Category Archives: Books
Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .
I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.
I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.
From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.
Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:
All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.
These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.
It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.
What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?
A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.
The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”
I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know – kinda strange, huh?”
“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”
I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”
“So you don’t read eBooks?”
“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”
The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.
Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!
Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.
Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.
MEMORIES . . .
Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.
SENSES . . .
Ok, this is a big one for me.
A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”
“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”
“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”
“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.
Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?
That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.
You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.
“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn
SLOWING DOWN . . .
Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.
A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”
STORIES ARE STORIES
Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.
There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.
It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂
Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?
2 + 2 = 4
For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you’ll have seen that I’ve finished revisions (at last!) on book 1 of my new fantasy series, and have passed it on to my first round of beta readers. This is the first time I’ve used betas, so I’m naturally a bit nervous. It’s one thing to finish a book and hand it to your husband or sister or mom, knowing they will gush with praise. It’s quite another to hand it to someone and say, “Please tear it apart.”
I originally planned for this book to be one of two. The first draft of the sequel has been written already, in fact, although it is awaiting much work! However, something has happened along the way. Rather inevitably, I suppose …
The characters … have come alive.
One or two of them are asking for their own stories. A couple others are wishing for more of their stories to be told. It’s all I can do to keep up with the ideas that are being flung at me, and in the process … two additional book outlines have taken shape. So it looks like this book duo has now become, officially, a series. A family of four books … two of which are only ideas thus far, yes, but rather strong and insistent ideas.
A bit scary. Quite challenging for someone who has never even considered writing a series. But what a delicious challenge! I think I’m willing to tackle it 🙂
As I’ve said, the first round of my beta readers have copies of the book already. However, I will be announcing, at a future date, my need for a second round of 2-4 readers. Those who follow my newsletter will be the first to hear about this opportunity, and if the need is filled by them, I may not be announcing it again on my blog.
NEW FAIRY TALE
Before I launch into revisions for book 2 of the fantasy series, I am working on a novella of a fairy tale retelling that I plan on indie-publishing sometime soon (eek!). As it was written a couple of years ago, I’ve got a lot of work to do on it yet. I began revisions on it today, and I must say they are going swimmingly so far! I basically read through it and marked down all the “homework” I’ll need to do. Several hefty changes, but I’m excited to get started on them.
My wonderful newsletter followers will also be the first to hear about beta reading opportunities for this book, plus fun things like participation in the cover reveal, etc., when the time comes. (Ooh, helping design another cover … I’m definitely looking forward to that part!)
On a rather random note, I just finished the amazing His Dark Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and am in a bit of withdrawal. None of the books I pick up seem to be appealing to me, but I’m ready to dive into something. Any great suggestions?!
So, my wonderful reviewers, the time has come to pull the names from the hat – literally 🙂 (Does it make it more fun if I tell you it was a pirate hat?!)
My little Bug helped me out in drawing the names, and here’s what they are!!
The winner of the Amazon gift card is …..
And the winner of the memory authors game is …..
Congrats, you two! If both of you would e-mail me, that would be great. For the winner of the game, I will need a physical address to send it to. Winner of the gift card, I will try my best to get it sent to you as soon as I can. I warn you, I’ve never bought an e-gift card before (I’ve led a very sheltered life …), so here’s hoping I can do it right and get it to you without any hitches!
As for the rest of you, I was tempted to spend my vacation savings and buy every one of you a gift, because I’m so thankful for you! But for now you’ll have to accept no more than my heartfelt thanks, and of course an Internet hug or two … *hug!!*
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Once upon a time, there was an author who was very thankful for all the support she had received from her readers and reviewers. As grateful as she was, she knew that “thank you,” and lots of smiles (which no one saw anyway) could only go so far….
So she decided to give something away … no, make that two somethings. They weren’t much, but they at least said “thank you” in less of a virtual way, and in a bit more of a physical way.
Here’s the first something:
Because who in the world can’t use an Amazon gift card??!!
And here’s the second something:
Make no mistake, this game has more to it than an ordinary memory game. You can become an author, publisher or editor (um, yes!), you can create your own personal library, and you can challenge other players to a literary duel. Too much bookish fun to handle, really! If you want to travel to Missouri, I’ll even play it with you ….
Here’s the Giveaway Info
WHO QUALIFIES? Those who have read The Word Changers and posted a review of it on Amazon.
WHEN DOES THE GIVEAWAY END? It will run from today until Tuesday, November 25th (and yes, I changed the original dates I had decided on because I didn’t want it to run through Thanksgiving!).
HOW DO YOU ENTER? Simply e-mail me with the link to your Amazon review of The Word Changers, (ashleew(at)zoho(dot)com), or comment with the review link below.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU WON? I will announce the two winners here on my blog first thing on November 26th (that’s a Wednesday, and yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving!).
Perhaps you are in the middle of reading The Word Changers, or maybe you haven’t got a chance to start it at all yet … No fear! You have a week to finish it, write your Amazon review, and be eligible for this giveaway!
I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, readers and reviewers, for your taking the time from reading books whose authors you have at least heard of … and agreeing to read and review mine instead! 😉