Archive for June, 2009
Back in October I was deciding whether or not to get a digital TV converter boxes. The main reason for wanting one was so I could watch season five of LOST without having to wait until the next day to watch it online. Then Congress, in their infinite wisdom, decided to push the digital TV date back from February 17 to June 12. My problem was solved – at least for four months. I ended up watching LOST and forgot about the entire digital television switch until Friday when Marathon Girl called and mentioned that the kids couldn’t find the one afternoon TV show they watch because of the switch.
“How are they handling it?” I asked.
“Fine,” Marathon Girl said. “They’re playing with trains instead.”
Over the weekend we talked about buying a digital converter box so we could at least get local channels (which is somewhat risky considering that the TV signal we did get was good but not great) or getting a satellite dish. In the end we decided not to do anything – at least for now. It’s not a question of expense but whether or not a converter box or a satellite TV would even be worth it considering that our viewing habits don’t involve sitting in front of the boob tube flitting through channels deciding what to watch.
With the exception of LOST all the other shows we watch take place on Friday or Saturday night via Hulu or DVD. If there’s a new series we’ve heard a lot about, we’ll go online and watch an episode or two to see if it’s worth continuing to watch online or put in our Netflix queue. In the last year we’ve watched Battlestar Galactica, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, The Office, Moonlight, the HBO miniseries John Adams, and a handful of other programs this way.
And we’ve really come to prefer it – especially for exciting, well-written shows like Battlestar Galactica where we can get two or three episodes done in one sitting instead of spacing them out a week at a time. Even things like local news, which a decade ago I watched with religiously, are better online. Instead of sitting through a 30 minute newscast, I can pick the stories – If any – I want to watch when I want to watch them. A decade from now I wouldn’t be surprised if most people watch TV online as opposed to tuning in and watching it live and TV networks do away with things like fall lineups and instead start shows at odd times.
The solution isn’t perfect. Sometimes I have to close my office door when the guys at work are talking about a show I haven’t caught up on – or even seen – yet. But even if I overhear a spoiler or two, I’ll take the freedom that comes with watching shows online or on DVD over having 100+ channels to surf through. I get more writing done and spend more time with the family. And I can learn to live without the live sporting that may catch my eye.
I have no idea what I’ll do when the final season of LOST comes around. At some point I’ll probably be overwhelmed with the desire to watch it live and Marathon Girl and I will have this debate in about six months or so. But odds are we’ll end up watching it on Hulu the next day.
I’ll learn to live with it.
It’s a small price to pay for freedom that comes with it.
June 15th, 2009
Ever since the late wife died, I’ve had a hard time reading fiction where the main character is a widow or widower. Thought the authors try hard, most of them don’t do a good job of capturing what it’s like to lose a spouse. Oh sure, most of them do a good job describing the sense of loss and grief that accompanies the death of a spouse, but when it comes to the internal emptiness that comes with it, most of them fall short.
So when I learned that Gail Graham’s latest novel, Sea Changes, was about a widow living in Australia who is struggling to move on with her life two years after her husband’s death, I was tempted to pass on the book without even reading it. The last thing I wanted was wade through page after page of self-pity.
Thankfully, I decided to give the book a chance.
Sea Changes is about American expatriate Sarah Andrews. She lives alone in a small house. She’s mostly estranged from her two children. Despite living in Australia for thirty-some-odd years she still hasn’t adjusted to life in Sydney. She stays in Australia only because her daughter lives there. Sarah’s only real human contact comes from weekly therapy sessions with a psychologist named Kahn. Despite seeing him for nearly two years, he’s been of little help. Most of her therapy sessions involve her talking and Kahn saying very little and abruptly ending the sessions on time.
Thinking that life holds little purpose for her, Sarah decides to swim far enough out to sea that she’ll be too tired to return and drown. But as her strength fails her, a girl names Bantryd appears and takes her to an underwater world. Later Sarah wakes up on the beach and wonders if everything she has just experienced was a dream. The incident prompts a change in Sarah. She begins to see more of a purpose in the world. She also is determined to find out if the underwater world she visited was real or simply her imagination.
Graham does a great job of capturing the feelings that come years after losing a spouse. However, she’s smart enough not to make widowhood the focus of her story. Instead the story is really about the journey that comes when life suddenly changes. It’s about rebirth and learning that even when we’re left alone in the world, there are people and places waiting to be discovered if only we take a step out of our day-to-day routines.
In fact, the most satisfying part of the book was seeing how Sarah finally became her own woman and changed from a woman who saw no purpose in life to one where she wasn’t going to let anyone tell her what to do. And the best part? The book had the one of the best ending to a novel that come across in years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never lost a spouse or never read a fantasy novel in your entire life. Graham has written a beautiful novel that will stay with me for years.
5 stars (out of five) for the unforgettable book Sea Changes.
June 12th, 2009
In answering a reader’s questions about book categories, LDS Publisher writes:
If your book is about a personal life experience or event, is in story form and written in first person, and follows what really happened very closely, it’s a memoir (classified as non-fiction). (Example: Running with Angels by Pamela H. Hansen)….
If your book is based on a personal experience or event, written in first or third person, some liberty is taken with the facts to make it flow better or to hide the identity of certain participants, it’s a novel based on true experiences (classified as fiction). (Examples: Torn Apart by Diony George; Room for Two by Abel Keogh)
For the record, Room for Two is a memoir, NOT “a novel based on true experiences”. LDSPublisher isn’t the first person to make that mistake and I’m not sure why some categorize it incorrectly. But it is a memoir so far as I understand the term.
June 9th, 2009
In the latest issues of Wired, Clive Thompson writes:
Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn’t embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?
To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark’s perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.
Every other form of media that’s gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn’t happen to books is that they’re locked into ink on paper.
Release them, and you release the crowd.
I hope every publisher in the world reads Thompson’s article and breaks out of the old, archaic ways of publishing and marketing books.
Most publishers still don’t get it. Sure, they’ll publish a chapter or two online. Maybe even make slick trailers to get some hype. But only one publisher that I’m aware of allows the entire content of their books to be published online. Publishing entire novels online and giving people a chance to share that content or hype it on social networking sites is, as far as I know, unheard of.
Yet there’s never been a better way to market books to people then the Internet. Posting an entire book online and providing a way for others to share or highlight portions of that content on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites is a great way to build an audience and SELL books.
In an industry that suffering from cutbacks and lagging book sales, publishers worry about losing books sales if they post the content online.
Guess what? They won’t.
They’ll actually sell more books because more people will be exposed to it. I’m willing to bet they’ll even find a market for some of their books that they didn’t know existed before.
You’re far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you’re far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.
Still publishers wring their hands when they think about posting the entire conents of their books online. “What about Napster?” they say. “It almost bankrupted the record industry.”
Here’s the dirty little secret of the free online music days: CD sales actually rose during the heyday of free digital music. That’s right. People bought more music because they had a chance to sample it first. Musicians who would have languished in obscurity suddenly found an audience because more people heard about it.
Instead of embracing the new technology and trying to find a way to share music and make money from it (like creating slick online stores where people could by songs and albums), the record companies sued the hell out of everyone they could think of. Instead Apple came in and filled the gap and turned their company around. Now Apple is raking in billions of dollars that could have gone straight to the record companies and musicians if they had embraced technology instead of fought it.
Right now publishers are in a unique position to develop technology that allows people to read books, share portions of the content on their websites or social networking sites, allow readers comments and feedback, and link to places where their books can be bought. Something akin to Google books, only on steroids.
And for the record, I have no problem taking my just completed novel and working with a publisher to post the entire contents online for people to read. As far as far as I’m concerned, it will not only help me sell more print copies but give me a chance to see who the book really resonates with. My guess is that, like my memoir, Room for Two, I’ll discover a completely underserved market that is hungry for its contents.
The challenge is finding a publisher who’s willing to be the vanguard and embrace the digital revolution that has consumed the rest of the world.
June 3rd, 2009
There are many blog posts I’ve wanted to write over the last month but simply haven’t had the time. Fr the last 10 days I’ve been feverishly working on a final rewrite of my novel. Now it’s done and off to an editor for some feedback. Once look over and implement her suggestions, then it’s off to three decision makers at publishing houses expressed interest in reading it. Hopefully I’ll have some good news in regards to my yet-to-be-titled book before the end of the summer. (Maybe I’ll stage some sort of title contest if I’m unable to come up with one on my own.)
I’ve been writing so much the last month that today I was thinking about what I was going to do after the kids were in bed and realized that with no novel to write, I have no idea what to do with myself. Okay, that’s not entirely true. There’s a big stack of books on my nightstand I need to read and a past blog post I need to turn into an essay. But before I do any of that, I need to take Marathon Girl out on lots of dates. You know, the kind where we get a babysitter for the kids and we have some time alone. She’s been VERY patient and supportive during the entire novel-writing process and needs to be rewarded with nice dinners, movies she’s wanted to see, a long 10-mile run together, and maybe a night where we drop the kids off with the in-laws or my parents and just have 24 hours to ourselves.
Until then, it feels nice to be able to breathe again.
June 1st, 2009