Reading and Goodreads

Though I haven’t been updating here about my reading, and actually took those widgets off my sidebar because they were populated by LibraryThing and I’ve been using Goodreads instead (link to my Goodreads account), I have been reading what I think is an impressive amount (for me). Considering that I’ve still been reading submissions, and that I’ve taken two trips in 2010 already (and I read very little when traveling), I’ve still managed to read 34 books to date in 2010.

As I said, I’ve been tracking my reads on Goodreads. I did a fairly decent job of it in 2009, but right around the time all of the upheavel happened in my professional life last fall, I also stopped updating Goodreads. However, since I read mostly digital, I was able to browse my Fictionwise, Kindle and Calibre records and fill in most of the gaps from September to December. When I was done, and knowing there were books missing because I hadn’t been diligant about keeping up my Goodreads records, I discovered I’d read at least 220 books in 2009.I was happy with not only that, but the variety of genres I’d read. I felt like I pushed myself last year to read a little more outside my comfort zones and I managed to do that. This year I’m also going to be specifically tracking the genres I read.

So what have I read so far in 2010? A lot of Charlaine Harris, apparently. Not the Sookie books, I’ve already read all of those several times, but I read the Lily Bard and Harper Connolly series. Neither of which I actually liked that much, but I found something oddly compelling about them. Weird when that happens. Also, true to form, I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy. Last fall I discovered Karen Chance’s Dorini Basarab series but had not read her Cassandra Palmer series, so I got to catch up on that these past few weeks. Also read Eileen Wilks’ and Nalini Singhs’ new books. Two of my favorite authors, and I loved these offerings.Oh, and I bought some Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz digital backlist titles from Fictionwise, so I’ve been indulging in those. I’m a little disappointed in the quality of the Amanda Quick books (they were obviously scanned from print and not proofread for scanning errors) but the stories remain good for me!

Now I’m patiently waiting for the next JD Robb book to release in 2 weeks. And the Patricia Briggs book in March. Another two of my favorite authors.

Right now I’m in between books (I was catching up on back episodes of Chuck last night). I have a significant list of books TBR but I can’t decide what to read. What are you reading?

Mrs. Miracle: A spoiler request

It’s a long story, but last night our babysitter (a very nice older lady) ended up hanging out at our house for about an hour after we got home, and I gave her control of the remote. She switched it to Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle, but the movie had already been on for an hour so we only saw the last half. It was actually a pretty cute movie (as evidenced by the fact that my brother and I kept watching the end, even after the babysitter left), though it wasn’t something we’d have ever turned it to ourselves. But because we came in late, we never got to find out what the sister did to Reba (the heroine) that was so horrible she wouldn’t speak to her for four years. I Googled for spoilers, but I couldn’t find the answer. So, I’m turning to you guys for the answer if you’ve read the book or seen the movie. What the heck did she do?

Shopping small press epublishers

This weekend, I asked in both a post here and at Romance Divas for recommendations of books from small press. I didn’t limit by genre, but I did specify that people couldn’t recommend their own book, they had to have read the book (no recommending your friend’s book just because :P) and that it had to be over 12,000 words. No genre restrictions, since I’ll read pretty much anything. Maybe it was the holiday weekend, but this seemed to be harder than I thought it would be (with the number of people on Romance Divas who write and read small press, I expected more recommendations from there, actually).

I ended up buying about 11 books, ranging in genre and from 8 different small presses.

It was interesting, though, the things I learned about buying/reading small press as a result of this.

1) Distribution is important. I ruled out any press/book that I couldn’t buy at an online bookstore (I didn’t want to enter my credit card number 7 times, so I didn’t want to shop direct from publishers this time, though I often do for certain presses). So any publisher/book that wasn’t available at Fictionwise, AllRomanceEbooks or BooksOnBoard I didn’t even consider. I think one stop shopping is important because most customers are not going to be like me, and hunt 3 different places for all the books they want. They’re going to buy what’s available where it’s convenient for them. Also, a publisher without distribution isn’t catching the “browsers” at the online bookstores.

2) Price to word count is also important. There were a few books that I would have bought based on the blurb, but when I checked the word count versus the price, I quickly changed my mind. I’m sorry, but $5-$6 for a 25-30k book is obscene. To give you an idea, a book that length is about half the length of a normal Harlequin Desire or Presents (category). Half.

3) Word count matters. I found that I very much appreciated Fictionwise putting the exact word count on the books. Most small presses have a word count range for each book, some a large spread, so you don’t know if you’re buying and getting the low end of 30k or the high end of 60k at that price. I based a lot of my purchasing decisions on Fictionwise’s provided word count. It made for easier shopping and I appreciated that.

4) Sales sell books (at least to me). I ended up doing almost all of my shopping at Fictionwise because of their great anniversary sale. I bought more than I would have otherwise, but the psychology of it also hit me, because when I went to look at other sites, I found myself more reluctant to buy a “full price” book.

The reading experience. At the end of the weekend, I had read 7 books from 6 different presses (still have two presses unread from my weekend purchases):

1) I appreciate good metadata. I put all of my books into Calibre for two reasons: Cataloging and transfer to my Sony. Since most of the books came from Fictionwise, and were multi-format, I believe that means that Fictionwise actually formatted them. And Fictionwise doesn’t have the best metadata. It’s okay, but not great. I know I work for Samhain, but I have to tell you, the metadata kicked ass when I put the books into Calibre. (Yes, Samhain was one of the presses I read this weekend). The Samhain metadata includes title, author name, publisher, release date AND the book blurb. It was beautiful. Now, to be fair, since I didn’t buy direct from the other publishers, I don’t know what their own metadata is like, but for a digital book, metadata is important!

2) The blurb at the front of the book (after the cover) is convenient. Once I’d put the 11 books on my Sony, I didn’t necessarily remember what each was about and I appreciated those publishers who put the blurb at the front of the book. It made it easy for me to decide if that was the book I wanted to read right then.

3) Editing matters. And not all small presses are created equal in editing. I am not critical of small errors that slip in. Boy, wouldn’t that be hypocritical? And I have actually gotten pretty good at turning my internal editor off when needed for pleasure reading. But there were some books where it wasn’t possible to do that and I found myself thinking that I would be reluctant to buy 1) from that press again and 2) that author again. Editing matters and small press needs to do better than traditional press at this, unfortunately, because we come under greater scrutiny. People expect small press epublished books to be badly edited and that’s unfortunate for all of us!

4) A good premise can’t trump bad editing/execution. For me, at least, and I think maybe other readers, I realized that though I appreciated the idea of the story/plot, even the freshness of a good premise was overcome by poor editing and execution. Awkward dialogue, stilted narrative, inconsistent plot threads…those things matter.

5) Explicit words and descriptions don’t make a scene sexy. The eroticism of a scene depends on more than the words/acts the author uses and has her characters engaging in. It depends on the intimacy of the setting, the sensuality of the moment and the connection the characters have to each other, and I have to them. Some authors have an amazing talent writing this.

6) I appreciate small press for its diversity. One thing about the recommendations I got and the books I read, is that they were diverse, not just in genre, but also in length. It was nice to be able to choose a shorter book to read just before bed, but a longer book to indulge in during the day, and to be able to get everything from a m/m/f BDSM romance to sweet contemporary.

Friday Confessional 2-6-2009

I have two confessions today. One is that I went shopping this morning for pants that I can wear to cocktail parties Monday in NYC. I didn’t find any because I’m TOO SHORT. Kohls is having some great clearance sales and I tried on an embarrassing number of pants but they all were too long for me by about 4 inches. It might have been worth it at clearance prices to buy them and pay to have them tailored, but I was too overwhelmed to make that decision this morning. Maybe I’ll go back.

The other confession is that I’m not at all ready for the traveling to start again. I think it must be because I’m basically lazy at heart, and it suits me to be able to do nothing all day ๐Ÿ˜‰ Also, ever since I told her I was going (last week, because she heard me talking about it and asked) Brianna has been telling me how much she doesn’t want me to go. This morning she was particularly upset about it.

But on that note, blogging will probably be lighter again in the next few weeks, because we all know I’m no good at traveling and blogging!

For the Reader:
Since I don’t normally promo my releases during the week, I’m going to start listing them here, under the “for the reader” section. So, released this week:
Taken by Anya Bast (erotic sci fi romance)
Called by Blood by Evie Byrne (erotic paranormal romance)
Mexican Heat by Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon (m/m action romance)

Publisher’s Weekly is looking for reviewers in fiction genres including romance!

Kristen Nelson wants to know if free books work on you. On an interesting related note, I got an email from one of my blog readers this week, who was emailing to tell me that the free books she’d gotten from Samhain definitely resulted in her buying others. Anecdotal evidence that free works! I think editor Leah Hultenschmidt talked about that on her blog this week as well.

Jane from Dear Author wonders if you’d be interested in a rent-to-own ereader and ebook subscription?

Smart Bitches has the video from MSNBC that features the Kindle (and Kate Duffy of Kensington!)

Continuing the series about the Dear Author reviewers and their new Sony Readers. I’m really enjoying these posts.

For the Author:

Edittorrent had two great posts up on rejections this week. Alicia wrote this one on form rejections that I swear I could have written myself. Theresa wrote one that relates to my blog post here a few weeks ago about how fast is too fast?

And since we’re talking rejection, here’s one more on post-rejection protocol from Jessica Faust at BookEnds.

Author Lauren Dane has started a Sunday series on promotion.

Author Maria Zannini talks about signature lines. Honestly, an obnoxiously long signature line irritates me enough to remember the author’s name in a negative light.

Author Shannon Stacey has an awesome post up about making sure you’re following your dream, not someone else’s.

In the Kitchen:

Download spice jar labels.

Nom nom nom, these Italian love cakes look good (and easy)!

Pioneer Woman is doing a series on sushi. I actually learned how to make sushi from a Japanese friend years ago, but I’m still enjoying this series.

Peanut Butter and Rice Krispie treats
. Me please.

For the Crafty:

Does anyone out there knit? I really want this scarf. Almost enough to take up knitting, except it would take me five years to finish. The scarf combines my love of two things: Doctor Who (LOVE Tom Baker) and scarves.

Sew, Mama, Sew is doing Fat Quarter February. Check out all the fat quarter projects they’re sharing. Tissue holders here (and if I’d thought of it sooner, I’d have whipped up a bunch as small Valentine Day gifts for the daycare staff)

Check out this list of the top 100 tuturials of 2008

I would love to make one of these tea wallets. I like to travel with tea but it always ends up in the bottom of my purse.

I love this idea. Anyone who’s ever been to a conference has a bunch of tote bags laying around. Here’s a tutorial for dressing up and resuing those tote bags!

For Everyone:

Thankfully, the CPSIA Lead-Testing Law has been delayed for one year. I hope they can work the kinks out of that and get a new/different/better law into affect.

An interesting post on recipes and copyright (where I learned, though was not surprised, to find that recipes aren’t copyrighted).

A little insight into the editorial debate between an author and an editor. These are weighty issues we discuss!

Whee! There’s going to be another Sex and the City movie. I’m not sure what type of story line they’ll come up with, but I don’t care. I’ll go see it! Looks to be set for hopefully Summer 2010

It’s what everyone has been talking about. The Snuggie. Now you can make your own and pimp it out to boot! Score!

$25 free from E-Trade when you open an E-Trade Savings Account.

You know you want to make one. A LOLCat purse!

So you’re bored and want to kill some time? Make your own comic strip!

Maybe your music library is like mine and could use a little attending to? MakeUseof.com has 4 suggestions for tools to fix and auto-organize your music library. Let me know if you’re familiar with any of them or try them!

Wi-Fi Hotspot finders. I need to put these links in my phone, with as much as I travel I often need Wi-Fi (even with an aircard, it’s nice to find Wi-Fi)

For the Political:
Not really political but I’m putting it here. Via HighlandGal, a quote about the Michael Phelps thing that made me laugh (also, see the bottom of this post for some links to current articles about Phelps losing sponsors):

Look, I don’t blame Michael Phelps for apologizing. He has a living to earn, so he did what he had to do.

In the meantime, I merely note that this broken wreck of a man’s failure to win any more than a pathetic fourteen Olympic gold medals (so far) is a terrifying warning of the horrific damage that cannabis can do to someone’s healthโ€”and a powerful reminder of just how sensible the drug laws really are.

-Andrew Stuttaford from The Corner at National Review Online.

A new video from Ashley Judd about Sarah Palin’s support of the brutal hunting of wolves. The video is not for the tender-hearted.

Obama puts a cap on executive pay at businesses that received bailout money. I really wish more things like this had been put in place before the bailout money was ever given out.

I’ll admit it, I laughed when I read to the end. There’s a follow-up article here. All I can think, though, is that our nation is facing the largest unemployment rate in two three decades and this guy is going to be worried about a suit jacket? Puh-lease.

Michelle Obama is stepping into the stimulus package fray. Oy.

Picture of the week:

Because the whole idea of this still makes me laugh.

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