Wednesday, September 17, 2014

C.S. Lewis’s Ideal Daily Routine

“It is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail.”
I’ve had a longtime fascination with the daily routines of notable writers and their creative rituals. One of the most lyrical, opinionated, and altogether wonderful comes from C.S. Lewis — a man of great wisdom on writing and extraordinary capacity for nuance in existential matters. In his 1955 spiritual memoir,Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life(public library), Lewis outlines his ideal daily routine, modeled after his time studying privately at Great Bookham with his father’s old tutor at the age of fifteen:
[I] settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table…
Like artist Maira Kalman, who has long advocated for walking as a creative catalyst, Lewis was an avid walker — but with a key disclaimer:
By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.
(Of course, walking with the right kind of companion can only amplify our capacity to pay attention, rather than diminishing it.)
Lewis holds equally strong opinions about his tea. One can almost picture him demanding a strict adherence to George Orwell’s eleven golden rules for the perfect cup of tea as he describes the afternoon ritual:
The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…
He goes on to outline the qualitative norms for permissible multitasking during mealtime, with some humbling criteria for what he considers light — “gossipy, formless” — reading:
Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned so to use at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English LiteratureTristram ShandyElia and The Anatomy of Melancholy are all good for the same purpose.
And then, it’s back to work until bedtime, the latter being a matter of strict discipline — because, lest we forget, the correlation between sleep and literary productivity is not to be dismissed:
At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.
But Lewis’s most prescient money-quote — the one likely to elicit a bitter cackle from today’s inbox-weary writer — comes at the very end:
But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Forbes's Top-Earning Authors: 'The Kids Are Coming'

Wednesday, September 10, 2014     Shelf Awareness

Veronica Roth
E.L. James's reign at the top of Forbes magazine's annual "World's Top-Earning Authors" list turned out to be brief, if lucrative. The Fifty Shadesauthor fell from the #1 spot in 2013 ($95 million) to a tie for 14th place this year ($10 million), as newcomers Veronica Roth ($17 million), 
Gillian Flynn ($9 million) and John Green ($9 million) hit the list for the first time, prompting Forbes to note: "Watch out Danielle Steel and Stephen King--the kids are coming."

To formulate its highest-earning authors list, Forbes "looks at print, e-book and audiobook sales from Nielsen BookScan figures, consider TV and movie earnings and talk to authors, agents, publishers and other experts." The top-earning authors, as ranked by earnings between June 2013 and June 2014, are:

  • James Patterson ($90 million)
  • Dan Brown ($28 million)
  • Nora Roberts ($23 million)
  • Danielle Steel ($22 million)
  • Janet Evanovich ($20 million)
  • Jeff Kinney ($17 million)
  • Veronica Roth ($17 million)
  • John Grisham ($17 million)
  • Stephen King ($17 million)
  • Suzanne Collins ($16 million)
  • J.K. Rowling ($14 million)
  • George R.R. Martin ($12 million)
  • David Baldacci ($11 million)
  • Rick Riordan ($10 million)
  • E.L. James ($10 million)
  • Gillian Flynn ($9 million)
  • John Green ($9 million)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Check out ABE's impressive archives of articles about books, authors, illustrators book collecting and ephemera

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Independent Booksellers Week

This is in the UK, but I thought it might be of some interest to booklovers on this side of The Pond.

Welcome to Independent Booksellers Week!
Independent Booksellers Week 2014 will take place from 28th June to 5th July this year.
Independent Booksellers Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland.  We do this with events, celebrations, reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and face painting!  Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating, and we encourage you to visit to celebrate with them.

To find your local independent bookshop, check here 
You might also like to VOTE for your FAVOURITE Bookshop – our colleagues at National Book Tokens Caboodle are running a competition for consumers to do just that – check it out here
And if you are interested in the fabulous books stocked by indie bookshops, check our our IBW Book Award Shortlist and visit your local indie bookshop to pick up a copy of one of these wonderful titles – here
The Guardian newspaper is publishing a supplement on Saturday 28th June, featuring the best of children’s books, reviewed by some of our leading children’s booksellers.  Look out for the Guide this weekend.
And you may have seen the very exciting news about James Patterson donating £250,000 to independent bookshops in the UK & Ireland – make sure to help celebrate these wonderful places by visting your local bookshop during IBW, and every week!  See JAmes Patterson talking about his gift here
Check out our Twitter account – @IndieBound_UK –  for regular updates on IBW event and bookshop happenings, including the Bookshop Crawl on Saturday 5th July, our Great Bookshop Debate at Foyles on 2nd July and our IBW Literary Death Match on 3rd July – here’s more info on all of those:

If you are a publisher interested in getting involved in IBW for 2015, please email If you are a bookseller who would like to register to participate in IBW 2015, or to receive the 2014 IBW POS Kit, again email Sharon and she will register you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Amazon Overlord

Reposted from: 
Thalia Press Authors Co-op Blog
By Gary Phillips
June 23rd, 2014

There’s an ongoing dust-up over the selling price of e-books between publishing giant Hachette and retail behemoth Amazon. While Hachette author Stephen Colbert can give Amazon the double finger on his show, the rest of us might not be so bold. Not for the first time in a fight with a member of the Big Five, Amazon has shown it is not to be effed with. It has taken away the pre-order buttons on upcoming Hachette books – includingSilkworm by bestseller J.K. Rowling, and current Hachette books are said to be not in stock or new copies are not for sale.
While it would seem that a big, to use the baller term, like Hachette wouldn’t blink and promote its titles on other sources like Barnes and Noble online, iTunes and such, it seems Amazon has it by the short and curlies when it comes to the ebook versions of their cataloge. For reasons that are painfully technical, I reference what sci-fi writer and social commentator Cory Doctrow wrote on this matter in the June 20
“Hachette, more than any other publisher in the industry, has had a single minded insistence on DRM [digital rights management] since the earliest days. It’s likely that every Hachette ebook ever sold has been locked with some company’s proprietary DRM, and therein lies the rub. Under US law only the company that put the D
RM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon’s DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you’re Amazon…It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers.”

There’s a well-done article by George Packer that ran in the February 27 issue of the New Yorkerabout the irresistible rise of Amazon. Entitled “Cheap Words,” the piece begins with this portentous statement, “In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich.” Packer goes on to further note that its founder Jeff Bezos intended for Amazon to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. That books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume.
As an example of how Amazon utilizes its prized data, this past week they released the Fire smartphone. The phone comes with an app called Firefly – not to be confused with Joss Whedon’s cult TV sci-fi show of the same name — that can identify a song from a few lyrics or, I guess, if you point it at a particular crystal vase, hipping you want kind of bric-a-brac it is. Of course these items for just a few clicks away can be ordered, paid for by your credit card on file, and delivered (maybe same-day) to your home or office from Amazon. As a sales incentive, any picture you take with the Fire phone will for free be stored on one of the retailers’ mighty computers.
Hmm, I wonder if facial recognition software will ID a Hachette author you might snap a pic of and the phone sends you a note urging you to buy a book from a Holtzbrinck author?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Local book published recently: Treasure: Orion's Legacy (Volume 1) by William H. Combs

     Star Trek, 2001 A Space Odyssey, ET and Star Wars are all fictional examples of space exploration and encounters that entertain and stimulate our imagination. The legacy of this genre is further enhanced by the author William Combs. In his story, Treasure: Orion's Legacy, William takes us on a compelling space adventure with the main character Bob Collins. 
     Written in an easy to read style, William's book is full of astrophysics what ifs, techno wonders, and aliens. Imagine if you can, being placed in "Balanced Suspension", a form of long term hibernation where the body neither ages nor dies; using advanced medical science to reduce age by genetic manipulation; and using host DNA to create exact body parts with no rejection. This makes possible the ability to increase life spans, not by years or decades, but by centuries. The use of artificial intelligence, (AI), will manage space travel and perform all manner of functions to meet human needs. BOTS as automated tools can carry out repetitive and mundane tasks. 
     In Williams story, travel in our current dimension is only possible at about 85% light speed. However, with 26 known dimensions, several of these are not subject to the limits of light speed. Thus it becomes possible to travel 40.9 light years, or 245.4 trillion miles in 24 earth hours. Applying advanced manipulation of gravity wells will make "normal" movement sensations possible during extremely fast space travel. With hundreds of known nearby stars similar to our sun, there are several containing habitable planets for dispersing earth's crowded population. All of this scientific wonder is wrapped around a love story with devotion to spouse and family. 
     William Combs imagines a better life for all mankind, not just the privileged few, in our world and worlds to come. The benevolent use of advanced scientific knowledge will reduce ignorance, violence, poverty and suffering for all mankind. Phil Eagon. Friend.

About the author:

If you visit Walla Walla, Washington and stop to buy gas at Main Street Conoco, chances are you'll meet me, William Combs. I've worked here for 24 years and I'm well known in my community. If I'm not working on a car or pumping gas, I'll be reading a book. I love the written word. My favorite genre's are Science Fiction, Westerns, Action/Adventures and World War II Aviation History. I am 60 years old and the father of three grown daughters who I am very proud of. They are the joy of my life. I came from a large family and have 5 sisters scattered across the United States. As a hobby I build and fly radio controlled model airplanes. Prior to becoming a mechanic, I worked in the medical field as an emergency room technician at a major trauma medical center in Southern California. I am a former Boy Scout, 1/4 mile Drag Racer and Civil Air Patrol member. One last thing, Chevy's Rule.

Earthlight Books is located across the street and one door down on Main from Combs' Conoco service station. He has been our mechanic for many years now and we are proud to carry his book!

Monday, June 16, 2014

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers

“Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.”
Kurt Vonnegut was a man of discipline, achampion of literary style, a kind of modern sage and poetic shaman of happiness, andone wise dad. After the publication of his now-legendary 1969 satirical novelSlaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut added another point of excellence to his résumé: He became one of the country’s most celebrated and sought-after commencement speakers, and like other masters of the genre — includingNeil GaimanDavid Foster WallaceDebbie MillmanAnna QuindlenBill Watterson,Joseph Brodsky, and Ann Patchett — he bestowed his gift of wit and wisdom upon throngs of eager young people entering the so-called “real world.”

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young (public library) collects the graduation addresses the beloved writer delivered at nine different colleges over the quarter century between 1978 and 2004, among which are his poignant and heartening remarks to the women of the graduating class at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, delivered on May 15, 1999 — the speech from which this entire collection borrows its title.