Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 to do file

Today I listened to one of Joanna Penn's podcasts. This was a chat with Jane Friedman. Both these experts offer sensible and pragmatic advice for indie authors. Jane Friedman recently posted this:

5 Industry Issues for Authors to watch in 2016

This post contained eminently practical advice for writers.  This was also the genesis for the podcast chat with Joanna Penn.

Three points stood out for me.

1. a new self publishing advice destination:  Hotsheet

This handy item provides indie authors with quick summaries of things to watch for in the digital publishing world - so you do not have to google around the net looking. It is produced by Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson.

2. Audio books. Apparently audio books are booming (no pun intended).  This idea has been stewing in my brain for a while. As it is, I have included audio in my multimedia experimental book, The Man who fell from the Sky

3. Most importantly, mobile devices:  More and more readers of eBooks are doing so on their so-called smartphones. Rather than reading on a Kindle, or a Nook, for example, people are reading books on their phones. Myself I have these apps on my iPhone: Kobo, iBooks, Kindle, Wattpad, Indigo, Gutenberg Pro, Goodreads, Bluefire and the Internet Archive. The advice at the very end of the podcast was to revamp your web page to be sure it is easily readable on a mobile device. Already I test my experimental ebook on my iPhone rather than an iPad or laptop.

PostScript:  I say 'so-called smartphones' because in reality  a 'smartphone' is a pocket computer that has the capability of making telephone calls - but fewer and fewer people are using these devices as phones.  Most often they are used as computers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


My rather ambiguous title for this post was deliberate.  I love printed books - even the cheap sort where the pages fall out when first opened.  But I love eBooks now too, a kind of sister wives' scenario with reading.  I don't love the format most eBooks use - a bland font and no 'feel' to the book. Yet the iPhone, the iPad, the laptop and desktop computers produced by Apple have a designed beauty and tactility of their own. Where I can alter the font, or change colours in what I am reading I find a new delight in the sensuality of reading. Reading is for me, even when mining histories written in the pretence of social science, sensual.  I am presently re-reading Charles Taylor's 'A Secular Age' and I noticed how I enjoyed the semi-smooth, semi-rough feel of the paper of each page under my finger tips. This got me to thinking on a tangent. Which of my hundreds (thousands?) of books would I keep if I had room only for a handful?

Well, firstly I will discount my father's books I have - they are not great literature but have an emotional resonance separate from their place in life as books. I will only consider those I, singularly, read and purchased and own currently.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - the hard back copies with the full maps -  I have pocket book versions but they would go.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien  - I have only two pocket book versions, so I would keep the authorized Ballantine copy.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris ( a pocket book because by this point in my life I could no longer afford the luxury of hardcover books, but her prose is sensual. She is a poet and this is prose as only a poet could write).

Lament for a Nation by George Grant (pocket book, 1963  - again this book opened my mind to thinking philosophically about, well, everything.)

A Political and Cultural History of Europe by Carlton J.H. Hayes (two volumes, hardcover, 1939. This is the first, or at least one of the first histories that presented not just political history, but cultural integrated into the narrative. Hayes wrote in a way all historians should be taught - clearly yet with style.)

Ways of the Christian Mystics by Thomas Merton (this one not only for the clarity of his mystical thought - now there's an oxymoron worth meditation - but because it is in a Shambhala Pocket Classic edition - a true pocket book but using red and black prints and internal borders in the text)

I will stop here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lady and the Unicorn

Tonight I began listening to a CBC podcast on this series of six tapestries in the Musée de Cluny in France. There is a general introduction, then each tapestry is described and highlighted. I sat back in the wing chair in my home office and half closed my eyes to listen and to see with words. I let the producer and the experts he chats with paint the tapestries with their words onto the canvas of my mind.  The images leapt forth. This is what writing should do - take you into another place where images and events become real in your own mind.

The first tapestry - touch - the first five represent the five senses, the sixth goes beyond the senses to a place rejected by atheists, doubted by agnostics and lived in by believers in any religion.  But in this post, it is the first that prompted me to stop the podcast for a bit to write.

Touch.  My poetry and my prose always strives to make touch - texture, feel, physical pleasure, physical pain, surfaces, muscles straining, cold water on hot skin, rough tree bark, silk... live in the minds of readers and in my mind. The discussion of the first tapestry touch,  describes the mediaeval juxtaposition of gentleness and lust, of the soft gentle eyes of the unicorn and its hard, erect horn, of the lion, of the lady, of all the images as occupying two realities in one.

Poetry presents many realities in one set of words. The reader must feel the reality and not worry about the reality of the poet. Prose is much more like this than most suspect. The words that narrate a story draw characters and events in places where the reader colours them, makes them tall or short, builds the country these souls inhabit. They do live in different places for each reader.