My latest publishing project – Tarotmoon Press

You’ve probably all seen it by now, but just in case… :) this is what has been keeping me too busy to blog lately: Tarotmoon Press. Tarotmoon Press is an experiment in self-publishing, like freeware for tarot and astrology books, course materials, and other writings. I’ve enjoyed working with Llewellyn in publishing past books, but I got interested in having a creative-commons type website for all kinds of writings astrology and tarot-related, including articles and resources for tarot readers, original spreads, course materials, and books in progress. Many of these have never been published on my website and I will be uploading them over the next couple of months. I’ll be sending updates through an RSS feed if you feel like subscribing, along with blogging more about tarot. This is part of a transition in progress away from doing online readings and toward doing more teaching, writing, and other online activities. Hopefully it will encourage me to finish that book that’s almost done, and keep making more steady writing progress. I just added a really fun 10-week online set of course materials we used one year to study the four elements in life and tarot – one of the most rewarding classes I ever taught.

100 Book meme

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your journal. Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

1 Pride and Prejudice – x
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – x
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – x
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – x
6 The Bible – x
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell – x
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman – x
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens -x

10/10

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott – x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller – x
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – x
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – x
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger -x
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger – x
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot – x

18/20

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell – x
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens – x
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – x
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – x
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – x
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – x
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

25/30

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – x
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens – x
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – x
34 Emma – Jane Austen – x
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen – x
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis – x
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – x
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – x

33/40

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell – x
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown – x
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – x
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – x
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding – x
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan – x

39/50

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert – x
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – x
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – x
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – x

43/60

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov – x
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – x
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas – x
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac – x
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

47/70

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens – x
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker – x
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – x
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante – x
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray – x
80 Possession – AS Byatt – x

53/80

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – x
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker – x
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro – x
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert – x
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White – x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – x
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

59/90

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad – x
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery – x
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams – x
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare – x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – x
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo – x

65/100~! So much for the BBC :) But now I have a new list of interesting books to look up.

That travel bug

I’ve been reading Eat, Pray, Love … finally. Probably everyone else has read it already, but it was given to me a while ago by a friend and I just now got around to it. It might have been the “pray” part – I wasn’t sure what that meant. But I was immediately captivated by the author’s writing style, her ability to comment on and analyze herself, and her observations of other cultures. Even the praying part was acceptable and interesting!

Not to mention that her life story, as told in this book, is arguably very similar to my recent story, which is no doubt why my friend thought of it for me. I too had the divorce, the mad love affair, the bouts of depression and the ultimate need for independence and finding myself, perhaps recreating myself, out of the broken pieces. Not quite as dramatically (I hope) but then, she is a writer ;)

Reading it, though, definitely raised that old travel bug in me. And not just any travel bug, but the need to actually live in other cultures, be a real part of the place you’re visiting. She spends 4 months each in Italy, India, and Bali. I was relieved to read that Italy actually has changed toward female tourists since I was there last, public displays of groping, stalking, and otherwise excessive behavior no longer quite as intolerable as before. Maybe I’ll decide to visit now :)

The idea of just picking up, going to a new country, finding a place to live and staying there a while really appeals to me. After a while, choosing a new destination and living there for a while, all the while supporting myself with online work that has now grown to the point that I could easily support myself most of the places I would choose to visit. The ultimate fantasy would be to have someone to do this with, which would both increase the pleasure and decrease the cost. I’d probably do it either way, though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you have to live your life and not wait for the perfect set of circumstances.

It’s been so hot in my house recently, and working at home makes it doubly hard. I’ve been thinking about getting a heat pump. But always in the back of my mind there’s that thought that I really won’t be here long and shouldn’t make any more expensive renovations than I already have. I’ll stay as long as my grandfather is alive, that much is certain. And perhaps it would make sense to keep the house and rent it while I’m doing whatever I’m doing wherever in the world – that way I’ll have a place to come back to should I ever need it, or just want to rest from my travels. In which case, I should buy that heat pump. Besides, who knows what the future will bring. At least I’ll have a cool house!

A new way of writing

I’ve been writing blogs and participating in online discussion groups for so long, perhaps it’s only natural that I’m thinking about alternative ways of writing books (OK, the Kindle might have something to do with that, but only indirectly). My first two books were traditional books, written by me, sent to a publisher, who added illustrations and formatting, cover illustrations and title, and marketed and sold physical books. And owned the copyright.

Like most beginning authors, my part of the wholesale (not retail) value of each book sold was 10%. Think about that for a minute. Subtracted from that were returns, books that stores bought but didn’t sell, and were allowed to send back to the publisher. All told, a book that my readers might buy for $16, I might receive $1 in royalties. Not enough to live on, certainly, unless you’re a wildly popular author with a large potential audience.

Added to that is the almost more serious issue of not owning the rights to the material I created, not being able to use it online or in classes, not being able to publish it in another language, not being able to, well, give it away for free if I want to, however many years later. And if the publisher doesn’t keep it in print, then no-one has access to it. Even me.

So much has changed in the world that we now have other options. A previously published author can obtain an ISBN number and sell their books as e-books on Amazon.com or from their own website. A person can independently publish e-books or even real books through just-in-time small print run online publishers. Advances in desktop publishing software have certainly improved things for the graphically inclined to illustrate their own works.

The question is, how do you reach your audience? This is the true value-added of most publishers, mine included. There’s something to be said for that thrill of seeing your book pre-orderable on Amazon.com, or a hard copy at Borders, or Waldenbooks, or the local new age bookstore. Famous authors, like Steven King, can and have tried any experiment they want in e-publishing, including giving their material away for free and asking fans to donate what they think it’s worth. Of course, they’re famous; when they try something like that, it’s headline news (or at least blogger news).

Still, the accessibility and the economics are interesting. For one thing, it takes a year or two to get a book published the normal way, even once you’re done writing it (we won’t talk about how long THAT can take). And I could sell a book online for $4, make four times as much, and have my readers pay four times less, than through regular publishing. That ought to make up for at least some publicity issues. The internet is loaded with opportunities to publicize a new book, through online forums of interested user communities.

But what I’m really toying with is the idea of allowing the material to be downloaded like freeware – made freely available, with a request to donate to the author if the reader finds the material to be useful, interesting, enjoyable, or helps build their own business. This preserves the ethic I’ve always had about most of my writing, to make it freely available on my website to those who want to learn. At the same time, I believe people would place value on my work and donate what seems reasonable and affordable to them.

In this format, I could post chapters as they’re written, and people could subscribe to get the very latest. Entire books would be one thing, but a lot of other materials could be provided that way – extended essays, course materials from online classes, newly developed spreads, etc. This material could then be used by the reader in any way they saw fit – potentially contributing to their own online business, website, or classes, which would ideally make it even more valuable to them. A freeware-type copyright would be used, which expressly allows for all these uses, with appropriate attribution and website links.

What do you think of this experiment, potential readers (and downloaders)?

The cat and the Kindle

Recently, I posted about giving up books, and how the Kindle 2.0 was going to help me stay on the straight and narrow. So now I have it in my hot little hands, and have been showing it off incessantly to all my friends and colleagues :) It certainly does have many of the benefits I was expecting; I immediately subscribed to the Seattle Times and am now enjoying my daily newspaper being beamed to me while I sleep each night without any paper to recycle! I have really missed my newspaper, and the only disappointment I have on that score is that for some reason, they don’t include the comics, or Dear Abby! Hmph.

I also downloaded a trashy book that I’ve been wanting to read but just really couldn’t justify buying :D I am finding it very light in the hand and very much like a printed page to read. It’s extremely convenient to take to those places like doctor’s offices, coffee shops, bus stops, etc., where you might find yourself with bits of time to read, and is a lot more compact. So now I’ve got my hardcover book I read at home, and my trashy novel for reading out and about :)

The real test came today when I was out for coffee with some friends and we went shop-hopping afterwards, including several used bookstores. Being determined NOT to buy books, this was the real challenge of whether Kindle will change my habits. I’m happy to say that I came out of the store with a list of books to download and one small blank paper journal (100% recycled), which I’ve been needing – I use those for half-formed ideas for books and classes, note-taking during mediation interviews, and birding records while traveling. Now if only they could put bird guides on Kindle, my backpack would be much lighter – but that will require color someday.

One unexpected advantage – usually when I read at home my books are large enough that the cat and the book can’t coexist on my lap. The cat sits nearby and looks at me, with “that” cat look. Last night I was reading my trashy novel and there was plenty of room, so I called Sophie over, she jumped in my lap, and I read my book with my left hand and petted my cat with the right, and she stretched out luxuriously in her rightful place. There’s at least one being besides me that’s happy for my Kindle!

Giving up books

Owning them, not reading them (got your attention, didn’t I)! Over the last 5 years, I seem to be adopting the minimalist philosophy of my grandmother and giving away more and more things. I feel happiest when my home spaces are spare and beautiful, and uncluttered with stuff. I like to have what I need or most treasure and no more than that. Anything I own should have a use, or personal meaning. Nearly everything I have given away has been shed without parting remorse, but of all of those things, books have been the hardest.

I once had rooms and rooms full of books – wall-to-wall bookshelves filling a three-story house. Organized by genre, period, country… I loved my books. I read and reread them if I had time, and lent them to others. Bookstores were like hardware stores for guys – especially since I had almost always read most anything that wasn’t new, it was easy to drop $100-200 in a visit – and finish those up in a couple of weeks. And into the bookshelves they went, filling up every last empty space. I really liked being able to pick out just the right book for a friend or family member that they might never have heard of but would really enjoy reading, and with my system of organization, knew just where to find it. I couldn’t imagine not having these old friends (the books) in my life and having access to them whenever I wanted.

Everytime I moved, a process of winnowing occurred to clear out all the not-so-great books and make some space (including the first time my husband and I merged our book collections). But the big changes happened when I moved out on my own and started living in smaller and smaller places – by choice, which was part of that instinct to use no more than I need. The first house was still a bit too big, but had the advantage of allowing me to retain about half my books. The big break came when I sold that house to move to Olympia – I did not know how big my new house would be, but I knew it would be smaller. And my philosophy about stuff had undergone a radical change – the real test would be whether I could give up my books.

As synchronicity would have it, a girlfriend was building a business on eBay selling books, and I determined to give her ALL of my books, holding back only what I needed for work, travel, or birding and a very few books that it seemed likely I would read within a year and/or give to someone else. I did that, but it hasn’t been easy. I miss the books I once had at my fingertips, the enjoyment of lending, and once in a while give into the guilty pleasure of a bookstore. They’re out of my garage now, and off to new owners – and I am saving the cost of buying books and the paper and production energy that goes into making them. Especially since we usually read them once and stick them on a bookshelf – I had already determined that any book I do buy will be “liberated” and given to a new owner or left in a public space for someone else to find and read.

kindle All in all though, it’s been an uneasy thing, not wholly comfortable. Add to that the lack of good newspapers in my new city – I do get a lot of info from NPR and the internet, but often I miss reading a daily newspaper – though not the volumes of useless paper it generates, which is one reason I stopped taking it. Enter the Kindle 2.0 – I’ve been a tad skeptical about this as it is pretty new technology, but by all accounts, the 2.0 is a vastly improved version, and just may represent the future of reading, especially for the generation that’s used to doing its reading on a computer screen already.

Especially with all the traveling I do, I can just load the books I want to have with me onto my Kindle, and not have to figure out how much I want to lug around in my bags. I can have thousands of books in there, and can download them freely and easily from anywhere, with no more difficulty than making cell phone call. They cost less than real books, and can still be shared. And it will beam me my daily newspaper (or any number of weekly or monthly magazines) before I get up in the morning, saving any amount of paper. If only my actual computer screens were as readable as a Kindle’s is, I’d actually be able to use my laptop on a tropical beach, like all the ads show ;D

So, I am really, truly making the break. I had already started getting most of my news online, now I’ll just get it more efficiently and less wastefully. And I can spend a month in a foreign country and truly have all the books I need to read, packed into about 10 oz (and only 1/3 inch thick). This is a huge breakthrough for me in not buying, owning, and keeping stuff – though I do love books still, and will probably always have a few feel-good volumes around. And in honor of that, I have treated myself to a few extra accessories, including a Monet waterlilies protective skin and a grey/black suede book cover (which can also stand the Kindle up while you’re reading it). I’m guessing if this can lure even me away from books, it is not just another gadget, but one of those things that may revolutionize how we do things.

“Nearest Book Thing” meme

From the “AMA Manual of Style” … “Even if the name of a publishing firm has changed, use the name that was given on the published work.”

Shows you what’s on my desk, near my computer!! Let’s see yours :)

Nearest Book Thing Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence here, and along with these instructions, on your blog.