Saturday, February 26, 2011

celebrating our independents

the sign is up. it's all official and stuff:

wait, what?? i don't blog for a week and a half, and when i come back, i'm STILL talking about Borders?
well, no, not exactly. i'm actually making up for my "woe-is-Borders" post with a "but, YAHOO! look who's THRIVING!" post.

i pitched this story about independent Phoenix bookstore, Changing Hands, and i think our reporter, Tyler, did a nice job with it.

a couple of weeks ago, i pulled a book off a shelf at Changing Hands and realized it was a signed copy. looking around the YA section a little more, i saw many signed copies, tucked away like secrets to be discovered by lucky readers.

just today, i found a book i've been looking for forever at CH. (i am allergic to ordering things online.) this book is sold out everywhere, but because CH is an independent that both sells AND BUYS books, there was a copy on the shelf marked "used." so i got a perfect-condition hardcover for half price!

these are both things i could never find at my Borders, and they were both worth the 40-minute trip to CH.

so, instead of lamenting the loss of Borders, today i am celebrating the success of independents and counting my blessings that i live in a city that has several. :D

Thursday, February 17, 2011

DOOM!! least, you would think it was doomsday, the way all the media yesterday blamed Borders' bankruptcy on digital publishing.

generally, i avoid the e-pub talk, because i am still forming my opinions.

some days i think,
"meh. so we all go digital. it happened to musicians, and they survived. sure, i no longer have stacks of pretty CD cases with covers to admire or books of lyrics to read, but honestly - i probably buy a lot more music now than i did when i had to get in my car and go somewhere to buy it. a LOT more."

other days i think,
"Nooooooooooooo!! Don't take my beautiful books!!" Then I gather up a pile of beaten-up old books from my shelves and smell them and pet them and cuddle with them... okay, not really - that you know of anyway - but you get the idea.

i do love books, but i am prepared to embrace the day (possibly in my lifetime) when 90% of books are read on computer screens. i'm ready.

but i am NOT ready to lose my bookstores!
when i first heard Borders might start closing stores, i thought it was a bummer, but i didn't think it would impact me personally. i live in a big city. surely our stores are performing well.
and i only flinched a little yesterday when i heard seven of the eleven stores in my city would be among those shut down. it wasn't until i saw MY Borders was on the list that i gasped.

now, that feels real.
suddenly, it's not just another bookstore.
it's the place i haul my laptop when i need to get out of the house and be surrounded by other people sipping coffee and staring at their computers. it's the place that makes those little sandwiches i love. it's the place that puts the YA section right in the heart of the store, like it's the most important section of all. it's the place of familiar faces behind the counters, of customers who are also my neighbors and of ladies who play Mahjong in the coffee shop at lunch time.
it's MY bookstore, and it matters to me.

i comforted myself with thoughts of, "well, now i'll just spend more time at my favorite indie bookstore" (even though it's a 40-minute drive away) and "i'll get to know the layout at B&N" (even though the closest one is a 20-minute drive away).

but guess what? not every customer will do that.
my TV station covered the story of Borders yesterday, and we sent our crew to MY Borders and had them interview customers, and you know what they said in almost every single interview?
they all said some variation of,
-well, i guess we'll shop online for books.
-too bad, but we can always download to our Nook.
-time to get a Kindle!

in a city the size of Phoenix, in a neighborhood practically in the dead-center of that city - people expect convenience. they balk at the idea of driving 20 or 40 minutes just to buy something that should be as easily accessible as a BOOK.

so while i don't know how much of Borders' demise is directly related to the growth of e-books, i do think closing its stores will push some customers INTO e-books. and that has the potential to draw more readers away from other, still thriving, bookstores. it's a cycle, feeding off itself. readers will still read. they'll just find another way to access their stories. and they'll get their coffee and play their Mahjong somewhere else.

in the end, only book lovers (and by that, i mean those of us who love the feel of a slim paper page between our fingers and the weight of a hardcover in our hands) - only BOOK lovers will chain themselves to the doors of bookstores and cry, "DOOM!"

and that is a doomsday i hope i never see.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the importance of distance

when i hear writers talk about discipline, the advice is usually some form of "BIC" (Butt in Chair): sit down and write, even when you'd rather watch TV or play outside. force yourself to write.

this is excellent advice IN GENERAL. (i think i've already both applauded and criticized the BIC method in this blog.)
but i've realized over the past month that sometimes discipline is forcing yourself to NOT write.
when i got my incredible first beta notes on BILLY D., i was eager to jump right in and start fixing things. that's how i did it with BUTTER - got right to work, and it turned out well - so that's how i should do it this time, right? well, the same method doesn't always yield the same results.

after tearing apart BD's plot (working every day, morning and night, for weeks), i grew so frustrated, i nearly considered trunking it. i was unable to let go of passages i loved, so i squished them into new scenes where they didn't belong. i shoved my characters into situations and conversations they wouldn't naturally be in, so their voices didn't ring true. basically, i was making the book worse, because i was trying to force the manuscript into shape under some crazy self-imposed deadline instead of slowing down to let the first draft speak to me.

finally, after weeks of stress, Handsome said to me: "I think you need to get off books for a few days."
just like that. like books/writing are a drug you can overdose on.

well, Handsome is very wise, so i followed his advice. i took a whole week to clean the house, catch up on TIVO, chat on twitter - anything but touch my writing files.

when i did return to writing, i still felt a knot in my stomach about BD, so i worked on SOMETHING ELSE. i fleshed out the outline for GRIM, wrote a couple scenes and let myself feel the freedom of first-drafting.

once the wheels were spinning, i returned to BD, and surprise! it didn't seem nearly so daunting. over the next 48 hours, i deleted like crazy and churned out about 5,000 new words. that got me to a point in the manuscript where i know what needs to be added and which upcoming scenes need to go. i'm back in the groove, because i forced myself to walk away and come back later with a fresh perspective.

so, yes, "Butt in Chair" is good advice.
but so is getting your butt OUT of the chair and walking around in the real world for a little while to clear your mind.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RTW: greatest literary couple

today is the 65th Road Trip Wednesday over on the YA Highway website.
(if you are a young adult writer and not already following YA Highway, you should really get over there right away!)

Road Trip Wednesday is a weekly blog carnival. every week, the highway folks post a reading or writing prompt and ask bloggers to write up a post to participate. i love reading what people come up with, but i've never participated ...until today.

the prompt for the 65th RTW is: "Who are your favorite literary couples?"
i couldn't resist. so here is my contribution:

valentine's day is near, so surely when asked about our favorite couples, we should think of the great loves of literature. Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy! Romeo & Juliet! Scarlett and Rhett!

or, in my case:


maybe it's because i'm revising my bromance, but this is the power couple that instantly came to mind when i saw the prompt.

Fred and George Weasley are my perfect pair. they finish each other's sentences; they can communicate without even speaking; they are less than whole without each other. few lovers can say the same.

this pair could have easily been swallowed up in such a huge family, but together - they stand out.

Mrs. Weasley: "You're a prefect? Oh Ronnie! That's everyone in the family!"
George: "What are Fred and I? Next door neighbors?"
and as much as they fiercely love everyone in that family, their first loyalty is to each other.

plus, of all the great couples in all the books in all the land, Fred and George lay claim, in my opinion, to the greatest "ride off into the sunset" of all time.

"STOP THEM!" shrieked Umbridge, but it was too late. As the Inquisitorial Squad closed in, Fred and George kicked off from the floor, shooting fifteen feet into the air, the iron peg swinging dangerously below. Fred looked across the hall at the poltergeist bobbing on his level above the crowd.
"Give her hell from us, Peeves."
And Peeves, whom Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset.

Monday, February 7, 2011

words and pictures

question: words, pictures or both?
yes, i'm talking about books. no, i'm not talking about children's picture books.

i recently had the great pleasure of participating in The Ladies Comics Project (link! click it!) - part of the weekly column, "She Has No Head!" - on the CBR (Comic Book Resources) website.

this is phase two of a successful experiment by writer and columnist Kelly Thompson, in which she brings together women from all walks of life and connects them with comics or graphic novels. phase two, which i was lucky enough to be a part of, focuses on graphic novels. Kelly has the women each choose a different book and review it, to see how they interpret a medium that may be unfamiliar to them.

my review (from my tragically-inexperienced-with-graphic-novels perspective) is part of today's bunch in the link above.

be sure to read Kelly's summary at the end of the post, which i thought was really insightful, about how exposure to comics at a young age can help people connect with the story-telling style of graphic novels.
i for one, did not fall in love with the medium, and i think it may be for the reason Kelly said - i was never really exposed to it.
i will probably read more graphic novels in the future, to see if they grow on me.

so? words, pictures or both?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

the thing about music

i love reading other writers' playlists.
i do.
i like to see which songs i know and try to guess at what they say about the writers' books.

and i, too, write to music. actually, i listen to music when i'm brainstorming, mulling, etc... then turn the music off when it's time to type, so i'm not distracted.
i only created an actual "playlist" in the ipod for a book once (and said book is trunked), but i do have certain songs i listened to over and over while writing different books - songs that will always make me think of those stories now.

but i can't share them.
not in a secret, "i-don't-want-you-in-my-head" kind of way... but because my playlists wouldn't make any sense!

i can only imagine:
- "um, ej? i thought your book was a bro-mance, and one of the bros has a disability."
- "yeah, so?"
- "so, this song is about a woman burying her husband after 40 long years of marriage."
- "yeah."
- "??"
- "well there's this one line... and the music..." *shrug*

i could come up with a reasonable playlist for BUTTER, i think, because music is such a big part of the story. i certainly listened to a lot of jazz while i was writing it, and many of those songs are even in the book. but i also listened to some angsty punk rock and weepy country tunes - songs that don't reflect my MC but that put me in the right mood for a scene or chapter. it would be the strangest mish-mash of songs ever to go on a playlist together.

so, alas, i don't share my music.
but i hope others continue to do so, because one of my favorite internet time killers is looking up playlists and making guesses about the book.

what about you? do you pick apart playlists and look for story clues, or do you just say "oh cool, i know that song!" and move on?
am i the only weirdo over-analyzing the music? :p