Friday, May 27, 2011

Real Books in Walmart

Many of us have heard the chatter recently about ebooks rising in popularity. The New York Times reports that Amazon's ebook sales have surpassed their paper book sales. Many of us have looked wistfully at our favorite paperbacks, the ones you can sprawl on the couch with or lend to a friend, the ones that give your eyes a break from the various screens we're all staring without ceasing at these days. Endangered?

Take a look at the colorful picture above on the right. This is a rack of paperback cozy mysteries. Think Agatha Christie, with an amateur sleuth, no real violence on the page, often set in a village of some kind. Well sure, bookstores big and small always stock cozies. Where are these books? This rack is in a Walmart near you. Wait. WALMART?

What does this mean for the authors, fellow writers like Sheila Connolly, Jenn McKinlay, Leann Sweeny, and others published by Berkeley Prime Crime, the publisher who made this deal with Walmart? Consider the number of people who do all their shopping in Walmarts across the country. Consider one-stop shopping. Consider how these authors' sales numbers are likely to shoot way up. This is huge.

I personally don't shop in Walmarts. I have other options, and I choose to stretch my resources in the direction of local stores rather than a big-box national chain with questionable employment and sourcing practices. But I know Walmart is pretty much the only option left in some communities, and it offers lower prices for those with less money to stretch.

Would I, if I had a cozy series published by Berkeley Prime Crime, refuse to have my book stocked in Walmart? Absolutely not! So congratulations, Sheila, Leann, Jenn, and the other authors with books on that rack. May you actually make some real money from your writing. May you entertain many new readers with your stories.

What about you, readers? Will you be going to Walmart to shop for books now? Are you glad the paper book is still alive and well?

(Oh! This is my 50th post. Wow.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Murderous Weather

Yes, I know one is not supposed to start a book with the weather. But really, the non-spring we're having in Massachusetts this year? It truly affects mood, and for those on the edge, it might just push them over. Murder could be around the corner. This kind of motivation makes a writer just rub her hands in eager anticipation of getting that story down on paper.

How bad has it been? How bad can it be, you (you from Tucson, you from Bamako, you from other desert areas of the world) ask?

We have WINTER here. And we had a rough winter. Lots of snow. Lots of bad driving conditions. The one thing that makes it worth living through is the fabled New England spring. It usually rains some, and then the world pops forth in green. The snow drops, the crocuses, the tulips, the daffodils bring us riots of color and new growth. The trees pop out, the lawns green up. With some sunshine, it's heaven here May.

Usually. This year we have had rain, mist, fog, drizzle, and more rain almost every day this month. We're molding up. Seedlings are rotting in the pot. Worst of all, we're in a BAD MOOD. Grrr. Tempers, starved for sun after the long winter, are tetchy, edgy, ready to explode.

Mama Nature? You're testing us way beyond our limits. I would not be surprised to read a crop of overcast-induced murder stories in anthologies across the region as soon as the next publishing cycle comes around.

What about you? Tempted to write a murder-by-dampness story? What kind of murder would best suit this awful weather?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Contemplating the Bonsai

Now that my medical leave is over, I'm back at my day job, and I don't really have time to review every book I read (although it was fun), let's resume talking about topics that are in Speaking of Murder. Like bonsai trees.

What do tiny trees have to do with Lauren Rousseau, linguistics, or small-town Massachusetts? Lauren happens to have a miniature elm tree on her college office windowsill. She talks to it. It's a hobby of hers that she first learned when she lived in Japan teaching English. Who knows, it might develop into its own intriguing plot in a future book in the series.

Personally? I don't know anything about bonsai cultivation except that they are tiny and realistically proportioned, and the name means 'tray plant,' more or less ('bon' meaning a tray-like pot). Wikipedia tells us the following: "The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower)."

So that's where research comes in. The Internet can tell me a lot about care and feeding of bonsai trees. I plan to schedule a field trip to Bonsai West in Littleton, Massachusetts one of these days.

Here's a pretty crabapple in bloom for us to contemplate. Any of you readers out there experts on this art form? Any wannabe owners of a tiny tree? Who wants to come along on the field trip?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Malice Domestic 2011

I just got back from Malice Domestic. It's a big conference in the Washington DC area for readers and writers of the traditional mystery, รก la Agatha Christie. I caught up with friends, met Louise Penny and told her about my connection with Quebec (where her series is set), listened to wisdom from the gracious and funny Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi, T is for Tresspass, and so on), and got turned on to lots of new books.

The Agatha awards were bestowed on several excellent writers, including Louise Penny for Best Novel and fellow Guppie Avery Aames for Best First Novel. Other Guppies and brilliant writers lost out, however, including my friends Hank Phillippi Ryan and Sheila Connolly. It was a little odd to realize it's really a popularity contest - the conference attendees vote on a slate of 5 for each award. Mind you, this does NOT mean the winner is not deserving. Just that it's not an impartially juried award. Each winner, besid
es being able to add "Agatha Winner" to her resume, receives a wonderful black Agatha teapot. Here's Hank with her teapot for Best Short Story 2009.

It was fun to attend the closing ceremony, which was a full afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream. But I'm not sure I'll go back until I, too, have a book to promote.