Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hot Summer Reading

We are officially one week into summer, even though in some parts of the nation, here in Sacramento, California included, the season’s sizzling weather had already begun weeks ago. And like those ancient societies that centered their actions around the seasons and made festivals to please their deities, summer, as with the other seasons, is a time to make plans and goals. One of these for me is in the form of a reading list. Summer provides most of us extra time to catch up on those books that we said we would read, passionately wanted to read but didn’t because we didn’t get around to it. It’s also a time of new book releases, which are equivalent to the flickers’ summer movie releases. This is the time to plan a list of what we would like to read on the pool deck, on a long trip or at the local AC’d cafĂ© or library on those dragon breath weather days when we just don’t want to go out yet don’t want to pile up on the energy bill running the air conditioner in our houses. Here’s my summer sci fi/fantasy reading list below (not necessarily in any particular order)!

Across the Universe,   Beth Revis (currently reading): a YA space opera-mystery involving an unseen killer on board a generation ship.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: This involves a pond in which one of the characters imagines to be an ocean. Wherever there’s an ocean there’s a beach. Therefore this book is perfect for summer reading!

Jack Glass, Adam Roberts: another science fiction mystery tale involving a murderer but with a more atom punk touch in that it uses elements of golden age sci fi.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: The critically acclaimed novel about women in the near future whose rights have been taken away.

The Manitou, Graham Masterton: This novel about the evil spirit of a medicine man was made into a movie only three years after its 1975 publication. I’ve seen the movie which was made really good as underrated as it was. Now I would like to see how much more is in the book bearing in mind that most movie adaptations of novels don’t include all scenes or even all characters from the original stories. 

Batman comics: This includes both Batman and Detective Comics, particularly from the ‘70s. For me summer has always been Batman season because that’s when I got to know Batman most when I was a kid around six or seven years old. This was particularly through reruns of the campy ‘60s TV series, and even though today I feel like it never did the Dark Knight Detective justice with its rainbow/Technicolor sets and daylight dominant settings it’s what started me on Batman. Today, I’m trying to catch up with the true Dark Knight by reading the comics from just about every era except the ‘50s and ‘60s when Batman became more of a cut and dry trusted hero of the people, like Superman, rather than that questionable more-or-less anti-hero. Lately, I’ve been trying to collect and read the ‘70s comics, since they’re more in my current budget and also because that’s the decade Batman was returned to his true dark hero role.

1001 Arabian Nights (Author anonymous): This is a thick book that’s pages can add up to almost the number in the title. Being a slow reader, I know I couldn’t read it in one summer but since it consists of several tales the ones I would like to read before the summer’s out are “Aladdin” and one or two of the Sinbad tales. “Aladdin” has influenced Hollywood films since the 1940s at least, including a Disney animated feature in the ‘90s, and Sinbad has been adapted to a series of movies whose special effects were done by one of my long time sci fi/fantasy Hollywood special effects heroes, the late Ray Harryhausen. Now it’s time to read the original stories, and if I read Arabic I would read the story in its original language but, unfortunately, I don’t.

Galactic Energies,Luca Rossi:   A short story collection, and again not that I’ll read them all during the summer, but I’d like to get started on a few.

A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The first of Burroughs’s Mars series of novels. I read a couple of his Tarzan books, one each of the past two summers. Now this summer I’d like to give his Mars series a chance.

That’s my summer reading list, at least for sci fi fantasy reading. What’s your reading list for the summer? Need help getting started? Let me suggest yours truly’s short story collection, The Fool’s Illusion. In fact, there’s a great story in there that may just be perfect for the pool deck, or for reading at the beach or lake. It’s about the search for a legendary sea monster (not the Loch Ness monster, this one’s in the Mediterranean). If you like simulating your surroundings to a great horror-sci fi story, then this is the one to read in one of the above settings I just mentioned. Better yet, you may even want to read it on the water! That is, if you’re not faint of heart or prone to fear-based accidents.

You can purchase Fool’s Illusion at Amazon, and if you do so between now and Tuesday July 1st you can take advantage of the special Kindle Matchbox deal! And you don’t even need a Kindle device to read the Kindle version! Just go to The Fool’s Illusion’s Amazon page and click the “free app” link underneath the Kindle price. What is the Kindle Matchbox deal? It’s a special where if you buy a print copy of my book you can have a Kindle copy of it for free! If you don’t like reading print or can’t think of anybody who does who you can give the print version to as a gift, then you can purchase the Kindle copy alone for only 99 cents! Again, you don’t need a Kindle device to read the Kindle copy; you can read it on any Windows, Apple or Android device. Just visit the Kindle free app store!

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Author Supporting His Local Bookstore on a Budget

Photo Credit: Amazon

Saturday I was at The Avid Reader in Davis considering buying Neil Gaiman’s newly released paperback version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I had told myself, since the day of Gaiman’s novel’s original hardcover release a year ago, that I would purchase Ocean as soon as it released in paperback keeping in mind the $8 “pocket” size mass market version. When I saw that the paperback was a $16 trade version, I had second thoughts. I thought that if I’m going to pay $16 for a trade version of Ocean, then I’ll just try to get it used on Amazon. I could probably purchase a hardcover version of it on there for less than the paperback version offered at brick-and–mortar stores. However, while considering my budget, I try to purchase my books at my local independently owned bookstore, in which Avid Reader is, as much as possible. So I ended up buying another author’s book I had been considering, Beth Revis’ YA space opera, Acrossthe Universe. Even though that was a trade edition itself, it only cost me 10 bucks. Buying at an independently owned book store will not only keep much of the money in the local community but will also strengthen the local literary culture.

Photo Credit: Amazon

As a person who believes in contributing to community and local culture, I try to keep the money at home. By this I mean that when I purchase at locally owned stores, the money for those purchases are going back into those stores’ community. I admit that I’m not an economics expert, but I don’t want all my money for a purchase to go to some suit in a corporate tower across state or even on the opposite side of the nation (I’m on the West coast) who doesn’t give a damn about who purchases the products they distribute but just want the money from those purchases. Generally, the CEOs don’t give a damn about the individual communities they’re selling or distributing  to yet never see. They don’t care about the culture surrounding their products, in this case books. They don’t care who’s who in the various branches of their business across the nation and the world over. Those branches are just units of a machine to them, an impersonal network that pumps in the cash.

The locally owned, independent bookstores, the few that are left at least, don’t only care about the books they sell but also the people they are selling them to who are often avid readers. They are enthused about the books and the literary culture surrounding them, wanting to enhance that culture, and so are ready to promote local authors especially newer ones. That’s why you’ll see book signing events at these indie stores that feature authors who may be known around the community but often not worldwide via a best seller’s list. They tend to cater to the people in the local area and are less worried about how they‘re going to market a particularly book or service in a branch in Australia. Like the public library, they sponsor programs for both adults and children, often book reading clubs for the adults and storytelling time for the children and thematic arts and crafts to go along with it. They support community-wide events such as art walks and will often display local fine artists’ work in their stores. And so you can almost be sure that even when you purchase a big publisher’s book, such as Harper’s, at a locally owned bookstore, a significant portion of the money is going to go to the community at least through city, or maybe even county, revenue if nothing else. It, or the majority of it at least, won’t go to some big chain store’s headquarters that most shoppers haven’t even seen.

It’s true that chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble (which I heard has not been doing too well with their sales and may go the way of Borders) have their book culture events, such as book club meet-ups. But they’re often for the reason of selling a single book or series of books such as the Harry Potter or The Hunger Games series and so these clubs or their individual meet-ups often are based on big selling titles such as these two. And so big chain bookstores centering their literary cultural events around these best sellers is more of the agenda of pumping more money out of more consumers to go into the company rather than the local community. It’s an agenda that cares little about the culture of books in general, even within certain genres such as sci fi/fantasy, romance or thriller and more about the individual product being sold and the increase (as opposed to the simple maintenance) of profits.

I’m not saying I don’t want to see my books, currently TheFool’s Illusion, sold beyond my local community. Most of us writers want to make sufficient money off our books and those of us who are lesser known can only do it by distributing our work beyond our home areas. I’m just saying that I want my books to be sold for the love of books themselves rather than to simply make ever increasing profits off of them. If those profits continue to increase inevitably then good, I can definitely go for that! But I’m going to make my books products of the local community rather than of the impersonal corporate system that many best sellers too often get caught up in and, when they do, the major publishing houses rather than the authors have too much control of how their sequels (if any) and the authors’ future works are written.

I’m a member of my home community of Sacramento, not a member of the global corporate system and so I’m going to market my books among the locally owned stores here way before I do to big chain stores elsewhere. I want people the world over to buy my books, sure. But I want people in my home area to also buy and read them and so I want to support the local literary culture. Like I was born here, Fool’s Illusion was also born here. We’re both members of the local community and so we’ll support that community first and foremost.

I’m in the process of pitching Fool’s Illusion to locally owned bookstores. Expect to see live signings by me in the Sacramento area soon. Exactly where and when, I’ll mention in upcoming blog entries. So keep tuning in.

Until next time . . .