Tuesday, November 30, 2010

634 at Twist of Noir

Christopher Grant's A Twist of Noir blog is running an interesting series. To commemorate the blog's increasing presence as a venue for short crime fiction, stories 600-700 were commissioned to come in at exactly the number of words as the story's order in ATON's oeuvre. My contribution occupied spot 634, and was required to come in at 634 words. Not 633, and 635 was right out. Exactly 634.

In a fit of imagination rare even for someone of my creative inclination, my story is titled 634. I hope you enjoy it. Take some time to browse around the site while you're there. It's well worth the time.

Many thanks to Christopher for risking the high standards of his blog by inviting me to participate.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My New Kindle

It took me a long time to succumb to the wiles of an e-reader. I’m a traditionalist (read: old), and I like the feel of the paper and the ink on it. I like how new paperbacks smell differently from new hardcovers, and how the smell evolves as the book ages, so you can tell it’s a new book or an old book with your eyes closed. I like the idea of a book providing a connection all the way back to Gutenberg, how I was looking the same symbols on a paper page as had Sir Thomas More, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Raymond Chandler.

Then I looked more deeply into Kindles for my mother, whose eyesight now limits her to large print books, or a cumbersome magnification process that binds her to the kitchen table if she wants to read. Kindles, as you may know, can magnify text many times. I bought her the big version and she fell in love with it.

In doing my research, I found that a Kindle had a great benefit to me, as well. There’s a lot of stuff available for it that isn’t in print on paper. Old books, newer books that have gone out of print, and now, books that were created just for the Kindle. (Apologies to other e-readers and their advocates. I have a Kindle, so that’s what I’m riffing on. Insert the name of your favored device as appropriate.) Collections that exist nowhere else. Hopefully, e-readers will one day eliminate the need for books to be of a certain length, lest the purchaser feel cheated. No longer will stories comfortably told in 180 pages have to be stretched to 300. Just sell it electronically for half the price.

My first purchases are good examples. Two collections from the contributors to collaborative blogs I read daily. (Terminal Damage from the writers at Do Some Damage and Fresh Kills, from the contributors at The Kill Zone. A collection that came from one of patti Abbott’s flash fiction challenges. (Discount Noir.) An out of print book I’ve long wanted to read. (Adrian McKinty’s Dead I Well May Be.) A collection of Dashiell Hammett stories I don’t think is available in paper, certainly not for $5.00.

So I joined the 21st Century. I consider the Kindle a complement to my books; I’ll never stop reading books. It will make travel a lot easier, and will help to solve what is becoming an urgent space issue in my office, though I expect I will occasionally buy paper copies of books I first read on Kindle. There’s something about the tactile feeling of a favorite.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo NoNo

It’s November, and we all know what that means: NaNoWriMo. (All right, maybe not all of us. Some might have thought of that turkey holiday first. Bud Selig clearly thinks of November as World Series month.) NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writers Month, which, frankly, doesn’t speak well of the writers who named it, if it has to be explained in such a manner.

NaNoWriMo was intended to get people off their tuccheses and write. The goal is to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s 1,667 words a day on average if you’re counting, and you are, if you’re involved in NaNoWriMo.

The problem I have with NaNoWriMo—aside from the name—is that it encourages people to settle for whatever dreck they think of out of the chute, because they don’t have time to edit anything in a meaningful manner. We have more than enough shitty books already. We need less of them, not more.

Sure, participants can edit their books later. I’ll bet damn few of them do. People with the stamina and self-discipline to do a decent editing job don’t need a gimmick to get them writing in the first place. They sit their asses down and write.

A lot of people enjoy NaNoWriMo, and I don’t want to spoil their fun by acting more of a prick than usual. Have a ball. Just remember one thing: the real writing starts December 1. Assuming you intend to write an actual book, and not merely to participate in the world’s longest writing exercise.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October's Reads

Not to get all Oprah Winfrey about it, but I didn't read a single book in October I'd recommend to anyone else. I finally reached back and re-read Robert B. Parker's Pastime. Not one of his best, but comfort food for a reader going through tough times. A little Spenser, a little Hawk, and I always liked Vinnie Morris.

Let's hope November picks up the pace a little.