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I have noticed the monthly circulation figures for my local library have been declining for the past eighteen months or so. I bought a Kindle around eighteen months ago. Coincidence? Hmm . . .
A lot of people tell me they won’t buy an e-reader. They love books – the feel of them, the heft of them, the smell of them, the whole gestalt of them. I love books, too, as the eleven floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our study, one in each boy’s bedroom, two in the second floor hallway, three in our bedroom, and one in the family room, plus the books piled on the floor on the study, on the bed-side tables in the bedroom, under the boys’ beds, on (and under) the family room table, and in all three bathrooms will attest. But I recently realized something important: it’s not books I love. It’s reading.
I bought the Kindle a few weeks before we left on a two-week trip to LA and Wisconsin (you can read about it further down on this site). I have a pathological fear of being stuck in an airport, or, worse, on a plane, with nothing to read. Needing to pack for what we had expected to be two entirely different weather conditions, our suitcases were just under the weight limit. Even one book would have tipped it over. And putting the dozen or so books I’d have needed for a two-week trip into my carry-on was just not practical, unless I had started pumping iron six months earlier. The Kindle was the answer to a reader’s prayers. Light weight. Easy to put in my purse. Holds the virtual equivalent of tons of books.
My biggest problem with the Kindle is its ease of use. Or, rather, its ease of downloading books. I have to remind myself not to buy a book unless I would buy it in hard copy; if it’s a book I would normally borrow from the library, I should still borrow it from the library. I haven’t listened to myself.
I’ve always loved to read. Anything. Anywhere. Any time. I remember being thoroughly bored on some car trip or other with my parents when I was quite young. I had nothing to read. So I picked up the telephone book (remember those?) on the floor of the back seat of the car (I’ve no idea why it was there) and read it.
I never minded being sent to my room. To me, it wasn’t punishment, because it meant I could read. It’s not that I couldn’t have gone to my room and read without misbehaving first, but chances are I would have been watching TV or talking to my friends on the phone instead. I wonder sometimes if the need to read overcame my common sense when it came to doing things like talking back. I never told my mother the punishments didn’t work.
What is it about reading that I love so much? I could go into a whole psychoanalytic mode and talk about being a lonely only child and finding companionship in books, except I always seem to understand that being alone did not equal being lonely.
There’s something about a book that transports me, not just into a world of imagination (cue song from “Willy Wonka” – the Gene Wilder version), but into other people’s lives. Call it curiosity, call it escapism, call it laziness. I call it heaven.
Many thanks to my friend Stacia Friedman for posting a wonderful review of TALK DIRTY YIDDISH (and also mentioning CHANUKAH GUILT). You can read the review at: http://womensvoicesforchange.org/book-review-talk-dirty-yiddish.htm.
The ubiquitous they always say we should not make resolutions, as it just sets us up for failure. I generally don’t follow most popular advice, but I do in this case. I don’t make resolutions.
Weight loss? Forty years of futility have taught me that it if I want to have a better BMI, it would be easier for me to grow taller. Exercise more? I suppose it’s possible, as there’s no way I could exercise less. De-clutter and reorganize the house? Only if I win the lottery and hire someone to do it, and the chances of my winning the lottery are the same as the chances I’ll become a professional singer.
But, for some unfathomable reason, I decided this year to come up with a list of 12 probably attainable resolutions. I’m sure there are a lot of others I could list, but you’ll note that “stop being so lazy” is not included. Neither is “stop procrastinating,” so I’ll add more at another time. If I feel like it.
- Update this blog weekly. Okay, monthly. Well, more often than every six months. I’m already off to a good start, as today’s Jan. 1.
- Work regularly on the third Rabbi Aviva Cohen mystery, Yom Killer. Then, when Unleavened Dead is published (from my mouth to God’s ears; kenahora;tu-tu-tu), the next book will be ready to go into production.
- Go birding more often. I’m already off to a good start on this resolution, too, as I spent the day at the Forsythe NWR (aka Brig). And I plan to take a detour to Corkscrew Swamp and Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island when I drive from my parents’ house in Boynton Beach to Orlando for Sleuthfest in February.
- Don’t buy any more books about birding until I read the ones I’ve already bought.
- Don’t buy any more Kindle books until I read all the ones on my to-be-read list.
- Don’t buy any more DVDs until I watch all the ones that are still shrink-wrapped.
- Don’t TiVo any shows or movies unless I am really going to watch them within the next six months.
- Place resolutions 4, 5, 6, and 7 into the unrealistic category.
- Watch season 2 of “Homeland” and “Game of Thrones.” (Try and stop me!)
- Read Game of Thrones. All 5 volumes. Or 6 or 7 or how many are published by the time I get through the ones already in print.
- Get to Israel this year. It’s been too long. And try to go during the height of the bird migration. I’ve already started googling “birding tours in Israel.”
- Stop obsessing about my ranking on Amazon. It’s meaningless. Except when it’s a high ranking.
Writing, birding, reading, traveling. Yup. I can do all of those.
Happy 2012. May all your resolutions be easy ones to fulfill.
I really haven’t been missing in action. I just haven’t posted for a couple of months. In blog years, that’s a century.
There’s no particular reason why I haven’t posted anything new, just a convergence of circumstances: family, work, TV, movies, Facebook, emails – the usual detritus of life. Okay, I’ll be honest here – I really haven’t had anything to write that I thought anyone would be interested in reading.
Unfortunately, that lack of writing has extended to, well, to writing. There’s nothing to report about the fate of Unleavened Dead, yet, but at least I don’t have a pile of rejections. Just silence. I did write a short story, my first attempt, and submitted it to a contest. It didn’t win, but it did make it through the first cut – it was one of 50 chosen out of 150 to go on to the final cull of 5, from which the winner and 4 runners-up were picked. It was gratifying – and validifying (if that’s not a word, it should be) – to know it wasn’t tossed immediately. I’ve ideas for a couple of non-fiction works, and, of course, there’s Yom Killer to plot out. I’m not near the whodunnit stage; I’m still in the “what’s going to happen?” stage.
Then there are the conferences. So far in 2011, I’ve been to Sleuthfest in FL and Malice Domestic in Bethesda. Next are Deadly Ink in Parsippany and Crime Bake in the Boston area. I’m hoping to get inspired to start my writing regimen again. Oh, right, I don’t have one.
In the meantime, if you’d like to see how I spent my summer vacation, I just added 4 new albums of pictures to my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/rabbi.author.
And I hope next time I post, I’ll be past the summer doldrums (hey, great excuse!) and have all kinds of funny, helpful, exciting news to report.
Jeff Cohen, a fellow writer, who is not a top bestselling author but, in a fair world, would be (in a fair world, so would I!), posted on Facebook: “I’ve turned down a $500,000 offer to self-publish in favor of a contract with a traditional publisher.” My first reaction was, “Ah, one of his typical off-the-wall comments written in what someone (Jeff?) refers to as ‘the native language of New Jersey: sarcasm.’”
Then I read that Barry Eisler, who is often (always?) on the bestseller lists, refused a $500,000 contract with a traditional publisher in order to self-publish. My first reactions were, in no particular order, since they were simultaneous:
1. Is he off his gourd?
2. Can he transfer the contract to me?
3. What is he drinking/inhaling/injecting?
4. I hope he lives a long, healthy life. If anything
suspicious happens to him, his agent will be the
5. Is he off his gourd?
According to the interview, he was discussing with his family what he should ask for in his next contract, and his eleven-year-old daughter said, “Daddy, why don’t you self publish?” He ran the math, and came to the conclusion, “Why not?”
His exact words in the interview were: “I know it’ll seem crazy to a lot of people, but based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you [J A Kornrath, author, blogger, and interviewer] are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.” (You can read the full interview at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-and-self-publishing-dialog.html)
OT1H, as the rules are right now, I could not apply to be a full member of the Mystery Writers of America. OTOH, CHANUKAH GUILT was published by a small, independent press (now sadly defunct) that was not approved by the MWA, so I can be only an affilate member anyway.
OT1H, with a traditional publisher, I’d have a PR staff to market the book. OTOH, yeah, right.
OT1H, with a traditional publisher, even a small, independent press, defunct or not, I am able to boast with false pride, “I just got my royalty statement.” OTOH, it might be nice to earn more than a couple of dollars per quarter. (Or is it a couple of quarters per book?)
OT1H, UNLEAVENED DEAD would be published by now. (I know I finished writing it less than three months ago, but I’m the impatient type.) OTOH, I need someone to edit out my overly enthusiastic verbosity. Not to mention find the typos my parents may have missed.
OT1H, I cannot edit myself. OTOH, I hate when someone else edits me. (“You can’t cut that scene! I had too much fun writing it!” Ah, but will the reader have fun reading it? I can’t judge my own work.)
So, bottom line, there is no bottom line. I’ll give the traditional publishers and the mainstream agents a few more months before they reject the manuscript. Then I’ll revisit the issue.
I never see five o’clock in the morning unless I haven’t gone to sleep yet or am going birding. Everyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person. So when the phone rang before dawn that late September morning two days after Rosh Hashanah, I knew it was trouble.
“Hello, Aunt Aviva? It’s Larry.”
“What’s wrong? Is it Grandma?” My nephew lives in the Boston area and keeps an eye on our elderly mother for his mother in Florida, and me in southern New Jersey.
“Yes. She fell, and broke her hip. When they took her to the hospital, they ran some tests to find out why she had fallen – I mean why besides going to the bathroom in the dark and not using her walker – and found she had suffered a stroke. She’s alive, but not responsive. Aviva, you’re her medical proxy. We need you here to make some decisions.”
“No heroic measures. She was explicit about that – unless she has a chance to recover to her former self, she does not want any tubes. No feeding tubes, no ventilators, nothing.”
“Too late. The assisted living staff called nine-one-one, and the medics put in a breathing tube. If she can breathe on her own, I’ll tell them to take it out.”
“Good.” I did some quick calculations. “I can’t leave until I get in touch with some people at the synagogue and make sure they have all my notes for next Shabbat and for Yom Kippur, just in case I can’t get back here in time. I think I’ll drive – airfares from Philly to Boston are ridiculous, and it will still take me five hours, what with driving to the airport and getting through security and then renting a car on the other end. In the meantime, get her living will from the office at Forever Young.” Silly name for an assisted living home, but the care was good, and Mom liked it there, so it didn’t matter. “Make sure it’s put into her hospital file. What hospital is she in?”
Made sense. Brookfield was the suburb of Boston where Forever Young was located, and where Larry lived.
“Have you called your mother and sister?”
“Mom’s getting the next flight out. I’m calling Trudy next.”
“Tell Trudy to call me. We can share the driving.”
“You two can stay with us. Mom is.”
I groaned internally. “No, thanks, Larry. I appreciate the offer, but things will be tense enough without your mother, sister, and me at each other’s throats. Trudy can afford to get two motel rooms for us.” My sister, Jean, fifteen years older than I am, blames me for leading her computer genius Lesbian daughter, only five years my junior, astray. I blame my sister for having no sense of adventure. Or humor.
And then there is the resentment my sister has harbored against me ever since our mother informed her she was naming me her power of attorney and health proxy, and giving Trudy her finances to manage. It was bad enough that our mother decided she trusted me more than her oldest daughter, but she also didn’t trust my sister’s prince to handle the financial decisions.
At a time like this, we would need to be supportive of each other, not combative. I doubt if my sister would cooperate.
As it things turned out, my sister was the least of my worries.
Unleavened Dead is the second book in the cozy mystery series featuring Rabbi Aviva Cohen, a fifty-something, twice-divorced, child-free rabbi and reluctant amateur sleuth living in southern New Jersey.
A couple, members of Aviva’s congregation, are found dead, victims of what has been ruled accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by a blocked dryer vent. A friend of the couple tells Aviva she knows the couple had an operating carbon monoxide detector and their dryer had been serviced not long before. Aware of Aviva’s success in investigating a supposed suicide sixteen months earlier, the congregant tries to convince her to look into the circumstances of these deaths. Aviva has also wondered about the deaths: the couple had information about a colleague who has been offered a new position, an offer that will be withdrawn if the information is revealed. She doesn’t believe her colleague would go so far as killing someone to protect his job, but she’s not as sure about his wife.
Aviva has a more pressing problem, however. Her niece’s partner, the director of the student counseling center at the nearby university, is the prime suspect in a deliberate hit-and-run death. The victim was a newly appointed dean who had just informed Sherry he was taking over as director, and she was being demoted, without cause, to a per diem counselor position. Witnesses heard Sherry threaten to kill the dean, after punching out a cubicle wall. Even more incriminating, her SUV, matching the description of the vehicle that had struck the dean, has a body-sized dent on the front.
As she looks into these two disparate cases, Aviva discovers they may be connected, in ways she never imagined. Her sleuthing takes a sinister turn that involves sexual abuse of young teenaged girls, money laundering, stolen identities, and an FBI investigation. Once again, her curiosity has put her life in jeopardy.
Frustrated by the lack of an index in TALK DIRTY YIDDISH? I know I am. I was considering writing one & adding it to my website. But I just downloaded a copy to my Kindle, & the search command on the device makes an index irrelevant. If you have a Kindle, download a copy of TDY today! (If there’s enough interest, I may still develop an index. Let me know. The way I work, it should be ready in, oh, six months. LOL)
You can download the Kindle version at: http://tinyurl.com/2ffgbjn
And don’t forget the desk calendar version. It makes a great gift for Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Wiccan Yule, or just for the heck of it: http://tinyurl.com/2eykmes
I just found out that the Kindle version of Talk Dirty Yiddish will be released on October 30! Buy early and often.
And don’t forget that Chanukah Guilt has been on Kindle since day one!