Book that contains your favourite scene

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 24

I realise that this is going to sound sort of bizarre, but I’m nothing if not eccentric in my ways.

I recently finished reading Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand (I know, I know, I’m still stuck in the Robin Hobb love bubble), and I was on a plane when I read this particular scene.  Now, I’m not usually prone to public displays of relative instability and unsoundness, but I honest to God was crying like a baby when I read this scene.  I mentioned I was on a plane at the time, right?

I then arrived at my destination, hopped in the shower and booed again.  A week later I was walking through town with my mum, explaining how I had teared up on the plane AND in the shower, and as I related the scene to her I choked up again.  Mum was a little concerned, but once I managed to get it out through the sobs, she understood.

So my favourite scene is one that has me wailing like a banshee?  Yes, it is.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so emotionally connected to a character/s and his/their quest, as I have with Fitz and co. in both The Farseer Trilogy and now The Tawny Man Trilogy.  I think the sheer fact that I got so upset by this scene is a testament to the author and her writing.  When I’m reading these books, I’m there and the characters are real.  I experience their joys and their sorrows, their desires and their concerns.

The scene in question is at the end of the book after the final battle, when the protagonist, Fitz, lays down by his wolf, Nighteyes, with whom he can communicate with and is essentially bonded to in mind, heart and soul.  Those who have this ‘magic’ are known as Witted, or as having the Wit.  In this book, Fitz and Nighteyes undertake a quest to save their Prince Dutiful from a band of Witted folk with evil intentions.  Throughout the story it becomes apparent that Fitz and Nighteyes are not the youthful heroes they once were, with Nighteyes in particular showing signs of fatigue and aging.  As they fall asleep after the final fight, exhausted, they share thoughts and dreams.

*spoiler alert*

I could not sort out which thoughts were mine and which were the wolf’s.  I didn’t need to.  I sank into his dreams with him and we dreamed well together.  Perhaps it was Dutiful’s loss that put us so much in mind of all we still possessed, and all we had had.  We dreamed of a cub hunting mice beneath the rotting floor of an old outbuilding, and we dreamed of a man and a wolf pulling down a great boar between them.  We dreamed of stalking one another in deep snow, tussling and yelping and shouting.  Deer blood, hot in the mouth, and the rich soft liver to squabble over.  And then we sank past those ancient memories into perfect rest and comfort.  Healing begins in deep sleep such as that.

He stirred first.  I nearly woke as he rose, gingerly shook himself, and then stretched more bravely.  His superior sense of smell told me that the edge of dawn was in the air.  The weak sun had just begun to touch the dew-wet grasses, waking the smells of the earth.  Game would be stirring.  The hunting would be good.

I’m so tired, I complained.  I can’t believe you’re getting up.  Rest for a while longer.  We’ll hunt later.

You’re tired? I’m so tired that rest won’t ease me.  Only the hunt.  I felt his wet nose poke my cheek.  It was cold.  Aren’t you coming?  I was sure you’d want to come with me.

I do.  I do.  But not just yet.  Give me just a bit longer.

Very well, little brother.  Just a bit longer.  Follow me when you will.

But my mind rode with his, as it had so many times.  We left the cave, thick with man-stink, and walked past the cat’s new cairn.  We smelled her death, and the musk of a fox who had come to the scent, but turned aside at the smell of the campfire’s smoke.  Swiftly we left the camp behind.  Nighteyes chose the open hillside instead of the wooded vale.  The sky overhead was blue and deep, and the last star fading in the sky.  The night had been colder than I had realised.  Frost tipped some of the grasses still, but as the rising sun touched it, it smoked briefly and was gone.  The crisp edge of the air remained, each scent as sharp as a clean knife-edge.  With a wolf’s nose, I scented all and knew all.  The world was ours.  The turning time, I said to him.

Exactly.  Time to change, Changer.

There were fat mice hastily harvesting seedheads in the tall grass, but we passed them by.  At the top of the hill we paused.  We walked the spine of the hill, smelling the morning, tasting the lip of the day to come.  There would be deer in the forested creek bottoms.  They would be healthy and strong and fat, a challenge to any pack let alone a single wolf.  He would need me at his side to hunt those.  He would have to come back for them later.  Nevertheless, he halted on top of the ridge.  The morning wind riffled his fur and his ears were perked as he looked down to where we knew they must be.

Good hunting.  I’m going now brother.  He spoke with great determination.

Alone?  You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation.  Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.

Wait for you? Not likely!  I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.

Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows.  My connection to him frayed away as he went scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind.  Instead of small and secret, I felt our bond go wide and open, as if he had invited all the Witted creatures in the world in to share our joining.  All the web of life on the whole hillside suddenly swelled within my heart, linked and meshed and woven through with one another.  It was too glorious to contain.  I had to go with him; a morning this wondrous must be shared.

‘Wait!’ I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself.  Nearby, the Fool sat up, his hair tousled.  I blinked.  My mouth was full of salve and wolf-hair, my fingers buried deep in his coat.  I clutched him to me, and my grip sighed his last stilled breath out of his lungs.  But Nighteyes was gone.

Robin Hobb Fool’s Errand pp.604-606

And yes, typing this out had me in tears yet again! It’s so sad, and yet so beautiful.  I think Robin Hobb is a truly wonderful writer.

~storytelling nomad~

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Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 23

This is a curious case.  I enjoyed reading this particular book, I just never got around to finishing it.  And yes, I am guilty of claiming that I have indeed read it.  Alas, the cat is now out of the bag; I have not read (or finished reading) the Dickens classic, Great Expectations.

I do, however, promise to rectify the error of my ways.  I won’t stop declaring that I’ve read it, but I will try and make sure that in the not so distant future I have actually done so.

~storytelling nomad~

Books, Birthdays and Best Friends

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 22

Book you plan to read next

And with another extended absence I offer my sincerest apologies and propose we turn a blind eye to my blogging indiscretions and continue with the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Agreed?

You rock!

So, onto the book I plan to read next.  I have a few sitting on my shelf and am as yet undecided which I will read next, but there is one amongst them that I’d like to mention: La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales.  A memoir/travel book recounting the author’s “love affair with Italy and the most enchanting language in the world”, I think it’s highly probable that I’m going to enjoy it.  Why?  For four main reasons:

  1. I love Italy
  2. I love Italian
  3. I love travel literature
  4. I love the person who gave it to me

Yep, that’s a pretty good indication that I’m going to like it.  Point number 4 is particularly important.  You see, on Saturday it was my birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ME!

Okay, I’m done.  As I was saying, on Saturday it was my birthday, and herein lies part of the reason for my blogging absence.  To celebrate the big two six, I decided to spend the weekend in the beautiful city of Melbourne and catch up with two of my very good friends, both who I’ve known since High School.  On the night of my birthday the girls took me out to an amazing Italian restaurant in Carlton, where I ate far too much and happily indulged in the magnificent company.

One of these lovely ladies is named Priscilla.  She’s not the queen of the desert, but she is many extraordinary things: a talented music therapist in the making; a fellow Buffy enthusiast; a devoted chicken connoisseur (the girl loves her chicken);  but first and foremost she is one of my best friends in the whole world.  The whole world, I tell you!  I can safely say she has been for quite some time in the top three when it comes to those who have supported and encouraged my writing, and I love her very much for it and am so grateful to have her as a friend.

As it turns out, she always knows, as often only best friends do, just what to get me on my birthday.  This year she gifted me the aforementioned book, with the following inscribed message:

Best Friend Love

Thank you Priscilla.  I’m sure I’ll love it, and even if the book isn’t inspiring, you my friend, are.

~storytelling nomad~

I want my potty!

Favorite picture book from childhood

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 21

This one sticks in mind by far as my most memorable picture book from childhood.  I Want My Potty by Tony Ross is the story of a little princess who decides that nappies are, in her words, “YUUECH!” and  resolves to go cold turkey and start her potty training.

Of course, she learns the hard way that needing to use the potty and actually making it to the potty in time, are two entirely different matters.  As such, she spends the whole book running around her princess palace screaming I WANT MY POTTY!

The pictures of her red-faced screaming and sitting on her potty with her L plates are spectacular.

And yes, as an adult, I’m still partial to a bit of toilet humour.

~storytelling nomad~

Snape. Snape. Severus Snape.

Book you’ve read the most number of times

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 20

I have read the Harry Potter books A LOT of times in more than one language.  And I’m okay with that.  However, in light of the fact that I’ve already discussed my love of these books already within this challenge, I feel inclined to instead share with you this ridiculous Harry Potter related video, which recently had me in stitches for the greater part of the day.  Be warned, you might have the words “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” circling around your head for a few days after watching this.

Also, I feel I must add that I have not yet seen the new movie, which devastates me so, but unfortunately work hours won’t permit it for another week.  In any case, although yes, I have read the books a thousand times (not an accurate calculation), and yes I know what happens, I must say that I am insanely jealous of all of you who have had the pleasure of seeing the movie.  So feel free to boast and tell me how spectacularly awesome it is, but please don’t tell me what happens, or what they missed or what they added or what they did or didn’t do right.  I’m in a Harry Potter bliss bubble at the moment and I simply can’t have you popping it.  Deal? DEAL?

I will return this act of charity with many cyber love hugs.

~storytelling nomad~

Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 18

Oh please don’t judge me, but this one is a bit of a doozy.

I’m more than aware that it’s poorly written, there are ‘to’s where there should be ‘too’s, appalling grammar and some suspicious word choices *cough chargrin cough*.  For those of you who haven’t already seen it, there’s even an entire website dedicated to this book and every possible error known to the English language, which can of course be found in this novel.  Check out the website Reasoning with Vampires, it’s really quite enlightening.

And yet, somehow I just loved reading it, and the three sequels.  And not just one time.  I read them over and over and…

Okay, don’t make me go on.  I’m not even going to name the book, because I know you have already guessed it (you guys are so clever!).  Also there happens to be a large picture of the cover just a few lines below this one.  Yeah that probably helped too.

Team Edward!

~storytelling nomad~

Shortest book you’ve read

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 17

This is an impossible question to answer.  I honestly have no idea.  But after running a quick eye over my bookshelves I can tell you the shortest book I’ve read in recent years.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is one of those inspiring books that I don’t come across very often.  The language is straightforward and the characters simple, but the message is profound.  As it’s said in the book:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

It’s a book that encourages you to follow your dreams and persevere through the challenges life throws at you.  For in the end, it is these challenges that reveal themselves to be the building blocks to help you reach your destiny and fulfilment in life.

For a number of years now I have lived by the mantra:

‘The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’.

I believe that even in the worst of times, you can take something away from it that will benefit you in the future.  Whether it be strength, humility, knowledge…there’s always something to be learned.  In The Alchemist, at the beginning of the book the protagonist Santiago sets out on a journey, but is soon robbed of all the money he has saved to reach his destination.  It seems terrible at the time, but we soon realise that had this not happened, he would not have met the next person on his journey, and the next.  His experiences would have been much different and he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn in order to seek out his treasure and reach his destiny.

There’s a reason this book is an international bestseller that’s been translated into 67 languages worldwide.  A short, but thoroughly uplifting read.

~storytelling nomad~

Facebook and Twitter’s shiny new lovechild

The result of a forbidden love

I recently had the pleasure of being invited by my blog buddy Kate, to trial the new social networking site Google+.

I have to say, when I got the invite I was fairly excited.  I don’t like to be behind with new technology and for a number of weeks previous to my royal invitation, it seemed that everyone was talking about their exclusive participation on Google+, with me behind the red carpet ropes, jumping up and down screaming “pick me! pick me!”

It wasn’t that I had heard anything particularly special  about Google+, with some people happy, others not and a decent amount of expected new technology confusion.  It was more the exclusivity of the whole thing.  By not offering it to everyone but leaking out enough information to set chins wagging, people (myself included) got curious.

Well played Google. Well played.

So, now that I’m a member of this cool new club, what do I think?

Well, at first I was confused.  It sort of looked like Facebook, but with more colours true to the Google logo style, so I felt slightly deceived when I tried desperately to communicate on someone’s wall, only to discover that walls don’t exist in Google+ land.

After much exploring, tinkering and many scratches of my head, I finally figured it out.

Facebook and Twitter defied the odds, fooled everyone into thinking they were arch enemies, grand rivals, wild adversaries!  When in fact, they were snogging in the back seat of the car, concealing their unrequited love, and stealing passionate embraces in the deep of the night.  One thing led to another and then it happened.

Facebook and Twitter had a baby, and they called it Google+.

As is customary with brand new celebrity babies, it was bestowed with a ‘unique’ name, following the likes of Sunday Rose and Suri, and hidden from the media spotlight until it could be all but guaranteed that its first public appearance would bring great profit, stardom and popularity to said VIPs.  I know you’re wondering how this is different to any other superstar couple popping out an overindulged lovechild, and I’m not sure that it is. I can say with confidence only that I’m neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed by this new celebrity rug rat.  I’m just, whelmed?

From the onset you can see that it’s all very sleek and pretty.  Like Facebook, you can update your profile information and provide more about yourself than twitter has ever consented to.  The design closely resembles Facebook, with a few tweaks and changes, such as the +1 button where Facebook instead has the like button.  But for the most part, it acts like Twitter.  You can post on your own ‘wall’ but not on others.  You can add friends to circles (the Google+ equivalent of ‘following’ people on Twitter), meaning you will follow their posts (the ones they make public or available to your circle, anyway), without their having to reciprocate the friendship.

There is a new feature called Circles, which essentially requires you to compartmentalise your friends into categories, which I’m still a little shady about.  I haven’t yet figured out if those people can see the name of the ‘Circle’ you place them in, so be wary about your labels (I’m thinking ‘enemies’, ‘boring’ or ‘losers’ are probably not appropriate).   Truth be told, I still don’t know much at all about the ins and outs of the Circles yet, unsure what happens when you have friends in more than one category and what exactly their purpose is, but I think it comes down to your posts and being able to easily manage what groups, or Circles, can see each of them.

As with any newborn, Google+ is experiencing the usual teething problems as he tries to make his mark on the world, but I haven’t found it too painful to deal with yet.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether Google+ is heading for the bright lights of fame and fortune that it’s famous parents have been blessed with.  I love how clean it is, the simplicity, but as with anything, without the people there really isn’t much to look at.  Currently, I have five lonely Google+ buds, which makes for a pretty slow and dreary post feed as we all walk around aimlessly in circles, bumping into walls and occasionally each other, trying to figure it all out.  There is a distinct echo in the room.

There are a few other features, including the new group video chat ‘hangouts’, which I haven’t yet had the chance to experience, probably due to the aforementioned unremarkable number of Google+ buddies, but if you would like to know more about it, and other various features of Google+, you should definitely check out this very entertaining post at terribleminds.  Here is an excerpt:

I’m also afraid that if I somehow turn on my webcam, the first thing I’m going to see is someone masturbating at me. Which is why I am prepared instead to masturbate at somebody. Fight fire with fire. Fight Onanism with Onanism. I have a very clear “first strike” policy on webcam jerkoffery. Once again, the need for “Circle Jerk” to enter the Goo-Plus parlance is dire. Dire.

Continue reading here

Meanwhile, I’m feeling optimistic enough to stick it out for the time being, although I’m mildly aware that having three platforms to post on is somewhat absurd, and that somewhere along the line, something will have to give.

N.B.  I think it should be noted that I’m resolved on one thing further; at the slightest whiff of a Farmville, Zombieland, Vampire eating, sheep throwing, masterchef making, pirate ninja war battling piece of spam making game, I can safely say that I will lose all respect for this royal lovechild.  I’m hoping his parents will have the decency to teach him the error of their ways and save us all the spammy theatrics.

~storytelling nomad~

My long distance relationship with the Wheel of Time

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 16

Longest book you’ve read

Although it may be argued that this isn’t actually one book, and to be fair, I haven’t *exactly* finished reading it, I still think Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time deserves a mention here.

Jordan began writing the series in 1984, but in a sad twist, as he was working on the final volume, he passed away in 2007 after an almost two year battle with a rare blood disease.  Fortunately for fans, in anticipation of his untimely death Jordan left extensive notes for another author to complete his work should he not be around to finish it himself.  Author Brandon Sanderson was left to complete the final volume, but it was not long before he resolved to split it into three volumes, finding it impossible to fit everything into the one.

I’m still undecided as to how I feel about these books.  The first one took me a while to get into, the second one was good, the third one I sped through in a couple of days and now I’m about half way through the fourth one and haven’t touched it since the beginning of the year, although less by fault of the book than of my own.

So far, I can at the very least acknowledge them as extraordinary works of fantasy fiction, and with (according to Wikipedia) a sub total to date of 13 books, 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words (!!), I still cannot get my head around the sheer size of this epic series.

There are a few reasons we’ve had such a rocky affair, the Wheel of Time and I.  I started reading the first book at the beginning of 2010 on high recommendation from my beautiful best friend Mel, who has excellent reading taste.  She raved about them, but when I heard that there were set to be a total of 14 books, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated.  I was just about to start a writing course at uni and my pile of study related books to read was already unnervingly high.  Nonetheless, I read book one.  I found I was reading relatively sluggishly but I was soon enjoying it, and started book two just before I had to stop due to aforementioned mandatory reading.

I am often guilty of reading several books at a time, picking up where I left off when the mood suits me.  Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something familiar, something I’ve read before, something easy, or something epic.  So when I put book two down, I wasn’t too concerned.  Eight months later, uni had finished and I picked it up, only to find that the very things I had enjoyed about the book – the immense detail and plethora of main characters – were the very things that were hindering my desire to continue reading.  Too much time had passed and I found it impossible to pick up where I left off.  There were too many characters and too much information to remember after so long an absence, and it was a genuine effort to try and recall what had happened.

I was reluctant to start again from the beginning, knowing that I had struggled with the first few chapters of book one, and acutely aware that no less than ten more books in the series awaited my attention.  So what to do?

Cheat, of course.

I googled “Wheel of Time plot summary” and found myself a nifty website which gave 1-2 line chapter summaries.  Win.

I was ready to start my Wheel of Time journey once more.  I picked up the pace with book two, and as I said before, I sped through book three very quickly, I was enjoying it so much.

Then a sad thing happened.  Unfortunately, I started reading book four at a time when life decided to throw me some lemons when I really wasn’t in the mood for lemonade.  With my brain 90% occupied with work, money and life woes I found it more than difficult to concentrate on a series that ultimately requires a lot more attention than I had to give.  I put it down when I realised it had taken me several days to read only a couple of pages, and started reading the Secret Garden instead.  Simple, fun, brilliant.  I was in my happy place.

Since then, life has decided to back off with the lemon hurling and I have found that my brain is plenty more available for books requiring a certain degree of concentration.  Unfortunately, I have since procured even more books to read and am not sure where the remaining ten and a half Wheel of Time books will fit into that schedule.  I suspect that with a fourteen book series it is never going to be a convenient time to get into them, but considering the rave reviews, the massive following and the great gratification to be had in being able to say “I’ve read a 14 book series made up of 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words,” I think I’m just going to have to suck it up, go the distance and get back into it.

With the help of nifty 1-2 lined chapter summaries of course…

Anyone else completed the WoT endurance test?

~storytelling nomad~

First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 15

I’m going to take a wild guess and say Peter Pan by James M. Barrie.  I haven’t read it in a long long time, but I do still love the story.

In more recent times I have to say that I’ve been more distracted by a particular film adaptation than by the book.  Hook has got to be one of my favourite movies.  With Robin Williams playing a grown up Peter, and the very cool Dante Basco playing arguably the best character in the movie, Rufio, this movie never fails to entertain me.

Bangarang!

Ru-fi-oooooooooo!

~storytelling nomad~

Book whose main character you want to marry

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 14

I have narrowed it down to two.  My sensible choice and my more imprudent, guilty-pleasure choice.

Potential future husband number 1: Mr Darcy played by Colin Firth

My sensible choice is of course, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  A wealthy man, Darcy is not intimidated by a well-educated woman and makes declarations along the lines of; “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”  He also looks damn good in a top hat.

Potential future husband number 2: Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation True Blood

My second, more impulsive choice, is Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Novels, specifically his persona from the fourth book, ‘Dead to the World’, where he loses his memory and becomes less the vicious vampire and more the croon worthy studmuffin.  Vicious or not, however, it has to be said that his on-screen character played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation ‘True Blood’, is quite the sexy spunk.  Being a vampire and all, and a misbehaving one at that, I suspect he’s probably not the marriage type…but just look at him!

~storytelling nomad~

The dangers of ebook world domination

Although it seems to have maintained a persistent online presence in recent months, today I felt as if the stars aligned to bring to head the ebook/self publishing debate.  Everywhere I looked, it was bam! bam! bam! with pro ebooks, boo ebooks, pro publishers, boo publishers.  My brain had to switch to autopilot just to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown from opposing information overload.

I wrote an article last year on the traditional vs new forms of publishing debate, but back then most of the talk seemed to centre around whether or not traditional books would survive this new age of online publishing.  Apparently we’re over that now, with many, myself included, agreeing that ebooks are here to stay but also that books are not likely to become obsolete any time soon.  There are too many of us bibliophiles out there to allow such a travesty to take place.

The debate no longer doubts the obsolescence of books, but the bypassing of and questionable necessity of the publisher.  Not only that, but there seems to be some concern over exactly how beneficial this new age of self publishing is to the reader.  Let’s not forget about him, he’s pretty important.

So what seems to be the problem, officer?

Well, first of all I bring to your attention this article published on the online Guardian newspaper today; Now anyone can ‘write’ a book. First, find some words…

I suspect the reaction to the title of this article went something like this:

  • YES! I have words! Now I can finally get published! (99% of readers)

or

  • Great….now my carefully written, scrupulously edited, well developed ebook will be lost in the masses of crap published by any Tom, Dick or Harry. (1% of readers)

Herein lies the crux of the problem.  Where although it might be argued that publishers have in the past held an unseemly amount of authority over what does and doesn’t get published, publishing what a few well-paid people deem to be a ‘bestseller’, and claiming a contentious amount of what some would claim to be the author’s earnings, they have nonetheless provided a benchmark for the quality of writing being released on the bookshelves.  Although many excellent writers suffer from this system (the downside), whether it be from seeing their publisher’s pockets grow heavier than their own, or from not even being able to break into the publishing scene, it has nonetheless been of benefit to the readers (the upside), who could purchase a published book with the assurance that it had been proofread, edited, proofread again, and above all, selected by a group of ‘professionals’ as being worthy of their hard-earned cash.

Now, I’ve never been one to overlook both sides of the argument, and I realise the publishing gods have not always done us proud.  I, for one, can count on more fingers than I actually own, the number of books that a big respectable publisher has deemed deserving not only of publication, but of at least $25 out of my wallet, only to find that I had paid said amount for a bound collection of paper better employed as kindling for the fire.  Undoubtedly, it’s at times like these that aspiring writers such as myself scream at the heavens “Why! Why do you torment me publishing Gods?! My writing is a kajillion times better than this piece of crap!” Followed by a few angry stamps of the foot and an angry punch to the air.

Cue the invention of ebooks and online book sellers such as Amazon, who, like the aforementioned article claims, allow for anyone with words to publish a book, within a matter of minutes.  MINUTES?!  Yes, minutes.

With my recent purchase of the Scrivener word processor, I soon discovered it had a function which gave me the opportunity to publish something I had written, in a number of ebook formats.  Me? Publish an ebook? Pfft! I scoffed at my machine.  But the curious girl that I am, I Googled ‘Scrivener tutorials’ and watched a brief video on how I could transform a story into an ebook.  Within 20 minutes (Shock! Gasp!) I had a short story on iBooks and was reading it on my iPhone.

Now, for those of us who like to think our writing is worthy of publication, this is fantastic news.  We bypass all the middlemen, do all the marketing ourselves (which, let’s face it, we probably would’ve had to do anyway), set our own price for our baby and watch the profits roll in.  If this is you, writers, then read the following excellent article/interview with bestselling author Michael Levin, and jump with joy at this publishing revolution, because now you have not only the resources, but the power to become a published author.

Are Publishers Stupid? Interview with Bestselling Author Michael Levin-Part 1 What do YOU think? Are publishers stupid? Send this link to writers you know and come back tomorrow for Part 2 of Michael Levin’s interview! … Read More

via Bo’s Cafe Life

Readers, cower with mercy, since it is ye who shall suffer.

If you’ve read the article, you might have already read some of the comments, or should I say concerns, below the text.  Correspondingly, the earlier Guardian article touched on the same unease, pointing out the following statistics:

…Nearly 2.8 million non-traditional books, including ebooks, were published in the United States in 2010, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out.  That compares with 1.33 million ebooks and 302,000 printed books in 2009.

With such an extraordinary number of ebooks being released at an increasingly rapid rate, how exactly are the poor readers supposed to navigate this tsunami of books to get to the good stuff?

Although I’m sure that a great deal of new publications are from writers who probably deserved to be published a long time ago by the publishing gods (here I have to mention Angela Wallace, whose ebook Phoenix Feather I read recently and is an example of how exactly the ebook revolution can benefit magnificent writers with remarkable stories. Check it out here), I’m just as sure that a great deal of these new publications are absolute rubbish, or worse, plagiarised.  Without the middlemen, where lies the quality control?

Again, from the Guardian article:

It’s only when one peruses the cornucopia of literary productions available on the Kindle store that one detects the first scent of rodent. One of the most prolific self-publishers on the site is Manuel Ortiz Braschi. When I last checked he had edited, authored or co-authored no fewer than 3,255 ebooks. Mr Braschi is clearly a man of Herculean energy and wide learning, who ranges effortlessly from How to Become a Lethal Weapon in Two Weeks (£1.40) to Herbs 101: How to Plant, Grow & Cook with Natural Herbs (£0.70) while taking in Potty Training! The Ultimate Potty Training Guide!(£0.69).

Having inspected Mr Braschi’s The Miracle of Vinegar: 65 Tried and Tested Uses For Health and Home! (which, at £0.69, works out at about 30p per screenful of text), I can testify that he is no Delia Smith. But at least he appears to write – or at any rate compile – his own stuff. In that respect, he represents the quality end of the Kindle self-publishing business.

I’m sorry, what? The man has authored/co-authored 3,255 ebooks?! I’m doubtful at the quality, but as the article states, at least the writing appears to be his own.

Ultimately, how are the readers expected to have confidence in anything that sits in the midst of such questionable standards?  I feel that I am considerably immersed in the world of readers, writers and books, and yet still I struggle to determine what in the ebook world is worth reading.  Word of mouth is clearly a well-founded prerequisite to marketing your ebook, but I wonder, just as the works of great writers are lost amongst the less-worthy publications, won’t such be the case also for self promotion of the same.  With everybody shouting the loudest, how can we possibly determine the Rowlings from the Manuel Ortiz Braschis and his 3,255 books?

Sooner or later somebody is going to realise that no matter how high those ebook figures rise, no matter how many outstanding writers self publish their bestsellers, if the readers can’t navigate the market, if they don’t actually make a purchase, or rather, spend their money where it is least merited, then readers, publishers, writers alike…everybody loses.

What are your thoughts on the ebook/self publishing debate?  Please, add to my brain hemorrhage and discuss.

~storytelling nomad~

Book whose main character is most like you

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 13

Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m kind of obsessed with books and reading.  In this, Matilda and I are one and the same.  I do appear to be lacking in the psychokinetic powers that Matilda possesses, although I’ve made peace with that considering I was lucky enough not to have the savage parents Matilda had, nor her frightening teacher Miss Trunchbull.

Anyone else have a fictional literary double?

Matilda by Roald Dahl

~storytelling nomad~

Living a Life Down Under

Australian Christmas Essentials

A short while ago I posted about my seasonal job working at the snow, which in Australia translates as working mid year in the June-August months, or thereabouts.  I know it’s all very confusing for those of you on the upper side of the Earth, but really it’s all very simple.  We still have the same four seasons, just in reverse.  So as you currently enjoy the warm sunshine and summer holidays, I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket by the fire.

But what does this mean for Christmas?

At the time of my post, my magnificent blog friend, Angela Wallace, made a most valid request:

You’ll have to explain Christmas to me later, because I’m suddenly starting to feel unbalanced with the idea of hot Christmases and no hot chocolate if December is your summer…

You are not alone, Angela!  Now, as I grew up in the UK until the age of 10, I am more than familiar with a wintery Christmas.  As December approached during my school days in England, we would make Christmas cards decorated with snow flakes, snowmen and open fires.  The Christmas holidays would be spent frolicking outside in the snow, our mittens permanently attached to our fingers, and coming inside at the end of the day with red noses, rosy cheeks and a fatigue that only an entire day of absolute merriment can deliver.  On Christmas Eve we would leave Santa a mug of warm milk and a plate of chocolate biscuits.  Christmas dinner was always a feast of hot food to warm the heart (and the body) – a turkey that had been slow cooking all day, roast potatoes, parsnips and (always to my dismay) brussel sprouts.  I hold fond memories of those English Christmases and am grateful I had the opportunity to experience them as only the Europeans know how.

One winter morning in England a few years ago

An Australian Christmas is a different experience entirely.

When my parents first told my brother and I that we were moving to Australia, I was genuinely excited.  Mum had come back from a recent recon trip with a huge illustrated children’s book of Australia and a sing-along video, amongst other fascinating souvenirs, which succeeded in getting us most enthusiastic about the imminent journey to the land down under.  I honestly don’t remember once contemplating the thought of leaving my friends behind, or having to start afresh at a new school.  I was at an age where I just saw it all as very cool and a bit of an adventure.  The only time I cried was when I realised we had to leave our German Shepherd behind, and a brief moment when I found out I wouldn’t be around to participate in a skipping rope competition I had trained so very hard for.  Despite these two unhappy affairs, I never looked back.

I believe this enormous transition at such an early age truly contributed to how well I have adapted to every move since.  Back then, the internet was still in its very early days, and not yet commercially available.  Flights were expensive and snail mail was precisely as slow it sounds.  In hindsight, I was unreasonably optimistic in light of the circumstances that strongly indicated it would be some time before I saw or heard from my friends or extended family again.  But optimistic I was, and it hasn’t let me down yet.  Ever since, with every move I’ve made, I have always looked forward to what adventure awaits, unafraid of what I might be leaving behind.  I’m a strong believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the technology of today is a testament to that.  Nowadays you need only an internet connection to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe, and although I have made new friends in Aus, I have since been able to reconnect with old ones in the UK.

But I digress.

In light of my optimistic attitude, I was not at all unenthused by the prospect of a Christmas without the traditional snow glazed trees and hot chocolate suppers.  Mum and dad had filled us in, and we were as fascinated by the idea of a hot Christmas as we were hopeful at spotting a koala up a tree along a suburban road, or a kangaroo hopping down the streets of Sydney. (Although this didn’t actually happen quite as we hoped, I can since assure all those non-Aussies out there, that there are plenty of places in Australia where they do exist amongst urban living.  Just the other night I took the dog outside and was greeted by an enormous kangaroo, taller than me and gawking like a deer caught in headlights.  I froze, and after a moment it took off into the night in a few huge bounds, the soft thumping sound of its feet betraying its graceful getaway.)

So what do Aussies do for Christmas?

Well, obviously every family is different, but generally speaking, Christmas Day will involve a BBQ.  It’s usually too hot to have the oven on inside, so a backyard BBQ or a barbie on the beach is the answer.  The beach?  I hear you ask.  Yes, the beach.  Aussies LOVE the beach and most beaches have BBQ’s under a nearby pergola, which on Christmas Day requires an early morning, some organisation and a basic knowledge of kung fu in order to lay claim to one.  Fresh seafood is the cuisine of choice, with prawn platters and smoked salmon followed by our national desert, Pavlova.

The 2008 Santa Claus Pub Crawl crew

A lot of Aussies will just spend the day as they would most summer days, lazing on the beach with a cool beer in hand.  The Christmas parties are never ending, and usually involve some kind of dress up theme and a pub crawl.  For a number of years I participated in a Santa Claus Pub Crawl, which involved dressing up as Mr or Mrs Claus and with a bag of candy in tow, ‘crawling’ the pubs along the Northern Beaches of Sydney, handing out candy canes to children and getting just a little bit more inebriated with each passing pub, and a little more sunburnt with each walk to the next.  I would like to take this opportunity to promote stranger danger, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and to encourage responsible drinking.

As is customary with the summer months, we too hold many summer music festivals, which a lot of people attend over the Christmas period.  Some people travel up north to the Whitsundays for even warmer weather, and some people travel down south to cool down, just a little.  Some people go camping, cruising or hiking.  As our school year ends around November, Christmas time is also a time for many to celebrate the end of their exams, school year or school life.

Whatever the occasion, Australians have this unusual knack of being relaxed, content and eager to forget all their worries and just have a good time.  Cheer and beer.  It’s their thing.  It’s our thing.

So Angela, and all, I hope this has cleared up some of the mystery behind how we manage Christmas in summer.  I do miss the white Christmases of England, but I can’t really complain about Christmas at the beach either.  We have the tinsel, the tree and the carols that come with any Christmas, we just do it a bit differently.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer, those of you all the way up there…yeah you!  I’m not jealous, because the funny thing about seasons is that they come around every year, and as it turns out we’re due for another summer in just a few months.  Now I’m going to get back to my fire and mittens, and despite the cold remain eternally content that I get to call Australia home.

N.B.  I can still rock a skipping rope.

~storytelling nomad~

Book that is most like your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 12

What’s this? You expect a literary equivalent of my unique, quirky, yet oh so fascinating life?  I’m sorry, but such a thing simply does not exist.  There are those who have tried, to no avail, to fit me like a square peg into a round hole, but it just cannot be done.  I am an undetermined shape of infinite sides, curves and acute angles.

But all is not lost.  Fortunately, there exists a short story and an article that both accurately depict small slices of my life, written by yours truly and published on the Australian Reader website and in Biscuit Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  The links for both can be found on my Published Stories page.

Happy Reading.

Not so long ago I used Apple iPhoto to publish a hardcover book of my travel story Belonging, with accompanying photos from the journey, which my brother and I gifted to my parents. Not only did it make my parents very happy, but for a time, I felt like a real writer!

~storytelling nomad~

A public announcement from your spellchecker

I have a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye cannot sea.

When eye strike a quay, right a word,
I weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar wright
It shows me strait aweigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
I nose bee fore two late
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely, rarely grate.

I’ve run this poem threw it
I’m shore your pleased two no,
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

-anon

I discovered this while going through my latest editing course readings today, and I thought it was worth sharing.  It really is so important to NOT rely solely on your spellchecker.  He’s a sneaky bastard with a cruel agenda to make you look like a thickheaded illiterate on crack.  Why risk leaving your intellectual capacity in the hands of something that doesn’t even have EYES?  I can assure you your brain is far more intelligent than his (despite his claims otherwise).  So for goodness sakes people, use and abuse that spell checking scoundrel where you must, but proofread, proofread, proofread!

~storytelling nomad~

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 11

Book from your favourite author

I have to pick just one? Okay, you win today Miss Rowling.  And just to be different, I’m going to showcase The Tales of Beedle the Bard.  This book of wizard children’s stories/fairy tales appears in the last of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is the key to helping Harry, Ron and Hermione find and destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes.  Within, is the Tale of the Three Brothers, which I think the movie adaptation did an amazing job of recreating.  I absolutely loved the animation.

For those of you who haven’t seen the animated version of the Tale of the Three Brothers, or just want to be once again in awe of such epic awesomeness, check it out here.

In true J.K. fashion, this book was originally released as only seven copies, one of which was auctioned off and purchased by Amazon for I.5 million pounds ($3.8 million), with the money going to charity.  Well played J.K, well played.

~storytelling nomad~

Book that changed your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 10

To be honest, no single book has changed my life.

Books (pl.) on the other hand, yes they have changed my life entirely.

~

From my early days reading Roald Dahl and The Famous Five, to my present day addictions to Robin Hobb, J.K. Rowling and Tolkien.  From those that have scared me, bored me, reminded me, moved me – books have granted me inspiration, escapism, magic, language, pleasure, entertainment, love, expression, adventure, community, relaxation, creativity and most importantly, knowledge.

Without books I would be without a primary source of learning, a source that encourages me to discover, to improve, to embrace, to empower and to inspire.

~

Without books I would not be me.

~storytelling nomad~

My love/hate relationship with studying books

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 9

Book that makes you sick

I have thought long and hard about this one.  There are books that make me angry, sad, bad-tempered, even jealous, but sick? No, unless my memory fails me, I cannot recall a book that has ever made me sick.

There is one book, however, that stirs up in me such a range of emotions – envy, awe, happiness, sadness, extreme rage – that usually results in a feeling of mild to moderate nausea.  It used to be a favourite of mine, but unfortunately I decided to use it as one of the primary texts I studied for my Honours thesis.  Two years, several crappy supervisors, and 20,000 words later, I was ready to chuck any book by Umberto Eco, particularly the Name of the Rose, into a bonfire whilst chanting voodoo curses at it and participating in an eerie ceremonial dance to ensure it never arose from the ashes.  I expected my finished thesis to meet a similar fate.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

It’s a mighty shame, this loathing for a book once loved.  Umberto Eco is quite the prodigy, hence why I wanted to write my thesis on him.  Described as an Italian medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, his masterful writing matched with his remarkable intellect is worthy of the highest praise.  He was my college brain crush, party because he is Italian (and boy do I love me some Italians), but mostly due to his creativity, his intelligence and his love for books and the written word.  He has written a number of books on writing, and has some excellent things to say about the future of books in the world of ebooks (which you can read more about in my earlier post about traditional vs new forms of publishing).

But I digress.  What I find a shame, is how often the forced (and even voluntary) intensive study of a favourite text, can often lead to a subsequent hostility towards it.  It happened time and time again in High School, with all the classics that we analysed, scanned, scrutinised and all but tore apart to arrive at the ‘true message’ within the text.  Back then, I couldn’t stand even looking at an Austen.  In bookstores I would see the orange spine of the Penguin classics section and quickly back away in fear.  The name ‘Shakespeare’ sent shivers down my spine.  But why?  Aren’t they classics for a reason?  Aren’t their messages still relevant today?  Isn’t their writing an example of great skill?

Yes.  But back then all I saw when I looked at these books was a collage of the following words:

Theme, essay, motif, essay, overview, essay, citations, essay, plot, essay, symbols, essay.  Oh, did I mention essay?

I loved English class, and to be honest I didn’t really mind writing essays, but it is just a little bit sad that we were given all these amazing books to read and never actually got to just enjoy reading them.  I understand why of course, and I learnt a lot about the aspects behind writing that I need to apply myself now that I’m writing my own book.  But writing my thesis proved to me anew how much damage over analysis can do to the simple pleasure of reading.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to pick apart a book as much as the next person, but those days at school, and the time I spent on my thesis, well, let’s just say there is a fine line between discussing various interpretations of a book, and butchering it into tiny tiny pieces and putting it back together again to form a new argument; a fine line that those study days used to fearlessly toe.

Thankfully, those High School memories have long since faded into the abyss that is my atrocious memory, leaving tortured recollections of essay writing and plot summaries behind, making room to enjoy those texts for the masterpieces that they are.  I now love Austen (see yesterday’s post), get excited when the Penguin classics are on sale and Shakespeare…well okay, I’m still a little shady about him.  Unfortunately the memory of my thesis is still too fresh to allow for such carefree reminiscing of the Eco books I once loved *she sobs in despair*.  I am confident, however, that one day that dissertation will torment me no more, and I will once again embrace the Name of the Rose and all of Eco’s texts as if I were setting my eyes upon them for the very first time.

N.B.  Although I foresee an emotional and happy reunion with the works of Eco, I can safely say that my thesis will remain banished in the furthest pits of hell, where I am sure it wickedly awaits to further torment me on my arrival.

~storytelling nomad~