Monday, August 27th, 2012

What’s Your Favorite Candy Bar?

Photo of a Mars Bar Candy Bar by Evan AmosI received an unusual question via email from a co-worker today.

She meant it rhetorically, because she’d asked so many others in the email. But it was fun, so I answered her back.

For your edification, here’s the question:

What’s your favorite candy bar? Ice cream? Cruise ship? Bribery tool? 😉

And the answers are:

  • Mars Bar – I was so disappointed when they discontinued it in 2002! But, they brought it back a few years ago, so all is well.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip – I love peppermint!
  • Royal Caribbean – I need to go check if there are any specials. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a cruise…
  • Time!! – which is a difficult commodity to grant – although there are many creative ways for you to give me some. Barring that, I can be bribed with Books, CDs of my favorite bands, and concert tix!

So now I turn the question around to you guys:

What’s your favorite candy bar? Ice cream? Cruise ship? Bribery tool?

Mars Bar photo by Evan-Amos.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I Totally Blew the Whole Book Moratorium Thing (Again) Tonight

A box of books, but not mine.[For those of you recently joining me, here’s a link to the first post I made about a book moratorium, and another on the failure of said book moratorium.]

* * *

I dropped by the library after work tonight to check out a movie, and of course I couldn’t help but peruse the book-sale rack.

I’ve done this a couple of times in the last few months and have been relieved to find those shelves chock-full of stuff that didn’t interest me. (Which was good.)

But the librarians must have spent their time this week winnowing out the sci-fi and fantasy sections of the library and dropped it all on the shelf before I came in.

I can’t even tell you how many books I picked up (though I will say it had to be close to 40, because I spent over 10 bucks and the paperbacks are only a quarter a piece. I did score a few hard backs.

Sadly, this comes on the heels of a book-buying binge over the weekend.

In 2011, I “officially” purged 227 books from the house. This means they were boxed up and carried away from the premises. This doesn’t count all the books I gave away to relatives and friends.

There are literally hundreds more sitting in bags and boxes in a little room off my kitchen because they’ve (so far) been too much trouble to haul away.

(It’s funny how I find it no problem to bring, say… 40, books into the house one day, but I can’t be bothered to take that many out the next time I leave.)

I think a large part of the problem is the lack of venues for divesting myself of books. The local thrift stores will take them, but not in the quantity I have to give away. The library doesn’t want back the books they sold me – though they’ll take the ones I’ve recently bought. I don’t mind giving them away, but I’d rather not have it be at my expense. (See how complicated it’s getting?)

And I am completely against tossing them in the trash.

I’ve been known to take a box of books on vacation, and then leave them for the next renters…but you can only rid yourself of so many that way.

How do you get rid of your excess tomes?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

My Highly Opinionated Gift Suggestions for the Writer in Your Life

Here’s my highly-opinionated view of gift-giving for writers. In case you’re wondering…and even if you’re not.

What Not to Give

Unless your writer friend mentions or asks for any of these things, stay away from:

  • Pens, pencils and writing implements of any kind. The fact is, we either already have enough, or we’ve got a really expensive favorite which you won’t want to spring for.
  • Notebooks, paper, diaries. For the same reasons.
  • “Writer” t-shirts, hats, tote bags, plaques, signs, etc. A teacher acquaintance once referred to these types of gifts for teachers – which usually included depictions of apples – as “crapple,” and the phrase has stuck with me ever since. IMO, items like these are like “crapple” for writers… Don’t do it.
  • The same goes for bookmarks, literary “action figures”, writing-related jewelry, bookends, etc. Um…yeah. Just don’t.
  • Printer paper, ink cartridges, toner or miscellaneous office supplies, and even stamps. These are rudimentary business items required by many writers who actively submit their manuscripts to agents, magazines and publishers.

    Giving these items is like giving a vacuum cleaner to your wife for her birthday. Don’t do it.

Think About Giving:

  • Books. Really. You can’t give a writer too many books…but not just any books. Buy the latest books available in the genre your writer friend specializes in. Writers need to be widely read in their field in order to keep up with trends. It’s impossible to buy all the books published in a given year in a particular category. You can help.
  • A Magazine or Journal Subscription. Ditto above. Get something in the writer’s field. I frankly don’t want a subscription to The New Yorker even though it’s highly respected. Give me Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog…

    Does your writer friend write poetry or literary fiction? Then a sampling of several different literary magazines might be on target. (It gets expensive ordering copies of litmags just to see if you want to submit.)

    Note: If your writer friend is anywhere beyond the beginning stages of writing, stay away from “how to” magazines such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers Magazine. (Unless they ask, of course.) Ditto how-to books.

  • A gift certificate to a book store.
  • An E-reader, like the Kindle, the Kindle Fire or Nook. (There are others… and as with all these suggestions, do your research before purchasing!)
  • A portable hard drive to back up all their manuscripts.
  • A small digital recorder he or she can carry to record story ideas and thoughts.
  • The new Asus Transformer Prime (quad core) tablet with keyboard accessory, available December 19. (To be sure, a gift to be given by a really close friend or perhaps a Husband of Awesome™.)

Gifts that “Go Away”

I’m a big fan of gifts that get consumed (so the house remains uncluttered):

  • Good coffee. (And don’t just go to Starbucks, not everyone — ahem — enjoys their over-roasted, burned up beans.)
  • A nice bottle of wine or spirits.
  • Chocolate. And do make certain it’s fine chocolate. You don’t have to buy a lot when you buy the good stuff: a little goes a long way.
  • A gift certificate for a massage (to help relieve that deadline stress and endless hours sitting at a desk) or for a manicure (because typing is hard on the hands).

Inexpensive Gifts, or Gifts from the Self

Every writer I know can use a little more time in their day to get their writing stuff done. Since the time machine hasn’t been invented yet, you really can’t lengthen their day…but you can give gifts that will save your favorite writer some time.

Of everything mentioned on this list, these are my favorites:

  • Coupons or gift certificates (that you can easily make yourself) for:
    • running to the store to pick up a few things
    • baby sitting or child care (especially useful on deadline days)
    • researching their next project
    • updating their web site (or building a new one)
    • taking digital pictures they can use on their blog or Web site, (or)
    • taking their portrait (every writer needs a good photo for their Web site and book jackets!)

  • Read what they’ve written, and write a thoughtful, honest review at:
    • goodreads
    • library thing
    • shelfari
    • your own blog, or any other review sites you’re familiar with.

  • Help with their marketing by:
    • “friending” them on Facebook, Google and other similar sites
    • following them on Twitter – and re-tweeting their clever and witty tweets
    • “liking”, digging, stumbling upon, +1-ing and “whatever else-ing” their blog posts on all the appropriate social media channels (super mondo bonus points if you go through your writer friend’s entire blog and do this for every appropriate post)
    • “tagging” all their books at
    • adding their blog to your ‘blogroll’
    • linking to their Web site from your own
  • Bake a casserole, make a lasagna or some other kind of “toss it in the oven, crockpot or microwave” meal that can be put together in minutes. If you can’t cook, there are lots of ready to serve items in the grocery store!
  • Better yet: come over and make dinner (and stay. Writers are notorious for spending too much time alone.)

A Final Note

It’s nice that you think of your writer friends, and want to give a gift to highlight that fact, but, writers are people, too. Writing might suck up their entire life, but they’re not all about writing. They have interests outside the written word. (Would you buy your construction-worker friend a new pair of steel-toed boots for Christmas?)

In short: you don’t have to give a writer a gift related to writing.

And if you have no clue: ask! If you’re close enough to give a gift to someone, they’ll appreciate that you want to give them something they’ll like.

Which also means: if you don’t know them well enough to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be buying a gift. That would be like stalking. Ick.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

What Earthquakes and Hurricanes Won’t Do…

…apparently, your local contractor will happily accomplish…whether you want them to, or not.

My poor sad office:
Office Drywall

And by that I mean, of course, help me to get rid of all those books that I have been collecting.

See that great expanse of office in the corner missing its drywall? Waterlogged. Along with a great many books on the bookcase that exactly fit that space.

A few months ago, the Husband of Awesome™ and I decided that our 30-year old roof needed to be re-done. We’ve been putting it off for years for a number of reasons, mainly of course, because it didn’t leak. But we realized we were pushing our luck, so we finally bit the bullet and signed a contract.

When newscasters forecasted rain, the local contractor put up some black paper (“guaranteed to hold through several rainstorms”) and called it a day.

I know you probably know this already, but I’ll say it anyway: paper is not waterproof. (It is my opinion, that the local contractor did not adequately prepare.)

The other local contractor at our house today–the one that handles clean up after fires and floods–spent their time ripping out drywall (wet-wall, really); sucking up standing water in my attic space, ventilation, and upper floor; pulling up carpeting, and hauling in blowers, fans and dehumidifiers.

Quoth the Husband of Awesome™: “We’ve got like a thousand machines upstairs and in the attic.”

It’s really noisy in here right now. And the machines have to run continuously until Friday.

I’ll be spending that time weeding out the books. Again.

I joked on Facebook last week that the earthquake which knocked many of these same books to the floor was telling me then that I needed to do another purge.

Okay, Universe, I get the point.

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

How Big is Your To Be Read Pile?

Fallen Stack of BooksMy to-be-read pile fell over.

It’s been threatening to do so for quite some time, but I haven’t heeded the warning. Good thing I don’t tend to stack things taller than myself.

I may have been hurt in the ensuing avalanche.

I’m also lucky that only a little more than half toppled over. The other bits are on a small, sturdy book shelf, with two large baskets (full of books) on top. Those survived the descent into messiness.

What I need to do is go through the pile and determine if there are any that there’s no hope I’ll ever get to …and then give them away.

(Seriously: with so many new books being printed, where will I find the time to catch up on these?)

But it’s so hard to choose which should go: old sci-fi classics with outdated science, but “necessary” for me to read to complete my education? The literary fiction which I know will probably bore me to tears?

(Disclaimer: I have read *some* lit fic I’ve enjoyed, it’s just that with me it’s hit or miss.)

What about all those gift books by well-meaning friends, who don’t have a clue about what I’d actually read if I’d picked it out myself?

Ahh, I see one about angels right on top. I know someone who may enjoy it more than I. I think I’ll pass that one along at the first opportunity.

There are more than a hundred books in this pile. (Yes, there are others stacked up elsewhere. Don’t tell the Husband of Awesome™.)

I suppose I could re-order them by length (rather than haphazardly putting the newest acquisitions on top), and read the shortest ones first. That might weed out several in a fairly short time. Similarly, I could read all the YA first, since they’re usually quick reads for me.

Or, I could toss out all the oldest ones, thinking that if I haven’t gotten to them yet, I probably won’t. But then, how will I know if I’m passing up a good read?

How do you tame your pile when it gets so large that finishing them seems like a monumental task?


Note: The photo above is not the photo of my poor, beleaguered books. Nonetheless, it’s a fairly good representation in both amount and subject matter!

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Moratorium on Book Acquisitions (Again)

No BooksWith one exception, I’m declaring a moratorium on book acquisitions until the new year.

(I say “acquisitions” rather than purchase, because I’m just as likely to borrow a half-dozen books from the library or receive an ARC for review as I am to walk into a book store and buy a few. Alas. And these things tend to pile up.)

I vaguely remember mentioning this last year, but for the life of me, I can’t find the post. Maybe I only thought about declaring a moratorium last year…but this time I’m taking action.

The reason: I have more than thirty (30!) books in my to-be-read (TBR) pile, several of which I need to review for folks. (This number does not include books that I’ve purchased on the off-chance I might get around to reading some day.) If I keep obtaining books like this, I’ll never get to finish those promised reviews before December 31. That’s a self-imposed deadline, btw. I just don’t like having accepted books and keeping people waiting on reviews.

My bookshelves are shelved double-deep and I count nine separate stacks of books in this room alone – two of which are in danger of toppling. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the books were breeding on their own.


So, here’s the exception (and the danger)…

I have an hour-plus one-way commute to my day job and I listen to audio books to pass the time. Depending on the length of the book, I plow through one, sometimes two, during the work week. This requires a lot of trips to the bookstore and/or library.

And therein lies the danger: setting foot in either always results in a purchase or loan.

My plan: to stay out of either until my TBR pile is “substantially” reduced.

But temptation looms already!

I received a call from the library yesterday that one of the audio books I reserved is in. (I’ll be stopping by after work today to pick it up.)

And I’ll be reading at Constellation Books on October 30. [Details Here] I already know this is a deal breaker as far as my moratorium is concerned: it’s just not polite to be invited to a book store and not buy something. So, I’m not counting this purchase in my moratorium.

If I’m diligent, I should be able to knock out quite a few of the to-be-reads before January 1. And if I’m lucky, I can replace a few of them with audio books and kill two birds with one stone.

At least, that’s the plan.

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

I Have a Serious Book Problem

Word Finder by J.I. Rodale
The Word Finder by J.I. Rodale. Pictured with a pile of other books in my eclectic collection.

There’s nothing like finishing your taxes and realizing how many books you’ve gotten rid of in the past year (149) and seeing all the books still piled up around you to hammer that thought home.

And yet, I bought six books the other day. (Please don’t tell my husband.)

Today, I bought two. (He knows about these two.)

Granted, one of the books I bought today was a copy of “The Word Finder” — compiled and edited by J.I. Rodale. (Thirteenth edition, 1957. Still, in nearly mint condition it was a steal at a yard sale for 25¢. Could you pass that up?)

But the fact is, I’ve been trying to rid myself of books since I moved into this house. (A painful purging, I assure you. There’s nothing worse than asking a writer to give up a beloved book.)

Nonetheless, I’ve been trying.

This year so far, I’ve donated 59 books from my collection. (I don’t know how many I’ve given away to family and fellow writers. Not nearly as many, but more than I can remember.) In the last few years, I’ve given away over 500 books.

And still, they’re piled up all over the place. (And, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve got LOTS of books stashed in dresser drawers in my bedroom. I learned this trick from my Mom. [Hi, Mom!] She only kept a few books in her nightstand, but I have entire drawers packed with paperbacks. I have to admit…it’s really convenient to have hundreds of books at your fingertips. When you need to do some late-night reading…you don’t even have to get out of bed…)

But I digress.

When the Husband of Awesome and I moved out of our apartment into our first home, we moved with 26 boxes of books. We remember that number, not so much with fondness, as irritation. There’s nothing like moving 26 large  boxes of books out of a third-floor walk-up.

I managed to unload the encyclopedias on Ebay before we moved into this house (what a waste they were, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for books. And the deal included so many more  books than just the encyclopedias.)

The old house was a town home: lots of walls, few windows. It was the ideal situation for a library. This house, detached, is larger…but the sheer number of windows precludes all the bookshelves we need. We’ve been here a few years now…and I’ve still got books in boxes that were never unpacked.

Really, they’ve got to go. This is the year (it’s part of the plan).

So…how do you cull your collection? Other than the obvious wall-bangers, how do you decide which books make the grade and which ones don’t?

Please tell me. I really need to know.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Does Anyone Read Just One Book?

Piles of Books

Not my Books.

I’m a book junkie. I can’t help myself.

I buy them new, I buy them used. I accept boxes and bags of them from friends and relatives who’re giving them away.

I stop at yard sales, library book sales and thrift stores…

I’m not too  particular. I’ll read just about anything. Of course, science fiction, fantasy and horror rank pretty high on my list, and I’ll usually pick up one of those before I choose something else.

Lately, I’ve discovered a passion for YA….and I’ve been re-reading my childhood favorites: Eager (I found him first) and Nesbit.

But the problem with having a lot of books is the desire to read them all…sometimes at the same time.

I’m currently reading:

  • White Witch, Black Curse – Kim Harrison
  • Buy Jupiter and Other Stories – Isaac Asimov
  • Imperium – Robert Harris
  • Booklife – Jeff Vandermeer
  • Simplify Your Time – Marcia Ramsland
  • Dangerous Visions – Harlan Ellison (Ed.)

It’s true, a few of these are short-story anthologies, but sometimes I don’t even have time to sit and read an entire story. Mostly, with my busy schedule, it’s a few pages at a time. I’ll admist I’m cheating with White Witch, Black Curse : it’s on CD, and I’m listening to it on the way to work during my one-hour commute, and back again in the afternoon.

I got to read the Asimov book for a 40-minute metro commute into DC last week, because it was electronic, and I happened to have my Ipod in my pocket…

So, what I happen to be reading at any given moment is largely turning into a matter of convenience: How much time do I have? How big is the book? What am I doing? (Why, yes ! Sometimes you can get a bit of reading in during a hike.)

It takes me a longer length of time to get through an average book, but I’m enjoying more of them at a single time. The beauty is: I almost never get bored, and if I do, I can always set something down and pick up something else.

Anyone else enjoy reading more than one book at a time?