FOLLOWING UP

Let’s take a moment this week to follow up on three previous posts. I know you’re all dying to track my progress on these subjects, but at least in a few cases, I have to admit I’m not terribly anxious to admit some abject (at least so far) failures on my part.

So let’s start with one qualified success—a success in that I’ve at least begun to keep one promise.

On March 25th, in a post entitled, “Don’t be a Snobby Reader (Like Me), or How Andy Gibb Made Me Want to Read a Romance Novel” I promised to do the unthinkable. I vowed to read a romance novel.

I got some good advice from some helpful readers, and set out to find just the right book. But it was a little bit of a struggle. A few books that were recommended to me would, at least in my mind, qualify as general or literary fiction with some romantic elements, and one I even started reading I had to classify not as “romance,” but “chick lit.”

It’s worth pausing here to discuss the difference, which I think can be boiled down to one word: comedy.

Chick lit is the prose version of the Hollywood romantic comedy. Some may be a bit more graphic in their sex scenes than others, but ultimately it’s the comedic situations that move the story along. Strictly speaking romance is primarily if not exclusively concerned with the romantic relationship itself, and can be but isn’t necessarily comedic at all.

What I was looking for was a book that fit into the romance genre where the supposedly “second rate” tie-in sword & sorcery fantasies I’ve been writing and editing for years fit into the fantasy genre. I wanted the series romance, the so-called “bodice-ripper,” the romance novel that romance fans chew through like candy—or like Forgotten Realms® fans chew through like Forgotten Realms novels.

I will read this book.

More or less at sea, and guided only by my experience with the publishing business in general, I started with imprint. I don’t normally make reading choices based on imprint. I doubt most people do, but then we have some Wizards of the Coast fans, and I know Harlequin has fans, too, so I scanned the bookstore shelves for their colophon.

That wasn’t hard to do. These guys put out a lot of books. But I had to pick one, and being a romance novel virgin (pun quite intended, thank you very much) I more or less chose at random At the Sheikh’s Bidding by Chantelle Shaw. Honestly, how can you go wrong with a title like that? Even the author’s name screams mainline romance.

Now all I have to do is read it. Stay tuned.

As a premium for attending that conference in New York, they sent me a free Sony Reader, which became the subject of the popular post “When You Die, Can I Have This?” It hasn’t been an easy time for me, this Reader thing. I still struggle with all but crippling compatibility issues. To get my home computer to recognize the Reader at all, I have to re-install the software every time.

What suffices for an e-book "cover."

But in that post I promised to keep trying and to actually buy and read a whole book, so I can offer an informed opinion of the e-reader experience. After unacceptably strenuous labor I managed to download two books, which I paid for, from Sony’s store: The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs from B&R Samizdat Express (because I love ERB and haven’t read this one yet) and Metropolis by Thea von Harbou from Renaissance E Book/Futures-Past (because I love the movie and haven’t read the book it was based on yet). And they were cheap, though it appears from a quick Google search that I could have found the ERB book for free on a dozen sites. But hey, man, I pay for my books! The Lost Continent ran me only 95¢ while I spent a whopping $4.75 (thanks to Sony’s 5% discount) on Metropolis. Yeah, 5% off. Really?

I’ve started reading Metropolis, and let’s just say there’s good and bad and leave it at that for a few weeks from now when I’ve finished and written it up. I’m trying to keep notes on everything, including how long I can keep reading on one charge. Again, stay tuned.

And last, the painful part. At the end of last year I made the horrible mistake of publicly listing my New Year’s Resolutions in the post, “Resolutions, 2010”. I’m sad to say I have so far managed to stick to maybe one and a half of them. Less than two out of six isn’t . . . good, actually. That’s pretty bad. Taking them in order:

I will be healthier.

Moderate fail. I’d give myself a D+.

I have kinda started eating better and have exercised more in the first four and half months of 2010 than I did in the first four and a half months of 2009, but I still decide on any given weekday morning not to bother riding the exercise bike. I still eat too much of the wrong thing. But it’s never too late to start, so I’ll keep trying. If you see me out in the world somewhere buying candy or ice cream, you have my permission to slap it out of my hand. The level of appreciation or retaliation you receive will depend entirely on how hungry and/or depressed I am at that moment. If I’m eating out of boredom, I’ll respond to the slap with thanks. If I’m eating as a form of over-the-counter anti-depressant medication (side effects may include obesity), I might have to kill you. But isn’t that risk to your well-being worth taking to improve mine?

I will be more positive.

Fail. F.

But in the last few weeks I’ve been confronted with that aspect of my personality again from at least two independent sources, so I’m at least thinking about it. This is a hard one. I’m just not a rosy person. But just like eating better and exercising more, it’s never too late to start.

I will fucking swear less, goddamn it.

Fucking fail.

Seriously, so far, I’ve failed the shit out of this bitch. But, yeah, we’ll try again.

I will not let the garage get that messy again.

C. This is the half success.

It’s a little messy, but nothing like the would-be episode of Hoarders I was confronted with at the end of 2009. Next sunny weekend I can polish that off in fifteen or twenty minutes. Until I get a shed, this will never go past a C+.

Shame on you, if you haven't been watching this.

I will watch less TV.

Moderate fail. D.

Man, those last two back-to-back seasons of Survivor were good. And Breaking Bad is currently the best scripted series on television. Watching baseball relaxes me. The Office still cracks me up, even in syndication. And Deadliest Catch is back on. And Fringe is getting so good I want to break my no-swearing resolution to describe how [deleted] good that [deleted] show is. And HBO put the first seven episodes of The Sopranos on On Demand.

Maybe this is an F.

I will read more.

Success! B, so far.

I have actually read more books since the beginning of 2010 than I did this far into 2009, and not for work but for pleasure, and I’m loving every second of it. This is an easy one, because I love reading as much as I love swearing and watching TV (but not as much as I love swearing at the TV, especially during football season) so it’s easier to resolve to do more of something you love than to do less of something you love.

Maybe that’s the secret to these resolutions.

Next year: I will eat nachos every fucking day while complaining about watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey buried under a pile of garbage in my garage.

Done.

—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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6 Responses to FOLLOWING UP

  1. Nina says:

    Did you try this to fix your SonyReader prob?:

    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=59980

    A better solution to fix Sony Reader Library GUI issues for Mac OSX, without re-install or loosing ebooks, is to remove this file:

    ~/Library/Preferences/fsk/1/com.kinoma.fskin.ktStart-kBook.xml

    or you can use Calibre software or just copy the books to the flash drive

  2. Nina, I’ve got the same problem as Phil I think (new Macbook with Snow Leopard has not been playing nice with Sony Reader). I tried the first fix on that link but the kinoma file thingy sounds promising. Thanks.

    (I have been considering making the jump to Calibre, too).

    Phil, I await your report on At the Sheik’s Bidding.

  3. Pingback: SONY READER: THE (PROBABLY) FINAL WORD « Fantasy Author's Handbook

  4. Pingback: THE FANTASY AUTHOR’S HANDBOOK INTERVIEWS V: CHANTELLE SHAW « Fantasy Author's Handbook

  5. Pingback: RESOLUTIONS, 2011 | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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