Pub Crawl–A reader’s perspective on being a book-a-holic
by Erin Saluta
My parents lied to me. Oh, I’m sure we can all come up with moments in our pasts where we caught our parents in a lie. But my parents had a doozy and managed to keep it going for over six years!! Pretty impressive in my opinion, especially since they had such altruistic professions one being an English teacher and the other being a Librarian. But maybe it was because of these creative careers that they had the imagination needed to create The Lie.
In the winter of my third grade year, we had a tremendous storm blow through. I grew up in Central California so when I say storm it in no way compares to what the entire country suffered through this last year (except, of course, California). No, our storms were downpours of rain and strong winds. Strong enough, if we were lucky, to knock out the power. I know that doesn’t compare to getting a snow day- and yes I’m still jealous of those- but no power was pretty cool to this kid! It meant having candles and flashlights. It meant the whole family hanging out in the living room. It meant winter which, for me, was the equivalent of Christmas season where there was no school and at some point presents! My third grade year we had such a storm. One so bad I caught my dad wearing his moped helmet in the hallway of our house. One so bad that trees were blown over. One so bad it blew up our TV! Yep! We went to sleep with my Dad (in his helmet) watching the news and we woke up and it was no longer there. Blown up. Gone. No longer available. At least that is what we were told- The Lie!
After a day or so, it seemed like it had never been there. Did I mention the English teacher/Librarian parents? We had books. Lots and lots of books. And so began my addiction. I’m not sure how many other kids were punished with the threat that if they didn’t obey they wouldn’t be allowed to pick out a new book at the store that week, but I sure was. I loved my books. Got lost in them. Found friends, had adventures, felt emotions, anything and everything that you could get from a book I did.
Now all these years later I’m wondering how long it is going to be before individuals won’t know what a bookstore is- a place I considered my toy store! Sort of how young adults now don’t entirely understand what it was like to wrap your finger around the cord of the phone line or play a tape until it wrinkled or having to stand up and walk across the room to change the channel on the TV. I’m scared that the new book smell of a bookstore is going to become extinct along with the shelves and tables full of dreams placed on paper.
I had a chance to work in a bookstore for about a year. It was a part time job that I took solely for the discount on books and to put 100% of the paycheck back into getting my book fix. I was lucky, I know. I was even luckier because this bookstore was a LGBT bookstore! AND it had a used book section. Score!! This was where I found a sanctuary within my comfort zone. There is nothing like curling up with a book- even better is curling up with a lesfic book. The fact that I had all of these wonderful titles in front of me speaking a whole new language was almost overwhelming! How, oh how! was I going to choose my weekly supply from all the offerings? I came up with a system!
The manager of the store was this very kind, bookish, man who had read more lesbian novels than anyone I knew. Not sure why other than he claimed to be a lesbian trapped in a gay man’s body but he was an excellent source for book talk. We spent hours, yes hours! talking titles, authors, awards, and publishers. I had approached him when I was still just a customer about ordering some Lori L. Lake titles for me and he came back with the answer that they were print-on-demand (POD) and the store owner’s wouldn’t stock them. Something about not being able to send titles back, blah, blah, blah, business, money, blah, blah, blah. For me? Huge sad face! I liked Lori Lake’s work! In fact I liked a lot of the authors who published with the same company she did, Renaissance Alliance, ESPECIALLY those in the Yellow Rose label. This is where I had found Anne Azel, Carrie Carr, Georgia Beers, Melissa Good, LJ Maas, and D. Jordan Redhawk! They were and still are some of my favorite authors and some of my favorite stories.
Well looking back now, it was obvious to see that I had found the Xena FanFic collection. I may get my card revoked for this but I actually only watched a couple of episodes of Xena. I would definitely watch it if it was on, but books have always been a greater pleasure than watching TV, so it was hard to close the cover of a book so that I could turn on the TV. I loved Xena FanFic though! I think it truly got our lesfic community kick started. It gave us two strong leading women and the genre just got better from there.
But what was this system I discovered to choose my book purchases? It was that used book area that solved the POD ordering problem and created a selection process for me. Just because my manager couldn’t order the POD books didn’t mean that he couldn’t buy used copies of them! And that is what he did. So I would wander through the shelves of used books, running my finger along the spines looking for the R/A or the Yellow Rose or the Q symbol which would let me know I had found my prize! It didn’t matter who the author was, I knew if it had that mark on the spine, it was going in my purchase pile. My only problem was that people weren’t selling them back fast enough and were obviously keeping the best for themselves- greedy lesbians!! Then I discovered Naiad and a whole new type of lesfic was opened to my book-a-holic eyes! From the romances of Lyn Denison and Karin Kallmaker, the messages of Marianne K. Martin and Jane Rule to the groundbreakers of Katherine V. Forrest. Heck I even have some Amanda Kyle Williams adventures published by Naiad! And that little name ‘NAIAD’ displayed so proudly on the spines was a beacon for my searching fingers.
I think that is what I have feared the most about losing so many bookstores. I can no longer stand in front of the shelves and run my fingers along the spines picking out those publishers whose authors are a sure hit. Our genre is HUGE now! I mean I actually remember a time when I had read 90% of all the lesfic titles available on Amazon. Now? Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel when I log onto FaceBook and see release announcements, check my cart on Amazon and have over 17 pages of recommended-for-you listing authors of whom I’ve never even heard. How am I supposed to choose now? So many books! So little money!
So I am wondering fellow readers, how do you make your selections? I could continue my version of a pub crawl, sticking with publishing houses I know, but I feel like I would miss so many amazing stories. Catherine M. Wilson, Lynn Galli, Saxon Bennett and Layce Gardner, and Kate Christie all publish some or all their work independently and my fingers would have never pinged on those book spines. How oh how am I supposed to find these wonderfully talented authors if I’m not doing my pub crawl through the stacks?
I am so proud of our genre and how much it has grown. The number of publishing houses available for readers to browse through has exploded to the point that the selections available will have something for everyone. And if they don’t, well there is always the enormous selection of independently published authors. I’m wavering on the brink of saying there are too many! Too many publishers, too many independent releases. Too many people thinking they have a story to tell but not knowing how to write it. I do appreciate how much emphasis is being put on the craft of writing to include editing and proofing a story before release as much as is put on the actual story itself. I mean they are two incredibly different skills to possess and when combined make for a powerful gift to readers. But still, how am I supposed to know? How am I supposed to choose? I’m torn between missing the days of being able to have any easy selection process because the numbers were so limited and absolutely LOVING the current work that our talented community of lesfic authors has provided us. I’m getting desperate and I desperately need a new system of selection! Any suggestions fellow readers? One book-a-holic to another, any insight would be greatly considered.