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Thursday, May 16, 2019

How Books Are Changing by @JoanReeves

Recently, I read an article that declared books were dying just as newspapers are. I heartily disagree with that assertion. The book will live on—even the printed book will live on, even as digital and audio books surge in popularity.

Books are stories, and the hunger for stories still exists. If it didn't, television and movie studios should close their doors.

From primitive times to contemporary, stories are our cultural past and will remain so whether that story is read in a printed book or on a Kindle or heard through headphones.

What Has Changed

The thing about stories that has changed is the pacing. In today's world, we want to get into the action of the story immediately. We don't want to read pages and pages that describe the scenery, the weather, the characters.

We don't want the scores of pages in Moby Dick that described a wave.

We don't want a book with a sentence that's 823 words long like the one that appears in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. In today's world, 823 words is a chapter in many books!

We want books that draw us in...books that introduce interesting characters who immediately get caught up in something that changes everything...books that get to the heart of the story quickly.

Publishing From the Past to the Present

We've come a long way from the past when authors’ names weren't even printed on the covers of their books because the covers were considered artworks.

From authors using ink and paper to Mark Twain using a typewriter to write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the first book ever written using that newfangled machine, to computers to dictation software, authors are still spinning their stories.

From handwritten "books" to Gutenberg's printing press to the first modern printing presses to digital publishing, readers are still looking for stories that stretch the imagination and sweep them away.

Readers Want to Jump Into the Story Immediately

I try to give them that opportunity in the opening scene. Take Cinderella Blue for example. It opens in the middle of action.

Here's a short excerpt to give you a taste.

Heat shimmered in waves above the pavement.

Across the street, Bruce Benton saw a cluster of shops that created one-stop shopping for women looking to drop a few grand on a pretentious wedding.

He crossed over and headed to the flower shop. As he passed the glass storefront of a photographer’s studio, he saw a woman inside. A nano second later, he stopped abruptly. The heat must be frying his brain. He retraced his steps, casually glancing in again. The woman wore a wedding dress, but instead of a bridal bouquet, she held a handgun.

Bruce drew his Glock and eased the door open. A bell over the door jingled. He cringed as he slipped inside and hoped she was deaf.

The woman whirled. Nope. Not deaf.

She held her gun in the same shooter’s stance as he. “Take it easy, lady. Maybe the photographer took some lousy pictures of you. That’s no reason to shoot him.”

“That’s funny.” The blonde suddenly grinned, but her gun never wavered. “You’re cute. Anyone ever tell you that you look kind of like Karl Urban?”

“Let’s not talk about some Aussie actor. Let’s talk about you. Why would a sweet thing like you have a gun?”

“Sweet thing?” Irritation replaced her grin. “Lower your gun. Lay it on the floor.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You see I’m a—”

Everything happened at once. A man rushed from behind her, slammed into her, and sent her flying into Bruce. They went down in a tangle of arms, legs, and miles of white satin.

She came up snarling.

Bruce leaped up, gun in hand. “Freeze!”

He grinned and pulled out his handcuffs. “I always wanted to say that. Just like a TV cop. You lost your gun, sweet thing.”

He stepped toward her. With another snarl, she whirled. He saw a white blur and felt agony in his hand. A roundhouse kick to his solar plexus cut off his gasp of pain. He hit the floor.

Wheezing, he tried to rise, but the blonde stood over him with her gun—and his—pointed at him.

She smiled. “Uh uh, sweet thing. You stay right where you are.”

Bruce groaned. Not from pain so much as humiliation. Crap. The guys at the cop shop would never let him live this down.

The Bottom Line

Authors, give the readers what they want, and you'll have succeeded. Readers, buy books and give the authors the reviews they need, and you'll keep getting stories you love.

Joan ReevesKeeping Romance Alive…One Sexy Book at a Time—is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All of her stories have the underlying premise that it's never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband. They divide their time between a book-cluttered home in Houston and a quiet house at the foot of the Texas Hill Country where they sit on the porch at night, look up at the star-studded sky, and listen to the coyotes howl.

Visit Joan Online and be the first to know about New Books and Giveaways by signing up for her Mailing List/Newsletter.

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  1. I agree, Joan, books have changed a lot, even since the 1980's and it's all to do with pacing. I love the classics, but oh wow, I catch myself thinking, hurry up and get to the point. I think for voracious readers, e-books solves the problem of not having enough shelves for books. For me, though, nothing beats holding that book in my hand, admiring the cover, reading the back blurb. And for a newly-published author (like me) holding my book for the first time--priceless.

    1. Even though I love print books and still buy them, I've switched my allegiance to ebooks because of the sheer convenience. I can pull out my Kindle and have endless shelves of books if I'm stuck waiting somewhere. Also, my Kindle is so much better for bedtime reading. Darling Hubby isn't kept awake by the rustle of pages being turned, and the light in my Kindle Voyager can be adjusted lower if he's already asleep. *g* Btw, congratulations on being a newly-minted author! It's a heady feeling, isn't it?

  2. We're now a fast-paced world. Young people today would never read James Mitchener. Everything has to be sound bites, quick reads, stories for a lunch hour--which can be read on a cellphone or tablet...and the list goes on. Digital delivery changed our world forever.

    1. This generation would never read Gone With The Wind. Imagine if no one published the book, or made it into a movie. I tried to read it, but I'd seen the movie, and just couldn't get through those thousand pages.

    2. Judy Ann, you're right. While I love books that flow, I still love every Michener book. I've read them all but particular favorites are Exodus, Tales of the South Pacific, and Hawaii.

  3. Joan, I believe the change in books is a reflection of this Microwave generation. I want it right now, and get to the point. I was wondering only yesterday if future books might resemble a first grade primer as Dick and Jane. "Run, Dick, run. Catch the dog. Dick: "Run Jane, run. Grab the dog." Jane: "I caught the dog." Dick: I will put him back in the pen, Jane." End Of Story. Lol.

  4. *LOL* Gosh, I hope storytelling doesn't degenerate into that! I've been re-reading some of the early romances by Kathleen Woodiwiss (who is credited with starting the romance revolution back in the early 1970s) like The Rose in Winter and Shanna. (Any woman named Shanna can probably thank her mom for reading Woodiwiss.) Even though the books are lengthy and have reams of description and detailed scenes, I still found them to be page turners. Considered highly racy if not erotic back when they were published, they're rather tame by today's standards. I thought about these books a lot before writing my post. In the end, the story and its characters—short or long, sweet or steamy—trumps everything.


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