Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Loneliness Of The eBook Reader

Here. This is the print version of my award winning book.

See? There's the award sticker! It's ON the book, put there by my publisher.
They had this moment of glory when those stickers came in the mail, when they could detach them from the sticker sheet and pick a spot on the book cover to put it.
It must have been a moment of tactile glory. Something they could touch, success, felt in the embossed surface of that plaque.
My publisher tells me  – and they know these things  –  that print sales drop the moment the eBook version is launched. They are all in favor of eBooks, too, tell me they are more profitable, which I believe. It's obvious, right? Less work, less fuss, no print costs, no shipping costs, no mountain of books sitting in storage waiting to be sold.
It's easier for the reader, too. Instant download, no shelf space, no extra weight in the luggage when you travel, and it's also much easier to read from a highlighted screen that from paper on a plane.
There's no denying that – I bought an iPad just the other day for my travels this summer, and yes, I downloaded books that I've always meant to read but never got around to buying.

I've also downloaded some movies. And before I leave I'll buy ALL of Dr. Who to watch on the plane.

Here's the thing, though. I have to admit this wasn't my own thought. It was brought up by my best friend's  daughter. She's twenty-two, a math student, and an avid reader and music lover.
While we were having coffee together today, this subject came up.
We were talking about the launch of my new book, "Under The Same Sun", scheduled for October 1st. I said that I had no idea how many copies would actually be printed because the demand for eBooks seems to be so much higher, and how glad I was that it says in my contract that I'm getting ten copies. I love to have my own books in print. I WANT to have my own books in print!
Constanze threw me a very sad, very thoughtful glance and said, "Soon there won't be any shops at all anymore because everyone buys everything online."
That made me think.
She went on to say that for her (she's twenty-two! A member of the electronic generation!) going to a book store was an adventure. It meant foraging for new books, leafing through them, talking to people, listening to reading advice, and finally coming away with a bag full of loot, something she could hug to herself on the ride home. She also said that even though she didn't have a whole lot of time to read just now, she really enjoyed just looking at her book shelves, seeing all the books she loves so well there. It gives her the feeling that she can pick out one at any moment and read. It's tactile, it's real, it's a friend.

The movies, she said. People don't go to the movies like they used to, with TV on demand, cheap DVDs and film downloads.
The record stores – why spend time at a record store, browsing through CDs, if you can just download the songs you want from iTunes?

"We are creating a society of loneliness," was her verdict, "We don't have to leave our homes for anything at all anymore. But it's fun to go to the movies and share the experience with a theater full of people, and it's fun to buy a book because an enthusiastic sales person tells you what they thought of it. It's an adventure, one of the last adventures we city creatures have, to go to a book store and find new books. If it goes on like this we'll all be spending all our time in front of computers, on our own, cut off from other people, and gratify our needs speedily and without having to talk to anyone else at all. We won't even need clothes anymore because no one else will see us."

I'd not seen it like that before.

I'm an author. I want to hold my book, the book a publisher took the trouble to publish, in my hands.
I also want to go on book signing tours, make contact with my readers, look into their faces and hear their opinions of my novels. I want to meet the REAL people.

What I'm trying to say is, maybe not everything that's new is also a blessing.
Maybe there will come a day when we regret not having a print copy of the book we love so much.
A paper book can't easily be taken away from you. An electronic copy can just be deleted.

My publisher posted a blog post about the same subject today. They know better than I do, of course, being involved in the market while I'm only the writer. If you want to read their insights, go here:



Sunday, May 27, 2012

The WriterMama Giveaway

Today I am featured over at Christina Katz' blog, The Prosperous Writer, as part of her fifth annual daily book giveaway.

So, if you would like a chance to win my book today and books by other authors all month long, come on over to http://christinakatz.com and answer a daily question about your writing process.

You can "win" just by participating, even if you don't get selected by random drawing to "win" a book.

This is all part of an annual effort by Christina to support the author mama community and the writer mama community and to bring the two communities together.

Hope you will swing by and participate to win!

Friday, May 25, 2012

On The Road With Friends

Biggs Junction.
Doesn't that sound like a name for a place from one of those old cowboy movies? Doesn't it make you see a dusty, lonely railroad station in the middle of nowhere, dust devils ambling across tracks that start somewhere beyond the horizon and lead into an unformed, unknown distance? Isn't "desolation" knit into those two words, don't they whisper to you that this is their real name?

Biggs Junction is probably the last place in the US you'd pick as a tourist destination. And yet, I wanted to go there, and badly. Here's the reason why.
Last year, before I went on my long trip across America to visit Twitter and Facebook friends, a conversation on Twitter happened that made me want to see that place more than anything else. I had just introduced a friend from Portland OR to my Ellensburg WA friend, and they were chatting about meeting up somewhere for lunch. Somehow, Biggs Junction was mentioned. And my Ellensburg friend, Jane, who is married to a trucker and has seen many, many places, moaned a desperate "Oh Lord!"

I, as a bystander, across the Atlantic and all of America, the European, googled Biggs Junction, and this is what came up.

nowhere to go

The thing to read here are the comments from "nowhere to go" and "poker slim".
This place I wanted to see!
Some more twitter moaning, and the sentence, "But there's NOTHING to eat in Biggs, just greasy, awful fast food!"
See, here's where unbiased googling comes in. My American friends, who didn't have the smallest inclination of ever going to Biggs, perked up when I pointed out that there seemed to be a really, really nice restaurant in Goldendale, not too far away from Biggs.
Even Sue from Vancouver who so far had loudly protested that she would stay in Ellensburg and wait for the rest of us to return  - or not - was suddenly quite willing to come along,

So we went.

Along the Yakima River, on the old Canyon Road, and the landscape was enough to make me, the German, gape. So much open space, so much... COUNTRY, and not another car or human in sight.
We drove for hours, and nearly always there were the mountains marching away to our right.

I shouldn't say mountains, or you'll think of a mountain chain. This is what we saw:

Volcanoes. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens.
All this space...  it made me feel as if I could stretch out my arms and lift off, stretch out and drift away in the hot, country-fragrant air until my fingers touched the snow on those mountains.

At some point, the hills closed in on us, we were driving on a winding road through arid land, bushfire land, and the trees and grass were so dry I could smell the smoke even though they weren't burning, almost as if they were having nightmares of a fire that hadn't happened yet.

It came as a relief when the land dropped away, quite suddenly too, and the gorge of the Columbia River opened up before us.
What a drama!

There it was, Biggs Junction. Perched on the side of the river, caught between highways and a railroad track, forgotten in the middle of nowhere.
All roads lead away from it, lead into kinder places, and the river rushes by on its way to the Pacific.
We crossed the bridge and stopped outside the trucker mart.
Heat welcomes us, dry, relentless heat like a wall that dared us to step forward, leave the comfort of the car. There were no other tourists. No one goes to Biggs Junction as a tourist, only me, the insane German. There were some trucks, some cars at the gas station across the parking lot. No one looked up from their business of refueling, getting a cold drink or dashing to the washrooms, no one cared about the surroundings they were in, intent on getting away as fast as possible.

Sue, as always the one with the most determination, said that I needed a souvenir. Anything, even a napkin, a paper cup, but something that said, "Biggs Junction".
We went into the mart.
There were no souvenirs. Biggs doesn't exist on the souvenir map.
The store manager came up to me after I'd circled the store for the third time and asked me if she could help. I said I wanted a Biggs Junction souvenir. She was ready to reach for her phone and call the cops.
Bemused, she shook her head. No one, she said, no one ever had asked for a souvenir before.
"This is like a prison," she told me, "Everyone wants to get away."
Back out on the baking parking lot, we looked around.
A MacDonalds, a Burger King, a gas station, the mart, and this little jewel of a motel:

"Psycho," Sue mumbled, "That's such a Psycho setting." (And took out her camera to take this pic.)
The longer I stood there, the number I got. The constant drone from the highway along the river had a hypnotizing effect on me. I was ready to lie down right there on the oil-stained, baking asphalt of the parking lot and go to sleep.
It was hot, and it was lonely. Jane, leaning against her car, started to hum "Hotel California", and that was when we all moved at the same time, jumped into the car, and drove off.

"Maryhill," Jane suggested, and so we went.
It's a museum now, but it was built by Samuel Hill, the same man who dreamed up the highway along the Columbia River.
We sat on a bench in the shade of some pine trees, right at the edge of the gorge, and looked down at Biggs, now across the river, and its cave of metal and asphalt.

Right below our feet, among the gorse and dry grass, bees and crickets were battling the dull hum of the highway. The heat was just as relentless as it had been down there in Biggs, but it didn't smell of gasoline and sweat. There were peacocks in the park, sculptures, neatly trimmed grass, clear paths. A defiant stand of civilization against the cruel call of the desert wilderness around it.

"Lunch," Susan suggested, looking at her watch, and we left.
We turned our back on Biggs, the river and even Maryhill, and drove off to Goldendale and the Glass Onion (the restaurant I'd found online).

I can tell you this: If you EVER - for whatever reason - happen to be near Goldendale WA, STOP HERE.
Trust me on this. Do it. You'll have one of your best meals ever. And I'm not talking about the normal American fare, either. This is a jewel of a restaurant, and they'll serve you amazing food, fresh food, local produce, and all of it utterly delicious.
I'd go back all the way to Biggs just to have lunch there again.
This was dessert:

I know. It looks amazing. It WAS amazing.
We came out of that place with smiling faces. No one complained about coming to Biggs anymore, this had been so worthwhile.

It's been a year now since I was in Ellensburg, visiting Jane, her sister-in-law Susan, together with MY Sue from Vancouver. Sadly, I won't be going back this summer. There just isn't enough time.
But I have to go back.
Not to Biggs, mind you, or even Goldendale.
But to see my friends.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Dear Son

My dear son,

good morning.
Or rather, good afternoon.
While you decided to  - again - sleep until noon, your father and I went grocery shopping so you and your girlfriend would have lunch at a reasonable time today. I know the girl's family lives on a different schedule from ours, and I've always felt bad for making her go hungry until late in the day, without a decent meal.
So, yes, today there will be roast chicken, and I've picked this recipe to make:

                                                                 Roasted Cilantro Chicken

There will be saffron-spiced Basmati rice and salad to go with it, and I've talked your father into clearing the dining table ( which means, remove his laptop, his books, his gazillion pens and pencils, and the piece of chalk he brought home from school). Hey, I even bought napkins! They are paper napkins, but they have a really nice color. Love that muted, understated cream, it makes them look ALMOST like linen. Well, almost.
While we were at it, we also bought two DVDs of movies I know you'd like to watch:
"Sherlock Holmes 2" and "Cowboys And Aliens".

While we were at the mall, we walked past the Telecom shop where I bought my iPad this week.
Now you have to know, my dear son, that this is a VERY special week for Telecom. They are celebrating some sort of company anniversary, and to share their joy with their customers, they are offering ALL smart phones and tablets at 50% of their regular prices. Yes, I meant ALL tablets, and that includes the iPad.
That is the reason why I have an iPad now, if you want to know.
So today, just before we left to go shopping, I called you.
I mean, I HOLLERED through the house, asking for you to come out of your cave of a room for a second, and I got no reply. Instead, I got an TEXT MESSAGE from you on my phone, saying you couldn't.
I'd like to add that this was at 10.30 am.
I messaged back, saying it was ok.
Only it wasn't, really. But that's your problem now, and not mine.
See, I was in this really, really grand mood.
Last night I finished writing that chapter for my third book, the really, really hard chapter about 9/11, and I sent it out to some author friends to get their opinion. They loved it, said I'd captured the fear and sorrow and confusion so well, my imagery was so exceptional! I was incredibly relieved, actually elated, but more than anything else, relieved. Because, you see, writing about something like that day is a huge risk, and it's also very, very hard. But I did it, and it's good (say the others), and so I was in a celebratory mood.

I wanted to buy you your own iPad.

I know you wanted one as badly as I did, and this morning, when I called for you, I wanted to ask you how you felt about this, if you maybe wanted to come along, and did you want a black or white one?
But, dear son, you choose to not reply.
So there's no iPad for you, nor will there be one in the near future, because that super-special-extra offer expires today, and the Telecom shop in our little town closes at 12 noon. (It's 12.30 now!)

We got home a few minutes ago, and you're not here. Again, I got a text message from you, saying you were off to wherever with the GF, and you have no idea when you'll be back. So much for lunch.
You haven't done your chores, either. The house has NOT been vacuumed. The dishes have NOT been cleared.
You are nearly eighteen. We are a household of three adult people. You have chores.
To show you what I think of that, I'll just add some red Thai curry paste to the chicken recipe, and I'm awfully sorry I didn't bring any coconut milk. I'll cook this lunch that was actually meant for you and your girlfriend in such a way that *I* will like it, and not you.
After that, I'll bring out the chocolate ice cream and share it with your father, and I'm awfully sorry if there'll be only some weird, adult flavor like sour cream/cashew left that you don't like.

And there's the thing with the iPad, of course.
After lunch, ice cream and a lovely cup of coffee I'll sit here and play with my iPad.
I'll download some books and movies, I'll learn how to use the writing app I just bought, and play Angry Birds.
All these are things you will not be doing, because you can't be bothered to reply.

Having said all this, I wish you a happy Saturday.

Oh, and when you get back home? Please go to your room and pick up all the used Kleenex from your floor.

Thank you.


Friday, May 4, 2012

The Day After, Part Three

My publisher - who, of course, as you all know by now, is MaryChris Bradley of Buddhapuss Ink - and I, we talk a lot. We talk about small things like the weather and the yearning for a muffin, a new movie, and we talk about the big things, like publishing dates, book covers, reading tours and what to have for lunch and where when we meet this summer. Sometimes we talk first thing in the day (HER day), to check if the other is doing ok, to toss a "good morning" at each other before we settle down to a day's work.
Just like last Sunday. Here is how it went.

Publisher: "Good morning. If I tell you something very very very nice, will you promise to NOT talk about it?"
Me: "Uhm, sure."
Publisher: "You won an IPPY Award!!!!"
Me: "What's an IPPY?"
A looooong pause at the other end, and clearly audible breathing. Calming breathing, too. I could actually hear her count to ten.

Really, she said it like that. In one long phrase, without catching her breath. I swear!
I went to google "IPPY Awards" while she was busy not fainting at my stupidity.
We talked a bit more after that, virtually holding each other's hands and dancing through the room, she calling me an "award winning thing" and I telling her she was the going to be running a BIG publishing house before she knew it, and naming her "Miss Six".
We both wished we could hug each other for real right then, but, well, distance and the Atlantic and all that.
My family, as always, greeted these news with their usual stoic "Aha..." and went on with whatever they were doing. They are like that. I mean, MEN. ("Is it something I can eat? No? Then please carry on!")

So here I was, with these enormous news, with this huge glittering marble of news, and I had to keep it under my tongue, lodged between my molars. It rolled around in my mouth, tapped insistently against my teeth, but I managed to keep it there for the four days it had to stay this well-kept secret.
Well, almost. I told my Mom. She was even more clueless than I had been, so she didn't even know where to take that information, and all was well.

Tuesday morning, 2 am my time, the winning lists were released. That meant it was 8pm Monday night for the publisher. So... I called her.
Publisher: "Not yet. Let me get the press release out first. I'll do it first thing tomorrow."
Sigh. That was a restless night.
There I was, the award winning author, and there was nothing for me to do but stare at the dawning sky and wait for New York City to wake up, to lie there in my bed and marvel at what was happening to me.

Three years ago, I decided to write a book. My first one ever, too.
Just over a year ago, I signed that first book deal with Buddhapuss.
This January, "The Distant Shore" was published, and hit the bestseller lists within hours. It sold out within hours! At the same time, before "Distant Shore" was even released, the publisher sent me two new book deals. They believed that much in me! And now, only a few months later, I can return that faith by winning this award for my publisher.

Yesterday, the "day after", I woke up in a funk. Mopey. It broke my heart that I won't be able to go to the award ceremony and pick up my medal, enjoy that moment of glory, but it's not to be. There's just no way it can be done.
Also, I had what the publisher calls "Impostor Syndrome".
Why ME? Of all those who entered that award, why was my book picked to win a medal? There are so many out there who work and write and work and submit and promote, and who've been at it for so much longer. They should be getting awards, not me.
Publisher brushed it away, called me silly (she likes to do that), and told me to get back to work.

Which I'm doing. Back to writing it is for me, since I promised to finish the trilogy before my summer travels.
Clothes shopping it is for the publisher, since she will go to pick up my medal for me at the awards ceremony. NO black, I told her, DON'T wear black like all those NY publishers, stand out, wear RED.
After all, we have reason to celebrate.
Here's the proof:

IPPY Award 2012 Winners List


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Once In Your Life - The IPPY Awards!

This is what my publisher blogged today! Cake and champers are on me! :)

The Distant Shore Wins the 2012 IPPY Bronze Medal


May 2, 2012

Buddhapuss Ink LLC, a NJ based book publisher, announced today that Mariam Kobras, of Hamburg, Germany, won the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Bronze Medal in Romance for her book: The Distant Shore: Book I of the Stone Trilogy. Kobras said she was “beyond over-the-moon” with the news. The Distant Shore, which released in January, sold out on Amazon in a matter of hours. “Winning this award for her first book is recognition of just how talented a writer she is.” said Buddhapuss Ink Publisher, MaryChris Bradley. “She conveys feelings and emotions in one page that take other authors’ chapters. Her command of the English language, and its nuances, is extraordinary. In January we signed a new contract for the next two books in the Stone Trilogy. We extend our hearty congratulations to Mariam for this well-deserved award! ”

The Distant Shore, a contemporary romance with a light twist of suspense, is the story of Jonathon Stone, a rock superstar and Naomi Carlsson, the girl he loved and lost. The story centers on their reunion sixteen years later and takes place in locales from a small fishing village in Norway to LA and New York City. But life in the fast lane comes with its own brand of danger and it isn’t long before their life together is threatened by a jealous fan.  “The storyline for The Distant Shore was inspired by my fascination with the limitations fame can impose on people.” stated Kobras. “The book explores the value of love in a world where money and a front-page photo are sometimes more important than a person's soul.”

Kobras, was born in Frankfurt, Germany. She lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia with her parents as a child before they decided to settle in Germany. She attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons and two cats.

BUDDHAPUSS INK LLC is based in Edison, NJ. Founded in 2009, it is led by Publisher, MaryChris Bradley, a 28 year veteran in the book industry. “Our company mission is to ‘Put our readers first’ and we are committed to finding and growing new authors at a time when the major houses seem to have turned their backs on writers without an already well-established track record. “ Bradley can be contacted atPublisher@BuddhapussInk.com. “Of course, you can always find us on Facebook, and twitter too.”
@Buddhapuss on twitter      Buddhapuss Ink LLC on Facebook