Sunday, August 7, 2011

Soooo Many Books To Read

A surprising, or not so surprising, by-product of attending writers conferences, is the books you end up buying that you weren't planning on. I came home with four more (not counting the review copy of Tasting Rain that was waiting in the mail box upon my return) books than I left with.

I justified them all.


First of all, The Chronology of Water was mandatory because it's a memoir. And I write memoir, so I need to read memoir for research purposes. (See how I justified that?) Lydia Yudnavitch's writing is brilliant. Lyrical. Random. Poetic. Like how I like to write. Picked at random: page 115 shares when she met Ken Kesey the first time:

"My face got hot and the top of my head itched and all the others in the room looked like writers with special MFA badges while I felt like a human match. Like I might burst into a puny orange flame. While everyone was laughing about the tootsie remark he leaned down and whispered in my ear, 'I know what happened to you. Death's a motherfucker.'

"In 1984, Kesey's son Jed, a wrestler for the University of Oregon, was killed on the way to a wrestling tournament when the team's bald-tired van crashed. My baby girl died the same year. Close to my ear, he smelled like vodka. Familiar.

"He handed me a flask and we got along and bonded quickly the way strangers who've seen aliens can. That's all it took. No one ever questioned me, least of all Kesey. It was brilliantly incomprehensible to me. I loved it.

"I was 25."

I can't wait to read more of this lady!

Then I bought The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed because -- well -- I'm a line editor. More research. And it's already doing it's job. Page 70 says, "A colon is used to introduce an extended quotation." I had to go to the above sentence that said,  "Picked at random: page 115 shares when she met Ken Kesey the first time:" and change the period at the end of the sentence to a colon. I'm learning all the time.

Another justification was Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 No-Cost, Low-Cost Weapons for Selling Your Work. A no-brainer.

So, I felt comfortable (though $50 poorer) having bought those tomes.
It made sense to buy them.
It fit into my lifestyle and my chosen profession.
All of them.


You may have noticed I didn't reveal the fourth book I purchased this weekend.
Total whim.


Now Vlad is not a book I would've normally bought myself. Though I have, on a number of occasions, picked up the book in the bookstore and looked through it. Wondered about it. And always put it back in the stack on the Barnes and Noble table. It seemed too gruesome for my tastes. I don't like horror. Or gore. Both I would expect coming from a story about Dracula.

The reasons I did pick it up were as follows: the sexy cover (red and black and glossiness -- like red lipstick and black satin sheets), the title (short and eye-catching), and I like literary fiction -- literary historical fiction, too.

So, while at this writers conference I just attended, I took a workshop led by Robert Dugoni and CC (Chris) Humphreys.  It was a great workshop about second drafts, and I was greatly entertained by their combined teaching/stand-up-comedy. After the class, I was headed past the "bookstore" tables and low and behold, there was Chris' book, Vlad, just stacked up nicely. At a book signing table. I picked up the book. Again. Read the back, again -- Winter 1431, a son is born to the Prince of Transylvania. His father christened him "Vlad." His people knew him as "The Dragon's Son." His enemies reviled him as "Tepes" -- The Impaler. He became the hero of a nation. We know him as Dracula.


Chris showed up at the table to sign books.


He twiddled his pen and looked at me.
A queue started forming behind me.

"Does this have lots of gore and blood, or is it character driven?" I asked.

"Character driven," he said. All British-y. He said there was "one scene, three paragraphs long, that I didn't want to write, but it would've been cowardly to not write, so I finally wrote it like this [he turned his head to the left and closed one eye] and got it over with and then I could right the rest of the book."

"Ok. I'll trust you. I liked your class, and I'd like to support your art, so I'll give it a shot."

His message,

To Valerie,
Embrace the darkness!
All the best,
CC Humphreys

As I walked away, he called out,
 "You can email me if you didn't like it and tell me."

Inner chuckle. As if I would do that.

Ahem. Those are just the books that I came home with. I already told you about the review copy that I need to read and review for my Grief Shadows blog, but I didn't tell you of the books I am reading right now!


One is a book club book (can you guess which one?) and one is for my own personal time management. Or rather, the learning of it. One of the productive things I thought about doing is to
 couple my desire to read, with reviewing books for my blogs. This will start providing a 'service' for my readers, and I can also post my reviews on places like GoodReads for further online presence and community.

See you in cyberspace!

1 comment:

Valerie Willman said...

Ack! I forgot another one I'm reading: The Death of Vishnu. A novel.