REAL BOOK FOLKS

08

Tomorrow is the final day for At Second Glance Books, a store that has been my second home for a dozen or so years. This past week we have been selling our stock at 10 for the price of 1. This automatically increases the traffic at the till but the increased customer count isn’t the only thing that has slowed down our normally efficient service. It’s the real book folks who just want to spend a few extra minutes chatting and finding out why we’re closing and telling us how sad it all is.

Book folks, real book folks, are a wonderful lot. I can probably count on one hand the number of growly customers I’ve served over the last 12 years. Real book folks like to chat, to laugh, and sometimes just hang out and browse. They bring you coffee and sometimes doughnuts. I joked with a woman who bought a book of pizza recipes. I told her that part of the obligation was that she bring us a sample so that we can verify that we’re selling quality books. That was one great pizza! I did the same with a girl, probably twelve, who bought a kids cookie recipe book. Two days later I had a big bag of really terrific chocolate chip cookies personally delivered with my name on it.

One fella, another regular customer who lives on a farm well out of town, bought my book White Wolf Moon a few weeks ago. He came straight to the counter and didn’t look around the store at all. He knows I usually only work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and he’d made a special trip into Kamloops just to shake my hand and to tell me how much he’d enjoyed the story.

The regulars probably number in the hundreds. They all pretty much know my name…I can remember most. They’re coming in and feeling guilty and sad that they’re taking advantage of the sale. I’m happy they are. I know the books are going to people who want them…the people I’m truly going to miss. We’ve had other regional used book store owners come in to beef up their inventory. That’s cool too, and we wish them well.

We have also seen a different type of customer lately. The bargain hunter…so many people I’ve never seen before. I recognize a couple of them that have dealer tables at the flea market so I’m pretty sure of where those books are going. One even admitted she was stocking up for her spring yard sale. 10 for the price of 1 is a bargain but we still have people asking if they can get a better deal if they buy 30. One lady figured I should be retro-active and give her a better deal because she came in and bought a lot of books when they were 4 for 1 and I should have told her that eventually they’d be 10 for 1. It’s a totally different mentality…vultures trying to pick the last ounce of flesh from the bones.

But the biggest difference with the real book people? Generally their questions center around what going to happen to us, the staff. What will we be doing when the store closes and the like. The bargain people and dealers want to know what we’re going to do with the books when the store closes…one even suggested that he could take them off our hands, at no charge of course. He was also one of the customers who felt that 10 for the price of 1 was unreasonable…they should be 10 for $1.00. He didn’t buy any.

Mostly the books have homes…schools will be getting them and local charities, who will sell them as fund-raisers. They’ll go to the right people.

As for me…I’ll retire, write my sequel, and try to keep up with this blog.

I’m working tomorrow. I don’t usually work Saturdays, mostly because I don’t like working Saturdays…but tomorrow I’ll be there for the last shift of the day…the last shift. For whatever reason I want to be the one that turns out the lights and locks those doors for the last time.

Goodnight…At Second Glance….

BEIBER BOO’D…

I’m not a fan of Justin Beiber and I doubt I’ll ever be. It isn’t that he doesn’t have a certain amount of talent but he is akin to so many of today’s artists that are so technically enhanced it’s hard to dig beneath the effects to discover whatever abilities they might possess. Having said that…the kid didn’t deserve the reception he received at yesterday’s 100th Grey Cup Game in Toronto. I give him due credit…he handled it well.

I’m sure he won’t be appearing at the 156th Annual Grey Cup game when he’s seventy-four although I’m also pretty sure I won’t be there to say “told ya so…”

Gordon Lightfoot is Canadian music. He was there before the Canadian content regulations forced radio stations to play a certain amount of home-grown artists. He drove from town to town, probably hauling a trailer, promoting his music. He was selling records that were pure Canadian. Lightfoot made it work in his country without crossing the border, another thing Beiber has been criticized for. Hey, he went where the money is…and the fame. Most people would do the same.

Don’t boo Justin. They asked him to perform and he said yes. I assume he was honored by the invitation…I’m not sure. Instead we should boo the great minds behind that invitation. I can’t believe the same team of experts who thought (quite rightly) of having Lightfoot open the show also decided that an eighteen-year-old manufactured popper lip-syncing pre-pubescent drivel in front of a rag-tag mix of drunken Canadian football fans was a really good idea.

Okay that was a bit harsh but, as I said, I’m not a fan. The Beiber marketing machine is still in high gear and in his position I’d ride it for as long as I could. I’d also like to think that whoever is guiding this guy would take a page from the Beatles. They captured the teeny-bopper market then grew musically to establish themselves as the single most powerful influence the music business has ever witnessed. As they grew so did their audience.

Is Justin the next John or Paul? Hardly…and I doubt there’s anyone out there who would even entertain that notion in passing let alone seriously. But I do seem to recall watching a television newsman back in the sixties. He came off a clip of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and said, “Just goes to show…hand anyone a guitar and they can be a star these days.”

For Justin Beiber the 100th Annual Grey Cup was a learning experience…for Gordon Lightfoot it was a fitting showcase for a true Canadian icon.

READ SOMETHING BAD TODAY….

I recently commented on a post at http://bottledworder.wordpress.com/ titled “How to Fail at Better Writing” and decided to expand on my response here.

The above photo was taken back in the Sixties. I worked for a radio station (CJCA) in Edmonton, Alberta, at the time. I produced commercials during the day but my evenings were sometimes spent with local musicians who needed demo tapes for a record company or promotional materials for local clubs. Some of what I was involved with actually made it to vinyl.

One night a musician friend of mine walked in on me listening to one of the most badly produced records I’d ever heard. He was accustomed to seeing me trying to tear down “Sgt. Peppers” to figure out how the Beatles did what they did but he couldn’t understand why I was listening to “that trash”. I feel it’s just as important to understand what makes something bad (in my opinion) as it is to figure out what makes something else good. I had an ego that demanded that I make what I produced in my antiquated studio/control room better than anything put out by those with more modern set-ups and most of the time it worked.

I appreciate that in this case “wrong” or “right” is subjective but it’s sometimes fun to learn from what you consider to be the mistakes of others. Sometimes you can learn far more by figuring out how something was done wrong than studying near perfection. This applies to art, photography, writing, music, television (see bottledworder’s blog post), and writing.

I have a book by another self-published local author sitting on the desk beside me. The first page is made up of three sentences with the occasional comma and a few ellipses. The whole thing is nicely packaged in two paragraphs. Reading it is like trying to find my way out of a corn-maze. To me it’s an exercise in what not to do and although I can’t find the inspiration to finish the book I have managed to struggle through the first eighty pages. The unfortunate part is that the story-line isn’t bad, it’s just badly presented.

I’m not an expert writer and White Wolf Moon is certainly not perfect. I’ve read it through with as much critical distance as I could muster and have found areas that need to be improved the next time around. Reading a book as I described above makes me feel pretty good about what I’ve done and about how far I’ve come but now I’ll settle in on the couch with some T.C. Boyle and realize how far I have to go.

My 2nd LIFE….

Shortly I’ll be fully retired. The bookshop I work for will close the doors. It has been my second life for a dozen years or so and this will leave quite a space to fill.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to prepare myself for this by doing something I’ve wanted to do for many years.

White Wolf Moon describes the life of the lead character Evan Morris…back then and now. To a certain extent I actually lived his life in the sixties and now I get a chance to try and live it as he does today. As he says in the unfinished sequel: “If my life was a novel I’m editing the fourth revision for the fifth time.”

I tried to retire about five years ago but ended up working three days a week so I usually have four days where I have the house to myself. I figured it would be easy to just slip back into the old ways. Not so.

My 2nd life doesn’t kick in until after I’ve checked email first thing in the morning. Then I shut that computer down and work on my laptop which isn’t hooked up to the internet (the laptop has replaced the pens and writing pads of the olden days). Staying off the main computer has been the toughest part of adapting to this slightly different lifestyle. I didn’t realize how many hours I spent with facebook and the like until I stopped doing it. I also realize how undisciplined I’ve become with regards to time management…another area that needs work but it is getting better.

My 2nd life involves writing, mostly the sequel to White Wolf Moon, and music. I’m back to “playing at” guitar. I’m not very good at it and have never professed to be. It’s something I do for myself. I’ve made that activity a little more complicated by trying to write some songs as Evan would be doing today but it’s still a pleasant diversion. I’ve also realized that maintaining this blog is a little more time-consuming than I thought it would be but I consider it an important part of where I am now so it becomes an integral part of the writing.

I still need that on-line time to follow what’s happening with the book and to keep in touch with those that are following me but I’ve restricted that to an hour or so in the evening.

I’ve already noticed a calming effect. I feel much more relaxed now and upon reading back some of what I’ve written I find it smoother and more thought-out much earlier on in the process than it usually is. This 2nd life…is good.

By the way the picture of the rabbit above has nothing to do with this post. Her name is Pasta and she’s my bunny-buddy. She’s actually my grandson’s rabbit but their landlord decided that they weren’t allowed to have rabbits in the apartment so she ended up at grampa’s house, which is fine by me. How she got her name was one of those wonderful accidents. My daughter was sitting on the couch with the yet-to-be-named rabbit on her lap when my grandson sat beside her, held out his hands, and said “Pasta bunny.”

She’s a tad cranky these days because she likes sitting with me and watching hockey games but with the lock-out….

Anyway time to wrap this up and break the 2nd life rule to post this.

Thank you to all for the ‘likes’ & follows!!!

50 SHADES OF BEIGE?

Last week I had one of the regular customers come into At Second Glance Books. She’s Ukrainian or Russian, probably in her late-fifties or older and always dresses up to shop. I’ve known her for a long time and she really is quite a character. Over the years she’s bought many books from me but they have always been cookbooks, philosophy, and the occasional non-fiction science, self-help or health title.

On this day she picked up a selection of cookbooks and, as she was paying for them, she reached across the counter and tapped my shoulder.

“Mikel,” she said, “I moost buy that book of yours before the store closes, yes?”

My book, White Wolf Moon, reminisces about the Sixties and a group of freethinking folk that spent a lot of time at a place called the Bar-Ass ranch where clothing was…well…optional. As such I felt I should warn her that some of the content might not be to her taste but before I could say anything she announced that she was currently reading 50 Shades of Grey.

I’ve always been able to fire back at any one-liner or dig that she throws at me but this…. All I could say was: “Really?”

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “I surprise you?”

Yes, she did. Apparently you can’t judge readers by their covers either. She was definitely one of the last people I would suspect would read 50 Shades of Grey. We talked about variety and balance…that everyone needs a bit of escape now and then. Then she said something that really hit home. She told me that just because she was older didn’t mean she wasn’t young once.

It hit home because this is one of the underlying themes of my book and, with her, I had made the same mistake a lot of people do.

I’m in my mid-sixties and seen by some as a grey-haired grandfather that’s content to sit around and read or watch television…the same way I used to view seniors when I was a lot younger. I was wrong then and White Wolf Moon is my attempt to tell the younger generation that we’re not always what we appear.

In the words of Jennifer MacAvoy, the twenty-year-old journalism major from White Wolf Moon:

“I used to think that sixty was ancient, that it had to be the end of life as I knew it. One day I realized my mum was sixty and there’s a lot of life still in her…thankfully not as much as when she was twenty. I see how all of you are and I can really understand Evan’s theory about being all ages. You carry on with the joking and flirting just like kids. It’s such an eye-opener for me. You are who you are…and I love who you are.”

Believe it or not kids, there was life before you came along. Life isn’t 50 shades of beige…there were girlfriends before Mum and boyfriends before Dad. Take some time to chat with your parents or grandparents about ‘those days’. You’ll may learn a lot…you might even be a little shocked…but you’ll probably end up thinking, to use Jennifer’s words again: “It’s like I’ve discovered a friend that was always there but I didn’t know.”

http://www.facebook.com/mikegrantwwm

“REAL” vs. SELF-PUBLISHING….

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was a little disappointed in the lack of comments/reviews/likes that White Wolf Moon has generated on the ebook download sites even though (through facebook messages & emails) I know there have been many. He said this could be a good thing as he had just read a scathing review of a self-published book. The review was written by a “real” author whose books are supposedly published by a major house. This author claims that self-publishing has destroyed the integrity of writers because anyone can now publish a book which results in so much “crap” being out there that it’s impossible to tell the good from the bad. I would question his credentials if he finds it impossible to tell the good from the bad but that’s beside the point.

I haven’t seen this review personally and even though my friend is a reliable source, I can’t verify it but it does echo comments I have heard from people that frequent the bookshop where I work.

To an extent I agree with the “real” author in that there is a plethora of new writers on the scene lately and yes, some books are perhaps not up to the standards set by traditional publishers (which doesn’t necessarily prevent them from being an entertaining or informative read). I also think this is one of the great benefits of self-pub downloadable books. Ereaders are giving a platform to those who just a few years ago would have been unable to get their voice out there and for readers to discover new authors. The old story about a struggling writer working in a Boston publishing house comes to mind. His superiors felt he had no abilities as a writer and refused to publish his work. He self-published under the pseudonym “Bostonian”, created a stir, and sold a lot of books when he was finally published traditionally. We all know Edgar Allen Poe’s story and maybe, just maybe there’s another Edgar Allen out there self-publishing today. The list of famous self-published authors is a long one. Ezra Pound, Rudyard Kipling, Anais Nin, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Dumas, Deepak Chopra to name a few. And titles? Ulysses, The Bridges of Madison County, The Joy of Cooking…again a list too long to complete here.

I am self-published and while I certainly wouldn’t place myself on the list above, I am proud of what I have accomplished. I have garnered encouragement and criticism from many people and I welcome both. When I received my first hard copy of White Wolf Moon I spent the weekend reading it from cover to cover. I found myself wishing I’d reworded some parts and reworked others but it was done and out there facing the world on its own terms. I’m finally getting some comments on the facebook page although I must admit I’ve also finally worked up the nerve to ask people to post comments instead of just telling me what they think in person.

For the first-time self-published author this is all a learning experience and advice from someone who has been there is invaluable. If Mr. (Mrs.) Real Author were at all professional he (she) would offer constructive criticism rather than a simple one-word put down. I have read of some pretty famous writers that take the time to address students and other novice writers in classrooms, retreats or even at book signings so I appreciate that the above situation is an exception. The self-published author is akin to the indie artist in the music business. Some fledgling artists have gone on to lucrative sales and recognition by the music establishment by taking that risk. Both platforms are proving grounds and, like their mainstream counterparts, the good shall survive while the rest will either learn and grow or fall by the wayside.

OUT DAMN THOT!

A thought came to visit me this afternoon but I was busy. In tiny blue canvas runners the thought crept silently into my mind field. It poked at my fertile imagination but I ignored it. I had something else to do.

I was writing a song. It was a folk song about finding love beneath a stone.

The thought waited impatiently…leaning against a tree in one of the forests I imagine when I get tired of imagining the ocean or a theme park in a hot place.

Thoughts are funny things, some of them. Some are smile-funny while others are laugh-out-loud funny. But some aren’t funny at all. Thoughts are like airborne seeds. They come from nowhere then go to nowhere until you consider them and nurture them. They lie dormant in the creative mush at the bottom of that little used part of the brain. Like mushrooms they begin to grow where not much else happens, at least not much that I am aware of. Some thoughts belong to someone else. They just stop by to see if they’d be better cared for elsewhere. Some thoughts are pure, others not so. Some thoughts are fickle. Ignore them and they’ll move on quickly, with no sense of loyalty. Thoughts have no sense of order. They don’t necessarily bear the burden of logic. That’s why I couldn’t deal with that thought at that time. I needed logic, not some flippant thought. I was trying to write a song about love found beneath a stone and I couldn’t find it. Not love…I can find love anywhere. I just couldn’t find the chord that tied love and stone together in a catchy yet complex progression that naked pseudo-hippies years from now would sing around a campfire.

So while the thought leaned in tiny blue canvas runners against my tree with its tiny thought arms crossed and tiny thought eyes rolled toward the skies, I struggled to find the chord.

Finally, and quite theatrically, the thought disappeared. It threw up its tiny thought arms in disgust and stomped forth in tiny blue canvas runners to find a more receptive mind, one that wasn’t quite as cluttered. It didn’t really bother me that it was gone. It had become annoying. Besides thoughts are like busses and we all know about busses.

I looked out across my yard, then across the alley, then into Mrs. Dunham’s yard. Her dog of many colors and questionable breeds was asleep by the gatepost. His name is Bopper. I imagine the other dogs in the neighborhood get quite a giggle when they hear old Mrs. Dunham calling him in for the night.

In about the time it would have taken the thought to get from here to there Bopper opened his eyes. His ears perked up. He stood, walked across the yard then lifted his leg on Mrs. Dunham’s roses.

I’m glad I let that thought go.