My Books

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ordinary lives and everyday people: a rich source for authors of fiction

The Wrong Bus, An Urban Christmas Story by John Noel Hampton - 5 Stars

I have been exploring a lot of different literary genres lately and I noticed that paranormal thrillers and romance, mysteries, science-fiction, and fantasy seem to be among the most popular ones these days. Whether you walk into an ordinary brick-and-mortar bookstore or peruse the online blogs, trolls, vampires, and werewolves glare or growl at you from every corner. You can’t help but wonder if the lives of “normal,” everyday human beings are no longer fit topics for literature.


Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those genres myself. I love a good mystery; I like a well-written fantasy and paranormal tale. But every once in a while, I long for an interesting book about Mr. Everyman and Mrs. Everywoman who deal with their everyday lives without interference by ghosts, witches, and paranormal happenings. And then I stumbled upon the story by John Noel Hampton, The Wrong Bus, An Urban Christmas Story.

The Wrong Bus takes place in Los Angeles, in both a middle-class environment and in the less well-to-do section of South Central. It depicts a few days in the lives of flawed but lovable characters. The middle-class, elderly white woman, Ida, is a good-hearted, somewhat naive person who doesn’t want to accept the fact that her only son was killed in Vietnam. Her African-American housekeeper and best friend, Madeline, has her own share of shattered dreams. Junior, a young black man, works hard and dreams of becoming a medical doctor in order to help his grandmother and escape the dreary environment of his upbringing and his dysfunctional mother. Maria, a Latin woman, who was fired from her job, turns to stealing in her desperation. Then there are neighbors, friends, cops, and criminals.

A series of coincidences, such as missing the right bus stop, brings these unlikely people together and sets in a motion a string of misunderstandings, wrong turns, false moves as well as lucky encounters. The story leads up to Christmas, but Christmas for the characters doesn’t mean a bunch of expensive presents or even an end to their problems. But it brings them closer to the true spirit of Christmas: love and compassion.

The Wrong Bus is a moving tale without being sentimental. The language is stark, interspersed with beautiful images and vivid descriptions. The magic is not conjured up by fairies, hobgoblins, witches, or trolls. It is created by the characters’ feelings, by moments of beauty in a rough environment. These people aren’t fantasy heroes; they struggle with their selfish desires, they are torn between wanting to take the easy way out of a situation and doing what is right. Yet they do find the courage to step outside their comfort zone, to take risks in order to help someone else.

The sign of a good story for me is one that I feel like reading over and over again and always discover something new. The Wrong Bus is such a story. I can only recommend it and I look forward to reading more by the same author.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A 5-star review of my novel "Love of a Stonemason"

A fortunate find:
"I am only one-quarter of the way through this big, beautiful novel, but am enjoying it so much that I wanted to post a review.

LOVE OF A STONEMASON gives readers Europe and South America. A few examples: the Nordfoehn, a dry northern wind; the turning of the seasons in Switzerland; the look and feel of Toro Muerto, a mysterious South American site containing hundreds of carved rocks. Descriptions are vivid without being overwritten. Christa Polkinhorn makes me feel as if I know these places where I have never been.

But my enthusiasm for the novel goes beyond its very considerable achievements in description. I like Karla and Andreas, the main characters. I can imagine having dinner with them, drinking wine with them, sharing conversation.

They are GOOD people. Not goody-goody types or one-dimensional caricatures of virtue, but decent people yearning for satisfaction in both love and vocation. These two artists are falling in love. I am glad to be sharing their journey."

Lindsay Edmunds, Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Electronic AND Paper Books not Electronic VERSUS Paper Books

A few months ago, I bought a Kindle reader from Amazon and entered the brave new world of ebooks. One of the main reason for this was that I published my debut novel “Love of a Stonemason” as an independent author/publisher and tried it first as an ebook.

Now, I’m not one of those young electronic geeks. I don’t own an ipod or an iphone. I have an old-fashioned Pay-As-You-Go cell phone for emergencies. I have a background in computers but I am much more of a literature lover than a computer freak. However, I instantly fell in love with my Kindle reader. It’s light and small, has a great display, and room for a whole library of my favorite books. Since I fly back and forth between Europe and the United States quite a lot, I don’t have to worry anymore about packing the right kind of books, filling up my suitcase with paper- or hardbacks. I just grab my Kindle and take my library with me.

Aside from the convenience, I want to support ebooks because of all the new opportunities they offer both writers and readers. An author can now publish a book and make it available to readers in very convenient and easy way without having to bother with agents and publishers. This is not meant to discredit agents and/or publishers. They still provide a valuable service. However, with the recession and focus of large publishing houses almost exclusively on bestsellers, we midlist writers now have an opportunity as well.

Now, having sung the praise of ebooks, I am by no means ready to abandon paper versions. The other day, I went through my bookshelves and pulled out a few of my favorite hard covers and paper books, lovingly touching and smelling them, admiring the careful binding and the tasteful cover. As I was working on this blog post, I happened to watch a program on TV on the art of bookbinding, a craft, which has its origins in the fifteenth century with the invention of the printing press. What is amazing is the fact that the traditional craft has managed to survive the change from handmade to mechanized and mass-produced books. And I think it will survive, in small workshops, the onslaught of ebooks as well. Ebooks may have an impact on the mass-produced paper books but it probably won’t affect those specialized bookbinding workshops as much.

In fact, I think that the more ebooks there will be, the more popular they become, there will also be a renewed desire and yearning for the “old-fashioned” paper versions, not the cheaply produced ones so much as the special editions, the classic first editions, as well as art books. It will be a niche industry, focusing more on restoring old works than producing new ones, but it will be lovingly supported by people for whom books aren’t only content but also form, shape, color, paper, glue.

The electronic world is here to stay, but it will not replace or do away with the “stone-and-mortar” or “paper-and-paint” world. Those two realms of reality will co-exist. After all, so far computer art has not replaced paper drawings and paintings on canvas. Sure, some bookstores will disappear, book-binding and creation will become even more of a “niche”-craft. However, I do not think, human beings are ready (or will ever be ready) to live in a totally digital world. We are mental/emotional but also physical beings and we need to satisfy all our senses and abilities, or we impoverish and diminish ourselves.

http://www.artofbookbinding.com.au/htms/services.html