What is a book anyway?

March 19, 2013
@Adamswomanback has me thinking today about the future of books (here's why).  I told her -

As a writer, I'm not in the business of selling books (even though it feels like that some days). I'm in the business of selling stories. It doesn't matter to me (or it shouldn't matter to me) whether someone prefers to access those stories in an ebook, or an audiobook, or as a paperback or hardcover. But as a reader, I need to hold a book in my hands.

I need to hold a book in my hands.  But which book?  Nearly forty years ago, I bought a paperback of Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.  Recently I went shopping for another copy as a gift for a young friend.  Not surprisingly, forty years later, the paperback edition has a different cover. I felt like I was buying him a different book.  Perhaps it was just my compulsive personality kicking in, but I don't think so.  I think it reveals something about our connection to the physical book, to the thing itself.  I wanted my friend to discover the same book that I had discovered, to make the same connection.  I have a similar problem when I'm on shelfari.  I'll be adding a book to my bookshelf and shelfari will ask me to select the specific edition and book cover.  And if I accidentally post the wrong edition, I feel unsettled.  No, not that book.  I didn't read that book.    

I posted recently about the new paperback edition of A Minor Case of Murder.  I wrote -

Perhaps the most exciting moment for me as a writer came in November 2006 with the official release of A Minor Case of Murder.  It was not my first book, but it was the first that was traditionally published and it was a hardcover edition.  It was the first that was easy to find.  I could walk into my public library or my local Barnes & Noble and find the book sitting on a bookshelf.

But technology has changed how people read and the publishing industry has been racing to catch up.  (It is almost inconceivable now, but in 2006 when the hardcover edition was released, my publisher at that time had no interest in publishing an ebook edition).  So in 2011 I made arrangements with Crossroad Press to release an ebook edition of A Minor Case of Murder.  And then, in 2012, Crossroad Press added an audiobook edition.  And now, in 2013, it feels like things have come full circle with the release this week of a new paperback edition of A Minor Case of Murder.

I am thrilled with the new paperback edition.  My publisher did a wonderful job.  I like the paperback cover design more than the original book cover.  But I will admit to a moment of sadness, a moment of mourning, when the first copy of the paperback arrived in my mail, the hardcover edition now out-of-print, the thing itself a thing of the past.

I wrote about the future of books back in 2009.  Four years later, almost four years to the day, I feel pretty much the same as I did then -

I love books.  New books, like a brand-new automobile before the first ding, pristine, with that new car smell and that shiny new body, practically begging you to take it out for a spin.  And old books, especially old books, worn and tattered like a favorite pair of blue jeans.  My house overflows with books.  And I wonder sometimes, this attachment to books.  Because it's not really about the book is it, it's about the story, it's about the author's words, the author's voice.

I remind myself that the book is really nothing more than the story's delivery system.  Just an object (don't be a slave to objects my spiritual side warns).  And yet these books are so much more.  When I think about a favorite book, I don't just think about the story, I think about the actual book, it's look and feel.  And when I pick up my copy of On the Road, or Monkey or The Cyberiad, I remember where I was, I remember who I was, the first time I read it. 

I used to feel the same way about my LPs.  It was about the music, but it was also about the album itself, the cover art, the liner notes.  When LPs gave way to cassettes and then to CDs, I made the change slowly, reluctant to give up the emotional attachment to my albums.  Of course, these days, I couldn't imagine getting on an airplane without my iPod.   But I still keep the albums in boxes in my basement.  And I still own a turntable.

Perhaps one day I won't be able to imagine getting on an airplane without a Kindle.  After all, it is just another delivery system for stories.  I travel now with my music library.  It might be pretty cool to do the same thing with my books. 

There is a generation growing up with iPods who do not miss LPs, who can listen to music for hours on end, who do not miss getting up every twenty-two minutes to flip the record to side B.  And one day there will be a generation that will grow up with digital readers, who do not miss books, who carry their libraries in the palm of their hand, with instant access to a lifetime of great stories.

Perhaps one day I won't be able to imagine getting on an airplane without a Kindle.  But not yet.

And when I do, if I do, there's gonna be a lifetime of books sitting in boxes in my basement, next to my LPs.

Three from Mr. Romantic

February 13, 2013
1.  It was a scene out of Currier & Ives.  The Victorian cottages, lit up after dark.  Men, women and children ice skating on the frozen pond, sipping hot chocolate and warming their hands by the bonfire.  The horse-drawn sleigh making its way around the property.  We climbed into the carriage and allowed the horses to take us down past the ice-skaters, past the stables, the bells on the draft horses jingling as they pulled the carriage, the carriage creaking as it bumped along the tra...
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Third place!

October 13, 2012
It was 3:30 when we pulled into the parking lot at the Noyes Museum of Art.  The museum is committed to "creating a thriving cultural environment for experiencing the arts in the southern New Jersey region."  It is a small, but vibrant museum and if last night was any indication, it is succeeding fabulously.  Last night was the museum's second annual Chili Cook-Off.

I wouldn't typically think of chili as a force for art appreciation, but at Noyes, it surely is.  I was surprised to le...
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The Almighty isn't in my target demographic

November 15, 2011
I had great good fun Saturday at the Somerville Public Library speaking on a panel about getting published.  I promised several people that I'd try to organize the information in a series of blog posts this week.  Anyway, I started writing and rather than a series of short posts on the subject, it seems to have turned into one long post.  This post.  I hope it's helpful.

On Getting Published

"When you die, I believe, God isn't going to ask you what you published.  God's going to ask you w...

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Otherwise, you'd get your money back

October 20, 2011
Last night, at the Somerville Library, I was discussing how to develop fictional characters that readers will care about and I was reminded of this scene from the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper.

"What you have here... I diagnosed the entire situation, and I think what we've got, what we're dealing with basically is a nose.  I think we're all in aggreance on that.  I have the little beggar right here.  And what you want basically is a whole entire person connected to that nose, right?  Other...
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October 5, 2011
The appeal of a traditional amateur sleuth mystery is that the crime is solved by an everyman (or an everywoman) rather than by a professional detective.  The amateur sleuth relies on old-fashioned detection to solve the crime, rather than modern forensics.  I was asked one time at a conference, how I deal with forensics in my stories.  And I explained that I deal with forensics in much the same way that I deal with sex and violence.  I know it happens, but in my books, it happens offst...
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Buy the ebook, get the music as my gift

July 27, 2011
My first book was published in June 2004.  In November of that same year, I began blogging on xanga.  Other writers find it odd that I blog on xanga, that I still blog on xanga, rather than someplace more writerly.  But the simple truth is I like blogging here. 

Folks on xanga have been extraordinarily supportive of my writing.  So now, with the recent release of a new ebook edition of A Minor Case of Murder, I want to offer something extra to the people who read my blog.   If you purchase th...
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New Cover Art!

July 19, 2011
There are few things more enjoyable for an author than the moment you first see your cover art.  Apparently that's true even when the book is nearly five years old.

Like most authors, I'm busy trying to catch up with changes in the publishing industry.  Today, it would be almost unimaginable for a traditional publisher to purchase book rights without including ebook rights in the contract.  But that's a very recent change.  Publishing contracts  for books that were published in hardcove...
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In Praise of Amateur Sleuths

July 15, 2011
So by now, most of you know that I write an amateur sleuth mystery series.  Amateur sleuth mysteries are a popular subgenre, fun for both the author and the reader, but they hinge on a remarkable bit of "suspension of disbelief".  Because the crime solver is neither a police officer nor a private detective.  Recently, I did an interview with my amateur sleuth, Cassie O'Malley.  Cassie remarked:

"You know, I used to watch that TV show, I forget the title, you know, the one with Angela La...
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So you want to be a famous author?

July 11, 2011
I've done my share of book signings, with modest success, which is to say, I've sold some books and met some readers.  I've had events when I sat alone at a table, wondering if I had inadvertently swallowed an invisibility potion, but I've also had lively events, at venues like Book Expo America and the American Library Association, with long lines of appreciative readers. 

But I've never had a book signing where "nervous bookstore employees pleaded with eager female fans n...
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