Rereading your favorite novel, love or leave it?

They say that every time you read a book it’s a different book, because you are different. If you read a book when you’re twelve you bring one set of experiences, opinions, and influences to that reading. Read it again at twenty-one, it’s a new book because you’ve survived to your majority, studied, read, and maybe even written something yourself. So if you keep reading that book, at thirty, forty, fifty, does it keep changing for you?

I submit that it is possible to read a book too many times. Unless you are dissecting it for the purpose of figuring out its structure you can bore yourself. There are so many books in the world! Read a new one! Only my most favorite novels hold up time after time, offering up nuggets of humor and wisdom again. My favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen precisely because there is so much left out of it. I read it first at seventeen. I reread it looking for more, sure there is something I missed. Most novels, even ones that I absolutely adored, stories that make me gasp and cry, leave it all on the page. Because, frankly, that’s where it’s at, writing-wise.

I’ve been thinking about reader reactions, and rereading, since reading this piece in the Guardian. Authors are generally voracious readers and sometimes reread novels out of necessity (nothing else in the house) or to study the way an admired author got the job done. Poetry, of course, and classics like Shakespeare, Doestoevsky, and Jane Austen are definite rereads. The classics hold up because they are dense and enjoyable and fulfill a reader’s need for philosophy of living, human emotion, or just plain excitement.

As you can see from the article authors have a diverse list of favorites that are often very personal. Reading is like that. Have you ever given someone a book (that they didn’t request, written by someone they’ve never read) and wondered why they never read it? You loved it so they should too. But like jewelry and perfume, novels are an individual taste. Often as readers we don’t know exactly why some stories resonate, holding us captive and nestling deep in our subconscious, while famous novels loved by millions leave us cold. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as you’re reading for pleasure (unless you are in a Nazi book club. If so, my condolences.) Pick a novel, new or old, fresh to you or as familiar and comforting as an old sweater, and read it. Enjoying reading is one of the most basic, simple pleasures of life.

Reader reactions fascinate me. As a writer you can only write the book you can write, and hope that it appeals to someone (or many someones.) In the age of online reviews anyone who reads a book can offer his or her opinion of it to the world, uncensored and often poorly spelled. It’s sort of like fan mail. One of my novels now has nearly 40 reviews on Amazon (a consequence of a giveaway campaign last summer) and as much as I hate the bad reviews and cherish the good ones I find the whole thing amusing. How can one reader write: “something for everyone, intrique, romance, murder and all tied up neatly together,” and another have the opposite reaction: “too much nonsense in it. It took me forever to read as I was very bored with parts”? Well, because one might be fifteen, the other seventy. One might be used to reading romance novels, another might be into ‘Twilight.’ You never know. I couldn’t have written this book when I was twenty (Blackbird Fly, by the way, written when I was 50ish. I couldn’t have written any novel at 20 but I loved my journalism classes.)

I bring to the table my own experiences, just as the reader does. I love that I can hear what they think. It makes writing a lot less lonely.

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Happy new electronic year!

Got a new Nook or Kindle? Lots of folks are jumping on the e-book bandwagon and as authors we are all thrilled to get more folks reading fiction, whether ours or somebody else’s. Several of us here at Thalia Press Authors Co-op have free or specially priced e-books right now. Go forth and load up those e-readers!

Gary Phillips is offering up up a free holiday story for everyone — The Kwanzaa Initiative at FourStory.

Sparkle Hayter has the first book in her very funny Robin Hudson series,  available in many formats for free at Smashwords.com

Katy Munger is offering many of her mysteries for free for Amazon Prime members. Her Casey Jones mysteries are a kick-ass ride. Check them out!

Rory Tate (that’s Lise McClendon) is also offering up her new thriller Jump Cut for free to Amazon Prime members who can borrow books for Kindle.

And don’t forget DEAD OF WINTER, the short story anthology for your Kindle and Nook. Chilling stories from bestselling mystery writers for only $4.99.

Subscribe to the blog to find out about future promotions and free e-books.

Is hard copy still alive & kicking?

I’m pretty sure the book in its physical, dead-tree form is not going away, at least until we quit paper entirely. But I do like holding a book in my hands for reading. That love, instilled in childhood, will probably be the first thing to go as children grow up reading on electronic devices. Keep your children reading real books! Objects of affection that last and last. (What was your favorite book from childhood? I have a falling-apart copy of The Night Before Christmas in Texas That Is, given to us by my Texas grandparents. It’s still pretty funny to see Santa in cowboy boots.)

That said, digital seems to the wave of the future. But like me, people still like real books. I just formatted my mystery Nordic Nights to be printed on demand (one at a time, less waste)  by Amazon’s Createspace. I’ve done about four or five books so far for them so not a new experience…. or so you would think! Every time I format a book I have to re-learn certain aspects of Microsoft Word (which as much as I hate it is the only word processor that has all the bells and whistles I need.) Section breaks are the main bugaboo, and headers, and pagination, and do-you-start-every-chapter-on-the-right-or just flow? After about a week of hair-pulling I got it right. And the reason I know is there is a new gadget at Createspace that lets you actually look at your uploaded text. It’s called Interior Reviewer and after you upload your file (pdf/x please) you can turn the pages, get called out for your mistakes, and re-do it if necessary. It appears there is still some actual person doing final review but this new feature lets you fix the major things. I can see reviewing interior text formatting errors would be a major hassle for Amazon (it’s a major hassle for me and I only have to do one book at a time.)

The templates you download from Createspace make interior formatting much simpler. But beware adding new pages (to make certain text on the right or left usually.) I found out the new pages weren’t sized properly, going in at 8.5 x 11, instead of the document page setup size. That wreaked havoc with pdf/x, making it break down each size into a separate file. Such joy, to get the NO ISSUES report from the Interior Reviewer. Ring the merry bells! And I thought designing the cover would be a bitch.

Oh, it’s the little things this holiday season…. cheers!

Chilling Crime for Winter

The theme is winter, and the Thalia Press Authors Co-op rises to the occasion, digging deep into their devious imaginations with short stories of cold, ice, mystery, and of course unexplained homicide.

Eight established crime authors and eight chilling stories to send shivers down your spine: The anthology, Dead of Winter, edited by Katy Munger and Lise McClendon, will release next week as an e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Enjoy this collection of intriguing, surprise-filled stories full of buried secrets, back-stabbing and revenge —  all set against the wintry backdrop of the cruelest season. Continue reading “Chilling Crime for Winter”