Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Book Loft

We traveled to Columbus, Ohio this past weekend for my niece’s wedding at the Darby House. In addition to the wedding, we spent time at the Easton shopping complex. But for us book lovers, our side trip to the Book Loft of German Village was memorable.

We cruised into German Village, and the book posse was living large in the rented Lincoln Navigator. We passed the bail bonds building with its half-dozen bike gang members clustered around the entrance. The roads were cobblestoned and narrow. The posse began to wonder about this excursion, and felt like they had stepped back in time – a time when independent bookstores reigned supreme. Soon we spotted the Book Loft and its thirty-two rooms of books. Although before we could start exploring for books, we had to find street parking that could accommodate the behemoth Navigator.

The Book Loft is not for the faint of heart; book lovers can enter this domain, and be lost forever. This is a converted house with many closets and nooks hiding special collections, and each room contains its own musical accompaniment. They sell new and used books. On this particular occasion we lost Bruce T., and had to send out a search party. Aunt Rita found him in the book labyrinth enchanted by a cookbook, but before she could rescue him, a wine book snared her. We could only lure them out with the enticement of actual food at Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus.

We enjoyed our visit to Columbus, and our tour of the Book Loft. If you visit Columbus, and are in the German Village area, I recommend visiting the Book Loft. I also recommend a smaller car than the Navigator, because parking is at a premium.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas is Murder by C.S. Challinor

As we approach the holiday season, and the stores are already displaying their Holiday trimmings and music, I think this is a good time for a blog about C.S. Challinor’s, Christmas is Murder, 2008. Challinor is a Florida author, and this was her first book. Her main protagonist is Rex Graves, a barrister. She has since published Murder in the Raw, and Phi Beta Murder is scheduled for publication in March. She is also contracted for yet a fourth book in the Rex Graves mysteries, Dark Side of the Moor.

Christmas is Murder takes place at Swanmere Manor, a Victorian Inn located in the English countryside. Rex Graves has been invited for the Holiday by the owner of the Inn, Dahlia Smithings, a long time friend of the Graves family. Because of the snow Rex barely makes it to the inn from the train station. Soon the Inn is isolated, and the guests begin to die. There is a murderer at the inn.

Occupants are secluded, one of them is a killer, and all of them have something to hide. The plot should sound familiar, Agatha Christies’ And Then There were None. The murder weapons include poison and a candlestick, some of Agatha’s favorite methods of death. Challinor has modernized the plot. Cell phones aren’t working because of the heavy Holiday phone traffic and the Swanmere's isolated location. She also includes a few jabs at George W. Bush.

Challinor keeps the plot light and supplies enough wit to keep the story appealing. With similarities to Agatha Christie whose stories I enjoy, this book made a pleasant diversion.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

J.C.Hutchins, 7th Son Descent Author Discussion

I attended a talk today sponsored by the Florida Book Writers Association, and the speaker was J.C. Hutchins, author of 7th Son: Descent. A four-year-old boy has assassinated the President of the United States. Surprise, the President was a clone, and his memories were implanted. He shared these memories and his genes with seven others, plus the psychopath that was the master template. After the author’s reading, I was hooked. I just purchased the book, and it has been placed at the top of my reading list.

While his book has just been published in print format, it has experienced an electronic life for a couple of years. Unable to find a publisher, Hutchins initially released his book as a series of podcasts on the Internet. As podcasts, the book developed a rabid fan base, and forced traditional publishers to take notice. St. Martin’s Griffin picked up the publishing rights. Because of his successful innovative marketing techniques, Hutchins has garnered other opportunities. The world will soon be hearing more from Mr. Hutchins.

In previous blogs, I have discussed the use of medium and structure in presenting the message. I have also discussed the electronic challenges that traditional book publishers are facing. Hutchins’ website exemplifies both these concepts. Unable to break into the traditional print media, Hutchins built a web site and provided his content for free. He used podcast, hyperlinking, blogging, and email to develop a fan base. According to his talk today, he gets about 50,000 hits a month, and his podcasts have been downloaded 5 million times. This popularity has occurred because of persistence, hard work, and electronic word of mouth – social networking such as Facebook and blogs.

I would like to emphasize two points from Hutchins’ success. Publishers need to be concerned by the changes and challenges of the print industry. Even though Hutchins success and popularity occurred via audio downloads – podcasts, he had a difficult time convincing the publisher of the necessity of publishing the book in audio format. Publishers need to recognize the changes in their industry and adapt. On the other hand writers need to recognize the opportunities that exist in the electronic format, and market their works accordingly. The book shelves, both brick and mortar and electronic, are packed with millions of volumes. The writer needs to catch the reader’s attention. Web sites, blogs, discussion groups, and book signings have to be done in order to become a successful author.

Now that his book has appeared in print, a few changes occurred in the text, and in his words – make the book better. As result of these changes, he will be redoing the podcasts to include the new material. These podcasts will then be released as an audio book.

I want to finish by saying I was impressed with the sincerity of Hutchins, and his respect for his audience.