Thursday, November 19, 2015

Finding an Old Friend

I found an old friend in my attic today.  Yep, right there behind the Christmas decorations.  My 1970's vintage Pioneer turntable had been tucked away since I'd retired to the mountains eight years ago.  He (Yes, I refer to it as he) was the best money could buy back then.  Not that I had much money in the 70's, but a quality sound system took priority over eating.     

Vinyl is making a comeback, at least for sentimental saps like me.  If you're willing to spend 3X what a CD costs, you can still get vinyl albums.  I had stored away dozens of my favorite 33s from years ago--The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, The Stones, Carole King, Santana, Earth Wind and Fire, and many more.  So, I can add to my vinyl collection when I have an extra 35 bucks to spend for an album that captures my attention. 

I couldn't wait to clear away a space for my old friend and fire him up.  After a few minutes figuring out the tangle of wires, I was ready to go.  When needle landed on Tapestry, memories flowed.  Music does that for most everyone, but when you hear these songs played on a turntable in the same perfect, yet not-too-perfect, sound that you first heard this music, you truly are taken back 40+ years.  The music takes you to your dorm room, or to your first car, or to a sofa at your girlfriend's house.  You've memorized each track on the album--and even now, you can sing the first few words before the record skips ahead. 

I think I'll keep my friend in a prominent spot next to my 21st century sound system.  In fact, I'll even display the faded album covers containing my well-protected 33s.  At my age, memories are a good thing.         

Saturday, November 14, 2015

So starts another day...

    The sun peeks over the tree line, its warmth not yet felt. The morning wind bites at my face as Milo pulls me across an open field, seeking the perfect spot, unfazed by the year's first frost crunching beneath our feet. Minutes later, she sniffs, she coils, finally depositing a steaming loaf of recycled kibble... So starts another day on the mountain.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Short Stories & Novellas - Finding New Readers

If you’ve read 11 novels or more last year, you’re in the minority—at least in the U.S. 

The percentage of Americans reaching this reading plateau has declined from 43% in 1978 to 34% in 1990 to 28% in 2014.  Nearly a quarter of Americans didn’t read a single novel last year (1).    Possible reasons for this decline are many, but it sure isn’t due to a lack of supply.  The number of new authors who pen their first work each year is in the tens of thousands, and quality books from both new and established authors continue to percolate to the top of best seller lists.  

Reading takes time, and many activities compete for the time of potential readers.  The average American spends an alarming 11 hours a day on electronic gadgets --TVs, smart phones, PCs/tablets, radios, DVD players or other devices (2).   If you sleep eight hours, that leaves little time for family and other interests.

Avid readers have at least a couple things in common.  They tend to make reading a priority, setting aside time each day to read.  They also have typically been ardent readers most of their lives, becoming interested in books at a young age.  This could have been the result of parents reading to them as toddlers, or becoming interested in a young adult series as a preteen or just having an active curiosity that reading satisfied.
I believe short stories and novellas provide a means to get more adults interested in reading. Short stories have a compact and pointed plot and typically can be read in one sitting.  Novellas are works of fiction of intermediate length and complexity between a short story and a novel.  In today’s electronic media world and consumers’ desire for immediate gratification, short stories and novellas are stepping stones back to reading.

I’ve written several novels, as well as a collection of short stories, and have recently decided to focus my time on shorter works.   This decision was driven in part by a desire to target new readers.  I talk to many people who are willing to invest the time required to read short stories, but are unlikely to ever read a 350+ page novel.   I also enjoy writing short stories and have received literary contest recognition for several of them.  

I’m a couple weeks into writing my first novella, and it’s progressing well.  Unlike with novels, editing goes more quickly.  Changes and improvements can be made without tearing through hundreds of pages.   On the other hand, space is precious and words can’t be wasted.  Character and plot development must be crisp, yet compelling.

In the coming months, I plan to release my first novella and then turn my attention to publishing my second collection of short stories.  In the meantime, I hope both new and veteran readers check out the short story of the month here on my blog.   And if you’re so inclined, go to Amazon and download IT GOES ON-A Collection of Short Stories.  Hopefully, the dozen stories will inspire you to read a dozen novels next year.