Amazon

THUMBS DOWN ON KINDLE FIRE HDX – THUMBS UP ON PAPERWHITE

Amazon launched the new generation of Kindles at the end of September 2013. I spent time perusing these latest greatest Kindles. They were supposed to be pretty much the same as the Fire HD, but with better graphics, battery and sound. A few other perks like really great support and cameras front and back. Gadget junky that I am, I resisted until December, but my Fire was slowing down. Probably from all the stuff I was doing on it. Mind you, it never stopped working but it didn’t work quite as fast or smoothly as it had. When Amazon dropped the price by $50 before Christmas, I bought it. It came with 6-month financing at 0% interest. Nice.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX has a new, improved interface for email and the calendar is better too. I know the audio and video were technically better, but they weren’t noticeably different to me. The audio and video on the Fire HD are great and if the HDX is a little better, it’s not a big difference.

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I loved my Kindle Fire HD. I figured I would love the new one even more. And I did. For a day. Maybe two. That was when I realized the battery was draining phenomenally fast. At one point, I was on the phone with Kindle support complaining about the battery — and it was dropping at about 1% every two or three minutes. She said video uses up a lot of battery and I said I’d been able to watch movies on the Fire HD, but at this rate wouldn’t make it through a movie on the HDX without plugging it in.

In about 40 minutes, it dropped more than 50%. I plugged it in before it went flat. It also drained while it was not in use — sleeping — at approximately 5% per hour. Reading — not using audio or video — drained it at 15% per hour. As the battery hit less than 20%, it became unresponsive. Customer support suggested I let it drain all the way and recharge it. Which I did.

No improvement. Part of the problem is you can’t turn off apps except by forcing a stop. This is an awkward process which merely slows (but doesn’t stop) the battery from draining while the device sleeps. If you are using the HDX, it chews through the battery at warp speed. You can actually see it drop.

Back at customer service, she suggested I return it and try a different unit. I had an itchy feeling in my brain the problem was NOT my unit, but a design issue. I’d been reading reviews. Too many people complaining of battery problems to be just a coincidence. I noticed the reviews before I bought but couldn’t believe Amazon would knowingly market a seriously flawed product. The Fire HD didn’t get weeks from its battery as does a plain vanilla Kindle, but it gets a solid 12 hours. That’s twelve hours of actual use. On the HDX, you’d be lucky to get 4 hours of simple reading. Nonetheless, after being assured I could return it if I didn’t like it, I agreed to try another one. A couple of days later, the new HDX arrived.

The second HDX was worse than the first. Not only did it eat its battery, but it took forever to connect to WiFi — and sometimes wouldn’t connect at all — a problem I hadn’t had on the first unit. In a house with 9 working computers, I knew it wasn’t my WiFi. It was the device. The connectivity problem persisted even when plugged in. And even when it found the WiFi, it would rarely open a website, even Amazon. This pushed me over the edge. I’m not eager to return things. I hang on to all kinds of things with which I’m not entirely satisfied, but I couldn’t afford to do it this time. I need a working Kindle.

Maybe I could have lived with the awful battery performance, but not with the useless browser too. After less than a week, I called Amazon and said “That’s it, I’m done.” In the meantime, in a fit of totally unwarranted optimism, I had given my Fire HD to my daughter-in-law and couldn’t bring myself to ask for it back. I wouldn’t have gotten it anyhow because she really likes it.

Which left me without a Kindle. Not good.

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I bought the Paperwhite — the model with WiFi, not 3G. It arrived yesterday. I set it up late in the afternoon. It went live as soon as I plugged it in. At blinding speed it connected, displaying all my books and documents sorted into categories I’d created on my original Kindle. The Paperwhite reminded me why I fell in love with Kindles.

It’s a great reader. It has a just a few bells and no whistles. It’s light, small, easy-to-use. It has a touch screen, virtual keyboard and its own light, but retains many things I loved about the older Kindles, mainly that it’s a wonderful device on which to read a book. Paperwhite is a dedicated reader, not a tablet. Flat, non-reflective surface — easy on the eyes. Adjustable fonts and lighting that won’t wake your spouse. It weighs almost nothing, even with a cover.

I settled in to read last night. For the first time in a long while, I could focus on a book. The Fire HD was a fine tablet, but it was forever teasing me away from reading to play a game, hear a tune, or watch a movie — things I can do on my laptop.

Perhaps this is what I should have bought in the first place. I cannot recommend the Kindle Fire HDX, but hey, if you want a reader? The Paperwhite is fantastic.

GOT A KINDLE? MEGA BARGAINS FROM AMAZON TODAY!

Need something to read? Like mysteries? How about the classics? These are some of the amazing values you can get free or for very short money from Amazon.These are currently available. You can’t beat the prices, so if you’re a reader, there’s no downside except possibly that some of these books are huge.

Even if you don’t own a Kindle, the Kindle app is available for PC, Mac and a variety of mobile phones and tablets. Truly a win-win. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots more.

Delphi Complete Works of Mark Twain (Illustrated) [Kindle Edition] Samuel Clemens … $.99

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (37 plays, 160 sonnets and 5 Poetry Books With Active Table of Contents) [Kindle Edition] … $.99

Alice in Wonderland: The Complete Collection (Illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Illustrated Through the Looking Glass, plus Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and The Hunting of the Snark) [Kindle Edition] … $.99 (My all time favorites!)

Oz: The Complete Collection (All 14 Oz Books, with Illustrated Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Exclusive Bonus Features) [Kindle Edition] … $.99 (Note: I would have given a body part for this when I was a kid.)

The Detective Megapack [Kindle Edition] Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, much more … $.99

The Classic Mystery Collection (100+ books and stories) [Kindle Edition] Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Anna Katharine Green, Sax Rohmer, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Honore de Balzac and more … $2.99

Agatha Christie Collection (Illustrated): The Secret Adversary AND The Mysterious Affair [Kindle Edition] $.99

The Dashiell Hammett Megapack [Kindle Edition] … $.99

“All You Zombies-” [Kindle Edition] Robert Heinlein (Possibly the best time travel short story ever written) … $1.25

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes [Kindle Edition] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … $0.00

THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES and THE COMPLETE TALES OF TERROR AND MYSTERY (All Sherlock Holmes Stories and All 12 Tales of Mystery in a Single Volume!) …  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | The Complete Works Collection) … $.99

H.G. Wells Collection, Over 50 Works: The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, Time Machine, Island of Dr. Moreau, Little Wars, World Set Free, Tales of Space and Time, When the Sleeper Wakes & MORE! [Kindle Edition] … $.99 ( I don’t know how many pages this is, but it’s a huge file, so I’m better a thousand or more pages.)

Charles Dickens Collection 55 Works: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Christmas Carol, Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, MORE! [Annotated] [Kindle Edition] This is 15 novels and all the short fiction … an entire library … $2.99

Jane Austen Collection: 18 Works, Pride and Prejudice, Love and Friendship, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Lady Susan & more! [Kindle Edition] … $.99

The Complete Little Women Series: Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men, Jo’s Boys (4 books in one) [Kindle Edition] (807 pages) Louisa May Alcott … $.99

The Bronte Sisters – The Complete Novels (Annotated) + Extras [Kindle Edition] by Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, Charlotte Bronte (894 pages) … $.99

Jules Verne Collection, 33 Works: A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Mysterious Island, PLUS MORE! [Kindle Edition] (8876 pages — apparently not a misprint). … $.99 (You may never need another book!)

Truly, the selection is huge, the prices are more than reasonable. If you’re short on money, long on loving literature, you’re going to love this! And there’s so much more. I kid you not. SO much more.

3 FREE Prequels to THE RETURNED – From Audible and Amazon Kindle

The First, The Sparrow, The Choice

Prequels to The Returned, by Jason Mott

These three short story are prequels to The Returned. All are available right now — free — on Kindle and from Audible.com in celebration of the publication — August 27 — of Jason Mott’s highly acclaimed first novel.

You can get them as audio from Audible.com and for Kindle from Amazon.com. You can get either or both. I’m greedy and I really liked The Returned, so I got both.

Each of the audio versions runs between 30 and 45 minutes and are beautifully narrated. The price is right and the stories are pure poetry. Jason Mott is a poet, an award-winning poet and these stories shine with prose so elegant it is poetry in its own right.

The price is right and I strongly recommend you pop on over to Amazon and Audible and get your own copies as soon as possible!

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The First, as the title suggests, is the story of the first of the dead to return.

The First: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]A year after her fiance’s death, Emily has barely begun to make peace with Edmond’s abrupt demise. He was killed in a freak bus accident only one day after he had proposed and she had accepted. The couple never had the chance to live their dreams, to celebrate their love.

One day, Edmond Blythe shows up at work. As far as he is concerned it’s just another day.Only when fear, panic and chaos break out around him does he realize something else is going on. It isn’t merely any day… it’s a day like no other before or again.

Edmond is the first, though far from the last to return. Having returned, it seems everything and everyone is conspiring to keep him from reuniting with Emily.

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The Sparrow: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]The Sparrow is the poignant tale of a returned girl, murdered in her tenth year in Sierra Leone. Showing up by the side of an American road, she is picked up by Heather and Matt Campbell. They take the little one home. They’ve heard about the returned, but now, suddenly, they have one. In their home in the middle of their lives.

Heather finds herself immediately drawn to ten-year-old Tatiana Rusesa. Matt cannot see anything but thing. Not a child, but a potential ticket to fame and maybe fortune.

Dodging the bullets of her husband’s unexpectedly crass reaction and sinister governmental plans to deal with the returned, Heather uses compassion and intelligence to navigate the rocky shoals of a situation for which she is completely unprepared.

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In The Choice, a man’s childhood love returns after going missing twenty years before. Peter Galvin was The Choice: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]seventeen when the great love of his life vanishes without a trace. No body was ever found and though he grieves, life has inexorably moved one.

Married, with a family of his own, he is suddenly confronted with the girl he loved, apparently in the flesh. Will the call of past be stronger than the commitments of the present? It a love story … the love of a man for his wife, his daughter and a girl he lost and never imagined he would ever see again.

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The Returned will be available as of August 27, 2013, on Kindle, as an MP3, in both hard and softcopy, and as an audiobook (audible.com).

About the author:

Jason Mott holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @jasonmott.

A Book Junkie’s Confession

If reading were illegal, I’d have spent my life in prison. The most frightening book I ever read was Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a life with no books.

As a kid, I literally read myself cross-eyed, but today, I have been redeemed by audiobooks. Praise the Lord and don’t make me give up my subscriptions to Audible.com. Early during the 1990s, I discovered audiobooks. I was a “wrong way” commuter, which meant my commute started in Boston and took me out to the suburbs. This was supposed to make the drive easier than going the other way.

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Reality was different. Traffic was heavy in all directions, from Boston or from the suburbs. The east-west commute was nominally less awful than the north-south commutes, though coming from the north shore down to Boston was and is still probably the worst commute anywhere.

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When we lived in Boston on the 17th floor of Charles River Park, we had a perfect view of the Charles River … and an even better view of 93 northbound. We could look out the window any time of the day or night. It was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see every day of the week, any time of day or night. Garry had a 5 minute walk to work. I always drove somewhere. You’d think at least once during the more than 20 years Garry and I have been together I’d have found one job near home. Funny how that never happened.

In New England, you do not measure a commute by distance. Distance is irrelevant. It’s how long it takes that matters. No one talks in terms of miles. The mall is half an hour away. Boston is about an hour in good traffic, who knows how long in rush hour traffic. It can take you 2 hours to go six miles, but maybe you can travel 15 miles in half an hour. In which case 15 miles is the shorter commute. Ask anyone.

My commute was never short. Wherever my work took me, it was never anyplace convenient, except for those wonderful periods when I worked at home and had to go to the “office” only occasionally.

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The 1990s were serious commuting years. Boston to Amesbury, Boston to Burlington, Boston to Waltham.

It got worse. By 2000, we had moved to Uxbridge. It’s never easier to get from Uxbridge to anywhere, except one of the other Valley towns … and I never worked in any of them. Probably because there is no work there …

As jobs got ever more scarce and I got older and less employable, I found myself commuting longer distances. First, Providence, Rhode Island, which wasn’t too bad. But after that, I had to drive to Groton, Connecticut a few times a week — 140 miles each way — a good deal of it on unlit, unmarked local roads. It was a killer commute and unsurprisingly, I was an early GPS adopter. Even though I didn’t have to do it every day, Groton did me in.

Hudson was almost as bad, and Amesbury was no piece of cake either. The distance from Uxbridge to Newton was not far as the crow flies, but since I was not a crow, it was a nightmare. On any Friday afternoon, it took more than three hours to go twenty some odd miles. On Friday afternoons in the summer when everyone was taking off on for the weekend, I found myself battling not merely regular commuter traffic, but crazed vacationers, desperate to get out of Dodge.

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The job market had become unstable, and it seemed every time I turned around, I was working in a different part of the Commonwealth or in another state entirely. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d probably have needed a rubber room.

First, I discovered Books On Tape. Originally intended as audiobooks for the blind, me and a million other commuters discovered them during the mid 1990s. They were a godsend. Instead of listening to the news, talk radio, or some inane jabbering DJ, I could drift off into whatever world of literature I could pop into my car’s cassette player.

I bought a lot of audio books and as cassettes began to disappear and everything was on CD, Books On Tape ceased renting books to the consumer market. Fortunately, audiobooks had become downright popular and were available at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Everybody was listening and most of us couldn’t imagine how we’d survived before audiobooks.

In 2002, along came Audible. At first, it was a bit of a problem, figuring out how to transport ones audible books into ones vehicle, but technology came up with MP3 players and widgets that let you plug your player, whatever it is, into your car’s sound system.

Audible started off modestly, but grew and grew and having recently been acquired by Amazon (a company that, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon, is plotting to take over the world and succeeding pretty well), is getting bigger by the minute. For once, I don’t mind a bit. The company was well run before Amazon, and Amazon had the good sense to not mess with success. It is still easy to work with them, literally a pleasure doing business.

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Five years ago, I became too sick to work anymore. Would that mean giving up audiobooks? Not on your life. When I was nearly dead, I listened to books and they distracted me from pain and fear, kept me company when I was alone and wondering if I’d live to see morning. Sometimes, they made me laugh in the midst of what can only be described as a place where humor is at a premium.

Today, I listen as I do everything except write. I can listen to books as I play mindless games on Facebook, edit photographs, pay bills or make a seven letter Scrabble play. I admit I cannot listen and write at the same time. That seems to be the point where multi-tasking ends. Actually, I can’t do anything while I write except write.

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I get a lot of reading done while accomplishing the computerized tasks of life, not to mention turning hours of mindless messing around into valuable reading time. I am, in effect always reading.

Reading in Bed: My Guilty Pleasure

I read at night on my Kindle because reading in bed has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Oh how I love snuggling into bed with a book, electronic or paper, I don’t care. A book is a book by whatever format.

I remember reading in my bedroom under the covers using a flashlight, or worse, trying to read  from a sliver of light from the hallway nightlight, or, if everything else failed, by the light of a bright moon.

“You’ll ruin your eyes” cried my mother who probably had snuck books into her bed and read by candlelight.

To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t just let me turn a light on. She had to know I was going to read anyhow. She was always reading too! In fact, if books were my addiction, she was my dealer. Even in today politically correct world, giving your kid too many books to read is not yet considered child abuse. Aren’t we glad!

So my love affair with books continues. My tastes change, favorite authors move up or down the list. I go through phases: all history, nothing but fantasy, a run of thrillers, a series of biographies. Getting older has few advantages but there is one huge gift — time.

I have time to read. I can get so involved in my book that I look up and realize that oops, the sun is coming up and I’ve lost another night’s sleep.

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It doesn’t matter. Because I don’t have to commute anywhere anymore. I don’t have to leap out of bed with 10 minutes to shower, dress, make up, and get out.

I can stay up too late reading, or writing, or watching movies and for the rest of my life, no one can make me stop. And that, friends, is really, truly, my fondest dream come true. And in the end, it doesn’t matter to me what form the book takes. Kindle, paperback, hardbound, audio or printed … the story, the author, the book is the thing. Everything else? It doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit.

Marilyn’s Desert Island Eight – Movies I never tire of!

Eight movies to have on a desert island? So many movies … but if I had to make the choice, here they are!

The Lion In Winter

The Lion in Winter (1968 film)

The Lion in Winter (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Awesome performances by everyone, from Hepburn and O’Toole, to Anthony Hopkins in his first screen role. Wonderful script and matchless screen chemistry. It’s not accurate history … but the interaction of the members of the family is surprisingly close if you want to examine only the emotional content. In the end, it’s all about the performances. From top to bottom, every performance is extraordinary. Hepburn got an Oscar, one of three wins for the film. Many more nominations plus three Golden Globes. All well-deserved.

The Americanization of Emily

Cover of "The Americanization of Emily"

Paddy Chayevsky‘s script is among the best movie scripts of all time. Add superb performances by James Garner and Julie Andrews in her first dramatic role. The whole movie would be worth it just for Garner’s monologue on war. But there’s so much more. It’s funny, sharp, downright brilliant.

The cast knew they’d never have a better job. All of them list this movie as the favorite or as one of the top one or two of their professional lives. Roles like this don’t come along often in any actor’s career. The actors showed their appreciation by working their hearts out. Everyone is at the top of his or her game.

Tombstone

This is one of those movies that I like better each time I watch it … and I watch it often. We can recite dialogue with it. It’s got everything you want a western to have: passion, revenge, violence, humor and brilliant cinematography. It’s Val Kilmer‘s best performance and arguably Kurt Russell‘s shining moment.

This is my go to movie if I need a revenge and violence fix. It manages to have a satisfying body count without the gore. I like that in a movie.

Maybe it isn’t one of the all time greatest films, but reminds me of some of the best of times in my life as well as music I dearly love. It’s funny, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, a loving parody. It’s a warm-hearted and nostalgic look at a time many of us look back on with great affection. The music manages to be humorous and good — a difficult act to pull off.

Casablanca

Not the most original choice, but it’s so good and it has worn well despite the years. We saw it on the big screen not long ago. Wonderful. It’s pure mythology, but it’s the way we wish it had been. I need heroes.

Three Oscar wins — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay plus nominations for just about every member of the cast. Seeing it on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time and gave me an even better appreciation of the brilliant script.

Blazing Saddles

It’s hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie, but if I have to choose, this has to be the one. It was a tough choice. “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” and “History of the World, Part I” are right up there too. “Blazing Saddles” wins because it’s got some of the all-time great movie lines. That’s HEDLEY Lamar!

Starman

Science fiction movies usually disappoint me because they aren’t science fiction, but westerns in space using spacecraft for horses, featuring millions of dollars of special effects, but no script. This is all acting. A fine script, wonderful performances, romantic, touching and believable. A great performance — underrated — by Jeff Bridges. And I almost forgot to mention the haunting score. Rarely mentioned, it’s the best kind of science fiction … concept and character based. And unforgettable.

The Three and Four Musketeers (1973 – 1974)

I know they were issued as two movies, but they were filmed as one. The stars of the film(s) sued the studios since they had only been paid for one movie, and they won. Nonetheless, both movies play like a single film in two parts. You can’t watch one without the other. They keep remaking it, but none of the others come near this version. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly true to the books. Dumas would have been pleased. I love the sword fights. I used to fence in college, and this has some of the best choreographed fencing I’ve ever seen. It’s not the elegant fencing you usually see, but brawling — the way men really fought — not to get points for good form, but to win without getting sliced up.

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And that’s my eight. If I could pick a hundred more, I wouldn’t run out of choices. Oh, and I might change my mind tomorrow!

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The Far Arena, by Richard Ben Sapir – Roman Ways In Modern Days

The Far Arena by Richard Ben Sapir

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I just bought a used copy of this long out-of-print book. I first read it when it was released in 1978. I was working at Doubleday as a book club editor. It fell to me to do the write-up for it in the monthly publication that went to book club members.

A large part of my job was to read books. Talk about great jobs, that was the best of the best. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from my Doubleday years. Not merely was I paid to read and write about books, but I received (as did all the editors and graphic artists in the department) new copies of every book we worked on. We all had very large personal libraries. We also had 2 hour lunches and wonderful co-workers. I looked forward to work the way most folks anticipate the weekend. It was that good. I realize this is a digression, but I wanted to put this in context and maybe brag a little.

The Far Arena is classified as science fiction. It is, sort of, but not in any traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any of the usual sci fi categories. Time travel? Not exactly, but it has a time travel-ish feel to it.

The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil and subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of the modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 1600 years ago.

His observations on modern society are priceless. For example, while he is in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring of course to the to nurses and other workers who attend his needs.

His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea. “You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves, but without responsibility.”

“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.

“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds. Who would like to argue the point? Not me.

That is paraphrasing, of course, but is captures the gist of the dialogue. I have never looked at the world quite the same way since I read this book. Modern workers have all the freedom of slaves, but no assurance that anyone will care for them when they are no longer able to work. That’s a pretty good deal from the owners’ … I mean employers’ … point-of-view.

This is a brilliant and unique book. It stands apart from the thousands of books I’ve read over the years. All other time travel stories are about modern people visiting the past. This is the only book I can think of where a man from the past offers a view of the modern world and it’s not a pretty sight.

Richard Ben Sapir wrote other books that are unusual and worth reading. I especially liked The Body, but The Far Arena stands head and shoulders above the rest. He only wrote a few novels. His world was really comic books, or what are now called “graphic novels” … making locating copies of his books more challenging. However you can get your hands on one — beg, steal or borrow — it’s a must-read,even if science fiction is not a genre you normally seek out. Whether “A Far Arena” is science fiction or plain fiction is a matter of opinion. I think it sits just on the edge where genres meet. (Question: When genres meet, do they have coffee together? Just wondering.)

You might check to see if your local library has a copy. I scored a good copy in hard-cover from a second-hand seller on Amazon for $8.50 plus shipping, not bad considering the book’s been out of print for 30+ years.

It would make a great movie. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. I recommend you read it if you can. You can find copies around occasionally and although he was not a prolific writer, he wrote a few other novels, all of which are very good and have unique stories.

Did I mention that it’s exceptionally well written? Highly literate? Well-researched? Convincing? All those things and a great, gripping story too.

You can hunt down used copies. They are available on Amazon (I just bought one  as a gift) and more come up periodically. Sometimes you get lucky and find one of these rare books at yard sales or the Salvation Army. Then you get the book for literally pennies and you  have fun hunting it down, too. On the average, you’ll find it’s less expensive than most new paperbacks and more than worth the price.

How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire — The 12-Foot Teepee and Me

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me someone bought my book. It happened a few times during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a genuine voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindle version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I have now broken the $5 barrier and need only 6 or 7 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. If we order from the dollar menu, we could even afford a small beverage. I can barely control my excitement, but Garry has warned me not to count on it.

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I still get buzzed when anyone buys or reads my book and delighted when they let me know they enjoyed it, but next time, I think I’ll write about dogs.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did author things, television interviews on local cable, radio interviews. I got some nice local press. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which isn’t bad for a self-published book. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a cheap dinner at a local fast food joint. I briefly thought Teepee would be a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out, I had dreams of glory. My husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as time passes, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...

When you write a highly personal book largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Books like this become popular only if written by celebrities  revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature, or if someone pumps it up on a national television, which did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most authors.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this genre. The ones that get published because they are written by a celebrity don’t sell well either, usually going from a  display in the front of the store to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback. And don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I had the task of reading a lot of books that were deemed among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask about least half the entries: “What were you thinking?” There are okay books amongst the dross, a couple of great ones and a few pretty good ones.

Unfortunately, there are many awful ones, books so bad it’s hard to imagine how this could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing at all. The worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is good.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! – include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not so awful that maybe there might not be someone who likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who it might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot and a few interesting characters.

Which brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world sufficiently interesting to write books about it?

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our lives completely uninteresting? Are the day-to-day battles regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Having someone buy a copy of my book today was a big deal. If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe a half-dozen or so people will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage loaded on our backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos.

Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also hard to proofread your own manuscript: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is there. 75-BooksHP

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. I get the same $1.87 in royalties whether you buy it or borrow it.  Go figure.

I have serious concerns about the state of publishing. I am convinced there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who get published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing, I would think the potential profit has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until it has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider taking a chance on more newcomers who don’t write in trendy genres. I love science fiction and fantasy more than most people, but I also enjoy books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I fear the best of America’s writers are being lost in the scramble to publish only best-sellers. It doesn’t work anyhow. Most books flop, just like they always have.  From what I’m seeing, most acquisitions editors wouldn’t know a great book if it bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m such a fantastic author and couldn’t get a reading,  publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that does get published is so bad. It’s not a healthy sign for literature or the publishing industry.

Does it really suck?

Buying a vacuum cleaner when you own pets, especially long-haired dogs or cats, is a big deal. Normal people go to a store and buy a vacuum cleaner.  Almost any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.

NanFor pet owners and especially for those of us who have more than a few pets, in our case dogs, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event, potentially a life-altering event. For us, pet hair is not a sidebar: it’s the central theme of life. During shedding season, which for long-haired breeds is all year — though much worse from late summer through autumn — the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing everywhere. Vacuuming is a massive undertaking performed daily. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation and/or a Hazmat team.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. Note the main difference between purebred and mixed breed dogs is that purebreds “blow their coats” while mixed breeds simply “shed.” The results are identical, but it sounds classier for purebreds.

Nov 2012

Many long-haired breeds are bred to have huge coats and most owners who aren’t showing their dogs clip them.  Even clipped, there’s still an awful lot of fur. We adopted our Aussie; he had been a show dog … and the absolutely heaviest coated Aussie I’ve ever seen. All of that coat falls out annually. You can comb and brush him daily; there’s always more. The volume is astonishing. No mixed breed dog could generate such a gigantic mess. I always swore I would never own a dog with that much fur. I’ve turned down free pups and full-grown show dogs because they had too much fur. I had a breeder beg me to take one of her Samoyeds. He was gorgeous and a champion, only 8 months old … if I was willing to bathe and groom him myself.

I was young and hardy then. But I looked at him and I said, NO. A large (he was bigger than most Samoyeds), snow-white dog with a coat designed to withstand an arctic winter? I love dogs, but not that much. Yet despite more than forty years of dodging that particular bullet, I still wound up with a dog that sheds enough fur to carpet the world in hair. Somehow, I lost focus long enough to adopt him … and here we are, up to our eyeballs in fur.

If you happen to own (for example) a Great Pyrenees, a Sheltie, an Australian Shepherd (think Collie without a tail), anything that looks like Lassie, a sled dog (any sled dog including mixes), an Old English Sheepdog (possibly THE worst of all, being triple-coated), a long-haired St. Bernard  (the list goes on), you are permanently in search of a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission.  

Thus the purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations. What are the parameters? First and foremost, that baby has to suck. You want a machine that will pull the wall to wall carpeting off the floor, pull the cushions off the sofa and try to eat the draperies.

You have to balance the percent of carpeting versus hardwood flooring, number of stairs, weight, portability, how hard is it to clean it out because pet hair really clogs the works and finally, price. If you don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive long. You quickly learn that small, light machines are a waste of money. If it doesn’t have a bag, anything other than a small hand vac will die in short order. You need power. You need a bag. You need strength of character, the understanding that you are going to have to deal with filth and lots of it. You need amperage, determination and above all, you need sucking power. Nothing can be too powerful. Your budget determines the limit, so within what you can manage, you try to get the best sucker available.

Bagless machines are weenies. We multiple pet owners need bags. Big ones.

The terriers don’t shed much. The short-haired dachshund doesn’t shed much. The Aussie sheds enough for 10 normal dogs and in the fall, it’s indescribably awful. Every morning, the house is covered in fur, great gobs of is. Huge piles of it cover the rugs, floor, and sofas. It infests the upholstery, adheres to the drapes, forms giant cobwebs that make your house look like the Adams family redux.

We’ve burned out two vacuum cleaners in less than a year, both bagless. This time, we bought a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner, 8.3 Lbs, Black. Typical five-star reviews say stuff like “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.” This customer understands our needs.

AmberWill will also need an upright to deal with rugs? Probably, but affording ONE machine was hard enough. A second will have to wait until next month at the very least.

I really hope this machine seriously sucks.

The 12-Foot Teepee … How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me that someone bought one of my books. It happened during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindled version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales have totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I think I have now officially broken the $5 barrier and need about 6 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. I can barely control my excitement.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_KindleFor all that, I’m always a little tingled when anyone buys or reads my book and especially happy when they tell me they enjoyed it. I’ve been away from it for quite a while already and I don’t think about it often. I’m unlikely to go back that way again. If I ever decide to write a new book, it will be something entirely different. Dogs, maybe.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did those authorly things, some television interviews on local cable, some pretty heavy-duty radio interviews with pretty big guns, locally and regionally. I got some good local press, not as much as I might have wished, but not bad. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun to do and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which I’m told, for a self-published book, is not bad. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a very cheap dinner at a local fast food restaurant. I briefly thought I was going to become a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for dreams of Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out and I still held some dreams of glory in my aging brain, my husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as the years pass, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

 

When you write this kind of book, a book that is highly personal and largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The only time books of this kind will become wildly popular is when they’ve been written by some celebrity who is revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature. Or some other celebrity likes it and pumps it up on a national television show, something that did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most people.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this kind of book. The ones that do get published on the basis of existing celebrity don’t sell very well either, usually going from the front of the store display to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher that we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback first release. Don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I have had the assigned task of reading a lot of books that have been judged to be among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask them — about at least half the entries — “What were you thinking?” There are some good books amongst the dross I was assigned. There are even a couple of great ones, as well as a bunch of pretty good ones.


Alas, there are also many really awful ones, books so bad that it’s hard to imagine how this literary effort could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing in any form. The absolutely worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is worth reading.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! – include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not awful enough that maybe there couldn’t be someone somewhere that likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who that might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot, storyline, and a few interesting characters.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...This brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming increasing rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world as it exists in the here-and-now sufficiently interesting to write books about it? Perhaps we bore ourselves and find our neighbors and families equally uninteresting.

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our own lives completely uninteresting. Are our struggles to keep a roof over our heads, get to a doctor, be treated by society with respect … are the day-to-day battles that regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Discovering the other day that someone bought a copy of my book was a big event for me. It couldn’t be anyone I know. They’ve already got copies, either bought them or got them as gifts from the author, who gets to buy copies at cost (gee). The purchase, which may actually have been a “borrow,” was in Kindle format, so if I sell another 9 books, I will reach the threshold at which Amazon will pay royalties (still hoping to hit that $20 threshold) . So, right now, they own me $3.74, which isn’t close. It’s possible in theory that more people will buy or borrow books, isn’t it? If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe 9 or 10 more people, will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback version of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage that gets loaded on our young backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the heavy load of bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos. Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also really hard to proofread your own copy: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is really there. 75-BooksHP

So, in case there are nine or ten people out there who might want to splurge for an e-book or a paperback, you can find the books on Amazon:

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. Oddly enough, I still get the same $1.87 in royalties, even if you read it at no cost. Go figure.

Note: There is some weird version of my book that comes up indicating that the paper book as no longer available. It’s an Amazon error that I have asked them (sigh) to fix. You get the correct information if you search in Amazon under “books” rather than as a general search. Maybe they’ll fix it, but it’s there, I promise. the links I included here are correct, even though Amazon thinks I published at least one version of this book in 0001 … which would make me a VERY old author.

I have some serious concerns about the state of the publishing industry. I am convinced that there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who have gotten published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing services, I would think the potential profit in publishing has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until you print one that has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider offering opportunities to talented newcomers that don’t necessarily write in safe and trendy categories. I love science fiction and fantasy, but I also enjoy good books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I’m afraid the best of America’s writers are getting lost in the scramble to print only best-sellers. It isn’t working, either. Most books flop, just like they always have.  I’m not sure, from what I’m seeing, that most acquisitions editors would know a really good book if it reached up and bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m so great and couldn’t get a reading, much less a publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that gets published is so awful. Not a good sign for literature or the publishing industry.