Ned Hayes Writing

Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer). I wrote the national bestseller THE EAGLE TREE and the historical novel SINFUL FOLK,, illustrated by New York Times bestseller Nikki McClure. Both of these books were nominated for the "Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award." 

 

NedNote.com | TheEagleTree.comSinfulFolk.com

The Witch Elm, Tana French
The Witch Elm, Tana French

Tana French is one of the most talented writers I've ever read in the mystery and detective genre. In this most recent book, she really surpasses the genre entirely, and breaks new ground with a lyrical, heartbreaking and soul-bending literary novel that focuses on one man's gradual descent out of privilege and extreme good luck into the netherworld of uncertain fortunes and dissolution.

 

This is not a story of a person's willful decline -- far from it -- but instead, the battle to retain esteem in a universe where bad luck happens and you have to make up a life out of the remaining scraps. Sure, each of her novels have a death in them, but this novel focuses on character building above all, and brings to the forefront her excellent skill with language, with insight and with skillful observation of human nature.

 

This is, in a word, Tana French's best book, and I would not be surprised at all to see her work in future years held up as examples of leading literature. Jane Austen, after all, wrote romances, while Charles Dickens wrote fabulist fictions.

 

Tana French writes great novels. 

Source: http://nednote.com/new-tana-french-book-review

Halloween: Twelve Terrifying Two Sentence Horror Stories

 

I found a thread on Reddit that asked this question: “What is the best horror story you can come up with in two sentences?” I posted the best ones I found, as well as one more scary tale I created on my own. See if you can figure out which one is mine!

With Halloween right around the corner, these two-sentence terrors fit the month perfectly! Happy Halloween!

1. 

The_Graveyard

“My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.”

Image Credit: Fivvr

 

 

 

 

2.

reflections-4

I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.

Image Credit: Vampyr Fangs

 

 

 

 

3.


graveyard

I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and it’s so dark all the time. If I knew it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.

Image Credit: Public Domain

 

 

 

 

 

4.

deadgirl

After working a hard day, I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didn’t know which was more frightening, seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child, or knowing that someone broke into my apartment to place them there.

Image Credit: Dead Girl (film)

 

 

 

 

 

5.

scary

My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.

Image Credit: Universal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I can’t sleep,” she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.

Image Credit: Cemetery Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.

monster-bed

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy, check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy, there’s somebody on my bed.”

Image Credit: Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

creepy-girl

A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said, “Don’t go, honey — I heard that, too.”

Image Credit: Random Geekings

 

 

 

 

 

9.

scary_face_from_wall_by_vreckovka-d6ohynv

Yesterday, my parents told me I was too old for an imaginary friend and I had to let her go. They found her body this morning.

Image Credit: DeviantArt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.
 

my_cat_looking_scary_by_xxpurpledonutz54xx-d63uug1

 

In the early morning, I could feel the cat purring against my side, nestled up against me in bed, but the cat smelled of blood. I woke slowly remembering that I had tortured that cat to death last Sunday, and scattered the body parts across the construction site.

Image Credit: DeviantArt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.

scary_fingers_by_nuraskye-d4cw38z

The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.

Image Credit: DeviantArt

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.
 

handswide

 

The doctors told the amputee he might experience a phantom limb from time to time. Nobody prepared him for the moments though, when he felt cold fingers brush across his phantom hand.

Image Credit: MNN 

 

(H/T Arts.Mic) (via Reddit)

 

 

 


HORROR WARNING:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary - Nick Hallum

Nicholas Hallum created a short and chilling  tale.

 

 

 

You can ORDER for Kindle here >>

 

 

 

Thank you for your reading and support!

Source: http://nednote.com/twelve-terrifying-two-sentence-horror-stories

On Writing: About Moral Gravity and Pleasure and “Comfortable” Writing (and Stephen King)

Last week, I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf for a long time. This was Different Seasons by Stephen King. This book is a collection of four novellas, and was his first publication that reached outside of the horror genre. The book includes the novellas Apt Pupil, The Body, The Shawshank Redemption and The Breathing Method (I had only read Shawshank Redemption before I picked up this book). I began reading the book purely for pleasure, and then I began asking myself about why precisely this book was pleasurable to me as a reader. This post is about a few of the specific pleasures that I found King brings to a reader. I’m enumerating them here because I hope to duplicate these particular attributes in my own writing.

 

The thing about Stephen King is that he is predictable. This is not a bad thing. Setting expectations for readers is something that every writer does. We announce to readers with our titles, our writerly personas, the marketing blurbs and in our writing style (Noir? Lyrical? Journalistic? Hemingwayesque? Faulknerian?) what the reader should expect. No reader – I hope – enters into a Cormac McCarthy novel hoping to find a sweet cozy mystery or romance. No one reads romance for blood and gore. But I fear I’m alluding to genre here, when I mean to speak about an attribute of writing that I find particular to King and other writers who have gathered large and consistent audiences.

 

Yet what Stephen King does is so utterly consistent from book to book that his readers trust him. I knew when I picked up a Stephen King book that I would get human characters that will have a life that I recognize, and that I know as familiar in standard human terms. If behavior must be explained or illuminated for me (as a reader), Stephen King will take the time to explain the behavior until I come to understand that behavior on its own terms and recognize it. This is in stark contrast to a writer like, for example, Jonathan Franzen or Cormac McCarthy, who do not explain their characters in terms of motivation, inner life or external behavior. Their characters thus exist as ciphers to many readers. Some readers find that pleasurable: many others do not.

 

However, for this reason, some readers (and notably some high-brow writers) believe that Stephen King writes “clichéd” books that contain “stereotypical” characters. This is a valid critique, but I think that all too often writers rely on originality as the prime objective, without realizing that they must ground their stories – and their readers – in the recognizable and the familiar before they take a flight of fancy into the unknown. Part of the reason so-called “dirty realism” fiction (such as that originally popularized by Raymond Carver in the MFA world) became the norm is that it starts with the recognizable, and then the originality is found in building a new perspective or a new framework around the already-known world of the truck driver, the wheat farmer, the mill worker or the down-and-out-drunk. Carver limned his characters in quick stark strokes, with a minimum number of words and descriptors. Yet there’s hardly an “original” character among them: Carver writes no Dickensian Oliver Twists or memorable Martin Chuzzlewits, and will never be known for a character like Scrooge.

 

In the way he writes characters, King is like a low-brow John Irving, painting characters vividly so that they stay in your memory. Yet unlike Irving, King does not create caricatures or characters who are memorable for specific traits, behaviors, attitudes or presence in the world. There are no transgender football players, pet bears, or horrific sex accidents in King (cf. Irving’s World According to Garp). King may describe a character with many more words than Carver, yet in the end they are both writing about an “average” mill worker, or police man or homemaker. Both Carver and King start with the average, the norm, and establish that firmly in order to describe what happens to these average characters.

 

Consider the novella “Apt Pupil” in Different Seasons. In this novella, a young boy is drawn to an older Nazi, and gradually “learns” from him how to be a serial killer and how to discard human lives like leaves. What is really interesting about this story is that I thought I knew the basic plot going in. Old Nazi would entice young boy in a pedophile-like embrace, and gradually things would go to hell. King didn’t write it that way at all. Instead, in the words of one of the main characters, he wrote:

 

  • [T]he story of an old man who was afraid… of a certain young boy was, in a queer way, his friend. A smart boy… At first, the boy was not the old man’s friend… At first, the old man disliked the boy a great deal. Then he grew to… to enjoy his company, although there was still a strong element of dislike there […] Part of the old man’s enjoyment came from a feeling of equality… You see, the boy and the old man had each other in mutual deathgrips. Each knew something the other wanted kept secret. (King 191-192)

 

King’s brilliance here is to make the old Nazi a vulnerable, afraid human being. When a young boy reaches out to him with a threat, they gradually become equals in terms of terror and secrets. I did not expect this at all, and the story entranced me because of the unique approach King took to a story that could have been quite hackneyed. What I meant earlier by “predictability” should instead be characterized as “fully fleshing” his characters. I know that there will be no easy-to-categorize “evil” human beings. Instead, there will be human beings who are flawed and trying to do their best with what they have to work with. He fleshes his people, which is harder to do than it looks.

 

The other thing that I find intensely “comfortable” about King is that events have moral weight in his novels. Let me explain this point by reference first to Bret Easton Ellis – a writer who I believe avoids moral justice like the plague. Ellis might disagree with this point, and in fact, he often portrays his novels as parodies or satires of moral immorality. Yet at heart, I really think satire is a genre without moral justice – or in mockery of moral justice. Ellis’s characters get away with hell on earth – both in their behavior to other people as well as their behavior to themselves. They don’t live lives that are considered or meaningful, because their actions have no consequence and no moral weight.

 

King, on the other hand, even if everything is going to hell – and especially when very bad things are happening – manages to carry his readers through by making an implicit promise that the bad will be accounted for, and that the good (on some level) will triumph. Bad actions have consequence in King, even if they are (as in “The Body”) momentarily avoided. In the end, those who commit crimes are always discovered by themselves or others, and must pay for their actions. And those who quietly do well are discovered in a different way, and rewarded. King is the contemporary writer who most honestly embodies Tolkien’s famous aphorism that it is “the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness, and love” that ultimately defeat evil (Jackson / Tolkien). King adheres to this maxim, almost to a fault. There are no magical mages in King, and very few people with special powers (none that I can think of who understand or control their powers purely for good). There are no melodramatic good guys, and very few purely evil characters.

 

Instead, there is an Everyman or Everywoman who has to struggle with the laundry, self-esteem issues, and their upset spouse, all while struggling with unimaginable forces from the beyond. They are small everyday deeds that ultimately keep the dark at bay. And it is telling that even in these everyday lives, King manages to keep the moral compass clear. In contrast to many other contemporary writers – both literary writers like Paul Auster and commercial writers like Scott Turow – King ensures that we can trust him to bring a moral gravity to his work that is hard to do well, and trite if you don’t pull it off well.

 

I read King still when I just need some moments of pleasure, because I can trust him to be predictable in terms of his human characters and I trust the moral weight of his books. I’d like to be a writer who is as successful in these two attributes as King has been: even if I never have a Stephen King like commercial success. I think that these two attributes will stand the test of time.

 

 


A literary update from NedNote.com
Readers can find my books at these bookstores:

Amazon bookstore Barnes & Noble Indie Bookstores

 


Works Cited

 

King, Stephen. Different Seasons. New York: Signet, 1983.

The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. Dir. Peter Jackson. Warner Bros, 2012. Film.

Source: http://nednote.com/on-writing-about-moral-gravity-and-pleasure-and-comfortable-writing-and-stephen-king

Bookstores: Borderlands in San Francisco

BorderlandsBorderlands Books is a fantastic otherworldly experience in the heart of San Francisco. A specialty store that focuses on science-fiction, fantasy and horror novels, this is a bookstore for a true connoisseur of speculative fiction. I’m not sure if I qualify entirely, as I’m not as well read in the field as I’d like to be. But I do love me some Tim Powers and Ursula Le Guin, and I’m truly deeply madly in love with Nisi Shawl and Octavia Butler’s writing, so sign me up as a fan of Borderlands Books.

 

In fact, I did just that back in 2015. I signed up to be a sponsor of Borderlands Books, and you can do the same thing. In the hot real estate market of San Francisco, bookstores are hardly viable. So literate people of goodwill have signed up to ensure that a great bookstore like this can stay in the city.

 


BORDERLANDS BOOKS NEEDS SPONSORS every year — 
— 
You can sign up right here as a sponsor.

 


You might wonder how all of this came about.

 

In 1997 Alan Beatts opened Borderlands Books in Hayes Valley as a used-only bookstore consisting of his personal collection and a selection of books from Know Knew Books in Palo Alto.

 

Bookstore owner Beatts had done a lot of things before opening his new and used science fiction bookstore. Private Investigator, night club manager, and briefly a used clothing salesman. But he’s stuck to it with Borderlands Books — which is now the largest science fiction bookstore in the United States, carrying 14,000 titles specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

 

BorderlandsBorderlands Books is important in SF and fantasy circles, with many author events per year and international tourists popping in daily during busy months. Borderlands Books makes appearances at horror and science-fiction conventions, and has hosted numerous events with a variety of SF/F luminaries, including Lou Anders, Chris Roberson, John Varley, Jacqueline Carey, John Picacio, Graham Joyce, Patricia McKillip, Paolo Bacigalupi, David Drake, Randall Munroe, Steven Erikson, and Cory Doctorow.

 

Here’s another nice twist — the café attached to Borderlands Books serves coffee or tea, but they never play music and there is no wi-fi, so that you can simply read books. You can sit and read a new book, or nosh on café treats and read one of the SF magazines also sold at Borderlands. I’ve always thought reading is the point of having a bookstore café, so I’m glad that Borderlands agrees with me.

 

Borderlands Books also hosts the Tachyon Publications anniversary party with the associated Emperor Norton Awards, given for “extraordinary invention and creativity unhindered by the constraints of paltry reason”. The first award is given to a single work of science fiction, fantasy, or horror, or to an author in these genres, and the second to any creation, creator, or service relating to those genres. In 2008, Borderlands’ owner Alan Beatts and general manager Jude Feldman were jointly nominated for a World Fantasy Award under the World Fantasy Special Award: Professional category.

 

Despite all this awesomeness, Borderlands couldn’t survive on its own.

On February 2, 2015, in an open letter posted on Borderlands Books website, the owners Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman, announced they would close the store on March 31, 2015. The Valencia Street store — one of the largest of its kind in the world, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror titles — drew widespread coverage (including a New Yorker piece) after it said the city’s increase in the minimum wage to $15 would not allow it to continue as “a financially viable business” (for the record, the owners support the minimum wage increase).

 

Then, thanks to a public meeting at which customers proposed ideas for saving the store, a new sponsorship plan was hatched.

 

Borderlands Books announced a plan to remain open by relying on sponsorships. Soon it seemed that every fan of speculative fiction in the known universe was willing to help out. People from Peter Straub to Neil Gaiman to Joe Hill all sounded the alarm on their social media channels.

 

Borderlands Sponsors“It’s been incredible,” Beatts said. “I had no idea that this would get so much attention from the press, from the public. I was astonished by how many people wanted to get involved.”

 

The initial goal was merely 300 private sponsors at $100 apiece. This goal was soon surpassed. In fact, the first cohort maxed out at 844 sponsors!

Every year since then, people have signed up to support Borderlands Books, and perhaps the bookstore will even buy their building! (here are some details about the building)

 

I am proud to say that I was an early supporter of Borderlands Bookstore — here I am, listed under my SF moniker “Nicholas Hallum” as sponsor #214 — one of the first 300 to stand in the gap and defend the bookstore against the forces of avarice and illiteracy! Have I mentioned that you can join us?

 


You can sign up right here to sponsor Borderlands Books.

 



Visit Borderlands Books right here.

 

 

 

[Read more BOOKSTORE POSTS]

 


Pinterest – Ned Hayes Bookstore Board
Source: http://nednote.com/borderlands

A reader on the crowd-sourcing platform Quora asked a question about how to deepen their reading practices and read beyond just mere plot. Here’s a post I made in reply that provided some hints and strategies for deepening one’s reading practice and becoming more profoundly engaged with the literary world. ((Quora is top-heavy with tech-focused people, so I oriented my thoughts around technology examples.))



Here are some strategies used by English majors, as well as active readers.

 

1. Journal

Write down ideas, and phrases that are meaningful to you, and try to describe how they impact your life. This will help you to understand yourself and literature on a deeper level. Writers and active readers often refer to this type of book as a “commonplace book” because it is a special name for a scrapbook or set of notations about your reading.

 

2. Read beyond plot.

There are many books out there that have a very thin plot, but instead focus on character development language and big ideas. Read some of these and you’ll begin to see the possibilities of literature beyond plot. Toni Morrison. Cormac McCarthy, Sylvia Plath, Ray Bradbury all use language and metaphor to make points that can’t really be represented in a straightforward plot. Read Borges. Read Kafka.

 

3. Re-read

Read again books that have been meaningful to you, and look for other meanings that you missed the first time around, or structural items that strike your fancy. If you are an astute reader, every time you re-read a book, you’ll notice new and different things. (For years, Hoffman would re-read Lord of the Rings for example. That book has metaphorical layers miles deep, and it’s not just a simple story about a hobbit.)

 

4. Read across genres.

Today, we compartmentalize books into “genre” categories: science-fiction, literary fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery and children’s books. These are publishing categories designed for effective marketing — they have nothing to do with the value or the meaning that is found between the covers. Would you let some junior marketing flunky tell you what to read? I didn’t think so. So don’t allow yourself to be constrained into one genre or type of reading. If you’re reading all science-fiction, read some romance. If you’re reading all literary fiction, read some fantasy. If you’re reading all fantasy, then go read some crime novels. If you only read romance, read a horror novel. It will be challenging to read outside your chosen genre, and you might not like it at first. That’s kind of the point. Find works that help you grow as a reader and expose you to new ways of storytelling. Again, these are arbitrary categories, and any great work will end up not categorized in the minds of readers like you.

 

5. Challenge yourself.

Read books that are classics, that do not fit into your typical modern marketing genres. Read a book by Dickens (I recommend A Tale of Two Cities). Read poetry by John Milton (Paradise Lost). Read Dante. Read some Chaucer. Read Rudyard Kipling (Kim is a great read). Read Plato (his work is surprisingly readable, even now!). Read Louisa May Alcott. Read George Eliot or Jane Austen. The reason to read these classic writers is that their vocabulary and perspective will open your eyes to new possibilities. Reading older works will also teach you that human beings speak to each other across centuries, and the same questions recur, time and again. I have a friend who was saved from suicide by reading a philosopher… who wrote in the 1500s. Writing always communicates, across time, across space, and across different experiences.

 

6. Keep challenging yourself.


Read writers that are not of your race or gender. Read Langston Hughes, Maxine Hong Kingston, Octavia Butler, and Salman Rushdie. Read Radclyffe Hall. Read Samuel R. Delaney. Read William Burroughs. Read Sandra Cisneros. Read Katie Kitamura. Read Justin Chin. Read Min Jin Lee. Read Christine Hyung-Oak Lee. Read Nicola Griffith. Read Junot Díaz. Reading these writers teaches you about the human experience, and that it might be broader, richer and deeper than your experience (or my shallow pool of recommendations). If you are in a reading rut, and are only recalling plot, you’re reading at a low level, and reading writers who challenge cultural and gender assumptions can break you out of that mindset.

 

7. Engage with other readers.

Find a book group or book discussion group at a bookstore or other local venue. Read a book together, and understand that other people have different perspectives on the same books that you’ve read. Their perspectives will enrich your reading.

 

8. Write

Try your hand at a short story or poem. Even if you’re terrible – especially if you are terrible –this activity will help you understand some of the decisions that go into crafting a piece of prose or poetry. You can begin to see the skeleton underneath the flesh of the words.

 

9. Read critics.

Read what other people have to say about contemporary writing. By doing this, you are entering a decades long (sometimes centuries long) conversation about a piece of writing, a book series, or the intentions of a writer.

 

10. Write your own thoughts down and share them.

If you are brave, you can even add your own voice to this critical conversation. Keep in mind that reading a book critic and engaging with them is to be one yourself, so your opinion should be factually supported, and should be substantive. Be willing to engage thoughtfully with people who disagree with you. Find a rationale for your ideas. Most online argumentation today is shallow raw opinion without deep thinking. Most people who write seriously about books do the opposite: they go deep and look for meaningful interactions with big ideas. Be worthy of this conversation.

 

 


A literary update from NedNote.com
Readers can find my books at these bookstores:

Amazon bookstore Barnes & Noble Indie Bookstores

 

 

Source: http://nednote.com/reading

Bookstores: Kepler’s Books

Keplers Books

 

Read my books at Kepler’s

 

 

Kepler’s bookstore has been part of my life for many decades. The first place my family lived when we moved from Taiwan to the United States in the early 1980s was Sunnyvale California. I am sure that my mother, as an avid reader, visited Kepler’s bookstore in Palo Alto with me in tow. But although I was in fourth or fifth grade, I have no memory of visiting Kepler’s at that time. Instead, my first memories of visiting Kepler’s are on post-college road trips from Washington State to California, when we made regular pitstops in Silicon Valley, stayed with friends or family in the area for a night or two, and visited Kepler’s on the way.

 

Why visit Kepler’s? Because it was the best and richest book experience in the south San Francisco area – a book refuge in the middle of the intellectually barren software and hardware technology companies. For over 60 years, Kepler’s has been a major intellectual and cultural hub for the Peninsula. On my peripatetic travels through northern California, I always made a point of stopping at Kepler’s.

 

Keplers BooksOne particularly significant stop was in 1993, when I did a solo 1500 mile bicycle traverse of the West Coast, from southern California to northern Washington — all the riding time completed in 12 days flat (on some days, I topped 200 miles pedaled!). The days on which I wasn’t riding were spent with family or friends in California, Oregon and Washington. And at my favorite haunts, including restaurants I enjoyed and beautiful bookstores I knew and loved on the West Coast.

 

On one particularly memorable hot August day, I bicycled over the Diablo mountain range from the Merced area, and down the other side into San Jose and then on to Palo Alto Valley, where I stayed overnight with a cousin who was in graduate student housing at Stanford University. The next day I peddled over to Kepler’s to pay my allegiance to the best bookstore in the region. In my sweat-stained biking togs I must’ve been an interesting sight, but I still walked out with at least one hardcover (Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe, as I remember) that I put in my bicycle panniers and subsequently toted with me all the way to Seattle Washington. The book made for some great evening reading by my campfire.

 

Keplers Books

Even though I’d been a fan and a regular for many years, I didn’t know the storied history of the bookstore until quite recently. Here’s a brief version — Kepler’s Books was founded in Menlo Park in May 1955 by peace activist Roy Kepler. Along with Cody’s in Berkeley and City Lights in San Francisco, Kepler’s led the paperback revolution in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 50’s and 60’s. According to their website, Kepler’s “soon blossomed into a cultural epicenter, attracting a loyal following among Beat intellectuals, pacifists, students and faculty of Stanford University, and other members of the surrounding communities, interested in serious books and ideas.” In fact, the Grateful Dead performed at Kepler’s early in their career, and they, along with folk singer Joan Baez, often appeared at Kepler’s holding impromptu salons with local community leaders to discuss ideas, political action, and music.

 

Keplers BooksAfter the 60s were over, Kepler’s continued with a new generation. In 1980, Roy’s son, Clark Kepler, took over the management of the bookstore. In 1989, Kepler’s moved to its current location in the Menlo Center on El Camino Real. Under Clark’s leadership, Kepler’s expanded its role in the community, developing new partnerships and programs, and winning multiple awards nationally and locally. In 1990 Publishers Weekly named Kepler’s “Bookseller of the Year.”

 

As the technology revolution swept across the country and changed how people buy things, the bottom line dropped out of Kepler’sbookselling business. Amazon had taken a significant bite out of the paperback market. (Oddly enough in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity for a job in the early days of Amazon.com, but I didn’t pursue it because I felt it would take time away from writing novels. I was right on the novel writing front, but wrong on the potential positive impact that an early role as a booksite editor at Amazon would’ve had on my life.) In any case, the advent of Amazon and the box big sellers such as Barnes and Noble had a massive negative impact on small bookseller such as Kepler’s.

 

Keplers FoundationIn 2006, Kepler’s announced it was closing -– the only independent bookseller in the greater Silicon Valley region now dead. Fortunately, there was a massive outcry of protest from the literary public. People knew that they needed a bookstore in Silicon Valley.

 

Thus, the Kepler’s Literary Foundation was born, and Kepler’s bookstore resurrected! A new organization — the Kepler’s Literary Foundation — was formed to create events, readings, and additional experiences associated with literate culture, and keep the Kepler’s experience alive for future generations.

 

In the last 2000s, I was fortunate to visit the re-vivified Kepler’s bookstore on a nearly weekly basis for a few years. For many years, I’ve worked for large technology companies who have bases of operation in Silicon Valley, from Adobe to Microsoft to Xerox PARC and Intel. Between 2007-2012, I worked variously as the CEO of a small technology company funded in part by investors in Silicon Valley and as a principal product lead for an R&D team at Xerox PARC, located in Palo Alto, (more on my interesting tech career here).

 

When I worked in Palo Alto, I commuted down from my home in Washington state on a weekly basis (my “super commute” was even covered in the Seattle Times). While I was on the road to Palo Alto every week, I made a regular habit of stopping at Kepler’s bookstore to attend author readings, buy books, and check on what new releases piqued my interest. Eventually, my work at Xerox PARC ended and I sold off my interest in the Valley-funded tech company.

 

But now, as a senior manager at Intel — whose headquarters are in Santa Clara — I have fresh excuses to check in at Kepler’s on a nearly monthly basis (Intel, after all, is kind enough to provide a free air shuttle to all employees for trips to the Valley, and I supervise several team members who are based in the Santa Clara office). So Kepler’s bookstore is once again a big part of my life.

 

I stopped at Kepler’s most recently a few months ago, to organize a reading near to where many of my friends work in Santa Clara and Palo Alto. I ran into the the wonderful poet Charif Shanahan — we share a publisher and have co-presented at readings before — and it was lovely to catch up with Charif in person. I’m also currently a student at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, so I have more reason to be in Silicon Valley, and I’m hoping to do a reading at Kepler’s soon. Along with the rest of the reading community in the Silicon Valley region, I am excited to see where the Kepler’s Foundation takes the future of this important bookstore.

 

Kepler’s Books is one of my literary touchstones, and I’m happy to share that bookstore experience with my readers! Enjoy!

 

Find my books at Kepler’sKeplers Books 

 

 


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On Writing: What We Talk About When We Talk About Genre

GenresIn grad school for English literature (the first time around), I had a professor who had written an entire book on genre. Not “genre” as we typically think of it — that silly label for writing that isn’t characterized as high-art “literature” (like science-fiction and fantasy). She was instead writing about the technical definition of “genre” itself, which means the characteristics of a work that can associate any work with other works of writing. At the time, I thought this was absurd — to write an entire book about the very idea of “genre” itself. But now that I’ve been writing novels for nearly 20 years, I see what an important topic this idea of “genre” is, and why it matters to the working writer.

As I discuss my work-in-progress with other writers and interested readers, the more I realize what a crucial role knowledge of a genre plays in a writer’s mind. Before I go further in this conversation, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about when we talk about genre.

 

The genre of any work of fiction is the basic underlying form or function that the work fulfills: genre defines the rules of the game. If you’re playing chess, you’re going to do fundamentally different things than if you’re playing basketball or baseball. I need to know what game I’m playing in order to play the game at all — much less to play it well. Genre defines the basic rules of the game for any piece of writing.

 

Some simple examples are the differences between poetry and prose, or the differences between a mystery and a romance. For example, a piece of work that is rhymed, published in short stanzas and concerns itself with metaphorical description over straightforward storytelling is a poem, while the same set of words, re-arranged to be non-rhyming and telling a story that uses fewer metaphors to tell a straightforward story with a recognizable beginning, middle and end is called a prose story.

 

By the same token, if you’re writing a romance novel, you’re going to do fundamentally different things than if you’re writing a mystery novel or a literary novel. None of these things are bad things to write: yet all of them carry specific rules with them that constrain what you can do, how you can do it, and how far you can go with your work.

The WitnessThings get more complicated, as you move between one type of poem or story and another. Is a mystery novel with romance primarily a mystery or a romance? J.D. Robb is a mastery at combining genres: so is her novel The Witness a romance or a mystery? By the same token, is a fast-moving action novel with horrific scenes in it primarily a thriller or a horror novel?

The distinction can be found in what predominates in a manuscript or story. If the romance is the preeminent element of a story, it’s a romance, regardless of other elements that are interpolated throughout the story. By the same token, if the psychological and visceral elements that make a good horror novel resonate in the reader are the predominant elements, then a book is a horror novel regardless of what else is happening in the book.

 

What do we talk about when we talk about genre? To start with, unless we understand the genre we’re working within, we miscommunicate. If I’m trying to write a children’s fantasy book, there are constraints and rules around this genre. If I’m trying to write a mystery, there are also rules. You can play with the rules, and even violate the rules, but you must notify the reader that you’re intentionally doing so, or you look like just a dumb writer who can’t play the game very well.

 

The Eagle TreeNow what’s really interesting about genre is that you can play within a genre, but most readers won’t even realize you’re working with that genre on a conscious level. Yet because you’re fulfilling the requirements of the genre, they’re still satisfied by how you’ve built the story. I’d argue, for example, that my novel The Eagle Tree is a romance. The way it is a romance is that the entire story focuses on one person (March Wong’s) love for and obsession with a tree. The romance is between a boy and a tree. Within the romance convention, a writer starts with the love interest early in the story (I begin this romance on page 1) and then most of the novel is concerned with the obstacles that emerge between the two lovers, to separate them (this is also true of The Eagle Tree). But the idea of critical importance in romance — the thing that make a romance a romance — is that there must be consummation. The lovers must finally come together in some meaningful way. And I also carefully adhered to this genre convention — (spoiler!) — as my main character manages to climb the tree he loves by the end of the book. If I’d broken the romance rules in this novel, my readers might have felt cheated, even if they did not consciously realize they were reading a romance.

 

 Tim Power’s grand and world-spanning novel DECLARE is a great example of a true master combining genres. In DECLARE, Powers combines elements of an espionage-driven spy thriller with fantasy. The book is both a spy thriller and a horrific, sorcerous story of magical hijinks that reach across a century of secret warfare.

Yet at the core, this interesting novel doesn’t work unless it is fulfilling all the rules of the spy thriller. A secret mission needs to be fulfilled. espionage action needs to take place, action needs to include uncovering and/or killing enemy agents, there need to be compartmentalized cells that fight against each other: and in the end, all the action needs to have world-shaking consequences for the secret agency that is funding their activities. And in the modern age of John Le Carre novels, the entire aura has to be one of moral ambiguity and ethical gray zones. All these things happen in DECLARE, and this solid fulfillment of genre expectations are fundamentally why DECLARE is so successful as a novel.

 

Wilderness of Mirrors

The sorcery is secondary. DECLARE needs to be tightly adhering to a single genre before Powers can interpolate other elements on top of that primary genre structure. (I’ve learned this truth to my chagrin in attempting to undertaken a similar type of magic trick in my forthcoming novel Wilderness of Mirrors.)

 

A recent writerly conversation brought this question of genre to the forefront, when I realized that the writer I was talking to was fundamentally unfamiliar with the genre I was writing in, and therefore was suggesting elements that didn’t fit the genre at all. (As a side note, this is part of why writers must be readers first and foremost — you’ve got to know your genre intimately to understand how the rules work and how to play within and around those rules.)

If someone thinks I’m trying to write in the genre of “literary fiction” (which is a weird little sub-genre that fundamentally doesn’t sell very well, but has a lot of prestige), when I’m really trying to write a straightforward noir mystery, then our discussion of what the novel should be will proceed upon mutually exclusive, mutually misunderstood tracks. A “literary” novel is not a “noir mystery” novel: the two can share many elements, but they are not precisely the same thing in all aspects. And this is the interesting problem with writing fiction — you have to be aware of the rules and the overlaps in order to play the game well. If you are playing on the tune of one genre, and you slip in a beat or a chord from another genre, that’s very cool — but only if you clearly know what you’re doing. If it feels at all happenstance or slipshod to the reader, then the reader feels cheated and uncertain. The reader stops trusting the writer, and at that point, all is lost.

 

However, when a writer masterfully fulfills the conventions of a genre, readers find the book satisfying. If a writer knows the conventions, demonstrates that they know how to play by the rules and then tweak and violate the rules with a full wink at the reader, then readers find the book joyous. Finally, when a writer knows the conventions, plays within those conventions, and stretches the conventions by adding their own flourishes that expand — but do not violate — the genre conventions, then readers find the book utterly enthralling. And this is the ultimate goal every writer strives to achieve.

 


A literary update from NedNote.com
Readers can find my books at these bookstores:

Amazon bookstore Barnes & Noble Indie Bookstores

 

 

Source: http://nednote.com/on-writing-genre

The Eagle Tree: BookBub Feature

 
“A must-read” (New York Times bestselling author Steve Silberman): March, a teenager with autism, is determined to save his beloved Eagle Tree from the axe. But his mission might be riskier than he ever imagined… A moving novel with over 1,100 five-star ratings on Goodreads.
 

Publisher Description

Fourteen-year-old March Wong knows everything there is to know about trees. They are his passion and his obsession, even after his recent falls—and despite the state’s threat to take him away from his mother if she can’t keep him from getting hurt. But the young autistic boy cannot resist the captivating pull of the Pacific Northwest’s lush forests just outside his back door.

One day, March is devastated to learn that the Eagle Tree—a monolithic Ponderosa Pine near his home in Olympia—is slated to be cut down by developers. Now, he will do anything in his power to save this beloved tree, including enlisting unlikely support from relatives, classmates, and even his bitter neighbor. In taking a stand, March will come face-to-face with some frightening possibilities: Even if he manages to save the Eagle Tree, is he risking himself and his mother to do it?

Intertwining themes of humanity and ecology, The Eagle Tree eloquently explores what it means to be part of a family, a society, and the natural world that surrounds and connects us.

Bookbub Deal Here >>

Bookstores: Vroman’s in Pasadena

Read at Vroman’s Bookstore

 

 

Vroman's

After living overseas for many years, one of my earliest memories of an American bookstore was in the 1980s, when I first walked into Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena California. The store was a revelation to me — a clean well-lighted place where books were arranged like jewels on shelves, well-read attendants who seemed like upscale librarian/sorcerers to my wondering eyes, and — best of all — a children’s reading section that had all of my favorites readily accessible in untouched hardcover editions. I’d never seen such a magical place where everyone knew how important books were in my life, and uttered their admiration for the same books in quiet loving tones. Vroman’s is southern California’s oldest and largest bookstore, but all I knew at that time was that I had landed in heaven.

 

In many regards, I grew up as a reader at Vroman’s. I found succor in their shelves and wonder in their book recommendations. In later years, as I frequented second-hand bookstores and went deep into academic tomes, I continued to come back to Vroman’s to continue to relish the experience of books as a pleasure, not a burden or a learning.

 

The characteristic that is often forgotten in the modern debate over how one buys books — or even what format one reads in — is the fact that the act of being a reader automatically invites you into a community of readers, and bookstores that embrace that reality and further that community become focal points for the reading community. It’s not just about buying books, but about building community.

 

Vroman’s has never forgotten that truth. In later years, after college, when I moved back to California and began teaching kids on the spectrum (and began thinking about writing my novel The Eagle Tree), I recommended the Vroman’s experience to my students, and it was exciting to see early readers share that singular early experience of walking into the same bookstore I’d loved and experiencing heaven all over again.

 

In a deeper way, I also came to appreciate Vroman’s nurturance of the bookish community, as I participated in reading groups at the bookstore, and met other readers in my community. I was now finding my reading companions as an adult, again, thanks to Vroman’s gentle guidance. I particularly remember a reading group discussion of a new book by my favorite poet — Mark Strand. Vroman’s book club meeting about Dark Harbor provoked a deep and thoughtful discussion.

 


I also enjoyed the many literary readings at Vroman’s, and I was excited to see that recently Vroman’s began to embrace indie bestselling authors as well, like my friend (and fellow medieval writer) Kathryn Le Veque whose readings and signings have been stellar successes. Kudos to Vroman’s for embracing the future of author-led publishing!

 

Vroman’s has a storied history. The original bookstore was founded in 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman. Born in 1856 in La Salle, Illinois, Mr. Vroman moved to Pasadena, California in the late 1800s. Mr. Vroman loved books and loved giving back to his community. He helped to rescue some of the old Franciscan missions from decay, helped establish the Southwest Museum (now part of the Autry Museum), and he was a great supporter of the Pasadena Public Library. When Mr. Vroman died in 1916, he left the bookstore to longtime employees, one of whom was the great grandfather of the current owner.

 

Vroman’s Bookstore holds an important place in Southern California’s history. For many years, Vroman’s was the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi, and it continues to be the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California. During World War II, Vroman’s donated and delivered books to Japanese Americans interned at nearby camps, returning on several occasions despite being fired upon by camp guards!

 

Now that I have lived far away from California for many years, I still look back on my early experience at Vroman’s with fondness and with a bookish nostalgia. Bookstores in my mind are always mentally judged against that early Vroman’sexperience. Today, it gives me great pleasure to know that you can find my books on Vroman’s shelves.

If you’re in southern California for the Rose Parade, visiting Disneyland or for any other reason, I’d encourage you to enjoy Vroman’s multiple locations. Through the years, Vroman’s has continued to be an independently owned family business, now consisting of two Vroman’s locations, and two Vroman’s boutiques located at LAX airport. Of course, all their books are also available online at Vroman’s as well.

Vroman’s Bookstore is one of my literary touchstones, and I’m happy to share that bookstore experience with readers like you! Enjoy!

 


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In Search of Doors: V.E. Schwab

A simply marvelous Tolkien Lecture by the wonderful writer Victoria Schwab.

 

Schwab speaks of J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Susanne Clarke and so many more writers who have my world astonishing, more hopeful and yes, stranger as well. I truly enjoyed every moment of this thoughtful, insightful, challenging and evocative talk by a writer I admire and enjoy. I hope you enjoy too!

 

And here is a list of the books by her that I have enjoyed the most:

 


THE VILLAINS SERIES

Superpowers don’t make you a superhero.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates―brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. But when they discover a connection between near-death experiences and supernatural abilities, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find―aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, and driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge―but who will be left alive at the end?

 

 

 

 

Coming this September, the super-powered sequel…a woman who can turn her enemies to ash. A girl without a face. And of course, Victor Vale is back…

 

 

 

 


THE CASSIDY BLAKE SERIES

 

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.

When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself.

And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

 

 


THE MONSTERS OF VERITY SERIES

In a world where violence breeds monsters, there’s no such thing as safe.

 

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be.

When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

 

 

 


THE SHADES OF MAGIC SERIES

Magic, mayhem, and multiple Londons.

 

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Officially he serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador. Unofficially he’s a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

 

 

 

 


Four months have passed since the events of Darker Shade. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games-an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries-a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port. But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned—meaning that another London must fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire. Who will crumble? Who will rise? And who will take control?

 

 


THE ARCHIVED SERIES

Imagine a world where the dead are shelved like books.

 

 

 

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Mackenzie is Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive. Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

 

 

 

 

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

 

 

 

Source: http://nednote.com/in-search-of-doors-v-e-schwab

Bookstores: Browsers Bookstore in Olympia

Browsers

 

Read at Browsers Bookshop

When I moved to Olympia Washington in 2003, I had no idea that this was the town in which my bestselling novel The Eagle Tree would be set, and I had no idea that I’d gradually fall in love with this city, establish an arts magazine that extolled the wonders of the local arts scene, and find such a supportive community of fellow artists, writers and creative souls here. Back then, the city was a little funky, still dealing with the hangover of being America’s first “grunge” capital (birthplace of Nirvana, K-Records, and Riot Grrrl), and the recent shut-down of its namesake brewery.

 

One of the funky experiences was a little downtrodden used bookstore on the edge of downtown. Browsers Bookstore had been there since 1935, but in recent years the cover had been worn, the spine split, a few pages were missing and there were dust on the shelves. I loved it.

 

Here in this little used bookstore, I could find a nearly-forgotten old academic tome on Milton, an acid-stained leftover Hunter S. Thompson from the 1960s and a cheap Stephen King or Tim Powers paperback. You had to be willing to brave the netherlands of used bookstore back-shelves, but if you dug deep enough, you could make serendipitous discoveries.

 

In the mid-2000s, I left Olympia for a few years for a graduate fellowship, and just a few short years after my family and I returned, Browsers had a bit of a resurrection. A wonderful new owner — Andrea Griffith — had taken ownership of the bookstore. She had big plans!

 

Over a two year period, Andrea gradually transformed the bookstore into a shining jewel — a pocket bookstore where a revitalized and fully used upstairs buzzed with the sound of book discussion groups and writer confabs, while downstairs freshly organized shelves groaned under the weight of face-out new editions, featured new releases and special introductions to local authors and literary luminaries. Andrea proved to have extraordinarily well-refined taste in books, and her picks meet readers right where they need a literary jolt. Now Browsers Bookshop wasn’t just about used books and unexpected finds, but instead showcased the best of brand-new Northwest reading alongside the pick of world fiction and non-fiction.

 

BrowsersBrowsers has a wonderful history, and it’s lovely to see Andrea build on that history. Browsers Bookshop has been in downtown Olympia for 80 years. In that 80 years, four different women have owned the store. Browsers originally began in Aberdeen in 1935 as Anna Blom’s Book Shop. Anna was a Russian Jewish immigrant, born in 1884. She was self-educated, well-read and intelligent. After she divorced and with two young children, she relocated her bookstore to Olympia on the advice of the Washington Supreme Court Judge Walter Beals, who thought Olympia might better support a bookshop during the Depression.

 

According to Browsers‘ website and conversation with Andrea, Anna Blom’s Bookshop was first located on east Fourth Avenue, about three blocks east of Capitol Way. In 1968, Anna sold her shop to Ilene Yates, a former schoolteacher who changed the name of the shop to Browsers and eventually bought the building where Browsers is now, 107 Capitol Way. The building was for many years a tavern and needed quite a lot of work in order to make the transition from bar to bookstore. Only the front half of the shop was used and when Jenifer Stewart, one of Ilene’s employees, bought the shop in 1985, she worked to renovate the back half to also house books. Jenifer raised her two daughters while running the shop for nearly 30 years. Andrea Griffith took over in late 2014. As Andrea writes, “Browsers continues on, providing just the right book to just the right reader.”

 

BrowsersIn 2016, I was so excited to partner with Andrea to host my very first launch event for The Eagle Tree, which featured actors and readers like Amy Shepherd, who has been seen on stage at Harlequin Productions, Olympia Family Theater and the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts and Clarke Hallum, recently seen as “Wilbur” in Olympia Family Theater’s production of Charlotte’s Web and known for his starring role in A Christmas Story at 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. The event also was the first big author reading for the revitalized and re-born Browser’s Bookshop in Olympia. I’m happy to report that there was standing-room only at the event.

 

Subsequently, many other authors and readers have been fortunate to experience Browser’s Bookshop warm hospitality and welcoming audiences, including such literary luminaries as Nancy Pearl, Maria Mudd Ruth, Jim Lynch and Nikki McClure.

 

Browser’s Bookshop is now truly one of the best bookstores on the West Coast. I’m excited to feature Andrea’s beautiful place as the first in a new ongoing series about my favorite bookish places.

 

Browser’s Bookshop is one of my literary touchstones, and I’m happy to share that bookstore experience with my readers! Enjoy!

 

Find my books at Browsers


 


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Bookstores: The Strand in New York City

In 2018, I’m writing a short series of posts on bookstores I know and love. The series was due to begin in early February, and I’ve already written love letters (not yet published) to many of the bookstores I love, and told you exactly why you should visit so many of these lovely bookish communities.

 

However, I decided to begin my Bookstore Series earlier than I expected, when I read the obituary for a legend of the bookselling trade whom I have met and whose bookstore I enjoyed.

 

Strand Books in New York City is a legend for people who love bookstores, and I had the pleasure of visiting the Strand nearly every time I went to New York and even spending time chatting with the inimitable Fred Bass, who is featured in this wonderful obit in this week’s New York Times. To be clear, I got to know Mr. Bass only perfunctorily, by way of asking about books and talking about books. But as we both enjoyed the conversation. There are few people who seemed to have so much interest in knowing the exact catalog of over “18 miles of books,” so I’ll miss him and his bookish knowledge tremendously.

 

Strand Books in 1938 (Photo via Strand)

 

Strand Books began in the 1930s, in a district long known for books. Back in the early 1900s, an entire book district covered Fourth Avenue from from Union Square to Astor Place. Fred began working for his father in this bookselling district back when he was 13 years old in 1928. Back then, many bookstores in bookseller’s row had particular specialties and antiquarian interests and Strand Books was only one among many. Yet Fred persevered. (Remind me to set a librarian-magician story in NYC’s classic bookstore district!)

 

Strand Books eventually moved to Broadway and began expanding under Fred Bass’s leadership in 1956. Now at Broadway on 12th Street, Strand Books took over half the ground floor of what had been a clothing store. Eventually, Strand Books took over three floors of the building and eventually added an antiquarian books department. By the late 1960s, Strand Books was the only surviving bookstore from old bookstore row in New York city.

 

He loved buying books. “It’s a disease,” he told New York magazine in 1977. “I get an attack, something like a panic, of book-buying. I simply must keep fresh used books flowing over my shelves.”

 

Fred Bass in the 1970s (Photo via Strand)

As the New York Times article points out, Fred Bass nearly single-handedly grew Strand Books into the renowed giant of bookstores it is today. The Times notes that the 70,000 books in the Fourth Avenue store swelled, at the Broadway site, to half a million by the mid-1960s and 2.5 million by the 1990s, requiring the purchase of a storage warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. By the time Mr. Bass bought the building for $8.2 million in 1997, the Strand had become the largest used bookstore in the world.

 

Now that’s an accomplishment! Wow!


The largest used bookstore in the world.

 

As the Times notes, Mr. Bass was perhaps most famous for creating a literary quiz for prospective Strand employees to take when filling out their applications. “I thought it was a quick way to find if somebody had any knowledge of books,” he told the Times. Applicants had to match 10 authors with 10 titles, and maneuver around one trick question, in an exercise that became a cherished bit of New York lore.

 

Credit: George Etheredge, New York Times

 

(Here are more details on the Strand Books quiz)

 

And in the mid-1990s, I met Mr. Bass himself. As always, he stood behind the counter — sometimes when I saw him he was perched on a high stool, like a king overlooking his bookish palace. He looked like a bartender of books; I almost expected him to slide a bookmark across the table to me, and say in his oddly kind New York accent “What’ll you have today? What’ll take the edge off?”

 

Credit: Tony Cenicola, New York Times

Yes, Fred was a pusher of books, and he got me to spend hundreds of dollars on books at the Strand over the years. “I got the dust in my blood and I never got it out,” he told McCandlish Phillips, author of City Notebook: A Reporter’s Portrait of a Vanishing New York.

 

Now you can find Strand Books everywhere around New York City. Besides the main bookstore on Broadway and 12th, you can also find satellite Strands in kiosks outside the entrance to Central Park on Fifth Avenue at Grand Army Plaza and downtown in the South Street Seaport. You can also find Strand Books in a smaller Flatiron district location. Finally, just last year Strand Books opened a summer-season kiosk in Times Square. You can even watch a Video Tour of Strand Books right here.

 

Strand Books is one of my literary touchstones, and I’m happy to share that bookstore experience with my readers! Enjoy!

 

Find my books at The Strand

 

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On Writing: Where And How I Write

I read something today that really surprised me. The brilliant Kris Rusch wrote that some writers cannot write on planes. This surprised me, because I’ve never been one of those writers who just writes in a certain location or a certain environment. Sure, it’s tempting to be one of those “special snowflake” writers, but I wouldn’t get near enough writing done if I chose that route.

 

Out of that thought, I thought I’d chart my own route. I thought I’d make a small list of the places and times I’ve written, just for my own amusement. 

 

Here’s the List of how I write:

 

  • Writing via different mediums (I write in notebooks, by hand, in pen and pencil. My most recent complete novel was hand-written before being typed in. I also write on various software products on Windows laptops, Mac laptops, and via audio-dictation on my phone and tablets. I’m not religious about what tools I use, but I am religious about writing every day.)
  • Writing with different instruments (I’ve written whole notebooks that are full of a scribbled mass of fiction composed with ballpoint pens, fountain pens, pencils, felt-tip pens and even a few crayon paragraphs when I couldn’t find a working pen. I’ve composed on torn scraps of paper, newspaper margins, magazines, the backs of old books, and even on restaurant napkins — oh, and occasionally, I buy a fresh clean notebook for this purpose. Typically the cheapest available.)
  •  
    • I met a writer who actually would not write unless they had their special leather-covered notebook and a fountain pen. I was wholly under-whelmed: I mean, how do you get any writing done, if you need special equipment? It’s not like rock-climbing. No one will die if you write with a pencil, my friend.
  • Writing around the clock (I’ve written at all the following times: 7-10 a.m., lunch time 11:30-1 pm, afternoon 3-6 pm, thru dinner 6-8 pm, after dinner and bedtime writing 8 pm – 12 am, late night writing 12-3 a.m., early morning writing, 4:30 am-7 am. The longest I’ve ever written one one stretch of 16 hours. The shortest is about 10 minutes at a concert once.)
  • Writing in different postures (I’ve written while standing up, while sitting at my desk, while lying down. I wrote a thought down once while riding a bicycle, but I’ve never managed to write while running.)
  • Writing at different furniture (I often write at my jerry-rigged standing desk in my home office. But I have also written sitting down in my chair, and at my kitchen counter, on the couch while hanging out with my children, in the backyard on the lawn, beside the pool at a pool party, and on top of a wine barrel at a crowded party full of people.)
  • Writing while driving (When I drive, I write 99% thru audio-dictation on a hands-free headphone/microphone, and just recently I crossed the 20K line written by audio-dictation to my phone. Only occasionally, have i hand-written a quick thought by hand on paper while driving)
  • Writing every day of the week (Yes, I’ve written Mon-Fri and Sat and Sun. I’ve written during work days, and right thru a vacation (finished a book on vacation)
  • Writing at Home (I’ve written in every room in my house, including the kitchen and the bathroom.)
  • Writing at Work (before meetings, after meetings, early morning and late afternoon. Every now and then at lunch, and only occasionally, during a meeting, when a thought occurs to me. I respect my work hours and I get a lot done at work… but it is interesting that in just a 15 minute break, I can crank in 500 words, if I have a good idea. I love my work at Intel… and it’s a great motivator for me, so I’m energized when I get to my writing after work each day.)
    • Past jobs: Once I knew I was going to get laid off at a company, so I started just writing at work until the call to the manager’s office came. I thought it would be 3 days of limbo, but they waited 3 weeks “because I looked so productive.” So I ended up finishing writing the book at that job!
  • Writing on other transport (I’ve written on my laptop and in my notebooks on public buses, public trains, small shuttle planes, large 747 planes, on small transports and as a passenger in cars.
  • Writing while waiting (I relish getting way-laid by a delayed flight in an airport or while sitting on an airplane, because it’s almost like I can step out of time, and have a dedicated hour or two to write. I love sitting on a plane, stuck there with nothing but a notebook, a pen OR a laptop. I can get a couple hours of writing in while everyone is whining around me. It’s heaven to know that no one can bother me: I’m stuck outside of time, able to do nothing but write.)

An ideal day is when I get writing in. It doesn’t matter if I have a two hour commute by car (I can write by audio dictation), or if I’m stuck in an airport (yay, time out just to write!), or if I’m at home (I can wake up early and write in peace and quiet in my home office before work or Saturday chores).

 

I don’t care where I am: I can write.

 


A literary update from NedNote.com
Readers can find my books at these bookstores:

 

 

Amazon bookstore Barnes & Noble Indie Bookstores

 

 

 

 

Source: http://nednote.com/writingstyle

How to Get a Signed, Personalized Copy of Any of My Books, Shipped Anywhere in the World!

The wonderful owner of my local bookstore Browsers Bookstore (Andrea Griffith) here in Olympia, Washington has volunteered to fill orders for signed, personalized editions of my novels for the holidays. I get down to Browsers at least once a week, so I’ll drop in regularly between now and Christmas to sign and personalize book orders you place with Browsers for The Eagle TreeSinful Folk or other books. Books make fabulous gifts, and Browsers can ship anywhere!

 

Here’s the page on Browsers’ website.


To order a signed personalized book, call Andrea at
1-360-357-7462 or email her at andrea@browsersolympia.com

 

(Fun Fact: my first reading for The Eagle Tree was at Browsers back in spring 2016!)

 

THE EAGLE TREE
Ned Hayes

Source: http://nednote.com/how-to-get-a-signed-personalized-copy-of-any-of-my-books-shipped-anywhere-in-the-world

Exciting to see the new Chinese edition of THE EAGLE TREE now available:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Eagle-Tree-Chinese-Ned-Hayes/dp/7550294828/

Poem for Rosh Hashanah

NEW YEAR.
poem by Ned Hayes

 

Rosh Hashanah comes
    this year
on a day of cool wind,

 

a breathtaking
portent of winter

 

taking the world, rude lover
   tossing
the sheets away.

 

in autumn
the sadness of all things

 

is greatest
   for now
the world was created.

 

the new fruit, shot through
with decay:

 

birthed in the same
   moment,
the racing seed
   and the worm.

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