Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 5:25 AM, under | 4 comments

I love a good quote, though when I come across one I usually forget to write it down and then I can never find it again. So I've decided to make an effort to write down some of my favorite quotes that I come across during the week and to share them with you here.

Here are some of this weeks great finds:

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The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss):

- It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always . All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.

- To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other.

- Call a jack a jack, call a spade a spade, but always call a whore a lady

- The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind

Dune (Frank Herbert)

- Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.

- Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett):

She'd become a governess. It was one of the few jobs a known lady could do. And she'd taken to it well. She'd sworn that if she did indeed ever find herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps she'd beat herself to death with her own umbrella

Mort (Terry Pratchett):

"You're dead," he said. Keli waited. She couldn't think of any suitable reply. "I'm not" lacked a certain style, while "Is it serious?" seemed somehow too frivolous.
-- Mort to Princess Keli, after her death

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Readers in "the wild." What should authors do?

Posted by Simcha 5:44 AM, under | 16 comments

You are sitting at a cafe, enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a book, when you are suddenly interrupted by a stranger who introduces himself as the author of the very book that you are reading. What would your reaction be?

Although this has never actually happened to me, I've been thinking about what I would do in this scenario ever since Matthew Dicks brought it up on his blog. He mentioned seeing someone reading his book at the gym and not knowing if he should approach them or not. While Dicks thought the reader might appreciate meeting him, he didn't know what would be an appropriate way to approach the reader without putting them off.

My initial response was 'of course he should approach the reader. Who wouldn't want to meet an author whose books they enjoy?' But when I thought about it further I couldn't really imagine what the right think would be for an author to say as an introduction. And what if I was approached by the author of a book that I wasn't actually enjoying? While I would do my best to pretend that I love the book, it could get pretty awkward

So I thought it would be interesting to ask a few different authors what they would do if they saw someone reading a book they had written in "the wild." Would they approach the reader, and if so, what would they say? I also asked a few different book bloggers if they would actually want to be approached by an author and what their response would be.
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Lois McMaster Bujold:

I've never seen anyone reading my books in public (except at science fiction conventions, which aren't exactly public in the same sense -- non-random, closed venue, anyway). The only place I can imagine introducing myself as the author would be if we were stuck on adjoining airplane seats, and in all my years of flying I've only encountered one seatmate who'd even read my books, though he wasn't doing so at that moment, and only one store clerk who recognized my name from my transaction. Not in a bookstore, curiously; I've never had a bookstore clerk recognize my name.

In my younger days, I would likely have been wildly excited, and might have overcome my shyness enough to go up and try to strike up a conversation -- but not if it would mean interrupting their read!
Nowadays I might be more sly, and just ask them how the book was going without introducing myself. But in general, if one is out and about, one has a bunch of chores to get through -- on both sides of this hypothetical encounter -- so it's likely best to just let be. My guess is it would just freak most people out, and possibly not in a good way.

Jane Yolen has a tale of trying that once in a bookstore (the one probable venue for such an encounter to take place), and finding herself challenged to prove her identity, since the reader didn't believe she was indeed the author. Since Jane writes under a pen name, and all her ID was under her real name, this exchange ended in some embarrassment, I understand. It would be interesting to hear from *readers* asked the same question. Would they be freaked?

As an addendum, when on books tours I am met at airports by the professional local escort provided by the publisher to get me where I need to go on time, instead of holding up one of those cardboard signs with my name on it, they identify themselves by carrying a copy of my book, prominently displayed. There is never any doubt who they are, since it's invariably the only copy in the building.

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Jasper Fforde:

I'm not sure, since I have never seen anyone reading my book 'in the wild'.

I'd like to introduce myself I suppose, but I probably wouldn't - being British and frightfully polite, I'd not want to trouble them.
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C.L Wilson:

I wouldn't do it. I would consider it intrusive. :)

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Peter Brett

I have yet to meet any readers in their natural habitat. I expect if I did, I would approach them and introduce myself if I thought it would be welcome.

The closest anecdote I have for this is the 2008 World Fantasy Convention in Calgary, where they gave out 300 free advance read copies of The Warded Man to convention attendees in their gift bags. A couple of days into the convention, I saw a woman reading The Warded Man in the lobby. She was more than halfway through. Now, my picture is not in the ARC, so I didn’t expect she would have any idea who I was, and it was a Fantasy convention, so it’s not weird to talk to strangers. Under those heightened conditions, I went over to her and asked if she was enjoying the book because “I heard it was good”.

It turns out she was enjoying it, and we had a nice brief conversation. Once I felt I had gotten her honest opinion, I immediately identified myself, and she happily asked me to sign the book.

I expect that “in the wild” I would do something similar. It’s not my intention to be deceptive, but I know people are less likely to give honest feedback if they know they are talking to the author. I would, of course, identify myself before the deception went too far, though. Otherwise, it could get creepy.
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Gail Carriger:

It hasn't happened yet, but I have often wondered what I might do. I think I am inclined to do nothing and hope they are enjoying it. It's a good question to flip around to the readers out there. If you are calming reading a book, would you want some strange author beast lumbering over and saying, "Hay. that's my book. Do ya like it?"
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And on the other side of the coin....

Greg Zimmerman from The New Dork Review of Books:

It’s hard to imagine a more thrilling literary situation than if an author introduced him/herself to me while I was reading his/her book. It’d be a story I’d tell for years – just for the mere coincidence factor alone. But if there was an actual conversation about the book – about insights into the characters, about particular plot hinges, about writing habits – I’d be in seventh friggin’ heaven! If you’re reading this, and you wrote a book, and you see me reading it, PLEASE introduce yourself!

I’d suggest the author lead with something funny and/or sarcastic: “I hear that book’s writer is a real jerk.” or “Man, how can you read that garbage?” That breaks the ice immediately (if done in such a way that the sarcasm is clear!), and helps begin the real introduction and conversation. Definitely don’t lead with “So, are you enjoying the book?” as that sets up a potentially awkward situation if the reader isn’t. And definitely don’t ask any detailed or in-depth questions, especially after you’ve identified yourself as the author. That puts a star-struck reader on the spot, scrambling for an answer.
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Stephanie from Misfit Salon:

First of all, does the author want my honest opinion? Then he/she shouldn't say who they are. Just casually ask - "What do you think of this book so far?" But you can go to any number of Internet resources to find out what people really think of your book. If an author were to approach someone in public that would mean he/she wants recognition. Now that I have a blog, I would probably start asking a lot of questions, somehow finagle an interview, then extract a promise of a review copy of his/her next book. Approaching a stranger might open up a can of worms!
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Melissa from My World...in Words and Pages:

I would be excited! I would feel like I am meeting a movie star. I love talking with the authors here on the blogs, twitter, and book clubs. But if I was reading a book and the author came over and starts off with, "I see you are reading {the book name}. I hope you are enjoying it and thank you for purchasing my book." I think I would be speechless. But in a great way. I would find it rather cool to meet the author and maybe be able to have just a few minutes to talk with them. Coming up with a great opener to start the conversation is the trick though. So, not knowing who the person is you are approaching would make that part hard. But I would love to know the author in around and talk with me, whether I love the book or not.

Although, I could see where the author would be a little skeptical on introducing themselves. There are a lot of people out there that would respond in a not so nice way, if they are not liking the book for any reason or what is happening to the characters. I personally think this is crazy to respond this way but there are many different people out there and anything is possible. Author spend a great deal of time doing this for us, so why abuse them?
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Stephen from Fantasy Literature:

I'd personally love it if an author came up and said, "Hey, that's my book!
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Ryan from Wordsmithonia:

I would like the author to approach me and tell me that they are in fact the author of the book I'm reading. I would love to be able to discuss the book with the person who wrote it. Now I think if the author were to do that, he/she would have to be prepared to answer questions, even ones they may not like. Now if I were the author I would be a little hesitant because I'm not sure how I would feel if I had a reader tell me how much they aren't liking the book. I guess that would come with the territory.
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Thank you to everyone who participated in this blog post. It looks the general consensus is that most people would be delighted to be approached by an author while reading their book, though the author should be prepared to discuss the book and answer questions on the spot.

Personally I think that if one of my favorite authors suddenly introduced themselves to me I would be too awestruck to make an intelligent response, and would then spend the next few days kicking myself for sounding like an idiot. Though I can't imagine anything cooler then getting to sit next to Lois McMaster Bujold on an airplane or having my reading interrupted by Jasper Fforde. So authors, if you pass me by and see me reading your book, please do interrupt me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blog Interview: SciFiGuy

Posted by Simcha 3:12 PM, under | 7 comments

When I first began blogging, almost eight months ago, I quickly discovered that it's impossible to navigate the scifi and fantasy blogosphere without frequently running into mention of SciFiGuy. This blog is on everyone's blogroll and the variety of interesting content that SciFiGuy offers is often picked up on other blogs as well.

And so I was eager to interview the man behind the blog, Doug Knipe, to find out more about him personally as well as to pick up some tips on what it takes to build a successful book blog.


Hi Doug. Thanks so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to do this interview. Can you please start off by telling me a little bit about your blog, SciFiGuy, and what makes it unique?

I’ve have been a SFF reader most of my life, but in 2005 I “discovered” the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres and loved the contemporary take on hidden worlds and the supernatural. So I eventually decided to blog about what I was reading. It wasn’t by design, but what I think makes the blog unique is that I’m a male reviewer blogging about a genre where the readers (and writer’s for that matter) are dominantly female.


When did you start your blog and what led you to do so?

I started the blog in summer of 2008 partially in response to a long held desire to share my passion about SFF and also due to being re-energized by my excitement over Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

There is a lot of focus on book covers on your blog and I was wondering, as someone who until recently never paid too much attention to them, why the strong interest in book covers and what do you think makes a good book cover?

To me as a reader and book collector, books themselves have always represented an object of art in and of themselves. There is nothing finer that holding a well designed book, artwork, dust jacket, typography, illustrations etc. So cover art is very much integral to the whole package. It is after all the first impression. Artists imaginations can be the equal of the author’s and their interpretation of the story, characters or world-building can provide a lot of pleasure. I like covers to either evoke an emotional response or provide enough visual cues to allow for some pondering. On the most basic level the cover helps to identify the genre and attract a readers attention.


From the name of your blog I would assume that you would mostly be focusing on science fiction, but this does not seem to be the case. Was it your intention, when you began blogging, to build a primarily scifi blog?

I’ve been a serious reader and collector of SFF most of my life (view a Pictorial Guide to My SFF Library) and I originally intended to give significant coverage to straight SF and do UF reviews as well, but as the blog evolved I focused more on UF and PNR. I do still talk about it on the blog but it is not the main topic. Most UF and PNR readers are actually genre readers. If you were to ask the folks that come to my blog you would find they mostly all read some SFF. There is very little ghettoism. I’ve started a ‘From My Collection’ feature in my Urban Fantasy Weekend Report and am also having some guest reviewers cover SFF books I haven’t had time to read. I’m toying with the idea of a regular SciFi Sunday feature to keep my hand in.

You have so much interesting and varied content on your site, from author interviews and up-to-date book information to book reviews tidbits from other blogs, how do you manage to find the time to do all this, which I’m sure requires much research in addition to the writing itself? About how many hours a day do you put into your blog?

Well the blog is my second job/ avocation and labor of love. My evenings consist of a daily review of my Reader subscriptions of a wide assortment of blogs, writing up interview questions, prepping and responding to contests, commenting on other blogs (which I need to do more of) and actually reading books! Then there is composing reviews and lots of correspondence too. Altogether probably 3- 4 hours a day and more on weekends.


I’ve been noticing that your blog is listed on pretty much every book blog that I visit and I was wondering if you have any tips for new bloggers on how to get your blog noticed, as you have so successfully done.

Participation in the blogging community and developing good solid content are two of the key things. Blog about things that interest you and others. Visit other blogs and comment on their postings. Other commenter will follow you back to your blog to check you out. If you have something interesting to say on your blog some of them will stick around. Eventually your readership will grow. If they like what they see and they are a blogger, chances are they’ll link to you. Don’t ask for links unless you have developed a rapport with the blog owner – earn them, if you are patient, they will come.


What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t reading or blogging?

LOL. Not as much as I used to. Blogging is pretty consuming of my free time. Digital photography, genealogy research and movies pretty much fill up what time is left.

How did you first get interested in the speculative fiction genre?

I read all of the Tom Swift books when I was eight, but I think it was when I discovered science fiction via Ace Doubles (those back to back books with novella length stories) when I was eleven that launched my lifetime consuming interest in SFF.

Is there a particular subgenre that you like to read best?

Well right now it is UF/PNR but I still keep my hand in SFF with occasional ‘must-reads’.

As you mentioned earlier, it's rather unusual for a man to be blogging and writing about UF & PNR. So what is it about these books that draws you in particular?

UF and PNR delivers a similar level of creative world-building to mainstream SFF plus it has the benefit of being more character-driven which I am finding I prefer of late for leisure reading. Surprisingly I also find I really enjoy the relationship angles and the romance elements. Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Shinn and others do this very well in traditional fantasy.

What is your favorite part of running a book blog?

Definitely has to be the conversations and sense of community among the authors, readers and bloggers. Very much an extended family.

What is the biggest challenge in running a book blog?

Time. It is easy to become obsessive about blogging. There is always one more article to write, blog to visit or book to read. Finding balance is the challenge.

And the final question: If you could redesign any book cover, which one would it be and how would you change it?

Well rather than one cover it would be a series of covers. I would redesign the covers for The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. They just aren’t in keeping with the epic fantasy nature of the books. Style wise I would model them after recent covers done for the Malazan Empire books by Erikson and Esselmont.

Thanks again Doug for doing this interview. I really enjoyed getting to know you and learning more about your blog, SciFiGuy.




Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Posted by Simcha 8:44 PM, under | 2 comments

Koth is the new innkeeper in a small sleepy town that has seen better days. New dangers on the road have caused business to slow to a trickle and so the only customers the Wayside Inn sees these days are a the local residents who stop by for drinks in the evening.

Koth's days are spent tending to his inn, sweeping the floors and shining the counters, allowing himself to transform into his new role as innkeeper. But his student, Bast, is not willing to let Koth forget who he once was, despite Koth’s attempts to put his past behind him. And there is the occasional passerby who will see past the innkeeper facade and recognize Kvoth the Bloodless behind the counter.

One night, Koth stumbles into the Chronicler who has been tracking rumors of Koth’s new existence. He’s been trying to find Koth in order to record his story, to separate the truth from the myths that have built around him. Although at first reluctant, after much bargaining, Koth agrees.

    I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

    You may have heard of me.

Kvoth’s narration begins with the story of his happy childhood as a traveling performer, slowly leading towards the events that brought him to become a student of sympathy (or magic) at the University. Occasionally the reader is brought back to the Wayside inn as Kvoth/Koth breaks off from the storytelling to tend to his customers or prepare a meal for his audience.

While I generally prefer stories that are currently taking place, as opposed to being told over in a story, this method works perfectly in The Name of The Wind as the occasional interruptions help provide some relief from the intensity of the narration. I also appreciated the reminder that Kvoth does survive the many challenges and tragedies he had to endure, to eventually tell his story. And even though most of the book is focused on the story Koth is telling, there are some interesting events that take place at the inn itself, which I assume will eventually tie into the story as well.

Many elements of the story will seem familiar to fantasy readers. A young boy forced to live in the street after being orphaned and eventually making his way towards becoming a magician and a hero. Rothfuss even pokes fun a bit with Kvoth’s own comments about typical story book events, as if telling the reader that he knows we’ve seen this before but things won’t turn out as we expect.

    I knew the shape of stories. When a young couple comes to a river there is a definite shape to what will happen next. Denna would bath on the other side of he nearby fir tree, out of sight on a sandy bit of shore. . I would move off a discreet distance, out of sight, but within easy talking distance. Then…something would happen. She would slip and turn her ankle, or cut her foot on a sharp stone, and I’d be forced to rush over. And then…

    But this was not a story of two young lovers meeting by the river. So I splashed some water on my face and changed into my clean shirt behind a tree. Denna dipper her head into the water to cool off…Then we sat on a stone, dandling our feet in the water and enjoying each others company as we rested.

Patrick Rothfuss does a magnificent job weaving together this story of a boy who becomes a legend.
From the moment I began reading The Name of The Wind I was pulled into the story; the words forming vivid images in my head as clearly as if I were watching it performed in front of me. There is adventure, sorrow and magic as well as many memorable characters who became so real to me that I had a hard time letting them go after I finished the last page. The Name of the Wind is an amazing achievement for a debut author and a definite Must Read for any fan of fantasy literature.

CymLowell


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