Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Musings

It’s another one of those days where my mind’s a blank, so I’m just going to ramble about whatever pops into my head. Naked movie stars. Nope. Gonna keep it clean.

I was cruising the aisles of Target last week. Of course I ended up in the book department. Oh, what 50 Shades has spawned! Row after row of bland yet suggestive black-and-white covers designed to mimic the 50 Shades packaging. Now that mainstream America (and the big New York publishers) have “discovered” erotica, we’ve got ourselves a full-blown deluge going on. I should check out WalMart. You know you’ve arrived when WalMart gives your book a prominent display. 50 Shades is also available at my local K-Mart, the one the Amish go to. Wonder what they think of this?

50 Shades of Plain Gray

“Throw me down the stairs the buggy whip. You like to be punished, ain’t?”

I look at Christian Stoltzfus and bite my lip vunst. He fills out that black broadcloth like one of those models in the English magazines, and he has the biggest hat around. His beard is black and thick. He smells like the tobacco he spent the day harvesting, with a touch of sweat from the horse that pulls the buggy. He makes me want to pull the buggy. Ain’t so!

Um … no. I don’t think Amish porn will be the next big thing.

Speaking fo WalMart, I was in one of the smaller (for WalMart) stores and noticed something interesting: they didn’t have any Harlequin books. Not a one. Not a Blaze or Temptation to be seen. I found this odd. Harlequin’s been a mainstay at the big box stores from the beginning. I wonder if it was just that store, or a new corporate policy? I’ll need to check out a couple other WalMarts and see what’s going on their book departments. Target and K-Mart, for the record, do carry Harlequins. We have a couple Mennonite-owned grocery stores in the area that have dodged the whole question by not carrying books at all, unless they’re inspirational. 50 Shades seems to be inspiring a whole lot of people. I wonder if that counts?

I’ve noticed over the last couple of years these same stores have really scaled back on their book departments, and not just by dumping Harlequin. Some stores had a wide variety of paperbacks, not just the bestseller of the week. Little by little the shelf space has been shrinking. This started long before the rise of ebooks and the invention of the Kindle, so you can’t blame it on technology. Are people not reading that much any more? Or at all? I wonder now if the scale back started with the rise of cable TV. We went from maybe 10 channels and a lot of books to 80+ channels (not counting digital) and fewer and fewer books. Coincidence?

I’ll tell you why I like books. No commercials. Since I’ve been unemployed (and rather than writing) I’ve been surfing cable a lot. Actually, I have been writing, during the commercial breaks. Might as well. There’s nothing else to do. I’ve tried to switch over to other shows. My findings: roughly 7 out of 10 channels go on commercial break at the same time, for roughly the same duration. I’ve had times where I’ve tried to check out five different shows and they’re all on simultaneous breaks. Sometimes the second show stays on break so long I end up going back to the first show, which has come back on in the meantime. More often, though, I just get fed up and turn off the set and go read a book. Books don’t go on commercial breaks. And they can all star Harrison Ford if you want them to. Hubba hubba!

Oops. I said no naked movie stars.

I hope print and book stores don’t go the way of the dinosaur, because I don’t want to end up having to buy my books from Amazon. Amazon doesn’t let you skim through the whole book to see if you want it. I’ve saved myself a lot of time and money “previewing” books at B&N. You can’t go by the first three chapters. Those are the ones we writers use to hook the publishers and agents, so we’re in top form for those. Once we’ve made the sale we can kick back and get lazy, and quality takes a nosedive. How many books have you read that started off with a bang, then petered out in the middle? In my case it’s because I’m a pantser. I know how it starts and I know how it ends. The middle, not so much. I should just call it the muddle.

There was this one SF author who used to write what I came to call “travelogues.” The whole book would be the characters essentially moving from Point A to Point B. You could read the first three chapters, skip the middle, read the last three chapters, and still get the gist of the book. In short, nothing at all of import happened in those middle chapters. To avoid that, I like to toss in a WTF moment right smack in the middle of my stories. Things like killing off the lead character, fun stuff like that. That way, if you try to skip around in my book, you won’t know what the hell’s going on. Don’t blame me, you’re the one who tried to take the easy way out. Serves you right.

This same author once had his protag crash a plane into a river. “Wonder if there’s a waterfall?” I mused. Yep, there was. Right on the very next page. This guy used to be on the bestseller lists on a regular basis. How? And no, it wasn’t Dan Brown. I actually liked The Da Vinci Code, though I had to wonder at that dead guy in the beginning, who spent five chapters worth of words setting up elaborate clues while mortally wounded. Couldn’t he have just written his killer’s name in blood on the wall, like a normal person? Maybe I watch too much TV.

Mmmm … naked TV stars … Okay, I’m done for the week.


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, thanks so much for this post. It's a damn relief after the day I've had so far.

Hmmm... I wonder if Harlequin and Wal-Mart are having a distribution battle. Of course, Wal-Mart always wants businesses to take a BIG cut of their profits. Of course, Harlequin might figure Amazon is their 'real' ticket right now. Just guessing, though.

Yep, that's moronic NY publishers for you. I have nothing against FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY. I do have a problem with all the stupid follow-up stuff, unless it's actually good.

Truthfully, I don't care about any of it -- the whole this is a phenome thing. I can't relate anymore.

Yeah, I noticed what? fifteen years ago they started downsizing the book section. I think it was partly because Borders, etc. were on the rise... and then, ebooks and Amazon took over a huge chunk of the market.

But, yeah, it was much more fun to go in a bookstore and browse. Once upon a time.

Pat C. said...

We aim to please. Amazing how I can have nothing to say and still take over 1000 words to say it.

Savanna Kougar said...

It's a gift, Pat. As Yoda might say, "Wisely you use it...hmm."

Pat C. said...

Update: I visited the local WalMart and they do carry Harlequin books. They also have a larger overall selection than that other WalMart, which had a tiny book section with a skimpy inventory. There's a really seedy WalMart over in Berks County; I should check that one out.

Also, Twilight was shelved right across the aisle from 50 Shades. Ah, sweet irony ...

Savanna Kougar said...

That's interesting. Of course, I'm sure they go by local buying habits, given everything goes into the monster computer system.

There ya go, an automatic hit, Fifty Shades of Twilight... I may have to write that one myself... which would likely be a big disappointment to readers because I'm not good at writing that kind of fanfic.