Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Big Books

I’ve been encountering something here lately that—to me, anyway—is a bit strange: People think I write big books.

Really? My debut novel, Spree, is a bit longer than I like at 106,000+ words. Startup, due out in June, is currently (it’s undergoing some revision, so the word count will likely bump up a bit) at 90,000+—the ideal length for a crime novel, as far as I’m concerned.

lotr singleI think my books are about average length, maybe even a little short. But you’ve got to keep in mind I cut my teeth on big books. For instance, The Lord of the Rings probably totals close to half a million words, split among three books. But you’ve got to keep in mind that JRR Tolkien originally wrote it as one volume divided into six “books.” His publisher was the one who decided—probably rightly—to divide it up into the trilogy we know today, or so I’ve read. Professor Tolkien never really liked it that way, and, if you’ve got the money to drop on it, you can buy hardback editions that put it in one volume.

But even Professor Tolkien’s “kids’ book,” The Hobbit, is just over 95,000 words long.

And look at Stephen King, a writer famous for producing big doorstops. My two favorite books of his—The Stand (especially the Original and Uncut Edition) and It—are huge. The Stand clocks in at approximately 464,000 words, and I can only find page counts for It, but rest assured it’s almost as big. I’ve read both books more than once, and enjoyed them every time.

Then there’s the Harry Potter series. The first three books aren’t bad, but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has to be close to as big as the first three put together. goblet of fireAnd let’s not even get started on The Order of the Phoenix. These, too, are kids’ books. And lots of kids read them. Probably more than once.

Now we can argue that some of these are wasted space. I certainly believe the Stephanie Meyer books are—sorry if you’re a fan—and they’re not exactly Louis L’Amour westerns (a writer who was, for most of his career, on the opposite end of the spectrum from the above-mentioned authors, word-count wise). There are folks who don’t like Stephen King, and I’d have to agree with them on some of his later books, but if you criticize The Stand or It, I’ll hit you with one (just kidding; that would be assault with a deadly weapon).

I say: What’s wrong with big books? They’re like a big meal: lots to enjoy there.

I have to admit that my tolerance for long novels has gone down in recent years. I think part of it is switching to reading so many crime novels, which have lower word counts. And it may be that I’m discovering so many books I want to read that I don’t want to take too long on any one of them.

The-Stand-Book-CoverBut I still have a reverence for those huge tomes from my childhood, and I guess I’ll go ahead and keep writing my “big” books.

After all, if you’re gonna tell a story, why not tell all of it (that’s said with tongue firmly in cheek, by the way)?


Rediscovering Harry

Harry_Potter_Logo_by_SprntrlFAN_LivviI’m on a trip rediscovering Harry Potter. Both the movies and the books.

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone way back before the first movie came out. Not very long before, mind you, because until a co-worker convinced me otherwise, I figured the whole Harry Potter thing was another fad. You know, kinda like the president of IBM considered personal computers as something that would never take off. I don’t know if he ever admitted he was wrong, but I did after reading the first book. And I had it fresh on my mind when I saw the movie, so it made that an enjoyable experience.

If I remember right, I only ever read the first book. I saw the second and third movies, then kind of fell off from there on keeping up. Part of it was pure finances: books and movies were luxuries I had to be picky about, and I guess I got a little burned on things Harry Potter, especially when I had to pick between it and The Lord of the Rings. Sorry Potter fans, but I’m a bigger Middle-earth fan than Hogwarts fan.

But I’ve always sort of been down on myself for not reading the books. After all, as my daughter said when I brought up my plan to read the entire series, if you gotta choose, choose the books.

Thanks to the library, though, I can do both. I just finished Sorcerer’s Stone and, by the time you read this, I should be through with Chamber of Secrets and working on sorcerers stonePrisoner of Azkaban. And, as much as I can, I’m reading a book, then watching the movie. Looks like it might not work out as well as I’d like. Turns out the movie version of Chamber of Secrets is checked out, unless I want the Blu-Ray version, and I can’t watch those. Or, I should say, all the copies the library has are checked out. I guess Harry Potter is still a hot property.

It was such a joy to read Sorcerer’s Stone again, and then see it on the screen. Seeing the wonder on Harry’s face as he discovered every new aspect of Hogwarts and his life as a wizard is great fun. It’s like rediscovering something from you past you’d forgotten about, so it’s almost as good as the first time around.

There’s icing on the cake, too. Reading Rowling’s excellent writing seems to be what’s gonna finally inspire me to get busy writing again. You never know what will do it for you.

But writer or not, why not go back and rediscover something you haven’t visited in a long time? Doesn’t have to be Harry Potter. Maybe it’s Narnia. Or Louis L’Amour’s West. Or any of a million and one other things that we treasured at one time but have let fall by the wayside just because life is like that sometimes.

Have yourself some pure fun for a change without an agenda attached to it. You might discover it has more waiting for you than you know.


Banned Books

It’s coming up on Banned Books Week, and I’m sure this post will get lost in a virtual sea of posts about the idea of banned books, especially in a country like ours. I mean, considering we have the First Amendment that backs up the right of a free press, the idea that books are banned—any books—is something of a contradiction.

Why does this happen?

There’s not one blanket answer that’ll cover that question. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned in spots because it uses the dreaded n word. We all know who horrible that is. It doesn’t matter the cause, if you’re any race but black and use that word, you’ve just uttered a blasphemy. Never mind that Mark Twain was anti-slavery and used some of Huck Finn’s musings to illustrate how much ignorance plays into racism, we have to ban it because it uses that word. No, no, don’t bring up that it teaches a lesson, that we can learn something about history from it, see a snapshot of our country back then. None of that matters. We have to ban it because it uses…that word.

Then there’s the more recent debacle around the Harry Potter books. Some school libraries were (and maybe still are) banning them because some hysterical parents became convinced that they were enticing kids into the dark reaches of the occult.

For shame! We can’t have our kids think for themselves and decide what religion or spirituality—which is a very personal matter—they want to practice and find comfort in. Why, if they read too many Harry Potter books, next thing you know they’ll be sacrificing babies. There’ll be anarchy and society will collapse.

Never mind that these books are responsible for more kids getting a start on reading then any books in recent memory. Never mind that these so-called “lessons” in the occult amount to Harry or some other wizard pointing a wand and uttering a phrase that sounds vaguely Latin.

If I remember right, a large percentage of the school districts that allowed this affront to human intelligence take place were in the Bible Belt. I know one of them wasn’t far from where I live, and I was sorely tempted to drive down there and see just how inbred these people were. Or maybe they were just plain stupid.

It strikes me that most of this Banned Books thing stems from insecurity. I mean, don’t you think that kids can read Huckleberry Finn—especially these days—and not realize the lesson on racism that lies just below its surface? Despite what  self-serving gasbags like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would have you believe, a perusal of history will show that racism is far rarer now than it was in Mark Twain’s day, and I think our kids are smart enough to pick up on it.

Having one of your books banned has an upside, though: increased sales. It’s the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I just read Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography, and when he talked about the lawsuit that was brought against him when some kid allegedly killed himself because of Ozzy’s song “Suicide Solution” (which actually talks about how being an alcoholic is a form of slow suicide), his record sales went up. It’s the same with a book. I’m sure JK Rowling cried all the way to the bank over the foofraw raised over her books. She just looks like an evil woman, doesn’t she? There’s got to be something evil going on behind that wide smile and under that blond hair. Got to be.

My daughter has said that one of her goals as a writer is to make it onto the Banned Books list. Well, it’s an admirable goal, at least to me, but how much effort does it really take? I mean, c’mon, man. I’ve looked at some of these lists (they vary, depending on where you’re at in the country and/or world), and it doesn’t take much to get on the list. I’ve seen books on there that I’ve read and I can’t for the life of me think why they’re on the list. At least one of these lists also gave the reasoning behind the ban, but I only remember seeing one (though I’m sure there are more). I wish I had a list in front of me so that I could name one or two of those books, but I don’t, and I can’t remember any off the top of my head.

Want a sure-fire guarantee that your kid will read a book? Put it off-limits. If you think they’ll obey you, you suffer from some kind of delusion. They’ll just check the thing out and leave it in their locker at school. Sure, you can send word to the librarian and tell him/her not to let Junior check out this or that book, but Junior will just get his friend Billy to check the thing out for him. Or maybe someone else altogether.

I will go so far as to agree that certain subject material is probably age-dictated. I don’t think you want to have your three-year-old reading The Silence of the Lambs. Or one of Anne Rice’s erotica novels. They should be at least five years old before they crack one of those books open.

Seriously, though, despite what I’ve heard some people say, I think that there are certain subjects best left until your child is more mature. What age that is is best determined by the parent, rather than using some kind of blanket application. One size definitely doesn’t fit all here.

So, in commemoration, go out and read a banned book. You never know what you might learn.



The (Un)Importance of Blog Stats

There’s a short but somewhat interesting discussion getting started over on my daughter’s blog. It started on a blog she follows, which (stay with me here) is a comment on agent Nathan Bransford‘s post about letting our blog stats possibly become far too important to us (I’m pretty sure I’m through posting links, so unless you want your local weather, you can stay here now lol).

It seems that Mr. Bransford is concerned that, as authors, we might start playing what he calls the “If-Only Game” (you can follow his link to that post, since I fooled ya with that weather link above), wherein we start relying too much on achieving the next goal and not being happy with the one we’ve just achieved. He starts out by talking about having a bad day writing, so we start daydreaming about how, if we can just get rolling, we’ll be writing a book that will outdo Harry Potter in sales and we’ll be so stinking rich…. Well, you get the picture. It’s okay to do this to an extent, he says, because it can help motivate us to get through those dry spells. But we don’t want to take it too far and never be happy with where we are now.

He says it better than I can:

When you allow daydreams to fill that gap to get you through the tough times, or even when you’re just letting your imagination get the best of you, the dreams can gradually evolve into the reason you were writing in the first place. They were how you got through the tough times, so now they have to come true for it to be worth it. They start to become a crutch–take that crutch away and you fall over because you were leaning on an endlessly elusive dream.

This all started because my daughter read Carissa’s post on the subject and it sold her on reading that blog regularly. I have to say it got me, too. But my kid went on to tell how I text her to tell her how many hits I have on this blog and, to me at least, it sounded like she was concerned that I might be depending too much on this number. And maybe, in a way, I was.

I started this blog as part of my “writer’s platform.” It’s the 21st Century way of selling by word of mouth, still the undisputed king of sales. You read a book, like it and tell me. I read it, like it and tell someone else. And so on.

We  live in a world where Ashton Kutcher tried for a million followers on Facebook and we tend to find self-importance in how many friends or followers we have. This is the danger Mr. Bransford was talking about, where we substitute numbers on a monitor for self-esteem. And it’s easy to slip into. I still look at how many hits I have when I log on, and to be honest, I’m a little astonished to have 60+ hits only a week or so after I started this exercise. But, I look at this as a part of my writing platform, a way to talk about what I’m going through as an unpublished writer. My version of Marco Polo‘s journal, as it were. And I intend to keep adding to it when I’m published (how’s that for self-confidence? Or is it self-delusion?).

I don’t know how many people are visiting this blog. I try to post on my Facebook page whenever I write a new entry here, so I hope at least a couple of the people I know there are reading some of this. But my daughter says most of the writer’s blogs she’s visited have very few comments (a fact that came as a relief to me. Whew!), so I guess I’m doing okay to get as many hits as I have, even if almost nobody comments on what I’m saying.

So, for all you who are reading me now, hang around. One of the things I like most about doing this blog is that it gets my creative juices flowing and fires me up to write what, at some point in the future, will hopefully be paying words. So stick around. One day I hope to announce the publication of my first book on these very pages. Hope you’re still here for that. That’s when I’ll get caught up in some numbers. Especially the ones on my advance check.