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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Changing Reading Habits

                                                          Image result for books

My book reading and buying habits have changed a lot in the last couple of decades.

For one thing, I used to have a rule about always finishing a book once I started it. I don't do that anymore. Maybe its because I'm getting old but I no longer feel that I have the time to waste on a book that doesn't capture me pretty quickly. I'll give it a chapter, then toss it aside without a second thought if it doesn't live up to expectations.

I also had a rule about keeping a book once I bought it, especially if I enjoyed it even, if I thought I probably wouldn't read it the second time. But again, age and reality set it. My son once made a comment about me dying and leaving him with a ton (literally) of books to dispose of. After that, I started giving them away. It hurt to see some of them go, it really did, but its not like I don't have nine bookcases-ful of my very favorites left.

Of course, technology has changed book-buying and reading habits as well. When I was young and poor, I rarely bought a book, except for the occasional paperback. They all came from the library. I waited patiently for my turn for a new book by a favorite author. Beyond that, I read anything and everything they offered whether it was exactly my cup of tea or not. I discovered a lot of wonderful books that way.

Now, I buy almost all my books from Amazon and I don't have the patience to wait. I pre-order books so that I get them at the earliest possible moment.

And, more of them now come in the form of Kindle downloads than actual books. I resisted Kindle for a long while but now I'm sold on its convenience - taking one small device containing a whole library of books on vacation instead of carrying a sack of heavy hardbacks - being able to start reading a looked-forward-to book instantly - lower prices (with most classics for free) - reading by Kindle light if the electricity goes off or while waiting in a dark car.

I notice I've gotten rather quirky about my book choices. I hardly even look at titles any more. I simply go by authors. Only if I can find nothing by writers I know and trust, do I begin looking at the books themselves. (I think this is a form of stick-in-the-mud-ism.)

Similarly, I'm  almost never attracted to books by female authors. (Diana Gabaldon being a huge exception). Generally, I seem to relate much more to the male point of view. And also I pass on books in which the main protagonist is a female. I want my hero to be a man and while he can have his soft moments, I want him to be as much anti-hero as hero.

My taste for books in my older age is for grittier and more graphic fare. (My number one favorite author is Andrew Vachss.) I like Noir. For this reason, many of the books I buy are from Scotland and Ireland. They seem to have the edge on edginess there.

That's one reason I don't go to my library as often as I used to (although I do still go) - whoever the buyer is for new books is Mrs. Obvious. She buys all the mysteries that also contain recipes. She's partial to all the most popular female authors. While I'm more into blood and sex, she appears to be more into tea and crumpets. She purchases everything that appears on the Best Seller list but rarely ventures into unfamiliar territory.

Reading seems as if it would be an unchanging preoccupation but it turns out, it's not.









Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rafe Rides Again...

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I continued to write my column and update my blogs after my son died but I found that fiction was simply beyond me. I could write about real things - politics and NASCAR and writing - as I do on my blogs but the creativity necessary for creating fictional characters and places and events just wasn't there.

I'd try but I'd end up staring at a blank computer screen, grasping for an idea, any idea but my mind simply balked. I wrote not a word of fiction for 4 1/2 months.

When I did decide to force myself to focus once again on a book-length piece of writing, I knew I had to start with Rafe Vincennes. Rafe is my comfort zone and my familiar. Eight of my books have been about him. I know how he thinks and how he'll react in any situation.

He isn't always a comfortable character though. He's been called a sociopath and a autistic savant. Even his own son isn't sure he has a conscience. None of this concerns him. He lives life by his own individual credo.

As a child, his father said raising him was more like raising a wild wolf cub than his other normal children and even as an adult, he's still the alpha male, guardian of his pack, always alert for danger and willing to do whatever needs to be done to protect them.

He's a champion race car driver and an actor, married to an actress who has been voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. She is his north star to whom he'll always return but he is chronically unfaithful. Sexual adventure is a completely different part of his life and, to him, has nothing to do with family.

Once I sat down after my long respite from fiction, I sought him out...and there he was, waiting to take me along on his adventures.

"Come on," he said, "I'll pull you out of this funk you're in."

I'm 30,000 words into my next book, thanks to my faithful sidekick. Well, really, I think it's the other way around. He's the primary who determines the action and I'm the sidekick who records it.