at some other friends and acquaintances, and tried to predict how similar our tastes would be before I did the comparison. I was surprisingly good at that.

Take A Quiz
There are loads of quizzes available to take, but my favorite is the Never-Ending Book Quiz. Not because it is easy–oh, no. (I’m running about 73% correct answers at the moment.) I like the variety of the questions that pop up. I like the fact that sometimes I know more than I expected to know. And I like the fact that it’s never-ending. You could sit there for hours and hours and not get to the end. Not, you know, that I would. But I like knowing that I could. And you can add questions of your own, if you’d like.

Join A Group
Whatever your literary interests, there’s probably a group for that at Goodreads. Groups for books, groups for genres, groups for authors, groups for regions–browse your interests and find like-minded folks to talk books with.

Find An Author
Find your favorite author on Goodreads, and you might find interviews (written or video), blog posts, news about new projects–you never know. You can follow them to see what they’re reading, too.

Enter a Giveaway
Authors and publishers can run giveaways through Goodreads for new titles, or those that are less than six months old. It’s completely free to enter these giveaways, so it’s worth looking them over to see if there’s anything you might be interested in. Who knows, you might even win!

Read Creative Writing By Other Members
Members post sample chapters, excerpts, poetry and more, for fun and feedback. You can too, if you’d like. Or just while away some time browsing writing in areas that interest you.

Become a Librarian
So you’ve always secretly longed to be one of those quiet but sexy and intriguing librarian types? Apply to be a Goodreads librarian and make that dream come true. You can be one of the select few overseeing the wonderful world of books on Goodreads. Oh, the power! (I’m just being facetious…being a GR librarian sounds like fun!)

Oh! And surf over to http://www.goodreads.com/about/press. Scroll down to find some cool bookmarks you can print out!

Goodreads is a lively, interactive, fun place for bibliophiles and casual readers alike to hang out. If you’re not a member…what are you waiting for?

Oh, and you can always leave ratings and reviews for your favorite authors, as well…

Review: Seriously…I’m Kidding

Seriously...I'm Kidding
Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I don’t really watch television and have never seen an episode (okay, not a whole episode) of Ellen’s talk show, I used to watch her sitcom (the one where she owned a bookstore, and I envied her character such a great job), and, like probably everyone else in this hemisphere, am familiar with her to some extent. I checked this audiobook out of the library mainly because I was looking for something fun and funny. I was not disappointed. By turns funny, serious, quirky, silly, and thoughtful, this was a delightful listen. I laughed out loud several times, and my only gripe is that it’s fairly short and I could happily have listened to more. I think the audiobook probably has it hands down over the printed version, since listening to Ellen delivering her own jokes must be exponentially more engaging than simply reading them. If you are a fan (or even just feel generally disposed to like her and her brand of humour) you should definitely enjoy this book.

View all my reviews

Review: 1222

1222
1222 by Anne Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t certain at first that I was going to enjoy this audiobook…the narrator had a rather strange manner of speaking, although her voice was lovely and clear. However, this is a translation from the original Norwegian, and as the story went along (it is told in first person), I began to rather like that. It actually enhanced the feeling of *place* in the novel, which is extremely important. I also liked the irascible and cranky main character of the novel, as well. She is a very good “imperfect” character.

As to the mystery element of the book, it was well-played and intriguing. I’ll definitely be looking for more by this author.

View all my reviews

The 1901 Eaton’s Catalogue

One of the coolest finds in the saga of clearing out my grandparents’ house (for me, at least) was this: the 1901 catalogue from the T. Eaton Company Limited. It’s actually a reprint of that catalogue, produced in 1970, which accounts for its exceptionally good condition. However, it is a faithful reprint of that catalogue, and what I love about it is the wonderful window it opens into the past. I mean, historical/steampunk writer’s reference, anyone?

Browsing through the catalogue is a ton of fun. It’s also an eye-opener in many ways. Yes, we seem to have some weird ideas about what constitutes the ideal feminine form these days. However, this is obviously NOT the first time in history that that has been true. Wasp waists, and oddly low-hanging, ample bosoms seem to have been the ideal of the day. One would think, looking at the corsets in the catalogue, that everything north of the waist would have been pushed dramatically up…but perhaps it’s a function of artist’s license, as well. At any rate, I am prfoundly thankful that I was not shopping from this section.

It’s also kind of mind-boggling to think that almost everything in the catalogue had to be drawn by hand, from all of these household items, to flowers you might want to order.

But what really struck me as I thumbed through it today was this little section: “Paper-covered Books for Summer Reading.”

As you can see, it’s a minuscule selection, when you compare it to the sprawling websites offering books for us to order today (there are other pages to order books in the catalogue, but it’s still a pretty limited number). There’s also nothing to tell you what any of the books are about. You want to know what House of the Wolf by Stanley J. Weyman or What Gold Cannot Buy by Mrs. Alexander are about? Pay your money and take your chance.

Which brings me to my real point. These books are “Printed on Heavy Paper” and cost “7 cents each; postage 2 cents extra.” When I read that, I can’t help thinking about all those .99 ebooks out there. Comparatively, that means that they cost about fourteen times the 1901 paperbacks. (Yes, yes, I know that some folks are going to accuse me of comparing apples to oranges because ebooks have no cost for physical materials, shipping, etc.–but bear in mind that those costs are a relatively small percentage of print book costs today.)

When I browse through the catalogue and see that most other items have increased in cost anywhere from twenty to fifty times (or more!)…I really wonder how we have come to this point. It seems such a devaluation of years of hard work on the part of the writer to say that the story is worth less than a dollar. When we’ll pay two to three times that without blinking for a cup of coffee, and ten to fifteen times that to watch a two-hour movie, it seems to me that something is severely skewed.

I think we need to think about this both as writers and as readers.