Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age


Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age

Natalie Bright

 

I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”

I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.

My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.

Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.

Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”

My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.

My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.

The Future is Now

Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.

Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.

A World Full of Readers

I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.

My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.

The only way is forward.

 

What’s that Smell?


What’s that Smell?

Natalie Bright

Using the five senses to draw readers into your fictional world is probably something you’ve heard before.

THE SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS

What better time of year brings back more memories than the holidays? Last week the owner of our local Mexican food restaurant shared the memories of his grandmother’s kitchen. She lived in a small house, and kept plastic over the windows for added insulation against the cold winter wind. The smells from her tiny kitchen were overwhelming when he stepped inside. Flour tortillas, sizzling beef, cinnamon, sugar and hot chili peppers. As he described the scene it was almost like I was there. I really miss my grandmother’s kitchen too.

HIGH SCHOOL TIME WARP

About a month ago I was reminded how powerful the five senses can create emotion. I walked into my son’s high school band hall. BAM! It was as if I’d been transported through time.

The sensory overload swept me away. The dusty smell from feet taking countless steps on a carpeted floor. The scent of sweat, with 100+ bodies in one room. A few notes from a trumpet. The solid clank of a locker door. A scale of notes by a clarinet. The constant, unending chatter of young voices.

My heart beat a little faster and my throat closed. My eyes actually misted over. I froze. In my mind’s eye I was back there; the Dimmitt High School band hall. The faces of the Bobcat marching band floated through my mind. If we could only go back to those moments for one day. Would you? I certainly would. I would revisit every sight and sound and horrible smell, and I’d go armed with a notebook this time. I’d write it all down to keep that moment forever ingrained into my memory.

A band director snapped me out of my time warp. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I just stood there, gripping three cases of goldfish snacks. “They go around the corner. First door to the left,” he said.

My journey down memory lane was done. Reality crashed around me.

EMOTION IS A POWERFUL THING

There was one other time when a smell overwhelmed me with emotion. My father has been dead almost fifteen years. He owned a welding shop and I hung out there most every day. Several years ago, I toured a huge plant in New Mexico that made natural gas circulating systems as part of a work related field trip. The entire back portion of the plant was a welding room. I walked through the plastic stipes covering the door into a personal meltdown. The smell of heated metal was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to not sob uncontrollably. My father had suffered a long, slow battle with cancer. He had died at home and the visual image of paramedics carrying his body out of the house will forever haunt me. I have no idea what our tour guide said. We took a slow walk through the space and I honestly did not know if I would be able to hold it together.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

How powerful our emotions can be when something triggers those memories. Think about how this kind of sensory overload might be for your characters. Create a history for them and then bring them crashing back into reality. The memories can be good, or sometimes that smell might recall something horrific.

KICKING THINGS UP A NOTCH

A children’s author, in describing her process, explained that she makes one final pass of her manuscript to add sensory images. Wish I could remember who said that and give credit, but it was one of those invaluable tidbits I picked up at a writer’s conference. At the point her story is solid, she adds even more sight, sounds, and smells which bumps everything up a notch. The reader can’t help but be immersed even more into that fictional world.

May the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday inspire you!

Merry Christmas!

Nataliebright.com

Kids and Books


Outtakes 223

Kids and Books

By Cait Collins

I’ve really tried to keep causes out of my blogs, but I hope you will indulge me this week. I realize times have changed, but as we see academic scores dropping and kids having trouble excelling in school, I have come to believe we have an issue with reading. I see kids being held back in school because their reading skills are not where they should be. They are not dumb children; they simply can’t read well.

I grew up in an environment where reading was encouraged. My folks bought the Grolier Encyclopedia, Book of Knowledge, and ChildCraft for us. They bought the books on a payment plan because they wanted us to have easy access to information. I remember Mom or Dad gathering us in the big chair and reading to us. As I got older and could read on my own, I would spend hours reading and studying these volumes.

These days books are not always present in the home. Often the family budget does not stretch to purchasing books. And if parents are not readers, it could be difficult for a child to see the need to read. Unfortunately, the child suffers because the inability to read well slows the learning process. For this reason, I support efforts to get books into a child’s hands.

One of my favorite programs is Toys for Tots. Every Christmas, the Barnes and Noble Store in Amarillo selects books for kids of all ages. The titles are suggestions for customers who wish to purchase books for the toy drive. Or the patrons may prefer to browse the shelves for some of their childhood favorites. Book donations are also accepted by the Evelyn Richards Foundation, a local charitable group that works to provide coats and Christmas for children in our area. It may not seem like a big deal to those of us who grew up reading, but giving a child a book of his own may be the beginning of new adventures and better learning opportunities.

Why not volunteer for Story Hour at your local library or bookstore? Maybe we could mentor in the local schools. As writers, we should be at the forefront of supporting efforts to put books in the home and in schools. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but at least we can make an inroad in our corner of it.

 

Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family


Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Natalie Bright

I spoke at my hometown library this last week. The Dimmitt Book Club meets at the Rhoades Memorial Library every month. We talked about the changing tide of books for writers and readers, and hopefully, inspired a few people to write their family. I heard several wonderful stories about the people from my hometown.

After a show of hands, about three indicated that they owned eReaders. (As I shared with the group, the two things that sold me on an eReader is that I can make the words bigger and I can read in the dark while my hubby sleeps.)

According to a recent Pew Research Center stats, half of American adults either own a tablet or an e-Reader. In 2014, 12 million devices were sold. It’s no surprise that Amazon Kindle has the largest share of the market, with 75% of all eBooks sold in the US. Other countries are close behind the eBook craze with markets opening up in India, Germany, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For people who love stories, like Book Clubs, this is an amazing time for readers. Original material is in high demand, which makes this an amazing time for writers as well. The irony of our time is that while eBooks continue to gain a solid hold, it’s never been easier for anyone to create a book for print.

Family Stories

Many of you have thought about writing the stories you heard from your childhood, or putting your family genealogy research to paper. I think today, more and more people are interested in family stories and the history of their communities. Family historians and genealogist can bring community and family members to life through the written word, and reveal them as real flesh and blood souls. With the ease of self-publishing options, you can write it and have something in hand you’d be proud to hand out at the next family reunion (or sell it to your cousins to cover your costs).

A Million Ways

Whatever you think a family memoir or collection of stories might be, forget those preconceived notions. Through the ease of self-publishing options, you can create whatever you want. I shared several of my favorite examples of family memoirs and personal reflections that have been turned into published works. I’ve listed them below:

PATCHWORK PRINCIPLES by Jerry and Martha McClenagan. A heartwarming collection of life lessons featuring original quilt designs hand made by Martha. (Infinity Publishing)

TEN SISTERS by Doris Wenzel. Unique POV from ten sisters who each wrote a chapter about the day they were taken from their mother and adopted out to different families. (Mayhaven Press)

TAKE TWO & BUTTER ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT, by Barbara Sewell. Heirloom Recipes & Kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “If you want some hot bread and free advice, step into my grandmother’s kitchen.” I love this collection of recipes and wisdom.

             GROWING UP IN THE BRADFORD OIL FIELDS by Jim Messer. (Xlibris) Written for his children, Mr. Messer reflects on memories growing up with a father who was an oil field shooter. A fascinating look at how they stored, transported, and ignited nitroglycerin during the completion process of fracing wells in the 1930s.

             A WOMAN TENDERFOOT by Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson. Published in 1900, this Rocky Mountain adventure is written by a Victorian woman who did the unthinkable: she accompanied her husband into the wilderness of U.S. and Canada. What I wouldn’t give to have some of this detail about clothing, food prep, adventure, and life from my own grandmother.

             LETTERS FOR COACH by Libby Cleveland. Author Coop Action Printing, Lubbock Texas. A collection of letters from players to their favorite coach.

SO GREAT A HERITAGE by Kathie Jackson. A collection of letters by her father who was an army Chaplain. She sprinkled this book with details of the war in between letters to home.

OIL PEOPLE by Natalie Bright. Nonfiction targeted to upper middle grades about the varied workforce used in the discovery, production and refining of oil. Lists the many products we use every day. Self-published 2010 based on my husband’s work as a petroleum geologist, and now available on Amazon as an eBook.

           “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES. Based on an old ranch hand on a college friend’s ranch, I wrote the story as an exercise for a writing class, and years later it was selected for this anthology published by TCU Press. Never delete those story ideas. You never where they might find a home in the future. This great collection contains both fiction and nonfiction about West Texas.

Writer’s Secrets for Non-Writers: You CAN do This!

  • Your writing is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’ve ever wanted to record your family history, write it down now. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Writers call it the vomit draft.
  • On the next pass through your work, narrow the focus: smells, sounds, fear, taste, grit on your face. Add the details that brings the reader into your story.
  • Write to one person in particular. Don’t worry about who will be reading your work. Just write.
  • I’m not talking about literary writing. Write in a Conversational tone. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences. Just write. You can go back and fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.
  • Read your story out loud. Every author I know does this final step before submitting their work for publication. This helps you find awkward sentences, typos, and determine the flow of your story. Again, it’s not a literary piece. It’s you telling a family story.
  • Have someone else read your work for an honest critique.

Libraries of Tomorrow

The library in my hometown continues to thrive. I used to spend every Saturday there while my mother did the weeks laundry around the corner. I’m glad to know that the folks in Dimmitt continue to use the facility.

In addition to several groups using the meeting room and a Tuesday reading program for children, the Dimmitt library features a lighted glass case of collections from local patrons. This month were porcelain tea pots from England. The previous month featured Elvis memorabilia. Librarians are thinking outside the box to keep their facilities vibrant even in today’s eBook revolution.

Now, Take a Deep Breath. Whether you’re a multi-published author or first-time writer, be open to the possibilities of your creation and WRITE. Don’t forget to schedule a talk at your hometown library after you get that book finished.

Empty Bubbles


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Empty Bubbles

By Nandy Ekle

  It’s like reading a cartoon with no speech balloons. It’s like losing a hand or a foot, or an arm or a leg. It’s like not having the ability to speak. It’s like opening your eyes to a dark room. It’s like holding your breath under water. It’s like sitting in a chair all night and staring at the wall. It’s like being hungry but your pantry is empty. It’s like having a pile of laundry but your washer is broken. It’s like opening the front door and seeing dark emptiness.

It’s like all the words you’ve ever held, stacked together, rearranged, played with, followed you around, jumped around inside your head have packed up and moved away.

It’s like not being able to write.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Empty Bubbles


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Empty Bubbles

By Nandy Ekle

  It’s like reading a cartoon with no speech balloons. It’s like losing a hand or a foot, or an arm or a leg. It’s like not having the ability to speak. It’s like opening your eyes to a dark room. It’s like holding your breath under water. It’s like sitting in a chair all night and staring at the wall. It’s like being hungry but your pantry is empty. It’s like having a pile of laundry but your washer is broken. It’s like opening the front door and seeing dark emptiness.

It’s like all the words you’ve ever held, stacked together, rearranged, played with, followed you around, jumped around inside your head have packed up and moved away.

It’s like not being able to write.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Kids and Books


Outtakes 223

Kids and Books

By Cait Collins

I’ve really tried to keep causes out of my blogs, but I hope you will indulge me this week. I realize times have changed, but as we see academic scores dropping and kids having trouble excelling in school, I have come to believe we have an issue with reading. I see kids being held back in school because their reading skills are not where they should be. They are not dumb children; they simply can’t read well.

I grew up in an environment where reading was encouraged. My folks bought the Grolier Encyclopedia, Book of Knowledge, and ChildCraft for us. They bought the books on a payment plan because they wanted us to have easy access to information. I remember Mom or Dad gathering us in the big chair and reading to us. As I got older and could read on my own, I would spend hours reading and studying these volumes.

These days books are not always present in the home. Often the family budget does not stretch to purchasing books. And if parents are not readers, it could be difficult for a child to see the need to read. Unfortunately, the child suffers because the inability to read well slows the learning process. For this reason, I support efforts to get books into a child’s hands.

One of my favorite programs is Toys for Tots. Every Christmas, the Barnes and Noble Store in Amarillo selects books for kids of all ages. The titles are suggestions for customers who wish to purchase books for the toy drive. Or the patrons may prefer to browse the shelves for some of their childhood favorites. Book donations are also accepted by the Evelyn Richards Foundation, a local charitable group that works to provide coats and Christmas for children in our area. It may not seem like a big deal to those of us who grew up reading, but giving a child a book of his own may be the beginning of new adventures and better learning opportunities.

Why not volunteer for Story Hour at your local library or bookstore? Maybe we could mentor in the local schools. As writers, we should be at the forefront of supporting efforts to put books in the home and in schools. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but at least we can make an inroad in our corner of it.

 

Story in a Sentence


Story in a Sentence

Natalie Bright

There’s no better way to discover the “heart” of your book then to summarize the plot into as few of words as possible.

One sentence can explain the main characters, the plot line, and the theme. Now that’s a challenge!

Stripe your story down to the bare bones. Hooks are attention getters to lure readers into your story. You want to generate interest with a promise of adventure. Ensnare the reader. Pull her away from reality.

If writing one sentence is too difficult, perhaps you have more than one story line. Maybe you have multiple plot lines, and need to decide upon the main story and theme.

*Toy Story is about the ‘secret life of toys’ when people are not around.

*Princess Anna, a hopeless optimist, sets off on an epic journey – teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff, his loyal reindeer Sven and a talking snowman named Olaf – to find her beautiful sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped their kingdom in eternal winter.

*After a painful divorce, the author sets out to devote one year to pleasure, prayer and love. (EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert.)

Please share the story in a sentence of your current work in progress.

Kids and Books


Outtakes 223

Kids and Books

By Cait Collins

I’ve really tried to keep causes out of my blogs, but I hope you will indulge me this week. I realize times have changed, but as we see academic scores dropping and kids having trouble excelling in school, I have come to believe we have an issue with reading. I see kids being held back in school because their reading skills are not where they should be. They are not dumb children; they simply can’t read well.

I grew up in an environment where reading was encouraged. My folks bought the Grolier Encyclopedia, Book of Knowledge, and ChildCraft for us. They bought the books on a payment plan because they wanted us to have easy access to information. I remember Mom or Dad gathering us in the big chair and reading to us. As I got older and could read on my own, I would spend hours reading and studying these volumes.

These days books are not always present in the home. Often the family budget does not stretch to purchasing books. And if parents are not readers, it could be difficult for a child to see the need to read. Unfortunately, the child suffers because the inability to read well slows the learning process. For this reason, I support efforts to get books into a child’s hands.

One of my favorite programs is Toys for Tots. Every Christmas, the Barnes and Noble Store in Amarillo selects books for kids of all ages. The titles are suggestions for customers who wish to purchase books for the toy drive. Or the patrons may prefer to browse the shelves for some of their childhood favorites. Book donations are also accepted by the Evelyn Richards Foundation, a local charitable group that works to provide coats and Christmas for children in our area. It may not seem like a big deal to those of us who grew up reading, but giving a child a book of his own may be the beginning of new adventures and better learning opportunities.

Why not volunteer for Story Hour at your local library or bookstore? Maybe we could mentor in the local schools. As writers, we should be at the forefront of supporting efforts to put books in the home and in schools. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but at least we can make an inroad in our corner of it.

 

Reasons to Write


Reasons to Write

By Rory C. Keel

Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

Over the next few weeks I will share with you a few of the reasons I write.

Reason #1

I write to tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Children drift off to sleep with their heads cradled gently in downy pillows, and their minds full of colorful images from fairytales. Young adults turn the pages of books filled with adventure, loyalty, and sometimes tragedy. They experience a spectrum of emotions as they learn the meaning of dedication, true love, and even loss. Adults feel alive with the thrill of a great suspense novel. As we grow older, we can gain a sense of who we are, and where we came from by reading of our youthful yesterdays.

For a few brief moments in time, a story affords the reader the opportunity to escape reality. Traveling through time into other dimensions, we can explore the far reaches of the future, or a place in history. A story allows the reader to become someone else, able to triumph over evil, or transform into the bad guy. The words of a story can inspire us to overcome the odds stacked against us, and we can experience the exhilaration of victory.

Everyone has a story–write yours.

Rory C. Keel