Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where Did I Put That Thing?!

For Christmas, I got as a lovely gift, a Sony PRS-505 E-Reader. It's red and slim and very, very cool. I did have to hunt down an affordable recharging adapter because it only comes with the chord to attach it to the USB port on my computer, which is not adequate for recharging efficiently. But all in all, I'm very pleased with it.

I love that I can carry around many books for my reading pleasure all in an item small enough to slip into my purse. I love the instant gratification of being able to get new releases pretty much the second they come out via the Sony e-store. Too, you can generally get a hardcover release for at least 30% off the cover price and usually more. It's a great way to try out new writers because there are often deals to be found, and I just discovered that buying "bundles" can be a very economical way to pick up several titles in a series for much cheaper than buying the individual books would ever be. That is, assuming you could even find them given that they are older.

I admit I've had some trouble getting used to thinking about my e-reader when it comes to reaching for something to read. I'm surrounded by books, and the smooth, burgundy cover of the reader is not very flashy. It's hard to remember that inside that little metal bit of machinery are all the same words that appear on the hundreds of paper pages of the hundreds of books lining my shelves. You have to adjust to a new mind set when becoming an e-reader person - bigger and heftier doesn't mean better.

In fact, my husband, who gave me the gift, often accuses me of ignoring it. "Do you ever use that thing?" he's asked on more than one occasion. And while I have read three full titles on it, it is true that I still do the bulk of my reading the old fashioned way. Still, it's nice to have the option, and over the course of time, I do think the reader will become indispensable. In fact, I am positive that this will be the case.

Know I how I know this? Because I can't find the damn thing!

I'm actually afraid it's been stolen, although I don't know how this could have happened. I remember charging it and slipping into my purse because I was going someplace and knew I might need something to read. However, I don't remember ever taking it out of my purse - to read or to put someplace else. And now I cannot find it any where. Not in my purse. Not on any shelf or table or normal spot we tuck random items floating about the house. It's just flat out missing.

Except, I can't imagine how and/or why somebody would risk dipping their hands into my purse to snatch my e-reader without taking my wallet or the small leather pouch where I stash all of my cash. It makes no sense that the e-reader would have been taken but nothing else.

So I keep thinking it simply has to be somewhere. I've offered the kids $5 to whomever finds it, but so far I've had no takers. And I'm starting to get sick about this. The thing cost $350! That's a lot of money to just "lose". I can't imagine shelling out the same amount to replace it, but I now have a whole bunch of e-books that can't be read without the e-reader. Yes - I could use my laptop, but I've never read books on it. Talk about the epitome of inconvenient. Actually, I'd have to use my daughter's PC to read e-books because I have a MacBook and the Sony store library software is not Mac compatible yet. Oddly, this whole situation came about after I gleefully purchased a Linda Howard bundle and went hunting for the reader to dump all of my new titles onto. Couldn't find it. So now I can't read any of those cool books that prompted this whole problem.

Anyway, this is a huge frustration and goes to prove that you never miss something so much as when it's gone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Odd Bits

So, I made this promise to myself that I would finish one of my works in progress by my birthday, which is next month. I made this promise back in February during a particularly feverish bout of writing, when the stuff was just coming out in gobs. It seemed a very doable goal.

And it is still possible. If I don't focus on anything else for the next month, I could do it. I don't have any trips planned. School is out next week, so although the kids will be underfoot, I won't have any volunteer commitments. Other than the occasional baseball game and carpooling gig, my calendar is wide open. I could get up in the morning, handle a few chores and then park my butt in the chair until bedtime, with only a break or two to cook meals.

In other words, no excuses.


One of my characters grew up in Manchester, England. I've been struggling to get his voice just right - enough use of slang and difference in speech patterns to capture his accent without going overboard. To this end, I've been listening to daily broadcasts of a local Manchester news channel. Funny how I now have a good handle on the goings-on in that area. It's become kind of like the town next door. I don't know how much it's helped my efforts to make his speech realistic, though.

What I wish is that I could get live streams of radio broadcasts from the UK. Now that they have laws against streaming broadcasts outside of a particular country, you can't tap into local radio stations the way you used to be able to do.


One goal I do have for the summer is to make a serious dent in my TBR pile, which has grown embarrassing. I could conceivable spend the entire summer sitting on my deck with a book in my hand. And personally, this is my idea of a perfect summer vacation.


I'm starting to get really excited about the upcoming release of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince on July 15th. This summer, we've gotten into the habit of waiting until the Sunday after a Thursday/Friday release day to go see the big blockbusters. By Sunday evening, the must-see-it-now crowds have gotten their fix, teens don't tend to go to the movies on Sunday evenings, and we don't have to stand in lines or struggle to find seats. But I don't know if I can wait the four extra days to see HPatHBP.

I checked the audio book out of the library for a recent car trip I took with my daughter. She hasn't read the book yet, so I figured this was the way to get her to experience the literary version before the movie version. Unfortunately, the unabridged audio book is 17 CDs long (that's 18 hours). Our car trip was all of 4 hours, round trip. We have another trip coming up that's longer, so maybe I can just renew the audio book an extra few weeks. Meanwhile, I'm listening to it in 5 and 10 minute chunks as I tool around town. At this rate, we'll be done by September.

Monday, June 01, 2009

You Don't Mess With the Romance Posse

This morning, I was sitting at my kitchen table, enjoying my McCafé beverage as I trolled through my internet stops, listening to the local morning show that I've been tuning into for pretty much forever, when the DJs said something that caught my attention full stop.

It seems that Eric and Kathy (of WTMX out of Chicago) have determined it would be a fun lark to have their morning show producer, Swany, read a romance novel and report back his findings. Apparently this bit resulted from a prior discussion on how the romance genre business has been booming of late - sales up some 7%, which is nothing to sneeze at given the current economic crisis.

I didn't catch, exactly, how they went about choosing which book Swany was to read - I sort of got the impression they solicited suggestions from listeners - but Swany is all set to dive into that well-known, highly regarded icon of romantic fiction, "Palaces of Desire." Eric was enthusiastic over the prospect that the cover might feature a little Fabio action. Naturally. What's a trashy novel without a little Fabio man-titty?

What's that you say? You've never heard of this particular book? Well, let me enlighten you. It was written by Karen Alexander and released in January of 1978 by Ballentine Books. And after a good half-hour of Googling, I can assure you that you will find absolutely no more information than I've just shared other than where you might find a used copy at a bargain price.

But, really, what more do you need to know? Even if "Palaces of Desire" is a work of literary wonder on par with Jane Austin's backlist (which I have my doubts given the zero buzz about PoD, anywhere, bespeaking of its longevity as far as quality), the title alone does all but take out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune as far as touting romance novels as not much more than Porn for Women. Too, given the publication date of pre-1980, we're probably looking at at least a certain level of bodice ripping and alpha-maleness, not a little bit of purple prose, and maybe a virginal widow if we're oh-so-lucky. Pure Old Skool Romance at its hideous best. Definitely not of the epoch that we romance readers are most proud.

As any self-respecting romance novel reader and pseudo-writer would have done, I allowed my panties to get in a respectable twist. Because without directly stating it, by choosing a book with the title "Palaces of Desire", Eric and Kathy were making fun of romance novels. And it goes to follow that they are indirectly mocking those who read and love romance novels. In promoting this viewpoint on their radio show, they were also affirming to the masses that it is not only understandable to mock the romance genre, it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Without apology, even.

And thinking I should walk the talk, I fired off an e-mail to DJs Eric and Kathy to express how I felt about this. I tried my best to be firm yet intelligent, saddened yet eloquent, discouraged yet hopeful they might be able to see the error of their ways. I suggested that the rest of the morning team read books in other genres, so that the ridicule and mockery might be spread rather than heaped on romance's already sagging shoulders. Too, I offered up the lovely Beyond Heaving Bosoms: A Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels as an antidote to their delusions about romance being not much better than poorly written smut read by ignorant fools who just don't know any better. And, finally, I suggested that if they were going to go through with this farce, a least choose a well-written romance novel that has a chance of standing up proud and tall to represent the genre properly.

I guess my e-mail wasn't as diplomatic as I'd hoped. Eric's e-mail response was incredulous. As in:

"You have GOT to be kidding me!"

He went on to say that this idea is all in fun, all in response to the booming sales of romance novels, yada yada yada. Net net, no mocking was being done, you fishwife freak.

At first I felt embarrassed for having come across as a shrew, probably causing Eric to picture me as a frumpy, middle-aged housewife with my cats slinking around my slippered feet as I padded around in my mumu, wondering if the mailman might like to come in for a cuppa and maybe a little something-something. Being once Catholic and always a woman, I instinctively replied to Eric in apology form. Sorry for coming across as harsh and seeming to not get that this was all in fun. No intention to offend, of course.

But I did follow that expression of shame with a request that if they are going to do this, take it seriously. Have Swany read a good romance novel. Have him give his honest opinion, without the filter of snark and ridicule. A reminder that many people listen to this Chicago-based radio show, and that Eric and Kathy could do a service to romance readers by helping us gain respect rather than perpetuate the genre as a joke. In short, use their power for good, not evil.

Know what I did next? I went and tattle-taled. I invoked the Power of the Bitches. My little blog gets very tiny traffic, but the Bitches? They are fierce. I asked them to post a little bit about my experience because I wanted to know if I had done the right thing by taking the Mix to task for this "just for fun" radio bit. Had I maybe overreacted? I hoped that a blog post at Smart Bitches might generate some outraged responses that I could use as balm to my wounded romance-lovin' sensibilities.

And what book should producer Swany be reading? What book represents the very best of the genre, a book that would wipe the smirks off their faces and have them begging for more right after they issued public, on-air apologies to everyone who'd ever been laughed at for reading a romance?

That Queen of All Bitches, Sarah, replied to my cry for support with her own salvo - an e-mail full o' whoop ass sent to Eric himself. I know not what she wrote, nor do I have the effects as of yet. I'm hoping she'll keep me posted.

It's not that I don't want Swany to read a romance. In truth, it would be kind of cool if he took this very seriously and read a well-selected title genuinely chosen because of its quality and not its ability to illicit giggles out of 13 year old boys. I'd love to get his insight. I'd love to have him admit that there's more to a romance novel than man titty and Fabio hair. And I'd love for Eric and Kathy to treat this book with the same respect they'd give to something they'd choose to read for themselves.

I can ignore slights on the genre for the most part. But this time, for some reason, I just couldn't let it go. Maybe it's the prospect of tuning in to the local country station all summer so I can avoid hearing any mention of Swany's progress that pisses me off so much. Or maybe it's imagining all of the commuters sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, smirking self-importantly with each mention of "Palaces of Desire", knowing that they'd never stoop to reading such crap.

Maybe I should check out "Palaces of Desire" from the library and read it myself. Maybe this book is kick-ass. Maybe it'll do the genre proud and Eric will end up with egg on his face when Swany raves about it. I can only hope.