A Butterfly Garden Reading List

January 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm (Butterfly Garden, Uncategorized) (, , )

So I’ve been getting a lot of questions the past few months about the books mentioned in The Butterfly Garden, and whether or not there’s a list of them anywhere.


Good news, now there is! There aren’t as many as there used to be, because some of the sections with named books didn’t make it through edits, but here are the books and stories that are named in the course of the story.


Edgar Allan Poe, collected poetry and prose (as in I quoted or referenced a substantial number of Poe titles that I didn’t necessarily list out)

Charles Dickens- Oliver Twist

Sophocles- Antigone

Aristophanes- Lysistrata

Hans Christian Andersen- The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier (both have been adapted and were also mentioned as ballets)

ETA Hoffman- The Nutcracker (also adapted by Tchaikovsky as a ballet)

Alexandre Dumas, pere- The Nutcracker (Seriously–he adapted Hoffman’s work in 1845), The Count of Monte Cristo

Fyodor Dostoevsky- The Brothers Karamazov

William Shakespeare- Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Giacomo Puccini- Madame Butterfly


Happy reading!

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Butterfly Garden Goodreads Giveaway!

May 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm (Butterfly Garden, Giveaway, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I told you I’d be back with more exciting news.

So, those of you familiar with Goodreads are probably aware that they have giveaways running at all times, and there is now one open for 20 print copies of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN.

That’s right. 20 copies.

It is US only, but still. So far it’s pretty good odds. If you have a Goodreads account, or want to sign up for one (it’s free! and awesome!) you can enter to win here. The giveaway runs through the official release date of June 1st.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

(Different book; comparable body count)


The wunderbar team at Thomas & Mercer put together another video where you can watch me be all awesome self-conscious and proud of my book. This video gives you a look at all six of May’s Kindle First selections.

On a more serious note:

If you read THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN (or, really, ANY BOOK, mine or not) please take a few minutes to leave a review on some of the major sites. It could even be the exact same review copy/pasted across sites. It seems a silly thing, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t make your purchasing decisions off of what other people are saying, but it’s astonishing how much the reviews help. They don’t simply encourage (or dissuade) people who may be on the fence about reading a particular book.

The number of reviews on an item also influence the visibility of that item. The more reviews there are, the more that book, that author, gets seen.

Maybe it sounds silly, but it’s really huge, and can make a difference not just in that one book’s sales, but also in whether or not that author is able to sell more titles in the future.

The single best thing you can do if you want more books from an author is to talk about it. Leave a review. Leave reviews across multiple sites. Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers, the creepy guy at lunch who always asks you what you’re reading in a tone that says you’re supposed to be paying attention to him instead. (Hint: you’re not, but imagine the reaction if you start gushing about certain kinds of books. I’ve done this. It’s amazing.)

Also up there on the list of very helpful things are: A) buying the book, if you can, and B) borrow the book from a friend or the library if you can’t buy it, followed by C) for the love of God, do not pirate the book. I get that it’s free (but so’s the library!) and easy (so’s the library!) and don’t involve human interaction (you can download e-books from the library online!), but piracy is a career-killer. If a book is stolen more than it’s purchased, that author is going to have a very hard time getting another contract.

Plus it’s, you know, illegal.

So if you love a book, hate a book, possess ambivalent opinions of a book, think a book makes a really fantastic coaster, talk about it. Please leave reviews, not just for me, but for all the books you read, just a few lines can help so much.

Just three more weeks to general release!





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BEA and Swag!

May 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Sorry for the relative darkness here and on Twitter recently; I’ve spent the past week switching between work and the hospital (as a visitor, not a patient), so I haven’t been able to attend to a number of other things.




BEA is THIS WEEK, can you believe it?! So, just as a reminder, I’ll be signing Thursday morning, from 10-11 am, at Table #5 in the Author Autographing Area. I’ll also be wandering around the floor for the afternoon, and I will have swag packets with me. How many? As many as I can manage to shove into my bag without damaging anything.


So, if you happen to see me on the floor after the signing, just introduce yourself and ask for a swag pack! I will keep handing them out until I run out, and hopefully I won’t have to figure out how to take any home. These swag packs include: signed bookmarks, a signed bookplate, a sticker, and a (pretty awesome, if I do say so myself) keychain.


Not going to BEA? Don’t fret, you can still request an e-ARC through NetGalley, and a bit later this summer I’ll be doing a super swag-tastic giveaway, so you don’t have to worry about missing out!


If you are going to BEA, please introduce yourselves if you see me! You’ve been amazing and supportive and so excited for me, and I know a hello and a thank you and maybe a hug (if that’s not creepy and unwelcome) is small repayment, but seriously- THANK YOU.


Until next time~


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What I’ve Been Reading 1

March 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized)

At the end of 2012, I mentioned that I was having to do some hard thinking about priorities, and some of that included how I was going to maintain this blog through the new year. Mostly…how I was going to do reviews. A good review takes anywhere from two to five hours to write, depending on the book and how hard it is to talk about, and that’s time I really need to be putting into other things- writing, editing, planning giveaways and swag and such. When I didn’t have any deadlines or expectations other than my own, that was just fine. Now it feels a little more awkward.

Also awkward? The idea of doing detailed reviews of books written by people who are now colleagues of a sort. There’s a transition from blogger to author, and honestly I’m just sort of bumbling along making a mess of it. As a reader, as a writer, I’m always going to read critically, and I’m always going to dissect what I read. I just don’t know that I’m as comfortable sharing all of those thoughts. It’s not an aspect of censorship, more of…circumspection. After all, you don’t stand there and tell your co-workers everything you thought of a job they did, do you?

So what I’m going to do instead is an update from time to time on the things I’ve been reading with my general impression of them. This still lets me share what’s been coming through the stacks, it lets me gush about books I’ve loved, but it keeps me from feeling like I’m trouncing all over sensible boundaries.
Etiquette & EspionageFirst up is Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger, author of the adult series The Parasol Protectorate. This book is set in the same steampunk-urban fantasy England, but some time earlier, so you needn’t be familiar with the adult series to read this. Tell you what, though, reading this will make you want to be familiar with Carriger’s other works. I LOVED IT. The tone was wry and perfectly pitched, and despite a bit of a slow start, the action picked up with a good pace. The characters are well drawn, the world was intriguing, and it was laugh out loud funny. There was one paragraph describing someone’s moustache that had me in tears. This was, overall, a fantastic start to a new series. I mean, seriously, there’s a mechanical dog named Bumbersnoot. Bumbersnoot is awesome.
ArchivedThe Archived, by Victoria Schwab, and HOLY HELL THIS WAS BOOK WAS AMAZING. THis wasn’t written, this was crafted, every sentence another line in a love song to grief and healing, trapped in that aching span of time when the grief is old enough that it should be better than it is, but too new to be as healed as everyone else thinks it should be. You open the cover and it’s like disappearing into the Narrows, where the time of the outside world has no meaning until you’re done. The action is taut, the emotion at times overwhelming, and through it all weaves this terrible, beautiful thread of hope. The entire nature of the Archive is simultaneously comforting and horrifying, and we see both elements of that. We have incredible characters (and may I just say, I love Roland; Roland makes me happy and sad at the same time) and an intriguing world and the kind of beauty and craft of writing that sinks hooks into your mind and just doesn’t let go. Long after you finish this book, your thoughts are still in the Narrows, only absently noting the marks on the doors that might lead to a way out. They just revealed the cover for the sequel, The Unbound, and gah, this wait is going to kill me.
Perfect ScoundrelsPerfect Scoundrels was up next, and oh man, I love this series. You have to hand it to Ally Carter- she spent an entire book that focused on Hale’s family, and we still didn’t learn what the Ws stand for. The stakes are higher in this one, because the goal in question isn’t a thing, it’s a person- and to save that person, the crew might have to lose that person. It’s incredibly personal, and even more so than the others it’s about family, the family we’re born into, the family we choose. The names for the various maneuvers and plans are as brilliant as ever (the Basil E. Frankweiler! Genius!) and I love the continued growth we see in the characters. That and the travel. Oh my God, I want to see half the places Kat and Gang get to go to, and the twists are brilliant! You see some of them coming, but there were a couple that were just…wow. Love this series.
Raven BoysThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater just made me absolutely breathless. This is another book that’s crafted rather than written, and the beauty, the lyricism, the lure comes through in every word. I love Stiefvater’s writing, but I adore her characters. They’re complicated, intricate, gorgeously drawn, and the connections between them bristle with the full range of emotion and possibility. And the thing about this book is, even though I grew up reading about ley lines and the legends of the sleeping kings, it still made me want to race out and learn more, because the story and the search and the way all the pieces are woven together is just that damn compelling. This is another book you don’t put down until it’s done, and even then it’s not really done, because it just won’t let you go. This is one of those books that makes a part of me shrivel with envy.
Cadet of TildorLast one for this set, The Cadet of Tildor, by Alex Lidell. This one was…problematic for me. It wasn’t that the book was bad on its own, just that Tamora Pierce did it ten and twenty years ago and did it better. It’s a great world, with a fascinating magic system, a good conflict set up with a new, young king and two very different crime organizations. The pacing is a little awkward but it does carry the story along. I think, where it failed for me, was the characters. There were flashes of brilliance, moments where a character suddenly became intriguing and I finally wanted to know more, but these were without exception followed by an abrupt about face that left me feeling frustrated and kind of wishing most of them would fall off cliffs. Still, there was one character who managed to be consistently wonderful, and if it’s mostly for the sake of the younger Savoy, there’s still a lot of areas to explore- and a lot of ways in which things can improve.

More to come later! So tell me, what are YOU reading right now?

Until next time~

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Shock and Awe

December 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm (Uncategorized)

Some days you just aren’t prepared for.

I’ve mentioned before that I work in a bookstore. Recently, my store hosted a signing for author and Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld, and after the event, we had a large number of signed books to display. Because of the number of books, because they were signed, because of the high interest our community had in the book, we displayed them prominently in the front of the store. It’s a political book, one that’s sharply divisive, one that will make its readers feel either vindicated or vilified.

It’s called The Joy of Hate.

Why am I talking about this?

Because today, while I was working near the front of the store, a very nice, well-intentioned older woman approached me and said she was concerned “about the message you’re sending” by having “such a book” in front of the doors where everyone can see it. At first I didn’t think anything of it. It’s a political book- we always get complaints about political books. We get complaints about the books we have and the books we don’t have. Conservatives accuse us of having a liberal agenda, liberals accuse of a conservative agenda, and there’s simply no way to arrange things in a way that makes everyone happy. We’ve long since given up trying. So, thinking this was a complaint like any other, I politely explained that the books were displayed so prominently because we’d just had an event with the author, and autographed books often make very nice Christmas gifts.

And she shook her head, and said “but spreading hate, especially after that shooting today…all those children. You should be better people.”

It felt like a physical blow, largely because I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. I thought about explaining that the book is not, as far as I know, about encouraging hate, but rather (if the description is anything to go by) about the insincerity of enforced tolerance and the dangers of being ‘politically correct’ at the expense of being honest. I have not read the book- I don’t intend to read the book- but from the preparation for the event, that was the impression I got. And you know, it doesn’t actually matter what the book is about, because that’s not really the point. I didn’t even know what shooting the woman was talking about, didn’t know what she meant about ‘all those children’, but I was baffled that the first thought of someone in the wake of what I assumed was a tragedy was to censor and judge others based on incomplete and inaccurate information.

Then I came home, turned on my computer, and the first thing I saw when I pulled up my browser was the wikipedia headline about the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I’m not sure what it says- about me, about our country, about our times- that my first thought was “Please God, won’t these ever end?” but my first feeling was shock. Pure, unadulterated shock and pain.

We live in a country of guns, and where there are guns, there will be accidents, there will be deaths, and sometimes there will be massacres. It’s horrible, but there’s also a certain degree of inevitability to it. People die every single day from gunshot wounds that come from a variety of reasons. Whether guns are legal or not, no matter how tightly or loosely they’re regulated, the simple fact that we can access guns means that people will die from gunshot wounds. We expect that.

But we never expect them to be children.

Someone on my facebook feed posted a question: why is everyone so shocked, since this sort of thing seems to happen all the time in the USA? It should be noted, though this really doesn’t change the comment, that this person is not American. And yes, incidents involving schools and guns do happen here more than in other countries- the reasons for that are enormous and largely obvious and the focus of many, MANY battles, battles to which you can contribute. It isn’t just that we have access to guns, it’s that we have EASY access to guns, and guns make it very easy to kill large numbers of people in small measures of time. As long as we live in a gun culture, as long as it’s easier to get a gun than to get a job or basic healthcare, people will get guns and other people will die because of it. Even if we hate it, we expect it.

But even if it happened every day (and thank God it doesn’t), we should always, ALWAYS be shocked.

Schools are supposed to be safe places. Our parents send us to schools on the expectation that we’ll be safe, that we’ll be supervised and cared for. Schools are shelters in times of trouble- in natural disasters, in community need- and schools act as one of the strongest influences in a child’s life. Our education in large part helps to define who we are as people, shapes our outlook and our prospects and our expectations. As traumatic as school can be- with bullies in the form of both teachers and students, with cliques, with puberty, with lessons we don’t always understand and work we can’t always stay on top of, with all the personal entanglements that crushes of people bring- schools are supposed to be safe.

It should always be a shock to be confronted with the fact that they’re not always.

It should always be a shock when people make the decision to walk into a school and open fire.

It should always be a shock when people die in what should be a safe place.

I remember Paducah. I remember Jonesboro. I remember Springfield. I remember sitting in my middle school cafeteria, laughing and joking with my friends, and falling still when the loudspeaker called for our attention to announce that there was a shooting in progress in Columbine High School. I remember sitting there and shaking because I had cousins in Littleton, one of them in high school, and I didn’t know what high school he went to. A month or so later, I was part of a staged reading of an incredibly powerful play called Bang, Band, You’re Dead, and I remember the fierce parental opposition of large portions of the student body because they didn’t want their children scared and scarred by such a play, and I remember why we finally won permission to put on the reading: because we were already scared, and we were already scarred. Now we were just trying to understand.

And I remember Virginia Tech, remember trying to make sense of it in the only way I nearly every made sense of incomprehensible things: through writing. I was in a playwriting class at the time, where through the course of the semester we wrote three ten minute plays, and it was through one of those assignments that I tried to make sense of it.

Tried to understand.

And finally had to accept that I could spend the rest of my life exploring it, but I would never, ever understand.

Everyone has heard “Write what you know” but we go far beyond that. We don’t know what it is to have magic, to ride a dragon, to travel for generations on a space ship. We don’t know what it is to have genetic mutations that give us extra powers. Most of us will never know what it’s like to be in jail, to have the mind-shattering trauma that too many people experience. I’ve often that that saying should be adjusted. Start with what you know- then write what you don’t know. Writing is an exploration, a tentative probe into the realm of all we don’t know or understand, and we hopefully come away from the words on the page with comprehension, or at least a better acquaintance.

I’ve written madness and murder, death and destruction, rape and war, given them life on the page and tried to understand why some of my characters would do these things.

And then I read the news, and I know that my characters do them because real people do them.

But I don’t, and will never, understand why real people do them.

I will never understand why someone would open fire in public, killing people he or she has never even met. I am incapable of understanding why anyone would kill children.

I’ve grown up around guns, I live in a county where guns are common, where hunting is a Big Thing, where gun racks are less accessory than interpreted necessity. I’ve shot guns, and I’ve lived with guns in the house. I will never understand why we make it so easy to get them, why we can’t look at numbers and facts and immutable data and not come to the conclusion that something has to be done- and I don’t understand why we don’t simply do it. I will never understand how, when massacre is a regular part of our situational language, people can look at dead children (or dead of any age) and not want to do anything they can to prevent it from happening again.

But I am in awe of the way people pull together in the wake of tragedies, how they reach out with love and support and aid. I am in awe of how people from around the world share their sorrow. I am in awe of the strength, of the capacity for compassion and kindness innate in mankind. In the midst of so much horror and violence and ugliness, in the midst of the devestation a single incomprehensible mind can create, I am awed by the beauty of the better aspects of man’s soul.

I’m grateful for the awe.

But I’m also grateful for the shock- not for the events that cause it, but for the fact that, despite how battered we are by tragedy and death, we are still stunned by it. We still don’t expect it.

And that gives me hope, even if it’s small and frail. Some things we will never understand, but it is to our credit that we unite and stand against them.

To all those who lost friends, family, students, or teachers today, to all those who’ve been affected by today’s events, my thoughts and prayers are with you all, as are the well-wishes and deep support of countless others around the world.

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Happy Independence Day!

July 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Taking a day’s break to spend the fourth with family, and stopping in to wish everyone a SAFE and FUN Independence Day!

And the part of me that was a Boy Scout (totally legit, I swear) has to say: please find out if your area has any fireworks restrictions before you set things off. Right now there are a lot of drought-stricken areas, and a lot of wildfires burning, so quite a few counties have banned fireworks. Please be safe!

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Restful Reading

May 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm (Uncategorized) ()

This is a lazy post, I’ll be the first to admit it. I have spent the past week and a half drunk on reading.

I’m at one of those rare breaks where I’ve finished a draft of one project and need to set it aside for a while, plus I’m not quite to the point of editing a different project, and it’s not really time yet to start a new project. I’ve just finished a ton of work and I’m about to launch off into a ton of work, but for just a little while, I have nothing that has to get done right now.

Which for me means a reading binge.

I don’t read as much when I’m drafting or editing. I don’t want to get pulled into someone else’s voice, and there are so many amazing books in my TBR pile that it’s hard not to get lost in them once I start. I allow myself about two books a week while I’m writing, mostly for when I’m eating or on break at work.

This last week and a half, I’ve been reading between one and three books a day, and it’s WONDERFUL. (At the moment I’ve just streaked through the Song of Ice and Fire series, and those are really more like one a bit per day books). I’ve read fairy tales, read epic fantasies, a couple of contemps, some adventure. I’ve read picture books and middle grade and YA and standard genre, and I’ve been in absolute heaven. I’m not reading to dissect anything (except after the fact for reviews, but that’s different). I’m not reading to learn anything, not reading to find a particular skill (though I appreciate what I notice), I am reading purely for the pleasure of doing so.

I’m reading for fun.

Which is something we don’t always allow ourselves. There are things to write, to edit. Books are tools, books are lessons, books are useful.

Well, yes.

But books are also FUN.

So make sure that every now and then, you give yourself a gift of some time to read whatever you want. It’s restful, but it’s also like putting a battery on a charger- you come away from that reading time with all the juices going, ready to dive back in and save the world. Or destroy it. Or build it. Whatever it is you happen to be doing.

Happy reading!

Until next time~

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PSA: Holidays in Retail Land

November 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Despite what the calendar says, the holidays aren’t really coming.

They’re already here.

Sure, the decorations aren’t up but the signs are, and so are a lot of the products that define how we think of the holiday shopping experience. Consumers are starting to make their lists, maybe even making a dent in them to get ahead of all the stress and hullaballoo that comes with the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Dwali, or Solstice, or any of the other winter festivals/holidays that generally imply gift giving and togetherness).

I worked for three years at an arts and crafts store. Yesterday was my fourth anniversary of working in my bookstore. I’ve worked retail for a long time, and I’ve worked a lot of holiday seasons. Does this post have anything in particular to do with books? No.

But it does have rather a lot to do with the book-buying experience, and with the buying experience in general. These are things I’ve picked up through the years- and things that should probably be remembered before plunging into the chaos of Black Friday and beyond.

1. Employees are people too.
Bizarre thought, isn’t it? That strange creatures with the uniforms or the dress code and the name badges, those zoo-things with phones and radios and keys and codes…those are people. People, just like you, with names and families and friends and a general preference for not getting yelled at by strangers. We like when our basic courtesies are returned- like replying to a hello- and sure, if you’re going from store to store, it can get irritating to constantly be saying hello, but think about our end of it: someone is there saying hello to every person who walks through our door. If we can put on a smile and a friendly tone, you can, too. It gives a much nicer start to the encounters, and basic courtesies go a long way into setting up a better experience for everyone involved.

2. Employees are only sometimes to blame for your problem.
I’m sorry if we don’t have what you’re looking for, or don’t have enough of what you’re looking for, or can’t get what you’re looking for in the time you need it. I really am. It isn’t just an altruistic thing- though I do genuinely enjoy people able to help people- but there’s a perfectly selfish explanation for it too: if you don’t find what you’re looking for, that’s one less thing that you’re buying. The fact is, there are a lot of reasons why we may not be able to satisfy your request, and the employee is barely a fraction of that. If what you want isn’t out yet? That isn’t our fault. If what you want is out of print or otherwise not being made anymore? Also not our fault. If you’re in a class and you need a book for a paper due tomorrow? Definitely not our fault- the book has been on the syllabus, you’ve had however many weeks to find it, and it’s not our fault that you and half the class all rushed out at the last minute to buy the one copy we generally keep on the shelf.
This piece is bookstore specific, but it applies in a more general way to all retail: we can’t have all the things. Trying to have even a single copy, much less multiple copies, of every book is simply impossible. There are presses that our warehouses don’t deal with, there are books that go out of print, there are books that don’t sell well in an area (a book about hunting in winter in Michigan is unlikely to be a standard in Florida at any time of the year), and there’s the simple limitation of space. We don’t have the room. Trying to have copies of every book currently in print would require the planet from Doctor Who’s Silence in the Library.
Also not the employee’s fault is you being unable to tell us what you want. Yes, it’s our job to know our products and to be able to ask leading, discerning questions, but there are limits to that skill. Book-specific again, telling me about a book you saw five years ago that had a red cover, and maybe there was a dragon on the cover or was it just a dragon in the story? Or maybe it was a dancer, it’s hard to remember but it was a table near the front of the store…if I actually try to explain all the things wrong with that statement, this would be a rant that could burn up the interwebs, but we get that constantly. We will do our absolute best to find you what you’re looking for, but you have to be able to meet us halfway. Hand in hand with that, if you ask for our suggestions on something, listen to them. Don’t shoot down every suggestion and offer us nothing in return. We can’t find you something you want if you won’t tell us at least a little of what you want.

3.People are shopping. There will be lines.
The more people there are out shopping, the more people there will be in the stores. That means you may have to wait for us to stop helping someone else before we can help you. That means you may have to wait in line before you can be checked out. We aren’t out to ruin your day, we’re not out to inconvenience you. We’re just doing our jobs, and trying to do them to the best of our ability for a lot of people. We’re there to help you, to ring you out, to answer questions, but we’re not there to help only you. We will do everything we can to assist you in a timely manner but we are human and we do have limitations, especially when we’re trying to help three other people before you even walk in the door. Be patient. If you’re in a hurry, consider calling ahead. Or coming in another time when you do have a few minutes to wait. This is a very busy time of year and there are only so many people on staff. Please, please don’t give us nasty looks, makes those loud sighs and obnoxious huffs, cut in front of others, grab us (literally) to yell your question at us, or try to talk over the person next to you. We’re here to help everyone. Everyone gets a little overwhelming.

4. Be nice.
Growing up in my house, Thumper’s mother was paraphrased more along the lines of “If you can’t say something nice, shut the hell up” but there’s still truth to the original. As retail employees, we are under a huge amount of stress this time of year. Please be nice to us. I’m not saying bake us cookies or ask after our mothers, but being patient, being courteous, these go a long way into making things better for all of us. I’m not just an employee, I’m also a consumer, so I understand the frustration with long lines, with complications at the registers, with employees who don’t seem to be able to find anything. And I’m certainly not saying that there are no idiots working in retail. There are. Oh, dear God, there are some idiots working in retail. But they’re fairly few and they don’t generally last long. What’s more frequently the case is that they were just hired on for seasonal help and they’re barely into their training yet. If you’re mean and snippy to us, we will still do our job. But if you are polite and courteous and understanding, we will bend over backwards to try and find a way to get you what you need. And we’ll do it with a smile because you are making our day.

5.Online stores and physical stores? Not the same things.
That holds true even when they’re the same company. Websites are usually a separate division, a completely different part of the company run by different people under different expectations and processes. Items online and in store will almost never have the same price. Telling us that it’s cheaper online will not change anything. We know it’s cheaper online. We also know why it’s cheaper online.
Online retail works through massive warehouses and significantly different overheads. When you shop through a website, you’re often being compensated for the fact that you won’t have the item immediately in your hand. You have to wait for that, they understand that people don’t like waiting, so they knock a few bucks off the price. There’s also the fact that a warehouse buys in bulk- bulk generally means discount which means, per book (or other item) the warehouse is paying less than a store is, because we deal from single copies up to multiple cases for a big release. Still nowhere near the amounts being purchased for the online division. We don’t get the super bulk discounts.
Whether you buy in store or online, you’re still contributing to the company’s overall success. BUT. When you shop in a physical store, you can see the people you’re helping. When you buy a book in my store, you are helping me pay rent. You’re contributing to my location’s numbers, helping us pay our overhead, helping us cover the costs of rent and utilities and the excellent help we give you. The passionate hand-selling we do is a perk of being in a store, where you can talk to people who know and love their products and are excited to share that knowledge with others. You have experienced employees who can sometimes achieve the impossible by finding a book from negligible information.
When you come into a store and ask our help, use our time to find the books or series for you, tell you about, answer questions about it, that time has a cost. It sucks but it’s true. For every minute an employee is in the building, we have to earn back a certain amount to be in the black. When you then turn around and buy that book online, you are literally taking money out of my rent check. Online is convenient. It’s often a little cheaper. But if you have the time to work ahead, if you have a local store you can support, please give some thought to doing it. We deal with people all the time who complain about stores closing and people losing their jobs and the state of the economy, but well over half the time, these same people are the ones who don’t make a purchase with us because they can get it two dollars cheaper online if they’re willing to wait a week or two. OR, they spend two bucks less on the book in order to pay eight bucks more on the shipping to get it faster, when they could have walked out of our store with it already in their hand. Please, please, support your local stores if you can. This isn’t just a hobby for us, this is how we pay our bills, and the more business shifts to online retailers, even if we’re in the same company, the less likely it is that our stores will be able to remain open.

6. Tis the Season for Giving. Don’t bite our heads off when we ask about charities.
A lot of companies and stores host charitable works through the season. They’re asking for money or items, asking you to take a little extra time or a couple extra bucks. Money is tight for a lot of people, and trust me, we get that. But at least let us ask, let us tell you the reason we’re asking, before you tell us no. If you don’t want to contribute, or if you’re contributing elsewhere and to other organizations, that’s fine. But let us tell you about our cause. My location partners with an amazing organization for our holiday book drive. I make the initial question “Would you like to donate a book to [insert name here]?” simple, because chances are, I’ve already asked you a lot of questions through the transaction. If you give me even the slightest sign of interest, I will tell you all about this amazing program, and none of that passion is faked. None of that excitement is about trying to get you to spend more money. It’s about an amazing program that has amazing results, that works to something I believe in a great deal, and it’s something I want to share, something I want to contribute to. I know I’m one of a million people asking you for something everywhere you go, but I’m asking for a reason. Let me tell you what that reason is. Then, if you want to tell me no, I’m not going to ask the reason. I’m not going to call you a cheapskate or a Scrooge, I’m not going to give you a nasty look. I’m simply going to say okay and press the total button. It’s not just my job, it’s my privilege to ask. It’s your right to say no. That doesn’t make me a scumbag for asking.

7. Ask for a gift receipt.
I know not every place does them, but most do. Even if you are 100% sure that Little Timmy wants that specific video game, get a gift receipt. Chances are, others may also know that Little Timmy wants that specific video game. Without a receipt, there is very little most places can do. We try to be lenient after the holidays but there are company rules that we can only bend so far. Gift receipts are free, they take almost zero effort, and they make everything a lot easier during the massive return deluge of January. It also reduces the chances that the person you bought the thing for will stuck with a duplicate or with something they genuinely don’t want. It’s the thought that counts- so give that extra second’s thought and ask for a gift receipt, and everyone ends up happy.

If this sounds like I’m begging you? I am. I’m not too proud to admit it. This time of year is unbelievably hectic for me. I work about forty hours a week in an increasingly stressful atmosphere, and at the end of the day, I still have to do my own holiday shopping. I make an effort to treat people the way I want to be treated, both as a consumer and as an employee. Yes, as a shopper, I get frustrated with employees who are genuinely incompetent. I get irritated by inexplicable delays. Want to know a real shocker? I HATE being greeted when I walk into a store. It makes me feel singled out, and is also a holdover from the days when I’d go hungry rather than call in for pizza because I just plain refused to talk to a stranger. I hate being greeted when I walk into a store. But, because part of my job is greeting people when they walk into our store, I respond politely to the employees who greet me when I walk into their stores. I don’t like it. But I do it.

And when it comes down to it, taking away all the other possible reasons, I have to be honest and say that the most basic reason I ask these things is because I want to enjoy Christmas. I used to love Christmas. I looked forward to it all year, not just because of the gifts, but because of the season. It was the music and the decorations and the cooking (and the cookies!) and the smells and everything about it. Three years at the arts adn crafts store made me genuinely hate Christmas for a little while. Not the day itself, but everything connected to it. I’d heard so much bad Christmas and holiday music that I couldn’t even stand to hold out for the good stuff- which meant singing with my mother, as much as I love it, became a chore because the Christmas music made me skin crawl. The smells? Anyone who’s ever worked with scented candles and cinnamon pine cones will probably tell you to shove those smells someplace very uncomfortable. The decorations were a nightmare and they came in earlier and earlier every year, and just seeing how incredibly stressful (and mean!) people got about it depressed me. I came to genuinely hate Christmas.

I’ve gradually gotten back to the point where I’m loving it again. The stuff still comes too soon and the attitudes start too early and come across too strong, but I actually unpacked my Christmas CDs and our Christmas movie marathon will have some of the classics back on it this year, rather than just Bad Santa, Die Hard, and Lilo and Stitch. My roommate will put her tree up the day after Thanksgiving, maybe even Thanksgiving night, and a week or two later, I’ll put up my little one. I’ll sing carols and hymns and pop songs through the apartment when my roommates aren’t home, and I’ll sing them with my mom, because that’s always been the single best thing about Christmas.

I don’t want to come home growling because of another day like yesterday. I have no idea what it was, if there was something in the water or if there was just a sort of general hopelessness for our college’s chance of winning its game, but people were MEAN. Cutting us off before we could ask anything, snapping at us, ranting at us, calling us stupid and incompetent for things entirely beyond our control, actually being insulting, even being rude to each other. We were baffled by it! We expect the occasional mean customer but this was a serious concentration and we were all on the wrong end of the barrels. After the third straight hour of this, I shared a look with one of the other employees and we said, at the same time, “And the holidays really are here!”. And there’s something profoundly wrong with that being true.

Maybe this is less of a Public Service Announcement than it is a Plea for Seasonal Amity, but as the retail holiday season starts hitting its stride, please remember the people behind the uniforms, the people on the other end of the phone calls, and take a moment to think about the experience you would want if you were in our shoes.

Until next time~

P.S.- This is probably a good time to post another disclaimer. I work in a bookstore but the opinions expressed, in this post in particular and the blog in general, are not the opinions of the company I work for, and should in no way be taken as a reflection of its official views. This is a personal opinion in a public forum, but it is the opinion of the person, not the employee, and certainly not the organization.

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A Bit About Jargon: Pre-Orders

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Industry, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

You know you want it.

It’s that book you’ve been waiting a whole year for- maybe even two or three years. More if you’re a Jordan or Martin fan. It’s that book you scour the internet for, squealing over a cover reveal, searching for teasers and any words the author might release about it. You look for the contests so you can get it early. You have it marked and circled in really bright colors on your calendar. You’ve requested the release day off of work so you can run out, buy it, and just start reading it then and there.

So have you pre-ordered it yet?

You’d be stunned at how many people would answer no.

The thing is, if you really want the book, you should pre-order it, and here’s why:

You have nothing to lose by putting your name down for one. Now, if you’re looking at e-books or if you’re doing it online, that’s different. Obviously there’s money down for that one, and if you get the first few pages and it sucks, e-books aren’t returnable. But if you’re doing it in a store, there’s no money down. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, so you’re risking nothing by having one set aside for you. What that does is guarantees that there’ll be a copy for you if you want it.

For small- to mid-release titles, not all bookstores are going to receive copies in quantity, or even at all. There’s a finite amount of shelf space at a bookstore, so not every title gets to be represented. Sad, but true. If you don’t have us bring it in, we may not be getting it.

For most new releases, publishers send us between three and eight copies, depending on whether or not it’s got extra displays or promotions. Think about that, though: if there are three to eight people in your area who want that book as badly as you do but don’t have to worry about class or work and can get either get to the bookstore right away or send someone else for them, then you don’t get your copy. *sad face* Then you have to order it anyway, but you don’t get it when you were actually wanting it.

For larger releases, we generally get a certain number of books above our pre-orders. There’s a whole equation for it tucked away somewhere but the warehouse considers pre-orders to be an accurate indiation of how many people in our area want the book.

Now me? I live in an area where, for some reason or another, people refuse to pre-order. I don’t know what it is, but everyone just assumes that the book will be there if they want it, regardless of what the title is. They want the books, but they won’t pre-order it.

That results in little things like the Breaking Dawn fiasco.

We were required to have a midnight release party for it, and we were told fairly early on that the number of books we received would be strictly dependant upon the number of pre-orders we got. We busted our butts trying to get those pre-orders, but most people didn’t want to put their name down. They said they’d just come and get it that day, despite our warnings that we wouldn’t be getting that many books above our pre-orders. Despite multiple warnings, even. By the night of the release, we had 45 pre-orders. I think the buyer pitied us because he sent us 130 books.

Then we had 97 people show up for the party.

We were completely sold out of the book by four o’clock that afternoon, as was EVERY OTHER PLACE IN TOWN, because we all got quantity based off our pre-orders. We had to struggle to get more books in, but people STILL wouldn’t put their names down, so as soon as we got them in they sold to other people. This went on for WEEKS (to be fair, it was complicated by the fact that this was a buyer-managed title so we had to beg to get quantities above what their equations told us we should get).

October 4th, we’re going to have a crush of parents in to pick up Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune, and the kids whose parents have to work during the day will come crowding in at night. We’ve got less than 20 pre-orders and one of those is mine. The buyer knows this is a huge title, they’re going to send us quite a bit, but what about two days from now, when Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath comes out?

If we’re slated to get a certain amount (like in the case of Goliath, about 8) and our pre-order numbers don’t break past a certain percentage, they don’t send us any extra, meaning the pre-orders actually come out of those numbers. If we’ve got three pre-orders, there are five left out in the wild.

Really reduces your chances of getting that copy when you want it.

Pre-ordering through a store costs nothing. You do not pay to reserve the title. We take your name and phone number, and when it comes it we set one aside with your name on it. Release day, we give you a call or email as a courtesy reminder that the book is in. Then, you can come get it or not. Found it somewhere else? That’s fine. Got it as a gift? That’s fine too. Come in and read the first chapter and realize the book is going to dash all your hopes and dreams, and you will actually shrivel and die a little inside if you read the rest of it? You don’t have to buy it.

I like to try new authors, and because I read YA, there are a TON of debut authors. It’s a gamble, trying a new author. You don’t know if you’re going to like the style or the characters, and with debuts, a bookstore may or may not be stocking them without a publisher push. It sucks, but there it is; buyers have to manage a finite amount of display space, so they do their best to tailor to what’s known to sell in each store. So I put in a pre-order. When it comes in, I flip through the first chapter or two and see if I’m caught. Do I like the writing? Do the characters interet me? Does the story intrigue me? If the answers are yes, I buy the book. If the answers are no, I simply have the hold cancelled and it goes out on the shelf.

No money changes hands unless I actually decide to buy it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to get a book when you want it because of a pre-order. It costs nothing, and it takes less than a minute to give us your information to hold it for you. You can even pre-order multiple titles at a time, and we’ll let you know as each comes in (I do my orders a month at a time and just flip through them as they arrive, and I can buy or not buy as I choose).

On November 1st, when Ally Condie’s Crossed comes out, or on December 6th when Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince comes out, do you really want to be one of those people without a book because you didn’t put your name down?

Please, please, as a bookseller I am BEGGING you: if you want a book, take the two seconds to put in a pre-order. You literally have nothing to lose.

But you have a lot to gain- specifically, a guarantee of the book on release day or whenever you want to go pick it up.

Just to satisfy a curiosity, what books are you looking forward to in the next few months? (And are you going to pre-order them?)

Until next time~

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Vacation Alert!

June 11, 2011 at 9:00 am (Uncategorized)

Just a friendly public service announcement: this will be the last post for a couple of weeks because I am doing the absolutely unthinkable- taking a vacation. That’s right, for the next two weeks I will actually be doing the relaxing thing. I’m out of state, seeing my sister, taking ghost tours and doing research and recharging and there will be a ton of reading so when I get back there’ll be new reviews of some of the amazing books that have hit the shelves recently.

When I come back, I will be all sorts of relaxed and recharged! So, enjoy your next couple of weeks, folks, and I’ll see you at the end of the month!

Until next time~

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