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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The benefit of reading "actual books"

In the ongoing debate -- paper or ebook? -- a recent article caught my eye: Science has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books.  The gist of the article is that readers of "real" books engaged more fully with the text, had increased comprehension and could focus better on longer passages, and derived more relaxation while reading. That struck a chord.

I am a multi-book-at-a-time, multi-medium reader. At any one time, I have an Audible book on my iPhone, a book on CD in the car, a tower of paper books on my bedside stand, magazines in the bathroom, and several books queued up on my Kindle for anywhere I might go that might require even five minutes of waiting (car wash, dentist, car dealership, someone else's errand).

Before the Internet, the article says, people read in a linear fashion, using sensory details in order to remember where key information was by layout. I am definitely one of these readers who subconsciously remember page layout and relative percentage of book read in order to flip back to revisit a passage or point made. And this, I admit, is a shortcoming of my experience on my Kindle, because I don't see a two-page spread to help give the location context. Nor am I (yet?) cognizant of noting the location, measured in percentages, which appears at the bottom of each ebook screen. As a big reader of mysteries, I miss not being able to flip back to about "there," to check just who it was who entered the dining car on the Orient Express at the time in question.

On the other hand, I love the little tools that allow me to bookmark a particularly well-articulated passage or sentence, or to move a little cursor over a word in the text and voila! Instant dictionary!

In a way, this study puts me in mind of another change in the way we take in information in the Technology Age, and what is lost in the process: Satellite navigation systems. The first time Chris and I rented a car with a GPS in it, we were in Raleigh/Durham, NC and traveling throughout the state. Our Garmin system's supposedly female robot seemed all too human each time we deviated from her directions (e.g.,"HEY! There's a Starbucks!"), when her sighed "RE-di-RECT-ting," was said with an increasing amount of audible eye-roll. Nevertheless, she got us to wherever we were going without a problem...but once there, I had absolutely no visual picture of just where in the state of North Carolina we now were relative to where we'd come from. As someone who has always loved maps, this was a big hole for me. Even though we were there, I felt a little lost.

What's the best way? I suppose the answer is to find the areas where technology is most useful, edifying, illuminating, and brain-engaging and enjoy them, but in some places, keep our more old-school methods and tools intact. Make new friends, but keep the is silver and the other gold.

What say you, fellow multi-media readers? Do you agree with the study? Do you find one medium easier to read or easier to remember?

Monday, September 22, 2014

What I did on my summer vacation

Remember when we went back to grade school each fall and our first assignment was to write an essay titled "What I Did on My Summer Vacation?" Today is the first day of fall, and although our vacation doesn't happen until winter, I’ve finally got time to catch my breath and share what I did over the summer: For folks who don’t have a Kindle or prefer to hold a “real” book, I’m excited to announce that all of my novels are now available in print form.

(Aren’t they pretty!)

Click (actually, Ctrl+click) on any of the titles below to read more about each book, or to read a sample of it on Amazon.

BLOOD EXPOSURE Psychological suspense
Where blood ties run deep and often intertwine, some secrets are too destructive to reveal.
When Merris Alcott begins pulling the family skeletons from the closet, she finds her search for the truth has become the catalyst that threatens to destroy her entire family.

NET STALKER  Psychological suspense
When recently-orphaned Geordan Taylor turns to the Internet to decipher the truth behind her mother’s murky past, she finds more than she bargained for: a cyber-stalker who believes he can avenge a decades-old injustice only with Geordan’s death.
Order now: NET STALKER

CHOICE  Contemporary fiction
Jody Maclain’s daughter has never known she was the product of one humiliating sexual experience that drove her father out of the closet and her mother into a lifetime of self-recrimination. When Jody’s former love Keith dies unexpectedly, Jody is forced to reevaluate the choices she made from Kendall’s conception to whether to renege on her promise to tell her daughter of her true parentage. When the latter choice is made for her, the consequences threaten to destroy all that she loves.
Order now: CHOICE

You can order from your favorite indie bookseller, or from Amazon by clicking on the links above. Or ask me when next you visit -- I have copies here at A Butler’s Manor.

And once you’ve read them, won’t you please consider adding a review to Amazon’s site? Reviews make all the difference in perpetuating sales!

Many thanks, and I look forward to your comments!

Monday, September 15, 2014

I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you

When our bed and breakfast guests discover that I am also a writer, they often ask when it is that I get any writing done. With a laugh, I tell them I rise every morning at 4 AM and write for an hour and a half, then take my hour-long walk before showering and beginning the preparations for breakfast. 

Yeah, right.

The truth is, I admit to them, that little outside of the jotting of ideas and the occasional blog happens while we're busy with A Butler's Manor. Pretty much all my writing gets done between Columbus Day and May Day. I've mentally beat myself up for this for years, until I realized something key the other day: The reason I don't write when it's like a racetrack around here isn't only because I'm too busy with my day job. It's because during our long season, I'm driving the wrong vehicle, the Extrovert SUV. And that is completely opposite the Introvert one-woman kayak I need to be in to write.

Guest relations are at the heart of our bed and breakfast business, so I spend a great deal of time interacting with people, sharing pieces of myself with guests as we trade stories and find points of commonality. This is marvelously enriching to the soul and it brings me a great deal of personal satisfaction (and lots of ideas for characters and potential stories). But writing, by contrast, requires me to go inside myself and not share, not talk...instead, to nurture the germ of an idea, listen to the developing voice of a character, find his or her story. It is the introvert side of my otherwise pretty solidly extrovert personality.

So balancing these two parts presents a conundrum when faced with the common question people ask of writers everywhere: "What are you working on? What's your new book about?"

The classic flip response (she said with a smile): "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

See, I really can't tell you. If I try to articulate it, I will lose it. The tender shoot of the idea is so tenuous that I fear that to vocalize it will kill it. Certainly it will remove the impetus I need to get the words on paper to tell the story. If I verbalize or worse, brainstorm it, I've told the story, and I've lost the drive, the need to write it down.

People asking these innocent questions don't realize this, of course. They assume you can already encapsulate your story into that magical 25-word TV Guide blurb, the one that writers are told they must learn to develop to pitch their (completed) work. Speaking for myself, I have difficulty crafting that 25-word blurb even after I've finished writing the book, much less before I've even fully conceived one.

Not all writers feel the same. Some are energized by sharing their WIP (work in progress) and collecting early feedback. There are sites all over the web that enable them to do exactly this. And no one way is right. Kudos to those who can share their ideas and still bring enough passion into the project to complete the book. Alas, I am not of their number. With the exception of A Butler's Life, which I had sold to Frederic C. Beil Publishing and was on deadline to complete while active in a writer's group where we shared chapters of our works in progress, I learned that any project I spoke of -- or worse, offered for critique before I had a completed draft -- died the quiet death of ennui.

So for me, the adaptation of that great line should be," I'd tell you, but then I'd kill the story."

(By the way, ever wonder who first spoke those immortal words? Nope, not Jimmy Cagney or James Bond. It is found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles," published in 1901, to wit:

Sherlock Holmes: I didn't really ask, Dr. Frankland, but what exactly do you do here?

Dr. Frankland: Oh, Mr. Holmes, I'd love to tell you. But then of course, I'd have to kill you.

Sherlock Holmes:  That would be tremendously ambitious of you.)

Here's to tremendously ambitious stories, nurtured in quiet places, growing and developing underground like endive or white asparagus until they reach a maturity fit for the light of day.

And here's to productive months ahead, as the days wane and light receeds early and I pull back into my more introspective writer side.

Sorry, I really can't tell you what I'm working on. But stick with me, and I will...