Readophile

I love everything that has to do with books. Most of my love exhibits itself in clever sayings or aphorisms about reading and books. At incidental comics, I stumbled upon an amazing comic about adopting books. Check out Stray Books:

I makes me want to adopt books. Now, how about books as a wall. In 2005, Swiss artist Jan Reymond began constructing elaborate installations each year, made of the old, unsold books as a last hurrah for the soon-to-be discarded objects. He also made a tree out of books. That’s dedication.

Then I found a photographer Kirsty Mitchell. Following her mother’s death from a brain tumour in 2008, Kirsty channelled her grief into her passion for photography. She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world.

Below is The Storyteller: A reference to Kirsten’s English teacher mother, a model sits elegantly on a carpet of bluebells enveloped by books.

Finally, we have artist Robert The (yes, that’s his name). He takes books and then cuts them up to create new symbols. A lobster. A broom. A cake. And yes, a gun.

I still love to read books too. Now, mostly ebooks. But sometimes there’s something special about glue and paper. If the picture below doesn’t make you shiver with excitement, then real, physical books, aren’t for you.

Tim Kane

How Do You Find a Good Book to Read in the eBook Age?

Some folk lament the fact that physical bookstores, with their collections of paper and glue, are vanishing. Heck, my city has only one bookstore. I relate. I love wandering the aisles of the bookstores, just picking something up and giving it a page through. But I’ll tell you a secret. Often, the books I pick up and then buy from a bookstore are not the ones I really love. I’ve been disappointed more than once.

What I do relish in bookstores are the recommendations by the employees. These people have read and loved these books and want you to read them too. Ignore the tables with the covers all facing up. The book placement there is often paid for by the publisher.

Alfred Hitchcock enjoying Tom Prideaux’s Love or Nothing: The Life and Times of Ellen Terry.

You can get that same sort of recommendation in the digital age. Often, I look up a book I’ve already read and loved on Amazon. Then I see what else the site recommends. Or I ask my reading friends (on Facebook or Twitter). The best part, I can download a sample of the ebook and read enough to get hooked (or bored).

The final resource for book hunters is book blogs. Check out these three blogs to help find your next read.

SPA Middle School Blog: This site shows recommendations from actual seventh and eight graders. Awesome to know I have similar tastes.

Young Adult Books Central Blog: This place is massive. It reviews books as well as tracks reader reviews. You can sort books in many ways with plenty to choose from.

We Need Reads Blog: A great review blog by a pair of avid readers. Their review of Speak says it all.

Tim Kane

Why Authors Still Need Agents

Recently, I was lucky enough to witness a keynote speech by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. He talked about a day when writers supersede agents and publishers. He even made a joke of it:

One day, an author will tell some friends, “I just got a book deal.”
And they reply, “I’m sorry.”

This elicited groans from the audience (mostly writers with a handful of agents and editors). I agree in principle with Mr. Coker. Publishers have dropped the ball. They need to cut their own costs to become competitive and offer authors a greater piece of the revenue stream. Amazon’s 70% is far better than the 12% you get from publishers.

I still see a place for agents. Next time you’re on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, troll through the lists of available ebooks. You’ll see plenty of indie authors. That’s a good thing. The ebook has become the great equalizer. Yet, try purchasing one of these indie books.

I did.

I tried quite a few. None were worth the $0.99. Typos were rife. Even when they weren’t the story sagged or had horrific info dumps, or just bad writing. What all these books had in common was a lack of agents and proper editing.

Agents serve as gatekeepers. They champion good books and turn the rest to the door. It’s true, that agents take less and less clients these days, but this is an issue based on the poor state of the publishers. If those corporate guys can get things turned around, I think you’d see many more author’s picked up.

The truth is, as a reader, I want someone to vouch my books. I don’t have a lot of time to read, and wasting it on poor prose is infuriating. That’s not to say that lousy books can’t make it through the agent and publisher system. They can and do. But usually I sour on these as a matter of style. Agents, at the very least, make sure the writing is free of errors and has a decent story.

Tim Kane

SDSU Writer’s Conference: The Secret of Writing

It has been four years since I last visited this conference. Despite being a San Diego native, I had plenty of growth as a writer to accomplish before revisiting this event. In 2008, I had written several novels, but had no support group. Immediately after my first conference, I knew that it would be a learning experience. Afterward, I joined two excellent critique groups, rewrote my novel, and then finished another. In short, I went from wannabe writer to accomplished writer.

Even though I have a book published, along with several short stories, I still haven’t hit it big with the novel. That is my goal, along with the many other attendees this weekend. The golden prize. Yet, four years ago, this was my one and only goal. Since then, I heed some great advice I read from Harlan Ellison interview.

There is only one secret, and the secret is this: Anybody can become a writer. The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer. Day after month after year after story after book. That’s the secret. And if you can do that and produce a body of work, no matter how large or small it is, that is true and can pull the plow, then you’re a writer. If you are not prepared to spend your life doing that, then, for christsake, don’t do it.

So what do I intend to take from the SDSU Writer’s Conference? Information, mostly. I intend to listen closely to the agents, editors, publishers, and writers there. There are several workshops on eBooks and self publishing, which I can see will play an important part to the future of writing and publishing. I’m also at the crucial first stages of a new novel, and that means my brain is perched on a precipice. A push in the right direction can lead to a awesome slide through 70,000 words of prose.

Here are the courses I see as the most intriguing. Obviously I can’t be several places at once. I plan to tweet on what I see and hear. I was surprised that there was no official hashtag for the conference. I created #sdsuwc to fill the void. Also, I was shocked at how few people were tweeting. Writers as a whole are attached to twitter the way most artists cling to alcohol. My only guess is that most of the attendees haven’t realized that tweeting is an effective marketing tool. (These are the workshops I feel I don’t need, but I’m sure they’re quite good).

Saturday

9:30 – 10:20

Establish A Pattern, Then Twist It by Yvonne Nelson Perry
I’m always interested in plot structure and how to twist it. Should make a good workshop.

10:30 – 11:20

Genius Plotting I by Louella Nelson
Again, you can see I’m drawn to structure.

Self Publishing–A New Gateway to Success by M. Louisa Locke
Curious about the options and taboos of the new eBook process.

1:00 – 1:50

No Sag Structure by Q Lindsey Barrett
Yes, I’m obsessed with structure.

Evoking Emotion by Angela Hunt
This is a weak spot for me, so I’d like to learn how to polish it up.

2:00 – 2:50

Fiction is Written in Scenes by Yvonne Nelson Perry
I’m a big fan of Goal, Conflict, Disaster, which breaks writing into scenes. Curious about Perry’s take.

X-Ray Your Plot—Make Sure Your Structure is Sound by Angela Hunt
Okay, maybe I picked too many of these types of workshops. I know I can’t go to all of them.

3:00 – 3:50

Genius Plotting II by Louella Nelson
In case I miss the first one.

Self Publishing–Eight Tips on Selling eBooks on Amazon by M. Louisa Locke
Could be a rehash of the previous workshop, but I’ll need to attend at least one of the self publishing sessions.

4:00 – 4:50

ePublishing, POD, and the Future of Publishing for the Writer  by Bob Mayer
This looks like it’s chock full of good information.

Sunday

10:00 – 10:50

Short Cuts to Deep Characterization by Angela Hunt
I want to focus on building deeper and more well rounded characters. Every little bit helps.

11:00 – 11:50

Beyond the eBook Uploaded — How Do You Sell It by Bob Mayer
Marketing is the key. Looking forward to this one.

1:00 – 1:50

Layered, Nuanced, Original: Crafting Characters by Q Lindsey Barrett
This sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Those are my picks. If I see you there, don’t be afraid to say hi.

Tim Kane