Somewhere Amazing

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Warning…Kindle moan…

Digital Security Blanket

 

I love my Kindle, even when it freezes when I try to use the highlight facility and sometimes has to be shut down before it will work again, I still love my Kindle. Its one of the older Keyboard editions, just in case you were curious. 

I used to carry a real paper book with me most places, almost like a security blanket. But I’d find myself with time to spare but wishing I’d brought a different book. Not so with Kindle, thousands of books at my fingertips. Okay, its very hard to flick between pages and pages not actually having numbers but percentages is annoying but I still love my Kindle.

But…here comes the moan…why is there sometimes such a price difference between the digital and the paperback version of a book. I’m no technical expert but it would seem there are fewer production costs involved with a digital copy of a book. So why is the price of a digital book at times more expensive than that of the paperback?

Examples (chosen at random from Amazon UK):

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith, paperback £5.99 Kindle digital £6.99

Redemption by Will Jordan, paperback £4.33 Kindle digital £8.64

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, paperback £5.89 Kindle digital £6.99

 

I’m not a penny pincher (anticipating any jokes about Scottish people and money), I don’t mind spending money if I actually have it. I will still buy the actual book in an actual book store even though its more expensive because I want to have that book ‘feel’ in my hands and can jump easily back and forth between pages and make notes in the book (yes I desecrate books by writing and underlining in them…) and ultimately I still prefer having an actual book on the shelf. I have even been known to jump about between a paperback and the Kindle version of the same book! Usually when I’ve just bought it on Kindle before discovering that I already have it on the shelf! I know, I’m an eejit (Scottish for a ‘silly person’). 

I just don’t get why a digital version can actually be more expensive when it surely has less production costs than a physical book and the point is surely to encourage sales? The examples I’ve given are actually the ‘least worst’, there are bigger variations. 

I know I’m probably coming across as a right grumpy so and so, it just bemuses me. I’m not saying the digital version has to be dirt cheap, the author still has to earn something, to make a living, I just feel there is no good reason why the digital version should be more expensive.

Moan over…

You can remove your ear plugs now…

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing

 

 


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The Person In You

I was reading, just this afternoon, John Connolly’s book The Wrath of Angels. Its the latest book in his Charlie Parker detective series. The books have more and more come to centre on the question of the nature of Parker himself. He is a troubled man who may, it seems, actually be ‘some kind of’ rebel angel seeking ‘some kind of redemption’ through acting as a kind of (there are alot of ‘kind of’s’ here) avenging angel, visiting justice on the guilty on behalf of the, frequently deceased, victims. Parker is a complex character who deals with some very dark topics (and characters) and seeks to repair something of the imbalance which evil has wrought in the world, though generally employs violence as a means of re-establishing balance. All sounds very dark but it is also very well written and Connolly himself is a very jovial and funny guy.

In this latest book, Parker is talking with Epstein, a Rabbi who concerns himself with hunting down rebel angels who walk the earth. Epstein is troubled by his own worries regarding Parker’s nature and one exchange of thoughts in particular had me thinking. The following struck me:

“My fear, as I explained to you last night, is that there may be a presence within you that has not yet revealed itself,” said Epstein.

“And I told you that, if I was like them, whatever was sleeping inside me would have awakened by now. There were so many times when, if I was a host for something foul lying dormant in me, it could have shrugged off its torpor and intervened to save those like it, but it didn’t. It didn’t because it isn’t there.” (Parker speaking)

The Wrath of Angels, Hardback p231 (UK edition).

Epstein is worried there may be a kind of (those pesky ‘kind of’s’ again!) evil presence lurking within Parker, unknown, or perhaps suspected by Parker himself. Parker is convinced this isn’t so and while he tries to persuade Epstein of this one gets the feeling he may also be trying to convince himself.

But when I read those words “…there may be a presence within you that has not yet revealed itself…” my thoughts went in a different direction. I thought not of any possible evil presence asleep within a person which waits to awaken, but rather of the way our personalities change over the years, normal, well balanced personalities.

I thought of myself as I am now and the various mindsets, beliefs and thought patterns I currently have. When I was a young boy I didn’t have those same thoughts, when I was a teenager I had different views to when I was a young boy. When I am an old man, although my core beliefs will, I think, remain the same, I will still have different, more evolved views and character traits.

The person within each of us changes as our circumstances changes, as our education grows and as our experiences, good and bad, shape us. Perhaps you, like me, have said “I am a different person now to the one I was then.” or “I don’t recognise myself any more.” 

We change, we grow, our thought patterns go through reformation and revision and that ‘inner core’ of who we are, our very souls, grow also. Those words “…there may be a presence within you that has not yet revealed itself…” spoke to me of how I may be in years to come, when life’s twists and turns, and my responses to them, mould and shape the ‘inner me’. This is a healthy thing, as long as that core remains healthy. 

I have always had a sense of God in my life, from the earliest times I can remember. While my core beliefs remain the same, there are many peripheral elements of my faith that have changed over the years. I see and understand things as an adult that I did not as a child, and there are elements of adventure and unbounded imagination that I loved as a child that are more repressed in my adult state. I would love to reverse that. Maybe in ten years time I will look back and once more not recognise the person that I am now as I type this. That can work in good and bad and neutral ways.

We change, we grow, we evolve in our beliefs, views and personalities. Sometimes we can even sense the beginnings of a transformation within us when it is only starting to emerge and that can be both exciting and fearful. In Christian language, you might call this a lifelong process of sanctification with many turning points along the way. It can be described simply as the evolution of the soul. 

I hope and pray for a happy and fulfilling transformation into a person who grows gradually older and wiser (the latter has always been a slow process for me) and whose core values are those that remain solid and sure even as the branches that grow from that core change and alter with the passing seasons, storms and sunshine alike. 

May the person you are and the person you will be, always be one whose core remains true to the Creator of your soul, even as the person you are changes and grows. 

Thanks for reading

Somewhere Amazing


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For those puzzled…

…by my two random story postings.

Let me explain.

The two postings prior to this one are something of an experiment.

For no great reason as I was sitting at my computer, I decided I’d try to write a little story with no planning whatsoever. I took the first thing that came into my head, an image of a boy standing before a window, and ran with it. There was/is no planning, no foreseen structure, no list of carefully fleshed out characters to draw on. Its just a blank page in my head. 

When I finished the random thought that was the random opening to a non-existent story, I had no idea where it would go, if anywhere.

Having finished the random continuation of the non-existent story, I have no idea where it will go, if anywhere. 

It is 100% unplanned story telling. An experiment. If nothing else, I am hoping to learn something of the craft of story telling through it. 

Just thought I’d say.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing

 


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A completely random continuation of a non-existent story…

The boy ran.

There was nothing else he could do. He ran as fast as he could whilst still taking care not to catch his feet on the branches littering the forest floor or slip on the wet leaves. He had to get as far from this place as possible before the alarm was raised, as it surely would be.

He reckoned he had a few hours and had to make the most of those hours. They would be the difference between freedom, or a form of it, and capture. He didn’t want to think about what capture would mean so used the fear those thoughts brought to his mind to force himself onwards.

Assuming there were no more patrols through the castle this night, the alarm wouldn’t be raised till first light as the rest of the residents of the castle went for breakfast. Then the roll call would reveal the company to be a member short. A recount would take place and then names would be called. He would be identified as the missing member soon enough. They would check his room first and then the castle itself would be searched. The possibility would be considered that he had had an accident and may be incapacitated somewhere in the castle, in those parts of the castle he was permitted to access. When no trace was found, the worst would be thought and the hunters would be sent out to track him down. The instruction would be given that all means necessary were permitted to find and bring him back.

Of course, he knew in his heart that they may not get further than searching his room before the alarm was raised. It would not be unusual for one of the wardens to check on his room, for such checks happened regularly. Neither would a warden think it unusual for him to be absent from his room. What would raise the alarm and cause hunters to be sent on his trail, was not to find his room unoccupied but to find it unoccupied and the window open. That didn’t happen, was never allowed to happen. Even in the summer months when the sun was in the sky the windows would still not be opened. That would risk too much, would plant the thought in the minds of the residents that there was a world outside which could be accessed. A closed window, one which was not permitted to be opened and which could not in fact be opened without the aid of a warden, was a safeguard against the evils of the outside world, was closed for a good reason, for their protection. 

Or so the residents were told.

The boy ran on…

 

 


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I wish I could speed read…

Slow Reader

What do Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, Tad Williams’ Otherland series and Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy have in common?

…I’ve had a sudden thought that I should really end this post here, go away, wait to see what responses there are, what connections are made before I continue! But that would be cruel 🙂 (smiles cruelly)

You could say they are all from the Science Fiction or Fantasy genre and you’d be right. You could say they are all part of a rather epic series and you’d be right also. In fact the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is theoretically  twelve but actually fourteen books. Tad Williams’ Otherland series has four books and Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn has three. Williams and Hamilton also have multiple other series in their back catalogue also. Robert Jordan may have but I’m unaware of any.

You could thrown in a ball from left field and say they are all written by men…unless any have an extremely well kept secret and are actually the aliases of women writers! They’re not.

Time to spill the beans. What these three have in common is that I have read the first book in each series but have not progressed any further. Actually that’s not strictly true, I have glanced at the first few pages of the second book in each series and then put each down again promising myself I would read them in due course but knowing there was a strong risk this would never happen.

Why do I stop after the first? Several reasons although lack of interest or desire aren’t among them.

First, I’m a slow reader, sometimes a very slow reader so have to be choosy about what I read. It can take me a month or longer to read a book someone else could polish off in a week or less. I don’t know why I read slowly, its just the way I am. 

Second, I’m not one of those people who can plough through a whole series without a break for something else. I need variety or I will likely get book lag, become tired of too much immersion in one world. I need something probably lighter and shorter in between. I say inbetween, clearly I’ve never got to the other side of inbetween, in other words, onto the second in a series.

Third, I think its quite possible I could spend the rest of my life in one series and never be able to read anything else!

Fourth, each volume in an epic series, certainly in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genres, tends to be lengthy. They generally aren’t like, say, crime novels where although a series may be lengthy in itself, the individual titles can be reasonably short, or maybe I should say ‘normal’ length.

But the main reason is my inability to read any faster than slow. Sometimes I try to force my mind into a faster speed but I end up reading what I’ve just read because I haven’t taken anything in. Kind of defeats the purpose if you have to re-read as you go. 

This is why I wish I could speed read. If I could zoom through a book fairly fast but still take in the story I’d get through more than the first book in an epic series. I’ve always held the assumption that to speed read would mean missing half the story, whizzing over carefully written sentences and missing the different little bits of details that frequently produce the magic of the story. Do speed readers miss the bits where you’d normally stop and re-read and think wow, that’s was amazing? Those moments where you stop to allow your mind to sink into and enjoy the feeling you get from a certain passage? I may be totally wrong but to me the very existence of the word ‘speed’ in ‘speed reading’ implies missing certain bits in a blur. But I’d still like to give it a go. 

I know of people who say they re-read books in a series before the next comes out so they get the sense of continuity. I knew someone who did this with Robert Jordan’s series when I worked in a book store a lifetime ago. I can understand reading quickly through a book you’ve already read as you already know the story so maybe that’s a form of speed reading, perhaps more like skimming.

I remember reading on the back cover of Jordan’s first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, a reviewer saying they had “Read it in three days and will queue for the sequel.” Those words have always baffled me because I could never get through a book that length in three days. I can’t imagine someone being able to immerse themselves properly in an 800+ page book in just three days. 

Anyway, I do sometimes wonder if I will ever manage to finish a series. Possibly Robert Jordan’s series is out of my reach but Williams and Hamilton, purely because there are less books in those series, are a better possibility. In the absence of speed reading however, its going to be a long journey.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing


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The Personality of an Author

The Wrath of Angels

Like many people I have my favourite authors and I like to think my favourites can tell a good story without becoming too formulaic, lazy or, frankly, full of themselves. I used to work in a book store and, upon reading the first couple chapters of a very famous and commercially successful author’s latest book, announced to the then manager, sitting in the staff room with me, that this latest book was, well, rubbish! I think “Total tripe, don’t know how it got past the editor” may have been my actual words.  The author in question normally wrote thrillers (naming no names here…just in case I ever get published) but this book was more a very light weight meander through a family history, somewhat autobiographical. I told the manager that when talking to the book buying public, I was tempted to, but didn’t, commit retail suicide…tell them what I really thought of the book! The manager just smiled, a little nervously I thought. He finally said “Doesn’t matter if it’s the worst book ever written, it has their name on the cover, it’ll sell by the bucket load.”

I was a reasonably chatty person and you get a sense for telling whether a customer is happy for a quick “Hi, how are you today? That’s a great choice of book.” or if they just want to buy the book and go. So when I saw people excitedly bring their copy of this particular author’s book to the checkout and hand over their money, I didn’t say “Great choice Sir/Madam!”, rather I just said “Thank you, anything else I can help you with today?” (I tried to say it in a chirpy way but this is Scotland, not America, I can’t do the ultra happy voice, come on!) and made no comment on the book, hoping they wouldn’t ask my opinion. What I wanted to say was something like “I know that author is usually great but this one’s a dud, choose almost anything else on the shelves and its an improvement. In fact I’ll jot down a few sentences on the back of your receipt just now and that’ll be better.” But I wanted to keep my job so didn’t and anyway, reading taste is so subjective that for all I knew the customer would love the book, or at least not hate it.

Neither did I know the author personally and certainly never to talk to. I don’t think they’ve ever visited the delights of down town Glasgow on a damp and rainy afternoon (most afternoons) and given their home in far sunnier climates, I don’t blame them (dropping very vague hints as to the author’s identity here). For all I knew the author could have had a burning desire to tell a personal, more autobiographical story, for a long time and had finally taken the time and effort to write it. Maybe it had been a bit of a risk being so far removed from their usual style, maybe the publisher wasn’t sure but gave the go-ahead because they knew, like my manager, that the book would sell because of the name on the cover. Maybe writing it had been a painful but cathartic experience for the author, maybe, whether it sold well or not, it would prove to be the book they were most proud of. I didn’t know whether any of that was true. Maybe if I did then, even if I didn’t like the story I would have been more sympathetic to it, made more of an effort to persevere. But I didn’t. It did make me think though, what difference it might make to a reader if they knew the author, if not as a personal friend then at least to say hello to at a signing event or watch them interviewed in an arts program or similar.

I was at a signing event recently, for John Connolly’s new Charlie Parker book The Wrath of Angels, and his editorial collaboration with Declan Burke, Books To Die For. John Connolly is one of maybe four or five of my favourite authors, the only authors whose books I will buy in Hardcover if I can afford it, rather than wait for the paperback, the only authors I will try to get to a signing event for. I don’t know him personally but, from even brief chats at events and from general reputation, Connolly is one of the nicest, friendliest, most amiable and  accommodating authors you’re likely to meet. He always seems happy, jovial and approachable (even when like me you’re standing in line waiting to get a book signed and feel almost overcome with self-consciousness and its an anxiety stricken inner fight not to put the book down, or at least buy it without getting the authors signature, and run for the door. I’ve always found it somewhat ironic that Connolly’s jovial, upbeat personality contrasts so much with some of the dark material he writes about. His books are a joy to read though even if he does deal with some extreme characters (both his good and bad guys can be quite terrifying!) and dark subjects.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Again, naming no names, there’s another very famous and commercially successful author who writes funny fantasy books. Going back to the book store I worked in, this author had a new hard cover book released, so the store got incredible numbers of his back catalogue delivered because they knew they’d sell. I’ve never met the guy although I’ve seen him interviewed on television. I commented to staff that the guy was incredibly prolific and wrote some brilliantly funny stuff. Someone replied that when you’ve met alot of the authors your opinion of them sometimes changed. They said that the author in question had once come to do a signing event and the staff had put in a huge amount of effort into displaying the books, organising the event and generally making it run smoothly and making the author feel welcome. They said, though I wasn’t there so can’t verify it, that when he arrived, he was abrupt, rude, arrogant and gave every impression in the world that the staff were mere minions and barely deserved to be in his presence. It left a sour taste in the mouth and the negative impression had stayed with the staff. It left its mark. Now I’m not saying authors don’t have bad days, maybe running late, maybe got out of the wrong side of bed, maybe just grumpy, maybe stubbed their toe that morning…but when you are meeting the staff who make every effort to sell your books to customers (even if the books would sell themselves anyway), if would be nice to think the author would at least make an effort to be amiable, or at least not rude. I have read a few of the author’s many books but there’s always a little part of my mind that thinks of his poor personality, on that day anyway. Having seen him interviewed on television I could actually imagine him being ‘hard work’.

There was another author, well known if not perhaps so commercially successful this time, who was due to the store to sign his books. Not a public signing, just signing to have signed copies on the shelf. Staff still made an effort though, nice section of the shop floor tidied, comfy chair, cup of coffee waiting, several pens in case one ran out, staff member at his beck and call etc. Then he arrived, looking dragged backwards through a hedge bedraggled, very unshaved, ultra grumpy and with the attitude of “Where are the books, let me sign them and go.” I could forgive the rough appearance in all honesty, maybe it was part of the folklore of a writers appearance. It was the ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude that got to me. I had never read anything by him, hadn’t really been interested yet just because it would be a signed copy to add to my signed copy selection, I had put one of his books aside for myself, waiting for his arrival. I probably wouldn’t read it but as I say, it’d be signed. After meeting him, seeing his attitude and generally ‘can’t be bothered’ demeanor, I retrieved my book, put it on the general pile to be signed and shelved and forgot all about him. I’ve never been remotely interested in him since.

Such is the effect an impression can have. Maybe you’re the type of person that doesn’t really care what the author is like as long as the story is good. Maybe you will buy any book with the author’s name on the cover no matter if its good, bad or indifferent. For me, I hate to say it, but it does matter whether or not I know a little about the personality of an author. That’s probably not a good thing, I should just be interested in the story, but the truth is that if I know the author is known to be a grumpy so and so, then it would make me think twice about buying their book, even if it had brilliant reviews.

That’s just me.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing


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The stories that help get you through…

The stories that help get you through.

After reading a poem recently, I found myself thinking of what I did, or where I went, in my mind, to help get through the devastation of a relationship break up.

I confess that for a long time I didn’t want to do anything. The pain inside was so bad that, for a time, all of me just shut down. Reading, writing, listening, in fact any kind of ‘doing’ at all was impossible, out of the question. The ‘things’ in my brain (I’m not what you would call even an amateur on the biology of the brain) which would normally give me the impetus to ‘do’ stuff, had taken such a blow from the break up that it had seriously malfunctioned. It would, in due course, re-function, but for now it was like a car in a garage stripped of all those internal things (not big on the mechanics of cars either) which normally enabled it to move, anywhere. Things like wheels and an engine (maybe I do know a little car stuff).

When enough time passed and something, somewhere at the core of my brain, a survival instinct I guess, was triggered by something unknown, I forced myself to read, a desperate attempt at diversion. Although the words I read, the stories they conveyed, never for a moment shut out the thoughts, memories, pain of the relationship, the images which had once thrilled and now assaulted my imagination quite brutally, my brain nonetheless seemed to be grateful for somewhere to escape to for awhile.

I’m a slow reader so I only read in small stages, but amongst the books I read were Phil Rickman’s To Dream of the Dead  and The Secrets of Pain, and about a quarter of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I intend to keep going with the latter, just takes me time. I have read most in Phil Rickman’s series and maybe the familiarity of much loved characters appealed to me, while Justin Cronin’s book simply seemed different to books I had recently read and a little dark also. Possibly that sense of darkness appealed. I began to love some of the characters also. I also read little pieces of other books, nothing more than a sentence, a paragraph, sometimes entirely at random. I loved the sentence in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, right at the start, “Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more grey each one than what had gone before.”  Sometimes I just love the power of a beautifully constructed sentence, whether describing something good or bad. The title of Linda Gillards’ Emotional Geology. The simple everyday real life language and humour of Diane Moody’s Confessions of a Prayer Slacker.

In all this I was reminded of the title of a C S Lewis book, Of Other Worlds. I love that title. At that time in my life, when the reality of my own life was too much to take, I found refuge in other worlds where for a time, I could lose myself to some extent.

I wouldn’t say the pain has completely passed, perhaps it never will but I am grateful beyond measure for those stories  (there may be others but those are the ones that immediately come to mind) which gave me a little respite from the the worst of that storm. Looking back now, I am amazed at the power contained within a story.

You, reader, will have your own stories you go to to help ‘get you through’. Maybe a book you already knew of, maybe a new one that took you by surprise. Your own somewhere amazing.

Feel free to share.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing 🙂