Monthly Archives: May 2016

Books, Books and Way More Books

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Just out of curiosity, I decided to see how many books I’ve received in the mail over the last year or so with the expectation that I would complete an on-line review for them.  I knew that it had been getting slightly out of control, but I didn’t realize that I’d actually received 172 different physical copies of books.  Everything from huge hardcover “coffee-table” books to regular sized softcovers to graphic novels to short, self-published novellas, a couple of children’s picture books, and even books of poetry have been shipped to the house with the hope that I’ll first read it, then love it, then post a wonderful review on-line praising the brilliance and immense talent of the author.  And I’d love to.  Really I would.  But…

Where’s the time?

Of course I ask that while I’m reading a Christopher Moore novel that I’ve probably read at least five times already (plus I paid full price for it when it came out too).  So maybe blaming a lack of time really isn’t the best excuse.  It’s just one of many.

Some books are just obviously not designed for me.

For example…  I’m probably not going to read any of the half dozen romance novels that I’ve received (though who really knows what could happen on a rainy weekend afternoon prior to the start of the football season).  And then there are those days when I open up a FedEx package to find Part 3 of a writer’s trilogy.  So I already have no idea what’s going on in the story before I would read the first sentence.  So I think I’ll pass…

And then, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but wow…  Sometimes you actually can.  Actually, every time that I receive one (and I’m probably up to 4-5 arriving each week now) I completely judge it by its cover.  And a slick, well designed cover and a logo from an established publishing house wins out over a hand-drawn cover (some looking like they were done in crayon) of a self-published book every time.  Sorry.  Maybe I’m a bit shallow.  But I’m okay with that.  I support the independent authors out there, but you’ve got to put in a little work…

And then there’s the font.  If you’re doing it yourself and don’t have a publisher, at least use a point that makes the inside look professional, and not like a high school ‘D’ average student’s term paper.  Sure I’m picky.  But I’ve got 171 other books vying for my attention.

Earlier this week I received a hard cover novel of about 650 pages shipped to me from an author in Australia.  The cover looks great, the story description looks interesting, and there are author endorsements on the back cover.  But…maybe more importantly, the author spent $40 in postage to mail it to me.  So I feel a bit indebted to him and am putting the one next on my list to read.  It just seems fair.

Oh, who am I kidding…?  It’s all about the cover.  It just looks cool enough to read.  Once I finish the one I’m re-reading now anyway…

Where’s My Fence?

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In his poem Mending Wall, Robert Frost coined the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors”.  And it’s a phrase that I’m sure we’ve all considered at one time or another.  Frost’s speaker in the poem doesn’t seem to completely understand the phrase, or agree with his neighbor about the sentiment, but he does go along with the yearly ritual of mending the fences in springtime along with his neighbor to keep them in good repair.

Now here in my little part of Fayette County, I’m not sure if my neighbors and I need some fences or if it’s already too late. Is there anything that we need to keep separate or do we already know each others’ quirks and unique behaviors well enough that a little extra privacy no longer matters?  Since we’ve seen it all – or at least enough of all of it – do we need fences to keep the few remaining secrets in?

For example, there’s the neighbor who only smokes after his wife has left the house, standing outside on the walkway to their front door taking puffs with a satisfied look on his face.  He throws the cigarette butts out into the bushes where he believes his wife will never see them and collects them all up on Saturday when he mows the lawn.

Then there’s the guy down the street who cruises up and down the lane in his golf cart with a proud grin on his face each day, while his grandchildren zip back and forth in that same golf cart, usually on the wrong side of the road, whenever he’s taking a nap or loses track of the keys.

And, if there was a fence in the way, I’d miss out on most of the long, loud run my 20-year-old neighbor takes on his Yamaha motorcycle, certain that we want to see his bravery and coolness(?) each day as he revs the engine up loud and dashes up the street, certain that no traffic will be coming the other direction as he crests the hill.  Not today anyway.

And then of course there’s me…  I wouldn’t consider myself to be completely boring and uninteresting to the outside viewer either.  For example, last week I was sick.  As in pneumonia and coughing-up-a-lung kind of sick.  And of course I’m too stubborn to let that get in the way of anything that I would regularly do.  So, in the evenings when it was time to take the cat out for a walk (something abnormal enough in its own way I’m sure), this time I wore a mask to keep me from breathing the cool air into my lungs.

So as sunset passed us by here in our neighborhood, and Graham felt more inclined to wander in larger loops around the house and into neighboring – non-fenced in – yards, it wasn’t all that unusual to see me wandering in the dark, mask covering my face and the flashlight app on my phone illuminating the bushes under windows looking for the cat.  And, somehow, none of my neighbors either called the police on me or confronted me with a gun in their hand.

I believe that means that my absurdity has been understood and tolerated throughout the neighborhood.  That they’ve been able to see my eccentricities without the challenge of a wall in the way and have decided to accept them.  And I’m one of them.  Well, either that or we need a better quality neighborhood watch program.

Why Is That Running Through My Head?

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It happened again this morning.  Like it does most mornings after a full night of active dreaming.

I woke with a specific song running through my head.  It was one that I hadn’t heard in forever, but it had played a role in my dream for some odd reason.  This time it was that old 80’s song St. Elmo’s Fire.  I’m sure you know it, even if you don’t recognize the title.  Just pull it up on iTunes and you’ll have it stuck in your head for at least the next fifteen minutes.  You’re welcome.

My mind just keys on music.  It’s the way I’m hard-wired.  Songs pop into my head, and people, places and events are linked with music.  And even – apparently – my dreams.

Graham has songs that are “his” songs, and they have been for years.  Low Rider by War is one that fit him from day one.  And his kitten attitude earned him the song Breaking Dishes by Rihanna.  That one was given to him by someone else, as I couldn’t say that I’d heard the song at the time, but I understood the fit.

I’ve been starting every chapter of my novel with a song quote that somehow fits with the tone and/or attitude of that section and matches what the character in the chapter is going through.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it’s amazing how much time you can waste when you’re sifting through songs as “research”.  And how many different roads those songs can lead you down…

Someday, my publisher might throw all of those quotes out, telling me that paying for the rights aren’t anywhere near worth it, but we’ll see.  Because they’re emotionally necessary.  Of course I say that now, but if I’m struggling to find exactly the right fit for the beginnings of 48 separate chapters and that’s what is slowing down the process, I might have to re-think the idea.  But I have faith that I can work it out.

But then there’s the problem of the songs that don’t fit the novel…

I listened to Losers by The Belle Brigade today (I’ll be shocked if you know that one but you should check it out), and, the complete story of another novel popped into my head.  I know just how it would work from beginning to end, and I think it would be funny yet bitter and a bit painful.  It would have highs and lows and conflict and awkwardness and everything that’s needed in a good story. And I know that I just have to write it because that story is MINE to write (yeah, writers can get a bit possessive of really good ideas that come along).

I just need an editor because my mind bounces from one idea to the next at just a single listening to a song.  I need someone who can take my rough draft, tell me what they think, what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be twerked, reworked, rewritten, added to, toned down, etc. when my mind feels like it’s time to move on to something else.  Someone to inspire me to push through the harder part of the work once the fun of creating the story itself is basically done.

Admitting the problem is the first step, right?  And I can admit that I have that problem. Too many stories fighting to get out, and an attention span that needs a good kick in the hind quarters from someone else who wants to get the story finished and bound within a cool cover that just leaps off the shelf almost as bad as I do.

Because Writer’s Block is never going to be a problem for me.  Even now there’s a song by Thriving Ivory that’s speaking to me.  But I can’t afford to take on another novel idea.  Not until I get out a few of the ones that are already in there before they start to blend together and I write the first Literary/Suspense/Romance/Mystery/Historical/Humor/Young Adult/Political/Thriller novel.  But at least you could follow the plot based on the music quotes I use, right?