Why I Prefer Print Over Digital

This past year or so a number of articles proclaiming the decline and fall of eBook sales hit my inbox. One recent article claimed that “screen fatigue” is the cause of a 17% decrease in eBooks sales in the UK. This same publication posted an article saying that eBooks have lost their appeal because Kindles are clunky and unhip. (Really? That’s a reason?) And, another, many others actually, claim that people simply miss holding a real life book in their hands.

Detractors say that these claims fail to take into account indie published numbers and that if all those eBooks were taken into account the numbers would reverse themselves, or at least level out. Others have claimed that trad publishers insistence on raising eBook prices is a cause. They may be right, but I have no way of knowing.

The thing is, I will read a good book from beginning to end no matter what format it’s in. The same is true for a book that doesn’t appeal to me for whatever reason. I’m not going to finish it no matter the format. I experimented one time. There was a book that had very high ratings, everyone I knew said it was great and yet for whatever reason, I couldn’t get into it. So, I switched from digital to print thinking that maybe I would like it better in that format. Nope. Still never finished it.

But, if I was forced to choose, I would pick print over digital. I love the smell of books. I love walking into a bookstore or library and inhaling the aroma of all that paper. I love the feel of books. That friendly “let’s go on an adventure” bit of weight in my hands. I love having bookcases crammed with books in my home. I love the little piles of books that accumulate around my chair. You get the gist.

I didn’t start buying eBooks in earnest until Borders went belly-up. I was living in Eureka, CA at the time and they were the only bookstore in town. Except for the used bookstore in old town. I had purchased a Kobo about a year earlier and used it for some books, but I wasn’t that happy with it. After Borders closed I got a cheap Kindle and started using it. But, I still really missed my frequent stops at Borders. Hell, I bought most of my Christmas gifts there.

Now I live in a place with zero bookstores and a crappy library so 99% of my books come from Amazon. And somewhere in the neighborhood of 89% of those books are only partially read. In looking through those titles that show somewhere between 8% and 25% read I realize that if I had come across these books in a physical bookstore, I probably wouldn’t have purchased most of them.

First of all, there’s the cost factor. Print books cost more than eBooks. Although, since the trad publishers got their way, the pricing of eBooks is climbing. Sometimes the digital version actually costs more than the print version. The point is, I probably wouldn’t have spent the extra money for print versions of these books.

Next comes size. When you pick up a physical book it is either thick or thin or somewhere in between. It’s easy to estimate how much of a time commitment is attached to the book. With an eBook all you know the page count, which is only helpful to a point.

Then there’s sampling. With an eBook you can only sample as much as Amazon and the author allow you too. With a print book you can read the entire first chapter if you want. You can flip through the whole book and read the first couple of sentences from every chapter if you like. You can answer questions like: Does the author go heavy on narrative and description? Or does he/she like liberal amounts of dialog? Are there charts, graphs, illustrations or maps? (Which, by the way, are impossible to read or see in an eBook.) In other words, you can get a solid feel for the author’s style and tone and spend some time deciding whether the subject matter is something you want to commit 2 or 10 or 20 hours of your life too. You can become friends with a print book before you buy it.

There are, however, solid reasons for choosing eBooks over print. Maybe, like me, you live in an area with no bookstores and a less than adequate library. It’s eBooks or paying extra for shipping unless you have a Prime membership.

You may be like a friend of mine who’s so tech savvy she can highlight, take notes, bookmark and do a thousand other things with her Kindle that I couldn’t even imagine. It’s eBooks or nothing for her. She also has roommates who have threatened to evict her if she brings any more books into their apartment.

Immediacy. You can purchase and download an eBook in minutes without ever leaving home or changing out of your pajamas.

Price. Indie published eBooks are usually cheap enough that anyone can afford them. Of course, a lot of them are also poorly written and not properly edited, but oh well.

Travel. My number one reason for owning a Kindle. When I travel I must take a book or two with me. It’s a lot easier to pack and carry a Kindle around than a couple of print books.

What I have learned in the last 3 years is that I must, absolutely, be more selective with my eBook purchases. I have wasted a lot of money buying books I’ll never read because the little bit I was allowed to read was sounded good and the reviews made it seem like the best book ever. This is not the way to buy books. Not for me anyway.

And, maybe that’s what accounts for the drop in eBook sales. Maybe there are more people like me out there that have decided to fight the allure of quick and easy buying and no longer trust the reviews they read. Maybe we need to get to know our books a little better before we buy them.

 

Lent Begins with Love

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I subscribe to Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections that are delivered to my inbox every morning. Now, I haven’t been observing Lent very well–okay, at all this year and this is the first message I’ve opened in the last three weeks.

But, it made an immediate impact on me. Putting God first in my life, giving him my all, is something I’ve always hesitated to do. I mean, I trust God, but how would my life change if I put God in charge? How would my heathen (and I say that with love) family react? Would I spend so much time at church and in prayer that there’d be no time or energy left for them? Would they start seeing me a someone they can’t relate too? And what about writing? I have to fight for time to work now and especially when I was involved in church ministry.

This, however, this I can do. Probably not very well because, let’s face it, there are people out there who are very hard to love. But, it is something concrete that I can work on for the sake of God. 

And, maybe in time the Lord will naturally become central in my life because God is Love and what he wants most is for us to let him love us. I believe that can only happen if we first learn to love each other. Even in the worst of times.

 

The Merivale Chronicles Rewrite

The first book in this series, The Demons We Cherish, was originally envisioned as an Urban Fantasy with a bit of mystery. Somehow, during the critique and editing process the mystery part took over and the story was labeled a “cozy paranormal mystery.” And because this was my first published book and I wasn’t feeling all that confident, I went along with this classification.

The problem is I don’t like cozy mysteries. Oh, I’ve read a couple that were fun and entertaining, but most of them just fall flat for me. That’s not to say I think there’s anything wrong with the genre or the people who read them. I am not saying that at all. I’m just saying that I personally don’t care for them.

Plus, a series of murder mysteries set in my urban fantasy world is NOT what I had in mind. A series of magical adventures with a touch of romance and an occasional dead body set in a modern fantasy world is what I intended.

And, as of today, that is what I’m going to write. Which means I have a lot of rewriting to do on my unfinished first draft of Book 2 titled Prodigal Secrets. It will also mean I need to do a little tweaking on Demons, but, oh well. It’s all okay because I know it won’t take that long now that I will be writing what I wanted to write in the first place and not what someone else said I should write.

That’s really the lesson here. If you’re going to write, write your story, not somebody else’s idea of what your story is or should be. And when it comes to publishing, don’t let your book be pigeon-holed into a genre/category you never intended to write for. If necessary make changes to the manuscript that make make it crystal clear where the book should be placed.

Whatever it takes, be true to your own vision.

The funny thing is, my husband, who isn’t much of a reader anymore and who knows nothing about writing and publishing was the only one who said “It’s not really a mystery, is it?”

THANK YOU!

Why then did my writing friends and my editor claim that it is? Because the book begins with the deaths of the protagonists grandparents. And yes, they were murdered.

However, what my friends and editor failed to take into account is that in Demons you know who killed the grandparents early on in the story. In a true mystery you don’t know who the killer is until the end. Knowing this about the genre and purposely writing the story the way that I did would, I had hoped, change their minds, but it didn’t. So, now I’m left with the work of fixing my mistake. And caving in to their insistence that Demons was a cozy mystery was my mistake.

Be true to your vision. If your don’t readers see it, then rewrite until they do.

 

 

Efficiency

After two months of drenching rains, falling trees, landslides, power outages and days long forced confinement life is slowly regaining a sense of normalcy. In my case that means predictable routine. For instance, it’s Sunday so, predictably, my husband is sitting in the living room watching bad movies. He loves movies, and so do I, but he’ll watch any movie, no matter how awful, while I tend to be more selective. Even he admits I’m better at picking out movies to watch than he is.

When my husband and I first started dating one of the first things he noticed about me was my love of ritual as he called it. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way before, but when I did I had to laugh. Properly defined ritual refers to religious ceremonies, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I adhere to my daily/weekly/monthly routines with a near religious devotion.

When I was a kid I saw a movie called Cheaper by the Dozen starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. In this early version of the story the father, Frank Gilbreth, Jr. was a time-motion study and efficiency expert. I watched this movie several times over the years because I was fascinated by the idea of applying his principles of efficiency to every day life. I wanted to be an efficiency expert when I grew up.

Officially, I’m a high school graduate with some community college credits, but no degree. I could never be hired as an efficiency expert. But, the desire to conduct both my personal and business life with the greatest efficiency has never left me. And I think, in my amateurish way, I’ve done all right. Almost every supervisor I’ve ever worked with has complimented my efficiency. I get things done in half the time with 98% accuracy.

Of course, there are downsides to this need for predictable routine and efficiency. For one thing, I don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body, which often drives my husband nuts. He’s the opposite, you see. It takes a week of thoughtful planning before I pack my suitcase. He packs 5 minutes before we leave. He loves last minute invitations to a party, or other event. I need at least a week to decide if the event while fit into my schedule. Okay, I can do it in a day, but I prefer more time.

It also means that in writing and reading and everyday communications I get annoyed with extraneous verbiage. Why say in 20 words what can easily be said in 10? If I ask you what time it is, please don’t tell me how to build a clock.

I also don’t like books that are heavy on description. It’s not efficient. Not for me as a reader or as a writer. I know what a tapestry rug looks like. Please don’t describe it’s weft and warp. Do you really need to describe every stick of furniture in the room the protagonist just entered? For the third time? I ran across this once. The author insisted on describing an antique stuffed room, in detail, every time someone walked into it. After reading about the cherry wood Chippendale desk for the third time, I tossed the book across the room. And I’ve never picked up another of that author’s books since.

Description is necessary. Our characters can’t be floating around in empty space. But, know when to stop. And know what readers prefer in the genre you are writing in. If you write commercial mainstream fiction with stories based in the modern world then minimal to medium amounts of description are all that’s needed. If you write fantasy or science fiction then you need more description. But, that’s not a license to go crazy. Even in these genres you will most likely include settings and items that are familiar to us all. You may have trees with pink leaves and green flowers, but they are still leaves and flowers. Describe in depth only those things that can’t be easily visualized by your readers.

On the other hand, there are people out there who love description. Lots and lots of description. And that’s okay because there are writers who love filling their books with loads of it. To each his own.

For me, a person who loves efficiency, less is more.

 

More Storms

And not just weather related ones. There’s a political storm underway in this country right now. Smarter people than me can comment of the nuances of the political world. I want to talk about neighbors.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. —Robert A. Heinlein

Right now, in my neck of the woods, nature is doing the controlling. Another week of rainy weather brought down a few tons of earth, rocks and a few trees.

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Photo courtesy of Jessi & Bryce, Next Door Lompico.

The county works department has been scratching their collectives heads over this one for a couple of days now. As of this morning they estimate it will take them until Friday (4 days away) to clear one lane.

This is the main road we use to get to town. What this means for me is that I’ll be housebound until it’s open again. There’s a detour, but it’s a one lane road that isn’t in very good shape because of the increased traffic and damage from all the storms. This road also runs through a number of privately owned properties making the extra traffic difficult for those who live there. Which is why I’m staying put. Out of respect for my neighbors.

Neighbors are important in this small mountain community. My husband and I moved here because we don’t want to live in “the city.” We both grew up in heavily populated urban areas and we both grew to hate that way of life. So, as soon as we had the chance, we high tailed it out of there and we’ve enjoyed the freedom living in small rural areas has given us. And I’ve learned the benefit’s of loving my neighbors even when they irritate me.

Granted, we’ve had to deal with the effects of nature’s rage in ways “city folks” don’t and it has been challenging, but if you’re paying attention, there’s a lot to learn from this way of life. One big lesson is that if we don’t work together, look out for each other, we’re going to spend a lot of time sitting alone in the dark.

I’ve lived in cities for a big portion of my life and spent most of that time living in apartments. If we ever had a problem with our neighbors we called the landlord or the police, as the case may be. At school I was taught that if I had a problem with a fellow student, go to the teacher. At work, if I had a problem with a co-worker the rule was to either talk to my boss or HR. I can’t remember ever being told to talk to the person and work things out between us. This is the type of distrust and xenophobia that urban areas instill in its citizens.

It’s a whole different mindset here in Lompico. In this area where we are often isolated from the world, we can’t depend on government agencies or bosses or landlords. Solving problems is up to us.

In the summer our neighbors like to party and play loud music. I’m not the partying type. I’m an introvert who likes quiet and being left alone to do my thing. So, in situations like these I have choice. I can get angry, make a big fuss and demand that they stop making such a racket, or I can close my windows on that side of the house. I choose to close my windows.

Why? Because we’ve taken the time to get to know our neighbors and we’ve become friends despite our differences. Turns out, they’re wonderful, kind people who, if I asked them, would shut the music down in a heartbeat. And when the lights go out they let us hook into their generator so that we can be comfortable until the power is restored.

There is also a group of residents who started a private email forum called Next Door Lompico. During this last series of storms every member posted notices about power failures, downed trees, garbage collection, the landslide, and anything else helpful you can think of. I’ve never met these people, but I will never forget their kindness.

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

I’ve heard it said that it comes down to people who live in large cities where, out of necessity, everything and everyone is controlled by laws and ordinances vs. people who live in small towns and rural areas where freedom and independence are more highly valued. Based on the red and blue map from this last election, I think they may have a point.

Having lived in both worlds, I think the real problem with our country right now is that we’ve lost the ability to work together as a community. At one time we knew how to do that, but over the years, as the country has grown, that way of life lost favor. I’m not even going to speculate on the why’s, but I do think that until we get that back, until we learn how to talk and listen and work together we’re going to remain trapped under this landslide of division and hatred that has overtaken the country.

 

 

Storm Warnings

We live in a little cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. As I sit here typing a gust of wind has rushed through the trees that surround our house. Normally, watching the tree tops dance and sway would be nothing more than an interesting diversion. A sensory image to file away for later use. But, this is day 6 of a storm that has added inches of rain to soil still saturated by two storms that passed through just a week earlier. Gusty winds mean more fallen trees and a good chance of more power failures.

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But, we’ve been lucky. In other parts of California flooding has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Mudslides and downed trees have closed many roads and a few highways. Yosemite closed due to flooding. And a beloved landmark was destroyed.

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California’s Tunnel Tree, before and after

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So, while we’ve had to “rough it” a bit through an extended power outage and heavy rain and road closures trapped us in our home for three days, we’ve done all right. We’ve kept warm and dry in our little cabin. I stocked up on food and water before the worst of it hit and we were able to cook and boil water thanks to our gas stove. We also have wonderful neighbors who let us hook up to their generator. This gave us enough power to keep the refrigerator, cable, phone and internet on. Without that we would have had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Internet access was limited by the fact that there was no power to my desktop computer, but that’s okay. My trusty old Kindle Fire did just fine. Even if it wouldn’t let me check my email.

My husband did have one bad morning when the power was out. He’s one of those people who needs his caffeine fix in the morning and he couldn’t use the coffee maker. As you would expect, he was a bit grumpy when I got up and hour or so after he did. Fortunately, I found some instant coffee stashed in the back of a cupboard and all was right with the world once again.

And cooking dinner by candlelight? Not as easy as you would think. You can’t tell if something’s burning until you smell the smoke. That or you stir and flip with one hand while the other holds a flashlight.

Then there was the day we were so bored we binge watched West Wing. I loved that series when it aired so my family bought me five seasons worth of DVD sets.

But, the story’s not over yet. According to the weather reports and my window, we still have a bunch of rain and wind to deal with today and some light rain tomorrow and the next before we’re done.

Stay safe and dry out there.

 

 

Mirrors, magic and otherwise

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10th Kingdom mirror of truth

The eyes may be windows to the soul, but the Romans believed mirrors reflected the soul. From this belief, many cultures and people have believed that a soul could become trapped within a mirror. Unless you’re a vampire who has no soul, and therefore, no reflection.

Mirrors have been used for divination, for contacting the spirit world and for repelling curses, hexes and other evil forces. Mirrors are covered after a death to prevent the deceased soul from being trapped inside on its way to the afterlife.

And, of course, we’ve all heard that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Did you also know that if a mirror falls and breaks without human intervention that it means a death in the family?

In literature, the use of “magic” mirrors has played with our many folkloric beliefs. In the 2000 television mini-series, The 10th Kingdom, there were traveling mirrors, a truth revealing mirror, a mirror that answers questions (but only in rhyme), a mirror that spies on people, a mirror to help you forget, a mirror to help you remember and a mirror to rule the world.

The 10th Kingdom’s traveling mirror is similar to Alice’s Looking Glass. Young Alice stepped through her mirror and entered the world on the other side. When Virginia and her father jump through the traveling mirror they entered a parallel world of fairy tale.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel’s mirror is made of water and can show the past, present and future. And, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the Mirror of Erised (Desire spelled backwards), will show a person nothing more or less than their heart’s greatest desires.

In my fantasy suspense series Gemma Leighton inherits a magic mirror that records all the goings on at the huge mansion that is part of her inheritance. But, this mirror can only show what it, or another mirror, in the mansion reflects. In the first book, The Demons We Cherish, the mirror can’t show Gemma who attacked her in the basement because there is no mirror in the room. At one time there was a mirror there, but it broke and was never replaced.

This mirror was created by the first mistress of the mansion, Meribelle Fontaine Bosworth in 1829. Meribelle was a magically aware person who learned how to attract and manipulate the hidden magic in our world. When Meribelle and her husband were scouting land for their new home, she discovered a spring inhabited by Sprites, magical water elementals. Meribelle had her husband build the mansion on this site making the spring the centerpiece of a large indoor atrium. It was the waters of this spring that gave the mirror the ability to record and replay everything it saw.

Now that the holidays are over and the guests have gone home, I will be dedicating my time to expanding the magical world and history of Merivale Mansion with the second book in the series and a short story prequel.

Keep checking in to learn more about Gemma, Meribelle, the Sprites, the Hobs, their cousins the Nains, Breknell the shape shifting raven and Mrs. Landy the ancient spirit guardian.