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Stack of BooksWriters aren’t like normal people.

When writers read–be it a book, an article, or sometimes even a headline–we study, parse, and edit. We re-word what we read (“It would be better like this”), we laugh out loud at ugly phrases (“He threw up his hands”), and we will kick a book across the room before we’ll read another page filled with moronic characters and Swiss cheese plots.

This can take a lot of the enjoyment out of reading, but on the flip side, there are joys in reading only writers can experience. We have WIWI moments (“Wish I’d Written It!”) and can find ecstasy in a well-wrought sentence or a surprising image.

We also learn from reading. We learn a lot.

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The simplicity and durability of the codex book is hard to match. A decidedly low-tech marvel by today’s standards, a book is still a nearly magical thing.

I have books in my house that are hundreds of years old. I have one was made in the early 1700s. That’s three centuries, my friend. And all of them still work.

The printed book has held many secrets. A lover’s note hidden between the leaves. Scribbled  marginalia penned by a previous owner. Messages constructed with the first letter of each physical page. Code keys built from characteristics of specific editions.

And here’s a new one. “Fore-Edge Paintings.” (more…)

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Echoes from another time.

“You’re too sensitive.”
“I was just teasing!”
“You need to come out of your shell.”
“You spend too much time in your head.”

When I was young, adults labeled me with words like “shy” and “bookish” which didn’t sound bad but I was pretty sure they weren’t compliments. I had no such confusion with the schoolyard taunts of “pussy” and “faggot.”

These were the judgments pronounced upon me. They were the phrases that defined me. They were spoken so often, I believed them. I believed that I was defective, inferior. I believed that I was somehow less. Even with all my gifts–of concentration, of perseverance, in music, as an autodidact–I still felt that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fit in, because I rarely spoke up, because I enjoyed solitary activities, because I preferred walking in the hills to traveling with the pack.

So, when a friend recommended Susan Cain’s sociological study, Quiet, I was intrigued.

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiReality is a test. Are you going to face it? Or are you going to reject it?

I’ve tried the latter. I don’t recommend it.

Example: for decades I believed I was a dog person. Then I lived with a dog. I’m not a dog person. I’m a “let me play with your dog” person. Don’t get me wrong; I love dogs. I just don’t want to live with them. At least, not at this point in my life. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog.

So, I’ve learned the lesson that facing reality is always the better choice.

Therefore, I took a long look at the hard numbers from my Amazing Free Book Giveaway Weekend (AFBGW). [For those of you just joining, the AFBGW was a three-day event wherein I was giving away Unraveling Time, my time-travel romance/adventure novel, for free in the Kindle Store.]

The results are pretty grim. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiQuestion:

When is a “debut author” not a debut author?

I recently saw an ad for a new book by a “debut author.” Amazon was flogging this book hard, and the publisher had placed adverts in the trades and bought ad space on websites and magazines. Much buzz was being generated about this “debut novel” from a brand-new author.

Thing is…I’m acquainted with this “debut author.” I’ve met her a couple of times, at signings and readings. Signings for her books. Readings of her books. This author is a very nice person and a very good author–I’ve read her work and enjoyed it very much–but she is not a “debut author.” She’s just branching out, writing under a pseudonym.

Pseudonyms are a common practice in writing, and there are many legitimate reasons for using them.

  • An author doesn’t want to be directly identified. A pseudonym creates a buffer between the author and the reading public.
  • An author has failed with his own name, and his track record makes him the literary equivalent of “box office poison.” A pseudonym provides a fresh start with a clean slate.
  • An author has succeeded with her own name, in a specific genre, and her name is now associated with that genre; but now she’s branching out, writing in a different genre. A pseudonym allows her to “rebrand” herself, and write in multiple genres without confusing (and possibly alienating) her faithful readers. I mean, if the latest Stephen King book was filled with epic poetry, some readers might be pissed off (at least in theory).

But it is not the pseudonym that bothers me; not at all. It’s the publisher’s use of the “debut author” label. Yes, this is done all the time; yes, it’s a common marketing practice. There’s nothing illegal about it, certainly, but still, it bothers me. First, it is vaguely insulting. I mean, are readers so dumb that they can’t figure out that Stephen King’s latest (hypothetical) book, titled Odes to Mothers: A collection of epic poetry in the Gothic style, is probably not his usual fare?

It is also unethical, dishonest, and disingenuous. This isn’t a “new voice” in the literary world. In all likelihood, this author’s style is going to be similar to past works, regardless of genre or what name is on the cover.

And more importantly, what does this do to all the other, real debut authors? Does this cheapen their work in comparison? Does this harm their debut? Will people miss their book, in all the noise about this other “debut?” Will buyers think less of the title because the publisher hasn’t put the same kind of oomph behind it?

This is just publishing at its most cutthroat, at its most businesslike. It’s a marketing tactic, designed to maximize ROI, nothing more. It isn’t that the buying public is getting a lesser quality work; on the contrary, these ersatz “debuts” arguably provide something of higher quality than legitimate debuts, so the public is not cheated. But a person can be duped and not be cheated.

Why do we accept dishonesty, if the outcome is not harmful?

k

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As part of my preparation for my next book, I’m reading and analyzing authors who exhibit a particular style. So far, it’s been Alice Hoffmann and Julio Cortazar. Now, it’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The book I chose was Love in the Time of Cholera, and several things immediately set it apart from other books I’ve read in recent years.  (more…)

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I’ll admit it. I got nothing done this weekend. I was positively glued to my iPad, pulling up the growing stats on my promotion for Unraveling Time, watching the numbers click upward hour by hour, day by day.

It was fascinating, and it totally exceeded my expectations.

(And in case you missed it, no worries; it’s still available for free, thru midnight tomorrow. Don’t be left out. Go claim yours!)

So, instead of something pithy and/or insightful, let’s talk about the progress so far.

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