About “The N Word”

Everyone’s been buzzing this week about Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s decision to bail out of broadcast radio following that over-publicized “N-word” boo-boo on her nationally syndicated program. It’s really unfortunate that Dr. Laura feel the need to do jump ship—although there are four months between now and the end of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she surfaces in January on some other radio network.  Stuff like that happens in this business all the time.

Even more unfortunate is that Dr. Laura’s point—a very valid point—has been lost in all the name-calling and rock-throwing that followed her unfortunate foot-chomping moment. If only she’d had the good sense to say, “N-word, N-word, N-word” instead of actually using the N-word, perhaps the conversation could have turned more productive.

Dr. Laura’s point was, quite simply, that there is a double-standard in our society when it comes to the N-word. When I searched for a suitable picture to accompany this post, I found zillions of pictures of African-Americans wearing T-shirts with the offensive word emblazoned upon them, album covers, artwork, and other such examples of the same word being used daily, and I’ve yet to hear of the African-American community boycotting musicians or protesting in front of stores selling the offensive apparel.

Let’s be honest here: If Michael Baisden or Tom Joyner had made the same point in the same way using the same words, would it have even caused a blip in the national press? I’ve heard both of those national radio talents say things that, in the mouth of any Caucasian radio talent, would cause an immediate one-way trip to unemploymentland.

It’s a double-standard. It’s wrong. Period.

Personally, I find the “N-word” offensive. It’s offensive on African-American lips, it’s offensive on Caucasian lips, it’s offensive on any lips.

As a boy, I used that word once in my father’s presence—and I do mean exactly once. When I picked myself up from the floor, he explained to me in his salty and straightforward manner that if he ever heard that word on my lips again, I’d be taking a break from further conversation while having my teeth removed from my throat. He went on to say that he served side-by-side with black men in World War II who bled the same shade of red he did. He learned to judge a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. He taught me to use the same method of measure.

Looking back, I can still recall the passion that drove his anger that day. It still speaks to me as it did then, of heartache-laden memories he seldom allowed to surface, respect for those who served our country regardless of their race,  and anger he could usually control when sober but that overtook him when he drank. I always felt there was more to Dad’s interracial war experience than he shared with me that day.  I regret that I never pursued that with him.

I do not, however, regret that I never again said the “N-word” in his presence.

Getting Out of the Fish

In recent weeks God, as He is wont to do, has drop-kicked me out of my comfort zone.

I’ve learned an important lesson in this experience.

If ever you utter the phrase, “Lord, I’ll do anything but <insert scary ministry thing here>,” God is quite likely to call you to do <insert scary ministry thing here>. In fact, you can almost count on it. It’s not that He’s mean and wants to put us into places where we’d be miserable; it’s that our “scary ministry things” are often linked to places where we’re ruled by fear and need healing. In my case, God’s called me to the thing that for years I’ve avoided: Children’s Ministry.

Over the years, I’ve staunchly held that my gifts don’t fit Children’s Ministry. I even suggested that if I were to attempt to work with children, I would duct tape them and lock them in a closet—which claim usually had the desired effect, causing those who disagreed with my assessment to back off.

What a load of crap.

The real reason I’ve resisted working with children is that I didn’t want to go back and dredge up unpleasant memories from my childhood. Simply stated, I am to Children’s Ministry what Jonah was to Nineveh. God has pursued me with incredible patience, just as He pursued Jonah. I can even look back and see a similar pattern in my resistance and rebellion, even a parallel to the “big fish” thing.

Let me tell ya, it stinks inside that fish. Not recommended.

Back in May, I made a life-changing decision to get out of the fish. When the Lord tapped my shoulder and said, “Let’s talk about writing fiction for tweens,” rather than my usual diversionary tactics, I answered with a simple “Okay.” Not that I’ll never again write adult fiction, but for now my focus is completely on middle-grade fiction. Oh, and for the benefit of those not familiar with the term, middle grade does not mean mediocre, as some folks I know actually thought when I first used the term. It’s writing targeted to the middle grades, generally 9-12 year olds. It is exactly what God called me to write. It proves He has a sense of humor. Those were some of the worst years of my life, and He’s called me to go back there and write from that misery.

Come to think of it, that’s not humor—it’s downright brilliant, making me go back and heal some wounds I never even wanted to admit to having. It’s stirred up some interesting memories and insights, some of which I’ll blog about here in the near future.

I took a giant step five weeks ago. I volunteered to help with our church’s Children’s Ministry on a more-or-less trial basis. For the past five weeks, we’ve done a re-run of our VBS program on Sunday mornings. Today, our Minister to Children asked how I felt about my experience and if I wanted to stay.

I said yes.

In fact, you couldn’t drag me out of that children’s wing with two cranes and a bulldozer.

Okay, Lord, you can go ahead and move the fish. I won’t need him anymore.

I’m “all in.”

Ancient Egypt and the Fourth of July

We’ve had a rare and wonderful couple of days around the Case complex. Rare, because I haven’t written a word in the past two days. Wonderful, because Sharon and I did something today we’d been talking about for months—we went to see the World of the Pharaohs exhibit at the Arkansas Arts Center. It was either today or wait until Mr. Peabody fixes the WABAC machine, since today marked the closing day of the exhibit. We’ve been talking about going ever since the exhibit opened last September. At least we didn’t wait until the last minute. There were approximately 343 minutes left before closing when we arrived.

I wish I could share my pictures with you, but unfortunately no photography was permitted in the exhibition hall. Dozens of stern-looking men and women watched every move we made, lest someone whip out an iPhone and take an illicit picture of a rare artifact rather than buying a postcard from the Egyptian tchochke section of the gift shop.

To me, it’s always interesting to explore a culture different from my own.  Not everyone agrees with me, I’m sure. Take the folks who travel to foreign lands are get upset because the people there don’t speak American English. If you want to be surrounded by people just like you, why not stay home and give the more adventurous a little elbow room?

If there’s one thing I wish I had a picture of, it’s a sign that appeared near the exit of the final room of the exhibit, the room with the mummies and sarcophagi. They wisely put that room at the end of the exhibit so all the kids being forced by Mom and Dad to broaden their historical acumen had something to look forward to that kept them focused (sort of). The sign touched on a point of controversy that’s been discussed repeatedly over the years: By displaying these sarcophagi and the linen-wrapped human remains found therein, are we disturbing and/or disrespecting the dead?

I’ve found myself thinking about that question for the past several hours, long after leaving the exhibit. I’m far from an expert on the religion of ancient Egypt, but I know they believed in an afterlife.  I believe in an afterlife too, though not at all the same kind of afterlife they did. I think, however, that the ancient Egyptians wanted the same thing most of us want: to be remembered. I can think of no situation sadder than a life ending and nobody wanting to remember that life,  or mourn, or grieve their loss.

Therein is a thread that connects us all, regardless of our religious belief (or lack thereof): we want to be remembered after we die.  Any honest author will admit that they dream of writing something so powerful that it continues to speak for generations after they’re gone. Medical researchers dream of discovering the cure to some fatal disease and having that cure bear their name long after they’ve breathed their last. Even the steelworkers who erect our modern skyscrapers take pride in knowing that over which they’ve labored will outlive them.

The sign called attention to an inscription on the wall of the room where the actual remains were displayed. It was a blessing that called on their gods to bless those individuals whose mummified remains I had just viewed—a blessing that listed the name of every individual whose remains we’d seen.  I could not recite that blessing without violating my own belief that I should not pray to false gods or idols, but I respected that blessing. As long as the names of those people are spoken and respected, they have the kind of afterlife they craved, an afterlife in which they are not forgotten.

In processing all this, it’s occurred to me that just yesterday we celebrated the day when America declared its independence, a day that began the first of many wars fought to achieve and maintain the freedom most Americans take for granted. One of our most sacred freedoms is the right to choose our religious belief and affiliation. While it’s become a popular sport to look down our noses and badmouth people who don’t believe exactly the way we do, I think it’s important to remember that the same blood that was shed to protect my right to embrace Christianity with both hands and both feet protects the rights of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and whatever-else-ists to believe what they believe. I may respectfully disagree with what you believe, I will fight to the death to defend your right to believe it.

May we never forget the names of those whose blood has defended our right to respectfully disagree.

Another Ridgecrest Farewell

I’m concluding my week at Ridgecrest in the same spot where I began—Rocking Chair Ridge. As nice as the new Johnson Spring complex is, this is still my favorite place at Ridgecrest. Every time I sit in one of these chairs, I can’t help but think about the lives that have been changed over the years in this very spot—including my own.

Every time I come here for a conference, God shows up. This week has been no disappointment. I’ve done a horrible job of tweeting, Facebooking, and whatever the latest cool social networking thing is that popped up while I wasn’t watching. I didn’t even tweet-feet, though I did post a picture of Vonda Skelton’s feet on the BRMCWC Facebook Fan Page, just for fun. Though I may have been social-network challenged, I’m certain my time went for all the right things.

What I did do this week is study the craft of writing suspense and thrillers at the feet of award-winning novelist Steven James. I also made a few hundred new friends, hugged a lot of old friend’s necks, and refilled my writer’s soul by hanging with all those fellow word-wrangling addicts.

And as always, there were surprises.

After a gentle but firm nudge from the Holy Spirit, I spent three days in Nancy Rue’s class on writing for tweens and teens. I knew it would be wonderful the moment I walked through the door and saw TOYS! I tried to avoid it, but the inescapable fact is that ther Lord is nudging me to dedicate a portion of my writing life to novels for tween boys (9-12 years old). I feel thoroughly inadequate for that task, which puts me in a good place. If I’m to have any success, God’s gonna have to show up and I’m gonna have to get out of His way.

I had one final surprise today, the sort of moment I’d attribute to coincidence if I believed in coincidence. At lunch today I sat at a random  table with a young woman who I later learned was Andrea Gutierrez, associate editor or Thriving Family magazine. I learned that we have some common friends, and also that Thriving Family is a potential target for some articles I’ve written in the past but haven’t done much with lately. I’ve been so fiction-focused that I hadn’t even considered article writing lately, but the queries will be flying before long. Coincidence? Not hardly.

One last item from Ridgecrest: a word about those wonderful Ridgecrest volunteers. I love red shirts anyway, but after this week I love ’em even more. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with retired folks who come to Ridgecrest and volunteer their time to help the ministry. The volunteers are easy to spot. Just look for the red shirts, and you’ll more than likely find a volunteer. These folks come here from all over the country at their own expense to serve without pay, and their faithful service added so much to the week for all of us. The photo shows my absolute favorite volunteer of all time, an eighty-something lady named Marvella. She’s volunteered to serve at every writer’s conference and retreat I’ve attended here at Ridgecrest, and without her I’d have never found my way that first year. We all love you, Marvella. I look forward to seeing you here next year!

Thoughts from an ex-Newbie

I’m at the wonderful Ridgecrest conference center, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I came a day early,as has been my tradition ever since my first year at BRMCWC, when I flew to Asheville using credit card points and HAD to stay a Saturday night to qualify. I stayed in a cheap motel in Asheville that time around because I’d never been to Ridgecrest before. Now that I’m in love with this mountaintop the only reason I’d stay anywhere else is “no room at the inn.”

Even though I didn’t “have” to come a day early this year—the old 25,000 point flight deal is long gone—Sharon, who has a special place in her heart for Ridgecrest, encouraged me to come early anyway. The extra day is mostly a somewhat selfish indulgence for me, an opportunity to relax and enjoy this wonderful place while getting myself mentally and spiritually preparedfor the conference. It also allows me to sit through the opening session fully awake, another plus. If I flew in on Sunday I’d have to be out of bed at 4am to get here, and by Sunday night I’d be in a walking coma.

Back when I first came here, there were no reasonable shuttle services between the Asheville airport and Ridgecrest, so I had to rent a car no matter how much it pained me to pay rental on a car that spent most of the week in the same parking space. There are more transit options available now, but to come a day early I still need the rental car. The meal ticket for the conference entitles me to three institutional meals a day that bring back bad memories of cafeteria lunches in Catholic school, but it doesn’t kick in until supper on Sunday. The ability to drive down to Black Mountain for a bite to eat and a few other supplies makes the car worth the little bit extra—and the shuttles from Asheville aren’t cheap, so it’s not that much more.

Having a high degree of frugalitycoded into my DNA (at least when spending MY money), I always shop for the cheapest little car I can find and use every coupon and free upgrade I can dig up. I lucked out this year and got upgraded from a bottom-end rubber-tires-and-motor car to a brand new Hyundai Sonata. It’s all a matter of right place, right time, and a car rental desk with such low inventory that the rental guy had to borrow a car from another rental company for the guy ahead of me in line. One of the car cleanup guys dropped the Sonata’s keys on the counter just as I pointed out that I was due a free upgrade. I ended up with a BIG free upgrade! 🙂 The Sonata is a spiffy car with lots of techie doodads and “stuff.” Bluetooth, satellite radio (what a waste), and lots of other features that I wish I had time to play with, but don’t.

Late yesterday afternoon, I drove into Black Mountain for a quick visit to a drug store and a bite to eat. It had turned dark by the time I left the restaurant, but I never gave that a second thought until I pulled on to the ramp to I40 and descended into blackness. Wouldn’t you expect a car with so many techie doodads to have automatic headlights? My far less cool GMC truck does, as does Sharon’s Pontiac Vibe. I suddenly found myself in the cockpit of a cool car with lots of knobs and buttons and no idea at all how to turn on the headlights!

I survived, of course. I pulled over, opened the door (how do you turn on an interior light in this thing?) and found the light switch. Let there be light.

Thinking about that little headlight debacle reminded me of my first time at Ridgecrest. I was as lost as a Baptist preacher in a biker bar, had no idea where anything was, where to go, or what to do. I got here early—two and a half hours before the scheduled registration window opened—so I could get my bearings and find my way around, and I needed every minute. A wonderful little grandma lady pointed me toward Pritchell Hall, where they checked me in and registered me even though I was early, gave me a map and pointed me in the right direction.

All through that first conference experience, whenever newbie befuddlement struck me a helpful soul was not far away, ready to point me in the right direction, encourage me, and make me feel like I belonged at a time in my writing journey when I wasn’t sure I did. Those encouragers are part of why I’m still a writer. Without them, I would have been overwhelmed and given in to the urge to quit. Most of them will never know what a difference they made.

It’s time for me to go now. Registration is open. Time for me to go down to Pritchell and look for some newbies to encourage.

Catching Up

I’ve been a bad boy—a very bad boy.

I haven’t posted anything here in, like, forever.  Not that I haven’t had anything to say. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ll probably still be talking when I’m cold and dead in my casket (preaching my own funeral is sort of a fantasy goal of mine).

I’ve just been battling with a good old fashioned case of  “Overload meets ADD.” Here’s how it works:

  1. After discovering wonderful new twists in your plot while sleeping, your hyperfocus drives you to write that focal story until thirty seconds before you MUST leave for your Day Job.
  2. The need to eat forces you to keep up with your Day Job, even though you’d rather be writing.
  3. You get home exhausted and say to yourself, “I’ll write that blog post tomorrow morning when I’m fresh.”
  4. While watching a couple minutes of TV, you get a great idea for a blog post and add it to the list of great blog ideas you’ll write in the morning.
  5. While sleeping, you dream your storyline and “the boys in the basement” give you the perfect way to solve that little problem.
  6. Go back to number one. Rinse. Repeat.

I have a limited number of hours I can dedicate to writing, and when I get immersed in a story it’s way too easy to fall into perpetual I’ll-write-that-post-tomorrow mode. I keep making notes about things I should blog about, but I never find the time to write them. As the list grows, it becomes more intimidating and more difficult to dive into. Eventually the list takes on a life of its own and knocking it down to size becomes a gargantuan task.

In the name of catching up, I’ve gone through the list with the heart of an editor, ruthlessly cutting things that aren’t worth saying. The few items that remain are more manageable one bite. Here are a few of the items left behind that I want to get off the list, in no particular order:

Conference Bound!

Yes, in spite of a less-than-brisk economy, in less than twelve hours from this posting I’ll be on a plane headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at the Ridgecrest Conference center near Black Mountain, North Carolina (not far from Asheville).

I’m excited to be returning to Ridgecrest after missing last year, but it’s going to be a very different experience for me this time. I’m already agented, so I won’t be playing the mating game with agents this year. I don’t have anything that’s ready to pitch, so it’s likely I’ll dispense with fifteen-minute meetings altogether. This year it’s all about growing in the craft and honing my skills as a writer, enjoying the fellowship for fellow word addicts, and encouraging others while others encourage me. I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, making some new ones, and listening to the Lord’s voice whisper in my ear on Rocking Chair Ridge.

Look for a few posts from Ridgecrest during the conference.

Rooms by Jim Rubart

This is Jim’s debut novel, and saying it’s “really good” is like calling a woman in her tenth month of pregnancy with triplets  “really pregnant.” Rooms is phenomenal, and if you’re not among the bazillion people who’ve bought it so far, you need to go straight to your local bookstore, Amazon, or  CBD and buy it today.

I take a little bit of encouragement in the knowledge that when I won first place in the ACFW Genesis contest in 2008, Jim took second place.  I was recently told by a publishing professional who I both trust and respect that I have the potential to have just as successful a debut—one of these days, but not yet. Believe it or not, there is a downside to having such a successful debut. Jim’s set his own bar quite high, and now everyone’s expectations are huge.  Rooms will be a tough act for Jim to follow, but I think he’s up to the task.

Apple Loyalty: Gone in a Flash

Apple has done a some truly brilliant things in recent years, and the techie community has taken notice. More and more IT geeks are including a MacBook Pro in their personal arsenal of computers, largely because Apple’s OSX is a pretty user interface on top of BSD Unix, one of the grand old-timers of the computing world. One thing Apple does extremely well is user interface, and choosing to build OSX on the BSD foundation set the developers free to maximize that interface–it’s too bad MicroSoft didn’t do the same.  Add in the iPhone phenomenon—an operating system that’s a subset of OSX with another brilliant user interface—and mix in the way Windows-centric Enterprise IT departments have embraced iPhone as an Enterprise-level device, and even the most anti-Apple would have to say Apple is on a roll.

Then Steve Jobs had to go shoot his mouth off about the evils of Adobe Flash. We could tolerate the iPhone not supporting flash–after all, it’s primary purpose is phone calls, email, and a little light surfing (plus all those nifty apps). As long as there’s been an iPhone, the tech-savvy have understood why flash was forbidden–Apple wants to have total control of you, your phone, and what you can or can’t do with it. Flash would change all that.

Enter the iPad, an overgrown iPhone without the phone, a device with enough screen real estate to enjoy full-length video and full-fledged web browsing.

The problem is that many websites are flash-dependent, and without flash they’re hollow shells filled with nothing. Big Brother Steve Jobs says that flash is outdated and should not be allowed to live, and therefore Apple will not allow it on its devices.

It’s interesting that Microsoft says the same things about Flash, with one major exception—Microsoft allows users to make their own decisions and access flash-based web content if they choose to do so. Apple assumes all users are too stupid to think for themselves, so the collective thinks for them and “protects” them by crippling their devices. At the root of Apple’s position is the technical reality that everyone knows but Steve Jobs won’t admit—allowing flash on the iPhone and iPad would make it possible for users to access applications that haven’t been blessed by Apple’s gods.

Come on, Steve. Everyone knows the truth, and you refusing to admit that truth doesn’t make it go away.  You’re a control freak. You want to rule the world, one smartphone at a time, by limiting our choices to those you can control and from which  you can profit.

Fortunately, I don’t live in Applestan–I’m still an American and I’m free to make my own decisions. I won’t be buying an iPad unless there’s a major shift in Apple’s mentality, and when my iPhone 3G contract comes up for renewal later this year I’ll take a long, hard look at Android-based (Open Source) phones before deciding. Apple could have had me, if only they’d dropped the Borg collective philosophy and start treating users with a measure of dignity and respect.

Need a  Job? Here’s an Idea!

It’s been all the buzz recently, all those billboards and TV spots with unemployed Americans saying, “Mr. President, I need a freakin’ job.” No doubt, some of you are offended at the use of the word “freakin'” because you know the word they meant, and I’d have to agree that word is offensive—but not nearly as offensive as the notion that it’s the responsibility of the President of the United States to personally deliver a job to every unemployed American.

I’ve been through periods of unemployment. I get it, really I do, but it’s not the government’s responsibility to give you a job. It’s your responsibility. In every time of hardship, there two distinct groups of Americans—those who whine because the government’s not doing enough for them, and those who get off their cans, find something to do, and do it better than anyone else. They’re too busy working to whine.

The interesting thing is that the INAFJ website is itself an example of just that principle in action. While they promote a “movement” with vague buzzwords and hard anti-administration rhetoric, they’re also selling tee shirts for twenty bucks a pop. That’s a tried-and-true business model that’s been used over and over by creative entrepreneurs. Find a group of people who are upset about something, become their buddy, sell them tee shirts that speak to their peeve. Whoever is behind INAFJ (the web address is registered through a registration proxy to hide the identity of the real owner) has done exactly what wise unemployed people have done for generations. 

I’m sensitive to the plight of the unemployed, so it’s with the utmost respect that I say, “If you need a freakin’ job, quit whining, get off your freakin’ can, and find something productive to do.” Don’t wait for the job to come to you; get out there and find a need, meet that need, and meet it better than anyone else. It’s the American way!

And finally: A Personal Note to Jay Leno

Thank God you’re back on The Tonight Show! We’ve missed you terribly, and now that you’ve got your late-night legs back, you rock!

It’s great to see you experimenting with new ideas, even if they don’t always work, because you’ve not forgotten what made you successful. It’s a balancing act, but you’re balancing it well these days. Keep up the great work!

I really hate that Kevin is leaving, but not nearly as much as I hated Conan’s version of the show. 🙂

Review: Promises by Jude Deveraux (A VOOK for iPhone)

iphone_promises2There’s been a little buzz lately about a new e-publishing concept called the Vook, a supposed marriage of video and text. If you believe all the press releases, the Vook is the future of publishing, the salvation of readers everywhere, and the best thing to happen for authors since the invention of movable type. Of course, if you believe press releases, you need a serious reality check.

I wanted to know what this “Vook” thing is about, and after reading several conflicting comments from reader/viewers I decided I’d check it our myself. Within minutes of that decision, I popped $4.99 to download a Vook to my iPhone.

I chose a Romance Novella as my test case, Promises by Jude Deveraux. As always, the App Store made it way too easy to drop five bucks on a whim. The download took a while—at 108MB, this is HUGE compared to most iPhone apps—but it installed without any complication or complaint.

The complaints began shortly after a quick look-see, when I went to the online Vook site and discovered that buying the iPhone edition gave me absolutely nothing if I wanted to read my purchase on the web-based platform. To evaluate the web version of the same book I’d just bought for my iPhone would cost me an additional $6.99. In a world where I can buy an e-book from Amazon and in moments I can read that book on my iPhone while Sharon reads the same book on her Kindle 2, I found that unacceptable and refused to play (or pay). That’s really a shame, because from what I’ve seen, the web-based platform is much more video-integrated and has more potential than the iPhone version. If someone from Vook would like to toss me a comp, I’ll be glad to take a separate look at the online platform–but the inability to read the same purchase on both platforms is a real deal-killer for me.

Exploring  Vook for iPhone

Unpromises_SS5smlike most of the other e-books I’ve read, Vooks are stand-alone applications (as opposed to reader apps that can select from a library of books). When you launch the app, it displays the lovely title screen shown above. It’s good that it’s a pretty screen, because unless you read the entire vook in one uninterrupted sitting, you’ll get to see this screen a lot. On my iPhone 3G, it takes around ten seconds of this screen before the app loads.

After the App loads, it presents a chapter listing and demonstrates what is, to me, a serious weakness. The Vook app can’t remember what you’ve read, the way virtually every other e-reader app can do. This is a major annoyance, particularly if you’re the type who likes to sneak in a page or three at slow trpromises_SS4smaffic lights or while answering nature’s call. You can’t even fold down the corner of a virtual page.

Once a chapter is selected, the user enters the actual reading interface, a straightforward screen where all the usual iPhone finger movements work to change pages. Vook, however, does not support landscape mode. To view videos (which only play in landscape mode), the reader touches the play buttons when they appear.

Vook uses the built-in iPhone video player, which means leaving the reader to view video, then returning to the reader. The lack of video integration makes for a nasty roadbump that pulls the reader out of the story every time he or she views a video clip. That might be okay for non-fiction, but for fiction, it’s quite disruptive.

The Story: Promises by Jude Deveraux

Promises is a Romance Novella, and like most romances is horribly predictable. I found that disappointing. I expected a story written specifically for a new, cutting-edge platform to be a bit more creative, or even a little outside-the-box.

Promises is written in an omnipotent point of view, meaning that the narrator can see the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of every character in a scene. This isn’t the first romance I’ve read that does this; Nicolas Sparks comes to mind as another best-selling author who’s fond of this method. What I find interesting is that all the modern mentors who are molding the writers of next week spend a great deal of time spanking new writers for doing exactly the same thing (they call it “head-hopping”). I seldom read omnipotent POV, and when I do I find it annoying. I occasionally have to stop and go back a few lines because an abrupt head change has jarred me out of the story. Personally, I think it takes a lot more skill to tell a story one head at a time, but you may feel free to disagree.

The Text & Video Marriage

The big question with which I began this exploration concerned how the video content and story content would merge in a Vook. The video content was well-produced and highly creative, but when married to the text it not only didn’t enhance the story, it detracted from it. Every time I stopped reading to launch a video, it knocked me out of the story. While this may be less the case with the video more integrated into the text (such as the web version), I found another phenomenon: The video images sometimes conflicted with my own mental pictures. I’m a very visual reader (and writer), and I create my own visualizations of settings and characters. Frankly, mine are better than the filmmaker’s, because they’re mine. They reflect my thinking, life experience, and personal creativity. This was my greatest disappointment with the concept.

The Verdict

Pros:

  • Pocket size
  • Colorful and pretty
  • Lots of potential for non-fiction application

Cons:

  • No interplay of iPhone and web-based formats; you have to pay twice for the same product to use both readers. Vook claims it’s because the two use different selling platforms, but Amazon seems to have worked this out with the Kindle.
  • No capability to bookmark last read page.
  • Lack of video integration jars reader from story
  • Videos pull reader out of the story and conflict with reader’s imagination

The Vook is an interesting concept, and I can see its application for non-fiction, particularly in how-to, travel, and history books. For fiction, it’s a flop. The web-based version may be better (I haven’t experienced it), with text and embedded video displayed on the same screen.

Hmm… text and embedded video on the same screen. Interesting idea.

I think Vook may have invented the web page.