Tag Archive for books

What Does a Story Look Like?

Book designer Chip Kidd recently presented at a TED Talk, and he shared the essential question he asks about every book before he starts working on its physical design: “What does the story look like?”

It’s a great and entertaining talk, one that designers will find interesting and anyone looking to self-publish their own work should watch to get an idea of how much thought can go into book design.

Around the 13:00 mark, though, Kidd says “Try experiencing that on a Kindle!” and starts to discuss the things that can’t be done with an e-book and the differences in the experience between a print book and an e-book. He makes some valid points, of course: I know few readers who haven’t smelled their books, relished the feel of deckled edges and raised type, or played around with die-cut dust jackets.

Can we say for certain, though, that e-books will never produce a related experience?

Right now, e-books are still in the gimmick stage. There are guys throwing short animations or sound effects into comics, embedding video in e-books, developing books that are interactive apps, and so forth. While they are cool things a book’s paper counterpart can’t do, they have yet to become an integral part of the story or a part of the experience of the book. Sure, it’s an experience with the iPad or the Kindle, but not necessarily with the book itself.

As much as I enjoyed Kidd’s presentation, I would love to see people like him turn their disdain for the e-book experience into a creative drive to elevate the e-book experience. It doesn’t have to replicate the paper experience (hell, maybe it shouldn’t), it just needs to bring its own experience. If the words on the screen aren’t enough, then shit, Chip, tell the damned software engineers what else you’d like them to do.

I bet Amazon and Apple will listen.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Alas, Poor Borders

The Borders bookstore chain is in trouble, and it’s my fault.

At least, it’s the fault of people like me who have turned to Amazon for book purchases, or who’ve gone digital and just shop on the Kindle. They’ve faced rumors of bankruptcy for years, and more recently they’ve had executives resign, they’ve faced complaints about slow payments from publishers, they’ve closed warehouses, and just last week Diamond, the single, largest comics distributor, announced they will be halting shipments to Borders. Their e-readers haven’t gained near the traction the Kindle and the Nook have, and redesigning stores to make a bigger push for toys and games hasn’t made much of a difference.

Which is too bad, because I still enjoy shopping there. Hell, the kids love shopping there. They’ll browse their favorite sections all day if we let them.

The Midget Loitering

Apparently their comics rack is pretty cool, too.

It’s a lot easier for them to shop physical books because they rely on covers to catch their eye even more than we do, and the two younger ones like to flip through the interior illustrations. They also like the instant gratification, and more often than not they’ll be reading their books on the way to the cash register. I can’t even begin to count how many times they almost crashed headlong into another customer because they were just not paying attention.

The only section I still have to browse that way is the martial arts books. If I’m going to consider a book on kata, for example, I’m going to read through a few examples and check out some pictures. Sure, Amazon enables “Look Inside!” on a lot of their books to make browsing easier, but it’s just not the same. This is especially true when I don’t know what I’m looking for. I’ll flip through several books until something looks interesting, and if Borders happened to send me a big discount coupon or some free bonus bucks, I’ll buy it.

If not, I do what I did today: fire up the Amazon app on my cell phone and check out their pricing. More often than not, the book’s available at a discount, and with the free shipping on my Prime account and not having to pay taxes, I’d come out well ahead by clicking that 1-Click button. Today I didn’t even do that, I just added the books to my Wish List to buy later.

Like I sad, I’m responsible for their going out of business. I’d love to support them, but right now the wallet’s contents (or lack thereof) are more important.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Kindle: Five Months Later

I bought the Wife a Kindle for Xmas last year, and it occurred to me I never followed up on the original blog post to see how the Kindle stands up to long-term use.

The short version? She still loves it. She now has 80 books on it (including mine, of course), she’s skinned it, and she uses it daily.

She’s gone back to a paperback book exactly once in that time, and only then because she didn’t feel like repurchasing a book she already owned. She’s read in bed, in the kitchen, on the couch, and outside, and she hardly ever has to charge it. It was weird seeing the sort of screen saver image on it all the time, but we’ve gotten used to it. Initial concerns over the contrast, eye strain, and so on have all proven non-issues.

She’s also found it’s easier to read than dead tree editions. Even modest mass market paperback begins to feel heavy after a time, and so does the Kindle. However, she’s found she can lay the Kindle flat on the table and keep reading. That’s just not going to happen with a book, and even if it did lay flat, on many pages you have to deal with reading around the curvature of the page into the spine. Bookmarking and navigating through books is a snap, and with Amazon’s setup she’s able to delete and re-download titles at will.

Most of all, she likes not having to wait for hardcover new releases to hit paperback and not having to pay hardcover price for them. At the rate she reads, the savings becomes well worth the investment, with or without the convenience of instant delivery and having less clutter on the bookshelves.

I recently got my hands on an iPad, and I look forward to comparing the experience. I first intended to use the native iBooks app, but I’ve actually been impressed with the Kindle app instead. I started by downloading my book for free, as I’d already purchased it for my iPod touch. Just for kicks, I downloaded it to my MacBook as well, and as you can see from yesterday’s post, I loaded it up on all three devices. Even cooler? The other devices recognized where I had left off on the iPod touch and asked if I wanted to jump to the same page. That’s a nice bonus for someone who hast to share a Kindle and wants to read a book on a mobile device or computer when the other person has the Kindle.

I think it’s high time I checked out some of Victor Gischler’s work, so I’ll be starting there. His books Gun Monkeys and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse: A Novel are both available on the Kindle and should make fine reading on the plane during a trip next month. Incidentally, Go-Go Girls is available on iBooks, as is Vampire a Go-Go, each for the same price as on the Kindle, but again, the wider availability of devices gives the Kindle app the edge and the general functionality appears to be the same. Being able to control the screen brightness from within the app is a nice feature of iBooks, but I’m not sure (yet) that it’s going to be a killer feature.

In any event, the continued fear of digital books from some readers amazes me. I’ll admit it’s counter-intuitive, but I think digital reading is now at least as convenient and comfortable as paper books, if not moreso. People are snapping them up, and now even Borders has jumped on the bandwagon with their own reader. As someone who continued to buy paperbacks while the Wife went digital, I’m now looking forward to trying it myself with both books and comics.

I’m sure I’ll ramble on about it again in the future.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Read It! – Yellow Medicine

Like tough-guy anti-heroes? They don’t come much tougher or more morally ambiguous than Deputy Billy Lafitte.

I asked Kent Gowran to recommend a few good crime novels a while back, and Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith was on the list. I ordered it, read it, loved it. Smith’s first-person narrative is top-notch, providing a great picture of Lafitte’s character as well as sucking the reader into the story. The plot and action pull no punches, and my horror readers who enjoy a good thriller would do well to pick this one up.

The plot itself is simple: terrorists come to small-town America. Lafitte bends the law to his advantage from time to time, and when an old partner from New Orleans tells the members of a terror cell that Lafitte can help them make inroads into the meth trade, they waste no time proving they mean business. Lafitte soon finds himself stuck between the feds and the terrorists, but he’s not one to waste time catering to either.

I’d like to see this one hit the big screen, too. It reminds me a bit of Fargo and A Simple Plan, but it would hold its own. Assuming, of course, the Lafitte character makes it through the studio intact…

Give it a read, folks. You won’t be disappointed.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Year to Come

Was there any doubt that writing would be a huge focus this year? Didn’t think so.

I solidified a relationship with a new publisher in ’08, and our goal is to do a mix of comics and prose work. It’s still too early to announce specific projects, but I’ve written most of the script for the first graphic novel and have the outline for the first novella ready to go. We have two properties we want to develop with the prospect of a third on the horizon. I’m itching to tell you more, but I really need to get some work in the can before either the publisher or I will be confident enough to make anything public.

Last month a small press publisher contacted me about a novel. I promised to send him what I’ve written of Powerless after I clean it up, which will be this week. It will also be pitched to Otherworld Verlag, my German publisher. Wish me luck.

The Top Secret Book is back on the path to publication, so I need to finish the novella that will go along with it. The publisher had asked that I not announce the publication or publisher, which worked in our favor when certain delays appeared. We’re going to have to stick to that policy until we have a release date.

My next goal, of course, is to get to the point I can actually announce these damn things. After that, the goal is to actually have something to sell at conventions this year. Otherwise 2010 will be the year I finally start reevaluating this whole writing thing. A secondary writing goal for 2009 will be to participate in NaNoWriMo in November. A lot more than previous deadlines and commitments affect that, so I’ll have to take another look at my schedule as Fall rolls around.

On the personal side, I have the luxury of being a little more specific. We’ve been talking about the difference between dreams and goals (not to mention resolutions and goals) in karate class, and that difference includes deadlines. Dreams and resolutions don’t count for much unless you have a plan and a firm deadline, and since I can’t really apply deadlines to publishers and contracts, I may as well slap them on my personal goals:

1) Cut another 20 lbs by October 1st. To accomplish this, I’m going to continue my karate training and I will start running again this Spring. Yes, I could probably run when it’s colder, but it’s tough to say I actually like running yet so if I’m out there and miserable, chances are that goal will be toast.

2) Make Nikyu in Shuri-ryu by Halloween. This is 2nd-degree brown belt. My original goal was to make Ikkyu, or 1st-degree brown belt, by Christmas, but there may not actually be time to do so, even if I nail every review between now and then. As such, Nikyu becomes a good goal and affords some realistic flexibility. We have review next week, and if I pass I’ll be up for Sankyu, or 3rd-degree brown belt, at the end of February.

3) Complete 25 themed photos by December 31st. The 52 Weeks Flickr group project was fun, but I felt self-portraits were a little restrictive and I had a tough time keeping up. This month I’m going to find a new Flickr group to join, one with a rotating or more flexible theme, and make sure I take at least 2 pictures a month.

Finally, I’ll close with a dream: I want a bigger motorcycle. Eve is great, but she’s a bit small. This dream will solely be dictated by financial capability, so this may or may not happen and thus is not a goal. I’ll be keeping an eye on the classifieds, but I haven’t ruled out a new Shadow or V Star.

Let’s get the party started.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Year That Was

Personally, 2008 wasn’t so bad. On the fitness side, I started a running program over the summer and enjoyed moderate success. In the martial arts, I earned my green and then purple belts in Shuri-ryu karate, and I read some great books on the subject. I may not have lost a ton of weight like I did last year, but I do feel even better and I’ve definitely improved my strength and flexibility.

I spent the whole year on a Mac, and have become an official member of the Apple cult. I got my hands on a Canon Digital Rebel XSi to get more creative with my photography, and I have been very happy with it. I bought a motorcycle and got comfortable on it. My family is doing very well, and we took our first family vacation shortly before the Wife and I celebrated our 12th anniversary.

The writing side, however, was a bit disappointing. Despite best intentions, I didn’t finish the Muy Mal arcs as planned, largely because other projects took precedence. New Dark Voices was just re-released and Brimstone Turnpike finally saw print, but the Top Secret Book that was expected faced some unfortunate delays. New publications brought Das Tödliche Geschlecht (the German translation of Deadliest of the Species) and Jack Haringa Must Die! Beyond that I’ve had some promising leads, but they have yet to come to fruition.

I guess that’s what 2009 is for, right?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Slip & Fall: A Review

I was down to two choices last week: the latest offering from a popular crime author, or Slip & Fall by Nick Santora. The latter caught my eye with its red cover, “Borders Exclusive” sticker, and simple design. I’d glanced at it a few times in the past, so I finally gave the dust jacket a read and learned it’s written by the guy who produced Prison Break. The writing that finally killed the series for me this season couldn’t be all his fault, and the synopsis sounded interesting enough. I gave the Wife the same two-book option. She chose Slip & Fall and we rang it up.

The first few chapters concentrate on character development and are a bit slow, but things snowball from there. Rather than action (read violence), the plot is moved along by the way the protagonist, Rob Principe, digs himself deeper and deeper into this hole he’s created for himself. The first person narrative is very engaging, and I found myself sucked into the book yesterday rather than taking the time to work on my own projects. It was easy to feel like I was having a conversation with Principe directly, and I dug the way the prologue suddenly clicked into place as the book neared its climax. My only beef with the book was the ending: I liked it, but I didn’t quite buy it, mostly because I expected it to be a lot darker. It didn’t kill my enjoyment of the book, it was just a little too easy.

Slip & Fall is a good read if you enjoy crime drama. I got the impression Santora put a lot of his own legal experiences and background into the book, and it all felt very real. It’s a story about a guy dumb and desperate enough to go into business with the mob rather than the mob itself. Not so much a fall from grace as a nosedive.

Next time you visit your local Borders, give it a look.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Shaking Up the Reading

My reading habits have been as poor as my writing habits lately.

I think part of the problem is I’ve been reading a few books where nothing happens. Sure, they’re good books, and they’re horror books, but there are several pages at a time where nothing happens. Solid writing, great atmosphere, a dash of “look at this creepy stuff!”, but no real action. It’s really starting to bother me.

As such I’ve strayed once again into the suspense/mystery section of my local Borders. Doing so was a good diversion a year or so ago, and so far it’s headed that same direction as I’ve read a lot more in the past two weeks than I have the previous two months.

I started with Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski. Brian mentioned the guy, I browsed the synopsis for Severance Package, and I decided it was right up my alley. Sure enough, I burned through it in no time. The plot is fairly simple, and it the action rolls right along from the first page to the last. The occasional humor is a nice bonus. I’ve now got his books The Blonde and The Wheelman sitting on the nightstand, waiting to be read.

Right now I’m halfway through Brimstone by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Everything I’ve heard about Preston & Child suggests they’re mystery/thriller writers with a horror/supernatural bend, and Brimstone definitely fits the mold. I can do without all the references to previous books in the series, and I think the main character, Aloysius Pendergast, is a stuck-up douche, but I like where the story is going and I can relate to the other main character (or is it sidekick?), Vincent D’Agosta, much better. The prose is very straightforward and leads the reader through at a good clip.

It’s good to be hooked on reading again.

Even better, they’ve both given my fingers the itch to be at the keyboard, working my own prose.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Definitely a Reader

Definitely a Reader
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I enjoy reading, but I can’t imagine how this many books can accumulate in one’s car. Bookshelves, desks, nightstands, sure, but the car? If books were to start blocking my rear view, they’d go in the house. If there was no room in the house it would be time for a sanity check.

Spotted at a rest stop on I-76 in Pennsylvania.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It Never Gets Old

They’re Here!
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I love opening a box of my books from a publisher. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do so, but it still feels as good as it did the very first time.

It doesn’t even matter that I can’t read these German translations of Deadliest of the Species, it still rocks harder than your hot mom at an Iron Maiden concert.

These paperbacks are easily the best presentation of my solo work to date. I don’t know that having my name printed in a comparable font size to the title is going to have any effect in the German market, but I think it’s pretty damn cool.

The bar has been set for US publishers. With luck I’ll find one worthy of the challenge.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.