Monday, 21 June 2010

Where Are All The Books?

One thing that has struck me in recent months, is how bare the remaining bookstores' shelves are.

I cannot remember a time when I have seen the same titles I saw three months ago, but no new ones! If you look hard in the larger stores, there are a few, but nothing like the regular list of new titles there used to be. I can rarely find anything new to read these days!

As Read Rite Web said in their recent assessment of changes in the publishing industry: the traditional model of stuffing shelves with 'returnable' books, many of which end up getting shredded by the publisher, is clearly unsustainable. Book pricing has gone mad too. Last year, new releases by leading writers were selling on a Buy-two-get-one-free basis - now it's Buy-one-get-one-free! How does an author make a living on those margins?

I love browsing bookstores, which is fine if you don't mind getting a crick in your neck! Internet browsing is more comfortable, but you need to have some idea of what you are looking for and it can be even more time-consuming as clicking through the book blurb, excerpts, customer reviews and 'Buyers-who-bought-this lists'.

Everywhere I go, people are reading from hand held devices, from IPhones, E-Readers and the new I-Pad which lists the books on virtual shelves, like Goodreads and Shelfari. I also read an article recently about schools turning to electronic files for textbooks, which are a major part of their annual budget. Most school age children are used to reading from a screen so this will not be a problem, and they can travel light. So will e-books and POD become the norm sooner than we think?

Readers also don't have to rely on the publishers' PR machine to hear about new or favourite authors. Writers put everything into the public domain on blogs these days. They [we] talk about their booksignings, conferences, upcoming events, their research and storylines - as they happen.

So maybe even a dinosaur like me will have to face it eventually. In the meantime, I still want to walk into Waterstones and see my title up on a shelf - preferably not the 50p bargain bucket by the door either!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Crown In The Heather

I am sure many of you who have been part of a writing critique group have at least one contributor whose story everyone else rushes to critique. Their writing jumps off the page and portrays their hero's introspective emotions so well, you forget to line edit as you are so involved with the story.

Their expertise makes you wonder why you call yoursef a writer at all? Well OK, I'm talking about me here, but some of you will know what I mean.

Well this lady is that writer, who, for some inexplicable reason, has been overlooked by mainstream publishers. The good news is that she has resorted to self publishing and her first book is out now.

For those who love stories of Medieval Scotland, I can guarantee you will love Gemini Sasson's novel based on the life of Robert The Bruce.

The Crown in The Heather is the first of a trilogy, so there are more delights to come. I have also read her novel, Isabeau, based on Queen Isabella, 'The She Wolf', and consort of the decadent Edward II. Not many books actually make me dread what is going to happen next to the heroine, but this one did!

I have a feeling Gemi will not be without a publisher for long, and if you read this book, I am sure you will agree.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sacrifice by S J Bolton

As a reviewer for the HNR Blog, together with all the critiques I do, I think I am suffering from something called Reviewer's Fatigue. It takes a lot for a book to grab me, but I found one this week in Sacrifice, by Sharon J Bolton, and had to share this one.

I couldn't believe this was a debut novel, the writing is slick, compelling and the main character drew me in from the first page. Even with its understone of dark secrets and evil, the author instills some great humour in the thoughts of the narrator.

Tora Guthrie is an obstetrician whose husband, Duncan has brought them back to his home Island of Shetland to live after a twenty year absence. Duncan buys an ancient stone house with fascinating rune carvings in the cellar, and Tora finds a job in the local hospital.

Things begin to go wrong when Tora accidentally digs up the body of a local woman on her land. Wrapped in linen and buried in peat, this was no ordinary death, for the woman's heart was removed while she still lived, and there are strange rune carvings on her back. Worse, evidence shows she has recently given birth.

Against all local advice, and downright violent discouragement, Tora involves herself in the investigation with the help of Dana Tulloch, a police inspector and lone wolf, who feels as she does, that something is going on in Shetland that needs exposiing.

Tora does some digging of her own and discovers the legend of the 'Trows' who bury their dead in 'dark, fertile soil' and things take a sinister turn. And what exactly does take place on the island of Tronal across the bay?

Tora is pulled in all directions until she doesn't know whom she can trust, even her own husband and in-laws. As Dana says, 'They are all blonde Vikings here' and everyone appears involved.

Then Dana commits suicide, or does she? and Tora comes face to face with what is happening - but she is alone and powerless to stop it. Or is she?

This was a real page turner and I couldn't put it down until I got to the end. In fact there was so much action I was exhausted for poor Tora, whose determination against all the odds is remarkable. Even a little unbelievable at times, but what a worthy heroine!