5 Reasons I Don’t Like Hardbacks (And One Reason I Do)

IMG_9156When I used to work in mobile crisis, we periodically had downtime. One day, when my partner was out for the day, I worked with an older guy. When he asked if I wanted to go to a bookstore, I couldn’t say “yes!” loud enough.

We ended up in this dim, narrow bookstore which mostly had hardback books. It smelled the way old bookstores should: book glue, dust, and leather. This guy explained that he liked this store because they had so many hardbacks, and he could get them “wrapped.” As in, wrapped in some kind of plastic to preserve the cover.

I was perplexed. This might be a naive thing to say, but I didn’t think people voluntarily bought hard backed books. I thought people only bought hardbacks when they couldn’t wait for the paperback. And in the Kindle age, even that’s not necessary.

Another friend of mine prefers hardbacks because she likes to keep things neat and new-looking, and hardbacks are easier to do that with. I suppose I should be a good supporter of other authors and buy the hardbacks, but I’m just not into them. Even if I find a cheap copy of something I want at Goodwill, if it’s in hardback, I’ll probably pass.

  1. They take up too much room on my bookshelf. I only have a limited amount of space, and I want to maximize the number of books they can house.
  2. They’re too big/ bulky/ heavy. Hardbacks are heavy! I have to hold them two-handed, which is annoying, since I like to read when I eat, am in the bathtub, sometimes when I’m outside playing with the dogs. Plus, hardbacks weigh down my purse and make it feel like I’m carrying bricks.
  3. The paper cover! Do I leave it on and let it get raggedy? (I’m really hard on books) Or do I take it off, likely put it in a safe place (so safe I can’t find it) and then lose it?
  4. I have to wait. Or buy it twice. I wanted to buy Our Dark Duet when it was released back in July, but I have This Savage Song (the first in the series) in paperback. Since I prefer series to match, when possible, I knew that no matter how I bought it, I was going to have to re-buy it in paperback. The library wouldn’t get it quickly enough to suit me. So… I went with Kindle. It doesn’t take up any room on my shelves, and I won’t have to get rid of it when I buy it in paperback.
  5. They’re not recyclable. This isn’t a huge issue for me because the idea is that I’ll keep my books. But I know, from reading bookstore blogs, that sometimes they throw out books because there are just too many of them. The DaVinci Code and Twilight come to mind. (I’m not hating on either of these books; I just remember the article identified these two as ones they get too many of.)

A caveat:

Hardbacks are more durable. They’re normally made from better paper, and the binding is put together better. So, if I owned my collection in hardback, I wouldn’t have tape holding together my copies of Watership Down and Lightning (by Dean Koontz). I actually own Harry Potter and most Dean Koontz books in both hardback and paperback for that reason.

Are you Team Hardback or Team Paperback?

Why I Don’t Care for Character Descriptions

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Chihuly Glass, Photo Credit RJS Photos

It’s 2017, and inclusion is in.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. ┬áBy all means, movies, TV, and books should include a more diverse cast, one that looks more like real life.

But books… should authors include diverse characters? To me, that’s an interesting question with no one right answer.

The way I’ve resolved it is to only describe those parts of characters where physical description is important. For instance, in my manuscript, Acheron Crossing (which I’m trying to get an agent for!), I describe the main character only as fat. It’s important, because she’s bullied for being fat. But does her race or height or hair color matter?

Not at all.

In my mind, the problem is that when you start identifying some characters as white, and then don’t identify the race of other characters, in most cases, they’re assumed to be white. JK Rowling got a lot of crap for not having a diverse enough cast of characters, and she said that they were there, but she wasn’t going to describe them all. Lots of people don’t buy that though.

Another article I read by a young black woman talked about how, when a black woman was cast as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, she didn’t see what the big deal was. She had always seen Hermione as black before Emma Watson was cast. She said that because of all the prejudice Hermione faced, and her only descriptors were “bushy brown hair” and “big teeth,” it seemed perfect to her. There are a million articles out there that describe this better than I do. Here’s one.

That article blew me away, and completely changed my thinking. It made me realize that if I don’t describe my characters, maybe the reader can better identify with them. The character can be anything the reader wants them to be.

In my mind, a book is a magical doorway, and the reader gets to be part of that magic. If a reader identifies with a character, that’s the best kind of magic.

In a personal example, I think Nicola Yoon is one of the best authors out there right now. In The Sun Is Also A Star, Natasha is Jamaican American, and Daniel is Korean American, and it was important to the narrative. Culture was all over the book. I had previously read Everything, Everything, and when I was looking up more about The Sun Is Also A Star, I read a reference that the main character, Maddy, in Everything, Everything was partly African-American.

I didn’t remember that.

In fact, I didn’t remember anything about what she looked like.

It didn’t matter to me what race Maddy was, nor did it matter to me what her love interest looked like. If it was relevant to the book, I don’t remember that either.

I remember that it was an amazing plot and a beautiful love story. I remember that it had a breathtaking finale, that I was reading it in Vegas. I was laying by the pool with a friend, and she kept trying to talk to me.

And I wasn’t interested.

Because I had to finish this wonderful book.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the main character in Everything, Everything shouldn’t have been African-American. Honestly, there are tons of books with blonde haired, blue eyed main characters. If I want a MC who looks like me, I have a bookshelf full.

But from what I understand, POC don’t find nearly enough books where people look like they do. So it doesn’t matter if I read past the part where Maddie was African-American. For someone who doesn’t have enough book characters who look like her, that could have been an important connection.

I remember the first time I read a book where the main character was fat (Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner). I was in my 20s, and Cannie looked like me. She was a real person, not a fat person caricature who just ate cakes and candy all day and watched TV. She was a writer and had boyfriends and did all the things that normal people do. But she was fat, and it was okay.

Not every book needs a main character who looks a specific way. But in my opinion, if there’s going to be a description in the book, it should serve a purpose. Not just be there because the author is a blue-eyed blonde.

What do you think?

 

Collecting Rejections

Stack of books

Some famous “rejects.”

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about dealing with criticism. Which is hard enough, but in some ways, dealing with rejection is worse.

I “collect” rejection stories. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected 30 times. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by JK Rowling, was rejected 12 times. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, was rejected 38 times. And on and on and on.

I pull these stories out whenever I need to remind myself that a rejection doesn’t mean the story is bad; it just means that it didn’t find its match. It’s kind of like dating that way. I’ve abandoned many books that other people loved, and loved books other people hate. Unless a book is actually poorly written, whether or not it’s “good” is more about the taste of the reader than the actual story. And even then, I like some “poorly written” stories.

Recently, I had a tough rejection. I have a goal to get a story into a particular online magazine. I read it, I follow it, and I know what type of stories they take. My story is better than some of the stories I read there. Not better than all of them, but better than some. (This is, of course, my extremely biased opinion.)

Usually, this magazine rejects within 30 days, so when a month came and went, my excitement built. And built. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t mean they’d accept my story, but of course, I didn’t listen.

When they had the story 75 days, I got a form rejection back with the usual, “Thank you but this wasn’t a good fit for us.” My heart plummeted. But on the bottom was a “PS,” the email equivalent of a handwritten note. It said: “PS We enjoyed this story, but it didn’t make our final cut.”

(insert screaming face)

Truthfully though, I really appreciated that feedback, because it told me what I believed; it was a good story. Just not quite good enough? Too similar to another story that’s being published soon? Drew the short straw? I don’t know. But since a publication I respect liked it (even if they didn’t publish it), someone else probably will too.

I recently read a story about how someone, inspired by Stephen King’s tale of collecting rejection slips on a nail on his wall, has made it a goal to get 100 rejections this year. Because, with rejections, come acceptances. I think that’s a pretty great attitude.

So, instead of being upset by this latest rejection, I’m just going to add it to my collection, and see how many I can get this year. Last year I got 15 rejections and 1 acceptance on short stories. This year, so far, I’m at 14 rejections and 1 acceptance. Considering we’re only at halfway through the year, I’ve done 100% better than last year.

Now I just need to keep up the good work.

Related posts: Being Perfect, Accepting Criticism, and Generally Getting Over Myself

20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge Check-in

The 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge started on June 1st and ends September 3, so we’re about halfway through.

Here were my original stacks:

Of the 18 books I read in the last month and a half, only 7 were from the list, and I started and abandoned 1. So with only a month and a half left, I’m less than halfway through.

I knew this was going to be a problem for me, actually reading books from a pre-chosen list. But I’m determined to get through the ones I’ve picked.

I’ve reviewed some of these books in more depth on Goodreads. You can follow me by clicking the button to the right, if you’re interested.

What I’ve read:

  1. Roseblood (meh!- 2 stars)
  2. Bel Canto (great!- 4 stars)
  3. The Couple Next Door (overrated- 2 stars)
  4. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (fun-3 stars)
  5. The Golden Compass (pretty good- 3 stars)
  6. The Subtle Knife (second book in the series, so not as good- 3 stars)
  7. The Amber Spyglass (fantastic, makes the series worth reading- 5 stars)

Abandoned:

  1. Wicked (That one was supposed to be on my “alternate” pile. I guess I got them mixed up… oops)

Those of you who are participating in the reading challenge… how’s it going?

When Writing Isn’t Going Well

IMG_9029I have this great novel idea. I’ve been nurturing and taking notes on it for months. I know my characters, I know where the story is going and how it gets there.

I sat down at my computer to start this novel recently. And suddenly, it’s like my brain is coated in molasses.

This will be my third (hopefully good) book. I wrote my first (bad) novel in high school. If I’m counting all the way back that far, when it’s complete, this will be book number seven (I think). So I’m no stranger to sitting down and writing 70,000 words or so.

But for some reason, this one is just fighting me, and it’s making me wonder: should I be writing something else right now?

For weeks, I’ve been sitting at my computer, forcing myself to write 500 words or so, and then when I felt battle-weary, I’d get up and do something else, hoping that physical activity, organizing, cleaning, would jar the words out of my brain.

It hasn’t worked though. Oh, I feel ready to sit down and write, but the minute I do, it all dries up again, and the molasses is back. I thought about taking a break from this new book, maybe starting something else. But abandoning a book is the reason I have approximately 1,356,791* unfinished novels on my computer.

So, with my last two books, I forced myself to finish, and I think they turned out pretty good. With this one, I’ve decided to abandon the beginning. I almost always rewrite my beginnings anyway. (Why are beginnings so hard?) I’ve skipped ahead to the first plot point, and am writing from there. It seems to be working at least somewhat better.

Sometimes writing is so much fun! Sometimes it’s easy! And the ideas flow! And the characters speak to me and we have tea parties and share secrets!

And sometimes writing feels like walking forward into a hailstorm when the wind blows you backward and turns your umbrella inside out. Sometimes the characters have locked me out and hung up a sign, “Fictional People Only.”

But I still love it.

Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?

Fellow writers, what do you do when the writing is not going according to plan?

*This number is slightly exaggerated.

The Top 10 Worst Things About Reading

I love to read, and will read anything, anywhere, anytime. But there’s a dark side to it too, that no one talks about…

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My overflow “bookshelf”

  1. So many books, so little time. If I read all day every day, (In my dream world), I still wouldn’t be able to read every book I want to.
  2. Every second away from a book I love is TORTURE. Okay, so you know how sometimes you read a book, and it’s good, but you’re okay when you have to put it down? But then sometimes you read a book, and you resent every single second doing everything else, because adulting? Yeah, that.
  3. Not being able to meet the characters in real life. I mean, I guess it’s okay when we’re talking about Hannibal Lecter, but I really wish I could meet Wavy from All the Ugly and Wonderful things, or Anita Blake from the Laurell K. Hamilton books.
  4. Not knowing how I’ll feel about a book prior to reading it. Sometimes, I read a book and I don’t connect, but it’s not terrible enough to put down. And then I’m done, and it never got better, and I’ve just wasted all those hours. Or worse, having stuff to do, but picking up a book knowing I only have a half hour to read, and then falling in love with it and not accomplishing anything because I HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. It would be nice if I knew ahead of time so I could plan my life accordingly.
  5. Book hangover. I was in this wonderful world, and I was living there and hanging out with my new best friends, and life was amazing. And then… real life. Ugh.
  6. Not having the book in multiple formats. I now love audiobooks. But I “read” audiobooks much slower than physical books. And when I really love an audiobook, I wish I had a physical copy too, so I could just race through and finish. Conversely, I’m reading a wonderful physical book, and I have to run errands or something or clean up or whatever. Why can’t I just plug my headphones in?
  7. Eyestrain. Seriously. There are some nights when I go to bed that my eyes feel like they’re on fire. On the recommendation of my eye doctor, I now use drops every night before bed. It’s helping. You’re welcome.
  8. When authors get information wrong. There is nothing that drives me crazier than bad information in the middle of an otherwise good novel. I get that sometimes authors take artistic license, and that’s fine. Dandy. A-ok. But when I can tell that the author just didn’t do his or her homework, it makes me want to call them up and say, “Have you heard of this thing called Google? No, avoid Wikipedia. Avoid news outlets too. Yeah, that website’s good. Excellent. Now please check all your references with me before you write anything else. Glad we understand one another.”
  9. People don’t talk about books the way they do about TV. I got my haircut recently, and the lovely stylist wanted to talk about TV shows, asking for my recommendations. And while I said I love The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory, I would much rather have discussed The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis (so good!) or The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena (Meh… overrated). I want to talk and gossip about characters like they’re real people.
  10. The TBR is never-ending. I’m finally reading Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven (so good!) and in it, she mentions Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle. It’s been on my TBR forever. Now I’m going to have to bump it up in the queue. And other books will now be neglected for a little while longer. (sad trombone noise)

What are your “worst” things about reading?

Related posts:

Can I really say I “read” an audiobook?

My Reading Habits

 

 

The Emperor of Any Place, A Review

IMG_8958The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones was a book chosen by my Facebook YA book club. Most of the people in the group said that they had a hard time getting into it. I had put it on hold at the library, but by the time I picked it up, I’d almost decided not to bother reading it. After all, I have about a thousand other books on my TBR.

I read the jacket copy, and the premise intrigued me, so I started reading, fulling intending to abandon it at the first sign of boredom.

That never happened.

It’s not a typical book. It starts off with 16-year-old Evan’s father dying. While Evan is overwhelmed with grief, he allows someone to call his estranged grandfather, Griff.

Evan has never met Griff, but Evan’s father had nothing but negative things to say about him. In the meantime, Evan finds a handwritten book his father was reading before he died, about an American and Japanese soldier stranded on a ghost-infested island during WWII. Somehow, it has something to do with Evan’s grandfather, but no one will give any answers.

The story shifts in point of view between Evan, the Japanese soldier, and the American soldier. It’s a strange story, but I had no trouble suspending disbelief throughout.

I sped through this book, couldn’t put it down. I wanted to solve the mystery and find out the truth about Griff. I wanted Evan and Griff to work through their anger and listen to one another.

I take book recommendations from other people, but this is why I don’t allow other people’s opinions to stop me from at least trying a book. If I’d assumed that because it was hard for others to get into, it would also be hard for me to connect, I would have missed a fantastic book. Allowing myself the option to abandon a book means that I never have to finish something I hate. It’s liberating, and means I can try books I’m just not sure I’ll like.

What books have you read (and enjoyed) that others didn’t like?