The Weekly Man – What Is the Coffee Break Novel?

CoffeeNovel

Everyone needs a coffee break. It’s that period of time during the workday when you say to yourself, “If I don’t have a coffee right now, this minute, I’m going to kill somebody.” Not that you particularly want to harm anyone (unless, of course, telemarketers have your work number) but, you know, it might be Monday. It might even be Monday morning. On the other hand, it might not be a weekday. It might be Saturday or Sunday and you’re sitting on the beach under a beautiful blue sky thinking, “Damn, I’m missing my coffee break. Why don’t beaches have coffee?” I do this all the time and I’m sure you do as well.

So, now that we’re thoroughly covered the topic of coffee breaks and their contribution to a healthy (and alive) workforce and their absence from beaches, let’s talk about coffee break activities. Some people read newspapers because they hate trees and want to see every tree in the world turned into a newspaper with stories about the shocking conspiracy to deforest the planet by sending the rain forests off to the printers. Some people like to talk to their co-workers about what they watched on TV the night before. This used to be Game of Thrones episodes. Now, it’s arguments about what happened on old Game of Thrones episodes, especially the finale. Some people like to just sit and stare. I’m seeing this more often and it kind of scares me. But we won’t get into that. Some people like to transport themselves out of the workplace and into another world (not the ones staring…they’ll be doing that all day) through the medium of story.

And that brings us to the coffee break novel. I scoured the internet for over a minute and the only mention I could find was a Kijiji ad posted by me. So…I guess that leaves it up to me to make up…I mean, define the coffee break novel.

Let’s start by listing some characteristics. First, it’s intended to be read during the reader’s coffee break. This can be problematic given that some people might be missing two coffee breaks each week because their employers refuse to let them work seven days a week, forcing them to take weekend coffee breaks at home so that they don’t miss any of the story. This could actually lead to dysfunctional activities like sneaking into work on weekend mornings but I’m sure that most people will opt to create a reproduction of their workplace in their basement or spare room so as not to miss a single episode. Others might do some speed reading Monday morning.

And speaking of episodes…that’s another characteristic of the coffee break novel: It’s parceled out in episodes…each with just enough reading to get you through your morning java fix. The Weekly Man is just right for this. It’s naturally broken into episodes following the lives of seven characters, each with their own day of the week to tell their story. There is one spot where this runs awry and may require a three to four day break before plummeting head first into the dazzling conclusion but that’s a few months away and, by the time it comes, I think all two of my readers will need a short break.

The coffee break novel should be mostly light-hearted as in humorous. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be serious, heart-breaking, soul-blistering, tear-prodding, existential moments, of which there are a few in the novel, but these are introduced for the sole purpose of pacing the story like a roller-coaster. There will be no flat lining in any of my stories. I mean, even Mary Poppins had her down moments. But for the most part, it’s going to be humor and lightness of being because it’s your coffee break and you don’t need to be crying and borrowing tissues from your co-workers on your coffee break. (WARNING: The first episode of The Weekly Man is not humorous. But it has a sort of happy ending.)

There has to be a strong element of weirdness so that the novel is able to compete against the news of the day, which keeps getting weirder by the day. And besides, I’m weird and it’s my invention, so I’m calling for weirdness.

All coffee break novels should have more than one character. This makes it much easier to create things like conversations, conflict, plot, human interaction and all those other elements that might cause a story to become interesting. Plus, there has to be both male and female characters because that’s more like real life and we’re all big fans of real life, aren’t we?

Words. The coffee break novel draws on a list of easily recognizable and commonly used words with careful attention paid to correct spelling and usage. I’m seeing less and less of this in most of the world’s published content, either online or in print and I think this is something we all need to enthusiastically gossip about in all the right places…because we all know that meeting a challenge with gossip is more effective than meeting it with thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, The Weekly Man will lead us out of this barbaric mire of editorial carelessness.

Well, actually, that probably won’t happen, but as long as there are coffee breaks, there will always be a need for something to do during the coffee break…and now the world has one more thing designed specifically for that.

It’s called the coffee break novel and The Weekly Man is the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel.

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The Weekly Man: The Landing Page

Landing

So you’re putting in your 32 hours a day on the internet and you see an ad for horse shoes…and you just happen to be in the market for some horse shoes…if the price is right. Not that you have a horse; most of us don’t. But according to the ad, they’re on sale for just a dollar a shoe and you don’t have to own horses to know a horse shoe bargain when you see one. Feeling some weird kind of deja vu as you yell, “I’ll buy that for a buck!” you click the ad with the picture of horse shoes and bright red text proclaiming: Horse Shoes a Buck a Shoe.

Your request for horse shoe savings thunders over the internet like greased desire and takes you to the home page for Mac’s Horse Accessories: Everything But the Horse, and you’re suddenly looking at a bewildering array of horse accessories…scrolling page after scrolling page…and you’re thinking: You need this much shit to own a horse? And where the hell is the horse shoe sale?

The sale is buried somewhere on the site under gigabytes of information that has nothing to do with the sale. You guzzle whatever’s left in your wine glass and think nasty thoughts about Mac and his buried sale.

Before Mac posted the ad for the sale on horse shoes, he should have created a page on his site devoted specifically to that sale so that shoppers could immediately see the thing they came for and buy it. It’s called a landing page because it’s where you want the shopper to “land” when they click the ad. You want to make it easy for them to buy what you advertised. You don’t want them to go to your home page unless it has the horse shoe sale blazing across the top of the page with a Buy Me Right Bloody Now button.

It occurred to me that I need a landing page.

I’m going to be running three versions of The Weekly Man: one for laptops and desktops, one for cell phones and tablets, and a chronological version for people who start reading after the serialization begins. Plus, there will be lots of PDF giveaways like the character list and some free short stories. Everything and anything about The Weekly Man will be on this page.

“So,” you say. “Isn’t that like Mac’s home page, you bastard?”

To which I reply, “Well, sort of. But I’m not selling horse shoes. When I create a link, it should go to a page where people can find out what The Weekly Man is all about. It’s an orientation page with the information presented so that anyone can go there, see whether or not it’s for them, and either click the link that takes them to what they want or leave the page after deciding that they’re not quite ready for this weirdness.

The page will be live tomorrow (Friday, August 23). If you’re one of the two people who read my blog, I promise you…it won’t be confusing.

 

 

A Writer’s Real Job

Real Job

“So you want to be a writer, do you?” His eyes narrowed as he chuckled and I suddenly felt like I had two purple heads. “And what exactly are you going to do for your real job?”

Even with self-publishing making it possible for anyone on the planet to become a published writer, this attitude that writing (unless you just sold the movie rights to your bestselling novel and bought a new Ferrari) is somehow a pastime that people indulge in when they’re not spending their time accomplishing something useful like diagnosing a disease or making copious notes at Monday morning’s marketing meeting, even though the PowerPoint will be emailed to you later in the day…this attitude persists today much like it did 30 years ago.

It’s a lethal attitude. It’s killed countless creative efforts and pulled the rug out from under aspiring writers for as long as there have been aspiring writers.

It’s not always as blatant as in the example above; in fact, most of the time, it’s subtle, but always there, lurking under the surface of your interactions with the people around you.

“Can you pick Sheila up at the airport?”
“This is my writing time…remember the schedule? And I’m finally on a roll with Chapter 7. Can you pick her up?”
“I have to pick up the party favors for next weekend.”

“Pick them up tomorrow.”

“But I just want to get that out of the way. You can work on Chapter 9 tomorrow.”

Been in this situation before? You’ve scheduled your writing so that it’s not just a random thing you do whenever the creative juices bubble up. It’s something you take seriously and it’s probably more important to you than the job that helps pay for the party favors.

Part of the problem is that painfully long gap between starting a novel, finishing it and getting it published…if it ever gets published. It’s the immediate return on invested time and money. For instance, a plumber repairs your leaky sink and gets paid, all in a matter of hours. You go to the office, sit around for eight hours and collect a paycheck two weeks later. For most people, work has definite start and end dates with something accomplished (repaired sink, sore butt) for which there is a definite payment. You can schedule the start, end and reward.

Not always so in the arts world; in fact, rarely so. You might spend a few months or a few years writing a novel and, unless you’ve made a deal with a publisher, you’re not being paid while you’re writing and, if it’s your first novel, you haven’t established yourself as a professional writer. So most people will perceive your writing as a hobby…not as something to which you want to devote your life. And the longer it takes you to write your novel, the less likely they’ll take it seriously: they’ll see it as your little dream, that quirky little thing you do in the background of your life while you in your keep from the real job selling cars or insurance.

This attitude can be devastating, especially during those times when you’re having doubts and feeling the angst of doing something for ages that’s moving forward slowly but: “who’s going to read it?” “do I really have anything important to say?” “what the hell am I doing?”

That kind of stuff. It can kill you as a writer. I’ve had five novels published and tons of short stories, but I still have these feelings, these doubts that what I’m doing is even worth the effort. Fortunately, I expect the negative thoughts and I keep writing at the scheduled times (yes, I schedule my writing because, like my fulltime job, it’s work).

I’m not saying there won’t be those moments of pure joy when you read something you wrote the night before and you’re floored by the idea that you, yes you, wrote these beautiful words. Those moments are worth the fear and loathing of a thousand moments of doubt. But the novel isn’t finished. You’re halfway through and you’ve been working on it for over a year. You have another year to go, maybe longer.

I try to alleviate the uncertainty by storyboarding my novels before I start the writing, but once I’m 30 or 40 pages into it, the characters and story take off and the storyboard evaporates in the heat of the writing. But the structure and direction it initially provides carries me through. A diver is more likely to dive successfully from a solid board than a rubber one.

Not everyone is into storyboarding, and I get it…it’s work and you might not know where the story is going until you start writing. This happens to me with my short fiction. But storyboard or not, it’s a long process and it eats a lot of time and requires daily sacrifices. So much of writing is discouraging and, if you’re like most of the writers I know, you’re not going to get the kind of support you really need: acknowledgment that your writing is just as valuable as anything else you do, and maybe even more so.

It’s not just a hobby. It’s not just a distraction from the real stuff. It’s what you are and what you want to be.

It means putting things in a writer’s perspective. For instance, would you take time off the 9 to 5 job to pick Sheila up at the airport? If not, why would you take time off from your scheduled writing? You might say, “Well, I have more flexibility with my own time.”

“My own time”?

That attitude has turned many a promising word smith into dissatisfied retiree with a lot of regrets. I know some of these people. They still talk about that novel they should have written and maybe, when they have some free time in their post-retirement life, they’ll get around to it.

Your own time is when you write…when you’re who and what you are.

When people don’t take your writing seriously, feel free to take those people and whatever they do with a grain of salt. Better yet, avoid them. Unless you have no choice but to interact with them, just stay clear of them. Treat them as toxic chemicals. If you’re stuck with them, don’t talk about your writing. They don’t deserve to hear about it.

Resolve that you will be spending much of your time alone, even when you’re in a crowded area like I am when I write in coffee shops. While others are gliding through their mundane lives, you’re creating new worlds, birthing personalities that grow and evolve, focusing on those little things that everyone misses until they read about them in your novel and think, “Oh yeah…that.”

That’s your real job.

 

(BTW…don’t miss the first episode of the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel, The Weekly Man, coming September 8.)

Coffee Shops and the Single Writer

Coffee Shop Cover

I’m a coffee shop writer. I’ve written five novels in coffee shops because they’re the only place I can write fiction. There’s something about the atmosphere and the availability of coffee that burrows deep into the headlands of my creativity and starts a stampede of words and ideas. I write for about an hour to an hour and a half each evening and get one to two pages (yep, I’m no Stephen King). Anywhere else and I might get a paragraph or two and on very rare occasions, a whole page. Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter what coffee shop or where it is…if it’s a coffee shop, the trail to the headlands is a six lane highway into story telling.

And yes, I’ve written about writing in coffee shops before; in fact, my last post covered some of the hurdles to overcome. But this post is about single writers who write in coffee shops and why they’re likely to remain single forever.

To begin with…being a writer is a sentence to singleness. I mean it. Most of the writers I know are single…and not necessarily happy about it. Some have fond memories of those days when they had someone special in their lives, someone who understood them and stuck in there in spite of long hours alone while their writer mate disappeared into the jowls of a coffee shop (we’re talking just about coffee shop writers here) to do mysterious things with words. They put up with the roller coaster of moods and lifestyle that brand writers as persona non cool. They looked the other way when the writer, foaming at the mouth and crazy-eyed, tried to explain the world-shaking ramifications of not being able to find the right word to describe Sam’s blue shirt.

“Just say it’s blue,” she says.

“But how will they know the blue?” he responds.

“By the use of the word blue,” she says.

“But how will they feel the blue,” he says.

“You only feel blue when you’re sad,” she says.

“You don’t understand me,” he cries.

“You’re making a mountain out of…” she tries to say.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” he yells.

And suddenly, he’s single. And not necessarily happy about it.

The same things happen to female coffee shop writers, proving there’s no gender inequality when it comes to losing at love, especially if you can sneak a bit of the loss into a story.

There’s something about creating worlds with words that takes you out of everybody else’s world and plops you into a place that only exists in your own mind, like when was talking to a group of co-workers while I was working on my first novel. I started talking about a man called Baxter. The others looked at me in a strange way, like my head had just fallen off. One of them said, “Who’s Baxter?”

It suddenly dawned on me that Baxter was one of the characters in my novel. That’s how real he’d become and how unreal the world of my co-workers had become. Sadly, this didn’t discourage me from writing; in fact, it probably spurred me on. Something along the lines of OK, I’ve lost it with these people, so what do I have left? Oh right…Baxter and friends.

Writing is a deep uncharted pit with a shallow slope that slants ever more precariously as you slide into it. It leads into a place where a blue shirt is deep sea or sky blue, not just blue. A place where nothing is whole until the last draft, or until an editor has a better idea for blue. It’s a place where you can get lost, where you can drift away from everything that’s known into a great unknown that you get to arrange and rearrange until you’re satisfied that it’s the right color of blue.

Sound crazy?

It is. And it’s not like those writers who write at home where the better half (at least, saner half) can pop in say, “Hi, how’s it going?”

“What’s another way of saying blue?”

“Just write blue.  I think people will get it.”

“You don’t understand me.”

“Don’t stay up too late.” Door closes. Writer is alone to stew in blue. Until bed time.

But for some, the coffee shop calls out to us and off we go, single and bursting with words under the brilliant azure sky.

Coffee Shops and Espresso

Coffeeshops

Many years ago I was contacted by a crazy man in New Mexico who said that he’d finally tracked down the 12 weirdest writers on planet Earth and wanted them to submit stories for an anthology he had in mind. Apparently, I was one of those 12. He wanted three or four stories from each of us. At the time, I was several months into a nasty case of writer’s block. All my words had flown south for the winter and stayed there for the summer. But, I thought, maybe this was a way to get those words flying home.

Around the same time, my daughter had started working in a coffee shop. Each evening, I dropped by to drive her home, which usually meant waiting around while she cleaned up and cashed out, so I brought along a notebook and pen and started writing weird short stories for the first Twisted Tails anthology. There was something about the atmosphere (and maybe the coffee) that triggered the writer in me and the words started flowing in the notebook.

I wrote 4 short stories and started back on the novel. I didn’t have a laptop at the time, so everything was done in pencil. I don’t recommend this…it’s messy and then you have to put everything into a computer document, which isn’t all that bad with short stories but downright painful with a novel. I finally broke down and bought a laptop when I realized that coffee shops were now the only places where I could write. I needed a cup of java surrounded by a coffee shop to pry the words from my subconscious.

When I tell people where I write, they say things like, “Doesn’t the noise bother you?” “How do you stay focused?” “Boy, are you weird.” And these are the nice things they say.

There’s just something about a coffee shop that says, “You will now write. You will not rush to the kitchen and wash those dinner dishes. You will write. No…stop thinking about vacuuming the floor…you’re in a coffee shop. Just…write.” I don’t have all the distractions of home. I can’t spend an hour installing a new flush on the toilet when I can’t think of what to write next or conceive the words to describe Carla’s red dress in Chapter 2. Sure, I can walk over to the coffee shop’s condiments counter and self-debate the concept of adding honey to my coffee but, after a few tries, I realized that I don’t like anything sweet in my coffee. At home, I would be compelled to stare out the window waiting for the next crow to fly by to make it an even number while Carla’s red dress remained just red.

Noise doesn’t distract me; the need for a distraction distracts me.

Coffee shop noise is relaxing once you get used to it. It fades into the distance like background music and yields to the stampede of words spewing out of my mind. The only noise that bothers me is that loudmouth in every crowd whose voice is almost a yell…and these are the ones who can’t keep their mouth shut, the ones whose eyes are continually darting around the tables, hoping that everyone is dropping what they’re doing and listening to the steady stream of drivel spilling out of their mouths. I have a pair of noise cancellation headphones for situations like this and, if I can still hear them, I beat them to death with the headphones. In a coffee shop, this is called performance art.

One of the big things that helps coax the words out is the acceptance of fate: I’m here to write, gawdamit, and I’m going to write. Almost as soon as I sit down, swig some coffee and open my laptop I’m ready to write. Sometimes it starts slowly and sometimes it jumps the starter pistol. But I’m in a coffee shop and what do I do in a coffee shop? I write. And yes, sometimes it’s crap (well, maybe a lot of the time…we’re talking first draft), but at least I have something I can work with later…or…I have something that’s always going to be crap…but I’m the only one who’s seen it. I guess the key word is routine. Once you get into a coffee shop writing routine, it becomes increasingly easy to just plough into the paragraphs and push the novel ahead a page or two at a time.

But what about people I know? People who see me sitting at my table clacking the keys to beat all hell, pumping out the words in a steady stream of storytelling? Most will pass my table with a quiet hello or “Writing again, are you? That what your doin’?”

“Yep.” Smiling. Ready to use the headphones one way or the other.

But they keep walking and I get back to Carla’s red dress. Pomegranate. Nope. Fire engine. Nope.

It’s the ones who can’t help themselves, the ones who see me and are suddenly driven to make some sort of impression by standing over me and expecting answers to their dumb questions.

“So what’s this one about?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Who’s in it?”

“Can’t tell you.”

“Would you like to see the 156 pictures I took with my iPhone over the weekend?”

“No.”

But they won’t stop asking questions. They won’t go away. They have me cornered. I have to do something drastic. I say, “Nice talking to you. Gotta get back to it. See you later.” And I bury my entire being into the writing. This almost always does it and I’ve only had to tell two people to fuck off and let me write in all the years I’ve been writing in coffee shops.

And then, of course, there’s the coffee. There’s something about the fragrance and body of coffee (not to mention the caffeine) that commands, “Creativity…stand to attention!” that begins to happen even before the first sip.

I used to drink wine while I wrote poetry. This is why you’ll see very little of my poetry published anywhere. I know people who can’t write prose without wine. I’m not one of them. One sip of wine and I want to write bad, evil poetry. Wine is my prose kryptonite. Coffee is my spinach, especially espresso or German Chocolate Cake. With the exception of espresso, I insert a double whammy of 18% cream into my coffee, a practice that can be bad only if you drink over 10 cups of coffee in an evening, which is why I never drink more than 10 cups of coffee in an evening.

“But wait!” you say. ”Shouldn’t you avoid any coffee after 5 in the evening? I’m sure I read that on the internet.”

Yes…coffee after 5. It can keep you awake for 6 to 8 hours. I generally start writing around 7 and write until around 9. I used to go home and drink a bottle of wine before bed. I don’t recommend this. I did this for 10 years and almost murdered my liver. After my doctor told me to give up writing in coffee shops or “you’re a dead man” I decided to drop the wine and stay up all night.

I don’t know of a solution to this. After a day in the IT industry, I’m tired and unfocused.  I need that coffee before diving into my creative wellspring. Otherwise, I’m diving into bath water…used bathwater. Skunky old used bathwater. But I recently did some experimentation and here’s what I found: A double espresso seems to keep me up just half the night. Anything else will keep me awake all night.

Go figure. Maybe this article from Kicking Horse Coffee explains it.

Plastic Thinking

Market Aug 1 2019-9

We live in two worlds; one’s outside, one’s inside.

The outside world is the world of earth, air, water and fire. It makes its own rules and we obey them. Walk off the edge of a cliff and this world gives you gravity. Build wax wings and fly toward the sun and it will suffocate you before you reach 30,000 feet. These are the rules of the world that existed long before we arrived. We’re the eggs; outside is the chicken.

The inside world is in our heads and under our skin. It’s where we think and where we feel. It’s us…the eggs…and we also make our own rules but the outside world doesn’t necessarily follow them. We have to adapt our rules to conform to the rules of that other world. Walking off a cliff? Wear a parachute. Flying into the sun? Surround yourself with a space ship.

This hierarchy of rules has worked well for about a million years, or since whatever date you deem human thinking to have begun back at the beginnings of the bicameral mind or maybe when we learned how to build a campfire without becoming the logs. If we come to a river where we think there should be a path, we build a bridge. If we need water for power, we build a dam.

This is not changing the rules; this is modifying them, and that’s OK: beavers build dams.

The problems start when we ignore the rules or deliberately disregard them, like when we build thirty dams on the same river. Or when we remove masses of material from the earth and transform them into materials that never have and never should exist and then we coat the earth with them, like buttering the planet with poison.

And you might ask: Why the hell would we do that? And I might answer: Because we convince ourselves that we’re not doing it…even while we’re doing it. For example, you buy the health wise, low calorie pasta bowl that cooks in just four and a half minutes in the microwave. When you finish the meal, you have a sense of doing something right, giving your body healthy sustenance. And you throw all that plastic packaging and the plastic bowl into the plastic garbage bag without thinking that what you’re doing is being simultaneously done by millions of other people.

All that plastic.

When it comes to satisfying our needs and wants, we look at the good and ignore the bad. It’s called rationalizing and rationalizing is one of the highest levels of intellectual activity and very likely the key ingredient in the extinction of the human race.

Some people talk about how logical the rational mind is, but there’s nothing innately logical about it. Logic says, “I’ll buy the smaller more fuel efficient car and be part of the solution.” Rationalized, it becomes: “I’ll buy the gas guzzling SUV because everybody else is buying the smaller cars, so it doesn’t really matter what I buy.”

It’s adaptive thinking. At which point you say, “Adaptation is good. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us evolve as the conditions around us change.” But there’s a big difference between adaptive thinking and adaptive evolution.

Adaptive thinking wraps itself around the needs of the moment and justifies itself by meeting the needs of the moment, but we’re not going to physically adapt to a world with un-breathable air. We can live underground or in controlled climate housing or maybe even under the ocean, but we’re not going to walk in a park, canoe down a river or harvest a crop without some form of portable life support system, at least (depending on future technologies) not for several hundred or several thousand years.

If we’re still around that long.

Back to that thing called rationalizing.

It creates a situation in which we create another world (the one we think we live in) and the real world (the one we live in). The problem here is that we’re so good at rationalizing that the world we think we live in becomes the world we live in. We convince ourselves that tossing that plastic water bottle into the garbage isn’t going to be harmful to the outside world because it isn’t harmful in our internal world. It’s just one bottle. Who’s going to notice? Sure as hell not the tens of millions of other humans throwing out plastic bottles every day.

Tens of millions. Every day.

That’s a lot of bottles. But we don’t see them. We see just our one bottle. We know the others are out there but we choose not to see them. It’s a conscious choice.

This is scary. We need to come out of the cocoons of our inside worlds and live more in the outside world before gravity catches us without a parachute.

Back When I Was An Ebook Germ

 

HeavyLoad

Many long grueling years ago, I was invited to give a presentation on ebooks at the University of New Brunswick’s prestigious Maritime Writers Workshop. The presentation was held in a large theater with tall stained glass windows before an audience of students, instructors, professors and anyone interested in literature. The room was packed.

I stood before the audience and talked about how ebooks were the coming wave in publishing…how they cut distribution and production costs, put more control in the hands of authors, lowered the cost of books….you know, the things we take for granted today. Pretty much the entire audience seemed enthralled by this concept, especially the aspiring writers.

I seem to recall one of the professors showing some interest, but the others stared at me like I was a stalagmite of bacteria sprouting out of the floor. One of them seemed offended that I was talking this sacrilegious nonsense on the last day of the venerable workshop, poisoning the minds of promising writers and despoiling the honorable repetition of Canada’s longest running literary workshop.

To be fair, the early days of ebooks were a chaotic scramble. Try to imagine a bumper car ride filled with drunken drivers on meth. This was before Kindle, Kobo and Nook. The standard methods of delivery were the PDF file, the floppy disk and the CD-ROM. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Stephen King serialized a novel delivered on the Glass reader, a piece of software that, thank God, drowned in the advances made by other ereaders. The Rocket Ebook and Softbook suffered the same fate.

Writers who’d been turned down by every publisher on the planet because they couldn’t write a complete paragraph without insulting the rules of grammar and showed their dismal lack of storytelling ability were paying hundreds of dollars to have their books published electronically by scam companies proliferating across the literary horizon. Fortunately, few of these writers knew anything about marketing and most of the scammers offered marketing services that the writers couldn’t afford.

On the other hand, there were those who embraced the new technology with enthusiasm and the belief that epublishing was just as important as the advent of the printing press.

But…back to the workshop. I received a generous round of applause from most of the audience, but lukewarm from that area where the profs looked at me like I was something awful and hopefully not contagious.

After the presentation, I did some mingling, answered a few questions and was just about to leave when one of the profs approached me and said, “So you really believe that these things are actually books?”

Before I could answer, he went on to say that ebooks were a passing fad and that serious writers and publishers would never accept them, as though any book in ebook format was automatically not good writing. So I asked him if The Sun Also Rises (which I’d just read for the second time) were to be published in as an ebook, would it still be a great novel? He gave me that bacteria look, scowled and just walked away.

I’m not sure how he feels about ebooks today, but I do know that The Sun Also Rises is available in ebook format and it’s still a great book. In fact, I might just read it again on my Kindle.

I think the discrepancy in thinking here is confusion between content and format. Granted, the early days of ebooks were iffy on some fronts, but what we’re really talking about is the writing itself. Good writing is good writing whether in print or digitized. Bad writing is bad writing whether in print or digitized.

Our attitudes have come a long way since then, given that we’ve become more of a “content-based” society willing to accept alternate presentation methods as long as the content is good, but I still come across people who look at me like I’m a germ when I pull out my Kindle in a waiting room or plane. I’m tempted to look across the room or aisle and say, “It’s The Sun Also Rises. Have you read it?”

WARNING: I read both ebooks and print books…ebooks early in the day and print books before bed. The reason? Screens emit blue light, which inhibits the production of sleep-inducing melatonin and puts your brain on alert status. So treat your ereader like coffee in the evening.

(Shown above is the cover for my first novel…cover artists Brock Parks and Paul McNeil. It was first published by a law firm in California in PDF format and then by Jacobyte Books in Australia in print-on-demand and CD-ROM formats.)