Just for the smell of it…

An Olfactory-Invoked Recall:  According to scientists, a faint fragrance can bring back the memory of a long-forgotten time.

Maybe not so forgotten. I love the smell of books. Always have, always will. Lawrence Block gifted me with both a memory and a keepsake, a signed lettered edition complete with a postage stamp. I haven’t felt so content since those long ago days spent browsing through the stacks in the (haunted) Council Bluffs, Iowa Carnegie Library.

The Burglar Who Counted Spoons.

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons.

I was one of the lucky ones– I got to proofread the book before its release.  Yeah, baby. Totally cool!  The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is classic Lawrence Block. The book heralds the return of Bernie Rhodenbarr, a gentleman’s gentleman, Renaissance man, jack of all trades, burglar par excellence. The murder mystery unfolds like a crossword puzzle– every single letter must be positioned exactly right. And of course Mr. Block is a genius at puzzles. He’s so spot on and I’m so jealous. The Burglar Who Counted Spoons is worth reading for a taste of Juneau Lock alone.

I was a reading fool on this recent Christmas vacation. Here’s my list and all are recommends. Total recommends, well, except maybe the one book I haven’t yet begun.

Speaking of Lawrence Block… The second book I read, yes, promoting the second book first, was outstanding. Best book I’ve read since A Week As Andrea Benstock, by Lawrence Block writing as Jill Saunders. The author of this particular book, a man writing as a woman, has, in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way, categorized the book as chicklit. Well I say, ha! Ha! Ha! It’s lit fic through and through. And damn fine lit fic. Contemporary literary fiction tends to turn me off – too whiny, too nihilistic, too self-aware, and too narcissistic (which I suppose is the same as too self-aware but taken to an extreme). The Tennis Player from Bermuda, by Fiona Hodgkin, is none of those things.

the tennis playerThis book epitomizes everything the word novel connotes. Don’t ask, just read. I detest tennis yet I read the book from cover to cover in a single day. Here’s the link. It’s only $4.99 on Kindle.

Point of Impact

The first book was one I could not put down. It is such a deliciously twisted thriller I read and read and read and then I wanted to read it all over again. Point of Impact, A Bob Lee Swagger Novel, by Stephen Hunter. The thing is, there’s something about the movie The Shooter, with Mark Wahlberg, that fascinates me. I’m not sure what it is… Perhaps it’s the way the protagonist is manipulated. Perhaps it’s the way he exacts his measure of revenge, or rough justice, if you will. Perhaps it’s Leon Helm’s fantastic cameo. I have no idea. The Shooter is based on Point of Impact. Despite some differences, the movie manages to channel the heart and soul of the book. Both are winners in my world. I’ve already ordered the next two Bob Lee Swagger books. I’m reading these in paperback for a penny. Gotta love that penny. Link. (Not the edition I purchased but whatever…)

In the queue:

In the land of invisible womenIn the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey In the Saudi Kingdom, by Qanta Ahmed. Looking forward to reading about an experience from a perspective far removed from my own. Link.

Last but not least, written by a man I’ve come to admire, I’m currently reading–

Things that MatterThings That Matter, Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics, by Charles Krauthammer.

The book is not a political diatribe. It’s the heroic and beautiful story of his life, loves and pursuits told via articles, essays, opinion pieces. Loving it.

What freaks me out is this– and I’m only aware of this because my husband is also reading the book. He was so fascinated by some of the stories he did a little research.

Dr. Krauthammer, an intensely private man, is a quadriplegic. (He is remarkably nonplussed. I would be very plussed.)

What freaks me out even more is that back in the day Dr. Krauthammer bore an eerie resemblance to my husband, and without a doubt I would have fallen for him in a heartbeat. He was my kind of guy – Jewish, built, athletic, adventurous, intelligent, intuitive, optimistic. Possessed of a Jew-fro. I had a visceral reaction. The snapshot was a punch in the gut. This is what  my husband sent: Interview with Charles Krauthammer. Link to the book. Courage is the word that comes to mind.

So 2014, eh? Well, here’s hoping it’s about a million times better than 2013. Tomorrow my recipe for hibiscus syrup to pour into your glass of bubbly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it weren’t for you (Penny) I’d be in jail (Penny) right now (Penny).

You know how sometimes you just want to kill someone, or at least wring his neck?

I’ve tried my damnedest to to take up drinking and smoking as a solution over the past couple weeks.  The problem is I don’t much care for drinking or smoking.

Whiskey of choice.

Whiskey of choice.

Well, thank god for people like (Penny) and Jaye and Lawrence Block who managed to talk some sense into me.

(Penny) kept me from doing something stoooooopid.

Jaye kept me grounded with her normalcy.

Lawrence made me laugh and helped me put things in perspective.

A little crazy is perfectly fine.  Wanting to go all serial killer on someone’s ass is not.

And of course getting multi-spammed by Slut Search In Your Area didn’t hurt.  You read that right… didn’t hurt.  Because at least I’m not listed on Slut Search In Your Area.  I know, I checked.

Plus I ate a good grilled cheese sandwich and some fried pickles. Not that I plan to make a habit of fried homemade pickle slices but I wanted to try them once at Norman Rose Tavern.

Fried pickle spears

Fried pickle spears

When I was a teenager the gang, of which I was a marginal member, hung out at King’s.  Of course I never had much money so I ordered (off the menu) fried hamburger pickle chips for $.05.  Can you believe it?  A small plate of fried hamburger pickle chips for a mere $.05. with ketchup.  (Tom)

I know it seems silly to go to a nice restaurant and order a grilled cheese sandwich, but sometimes that’s what’s required.

Lawrence Block’s Hit Me. Stunning.

No other word comes to mind when discussing the world of hit man (John Paul) Keller.  Mr. Block had me right here:

“And so Keller measured the overprint on this stamp, and
found himself in agreement with Mr. Bloch and Mr. Mueller.
This was the straight goods, the genuine article. All he had to
do to go home with it was outbid any other interested
collectors. And he could do that, too, and without straining his
budget or dipping into his capital.
“But first he’d have to kill somebody.”

It’s perfect.  This one paragraph is perfection. It embodies the essence, the sheer elegance of Lawrence Block’s storytelling–  Killer (no pun intended) prose.  Lawrence Block never wastes words as he weaves a compelling and sympathetic tale about his favorite kind of character, the anti-hero.

Just when I think Lawrence Block can’t get any better, it’s oops, he did it again!  Gives me the shivers.

Keller is a hit man.  Like Kit in Block’s luscious and deadly book about a female serial killer, Getting Off, Keller does bad things, but Block imbues the character with heart.  He’s a thoughtful, sentimental kind of guy.  Murderer though he may be, Keller makes me go all warm and fuzzy.  And in Hit Me we meet and greet a fascinating supporting cast of characters.

I’m not a reviewer, I’m a reader and a writer.  I don’t give away plot, so I’ll say this – when the book becomes available, pick it up.  You won’t put Hit Me down until you’ve read the last sentence.

As an added bonus, in Hit Me, we actually get to spend a little time hanging out with the author, who is himself a philatelist, a stamp collector.  Check out Lawrence Block’s bookstore and his Keller stamp collection right here.

The cover alone is lick-worthy.  My ARC is seriously covered with drool.

Thank you, Mr. Block, for allowing me to preview Hit Me.

Other Keller stories:  Hit Man, Hit List, Hit Parade and Hit and Run.

 

Panhandling.

Wicked Witch of the West:  “No!  Fool that I am… I should have remembered– those slippers will never come off as long as you’re alive.”

Dorothy:  “What are you gonna do?”

Wicked Witch of the West:  “What do you think I’m going to do?  But that’s not what’s worrying me– it’s how to do it.  These things must be done delicately… or you hurt the spell.”

And there you have it… marketing.  These things must be done delicately or you hurt the spell.

No panhandling.

Don’t beg your readers to do your work.

Does that mean as an author you should not include book covers and the titles of your back-list at the end of a story?  Excerpts from other works or upcoming releases?  Links to a website where readers can learn more about you and engage in communication with you?  Include away!  Please!  I’m a reader – I love links to authors’ websites.  If I enjoy a book, I want to follow an author– I want to know what else she’s written and where I can find her books.

If I like an author’s work, I’ll tell everyone I know about her books.  I’ll scream my love from the mountain tops.  She doesn’t have to ask me to do a single thing on her behalf. Telling others about books I like is second nature to me.

In fact, if she did ask me to do something marketing-related, I’d feel downright uncomfortable– as if an invisible barrier had been crossed and the author felt she had license to intrude upon my personal space simply because I’d read her book.

As an author I think that’s an impostion.  As a reader I don’t want to be imposed upon.

I love to chat with readers.  It’s fun.  I’m grateful for every single reader and every book sold.  Period.

Asking readers to market is like panhandling.  Panhandlers make me uncomfortable.

1.  They are in need.

2.  They play upon my guilt because they are in need and I am a people pleaser.

3.  My guilt makes me believe I should give them money.

4.  If I don’t give them money I feel more guilty.

5.  If I do give them money I’m pissed off because the truth is I need my money.

6.  Giving money to one panhandler causes the other panhandlers to race in my direction like a flock of pigeons after a crust of bread which then makes me…

7.  Swear to never ever give money to another panhandler because…

8.  It’s not my fault they need money.

Some panhandlers are in my face scary and most of the time I run like hell.  I loathe and fear those kinds of panhandlers.

The occasional panhandler is funny and creative and I might toss him a couple quarters, but I don’t feel like giving the next guy anything because I already did my bit.

Some panhandlers have a dog.

And sometimes it’s the homeless who are obviously in great need but don’t ask me for a damn thing who get lunch or a cup of coffee or a five dollar bill.  Therein lies the secret.  Stand up straight.  Have a little pride.  Let your book do the talking.

There’s one author in my world who gets a free pass.  He can ask me to do anything, within reason, and I’ll do it for him because he’s earned my favors many times over.  Yes, mom, if Lawrence Block told me to jump off a bridge I’d do it… just not a very high bridge… and not if there’s quicksand below… or water moccasins… or not it it’s one of those two bridges in Costa Rica I hiked over, the Pray-to-Heaven Bridge and the Oh-My-God Bridge with the crocodiles beneath… But other than that I’m doing it, mom!

 

 

 

 

Does your Kindle tell you a bedtime story?

Here is a blog topic for yah Julia, uh wifey.  (From my husband.)

I now spend at least 50% of my book and periodical time being read to by my Kindle. I imagine the same is possible on an iPad.

In the morning I work out for 40 minutes while my Kindle reads the Sports Page to me. Then,  while I prepare breakfast it reads me the
front page. Later while I drive to work I read whatever book I am currently working on via a jack through my car’s sound system.

I read a variety of books this way but romances and Lawrence Block mysteries work particularly well.  Some non-fiction read this way is too dry to hold my interest but others are very well suited.

One interesting trend that I have noticed is that more best sellers are choosing NOT to disable text to speech when publishing. In the past authors and/or publishers probably would do this to protect their audio book selling rights but I think (or hope) they are realizing that the buyers who are interested in using text to speech (T2S) to read their book are distinct from the audiobook market.

Yes listening to audiobooks is great but beyond offering the opportunity to expand my reading time, T2S allows me to pick up and actually read (the old fashioned way) the book when I have the chance. This flexibility is wonderful and not possible with an audiobook.

In most cases I won’t consider buying a book that has disabled text to speech (Issaccson’s biography of Steve Jobs is a recent exception).

So should authors write with the T2S market in mind? Not now but perhaps in the near future and especially if the T2S programs improve and gain more popularity. Does that require any changes in writing style?Heck if I know but maybe. Frankly I find that really good sparely written
prose translates beautifully to T2S while overwritten, adjective heavy prose does not.

Well, there you have it.