Pub Crawl–A reader’s perspective on being a book-a-holic by Erin Saluta

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.

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13 thoughts on “Pub Crawl–A reader’s perspective on being a book-a-holic by Erin Saluta

  1. I’m so there with you on the TV, I can barely stand to put the book down to turn the TV on, and if I do turn it on, I usually have a book in my hand anyway. I come across books in different ways:
    – some authors I buy regardless.
    – if I like what an author has to say on FB or blogs or other media I will usually try one book and see whether I like their writing as much as I like their commentary
    – if a reviewer whose taste I know is similar to mine likes a book, I will read it
    – since I had no idea lesfic existed until about 4 years ago, (I know, I live under a rock) I have a lot of classics and “older” works to read so I take note when they are mentioned and keep a list. In some cases I’m working my way through the collections of more prolific authors.
    – I belong to a Lesfic book club

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    1. Ann is your Lesfic book club live or on-line? I would absolutely LOVE to have one local so I could attend in person. I do belong to a couple on-line though. I definitely have some favorite authors who I buy regardless- who are some of yours? Would love to compare. I like the idea of going off of their FB posts but still a little overwhelmed because there are so many. Thanks for reading and thanks for the suggestions!

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      1. My live book club is in Minneapolis, MN. We meet once a month. I joined just last spring and I love it. I’m also a member of a couple on-line ones.

        My list of authors is pretty long. I read mostly romance, with the occasional mystery/suspense or general fiction book thrown in. I have found some great reads via social media, especially in genres where I don’t usually read.

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  2. Oh Erin I can totally relate. I was the kind of kid that stayed inside all day and read. My father used to read Dickens or some other classic to us as when we were children. I didn’t discover lesbian fiction until much later and usually chose Naid books, but my cherished books were might less because I would have to try to find them in whatever bookstore I would visit when in the “big city”. When e-books came about and there were so many titles to choose from I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I stopped reading every other genre because now I had a steady stream of lesbian fiction to choose from. Here is my system now….I take the recommendations of other people in the lesbian reading groups and if there are consistent high ratings and I like the blurb and cover I get the book. Some I get because I just like the author. I also like to try out and support new authors, especially ones who get a decent buzz and I read the first chapter and like their style. Now that there are so many to choose from, I am no longer scraping the barrel to find the next good read. I found my current publisher by going to their website and bought a lot of their books after reading some of their free ones. Happy reading!

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    1. Annettemori who are some of the new authors that you have enjoyed? And i know what you mean about reading lesfic full time!! That is me now. I spent most of my time in college and a few years after reading the classics but now that I have this genre- too many books!! Thanks for responding and I appreciate your suggestions!

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  3. Erin – I am really enjoying your entries here! Good stuff and substance, and good writing. Thanks, and Write on, you! Pax

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  4. The best place I have found for finding new reading material is right here – the Women and Words “New Releases & Coming Up” link at the top of the page.

    I still do not have a TV … and I love being TV free! Yes, there are some things I just don’t know – takes me a bit longer to understand why suddenly everyone is saying the same word or words (“duh,” for example). But, really, I think TV is killing our brains, our vocabulary, and our ability to think! “If it isn’t shallow, I don’t want to deal with it!” Your parents did you a tremendous favor!

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    1. I couldn’t agree with you more!! I feel lucky to have grown up with books the way I did. Of course I suck at any type of trivia game about the 80’s now, but….love my books! LOL! Thanks for the suggestion of new releases and coming up. How do you select which titles from the list you purchase? Thanks for responding!

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      1. Hi, Erin!

        How do I select? It is, of course, a highly subjective process!

        I literally have lists of authors that I read – in all of the areas that I read, not just lesfic – I read a great deal of history and other modern fiction by writers like Marisa de los Santos and Barbara Kingsolver (actually her non-fiction as well).

        Some are authors that have never – or rarely- disappointed me and as soon as they have something new available, I will buy it or put it on my hot “to buy” list. These are people like Clifford Henderson, Gerri Hill, Georgia Beers, Robin Alexander, Marianne K. Martin, Kiki Archer, Karen Kallmaker, K. G. MacGregor … you get the drift, or primary genre, there are others but it is a long list!

        There are others I read but I am probably a little more selective based upon the description of the particular book. These are authors like Carsen Taite, Radclyffe, Kate Sweeney … that, again, is a long list and it is authors with multiple books published. (And, Carsen, the more I have read of hers, is probably moving up to my first list!)

        The harder decisions are those authors with less of a ‘track record’ and I really do use websites of authors, publishers, and any reviews I can find to help with these. Through Women and Words I have read many authors that I might not ever have stumbled across otherwise. Recent ones are Baxter Clare Trautman, Sandra Moran, G. Benson, Clare Lydon … But I do try to research as many sources as I can find when looking at a new author.

        As you can tell, I have an aversion to science fiction and I am not overly fond of too much violence (it is nearly always the woman character that gets it, right?). I do try a few things that are outside of my “preferred” list. Just last week I purchased and read “Asset Management” by Annette Mori, because I have been “introduced” to her here. It is well written and I enjoyed reading it, even though I hesitated over it for a while based upon the description. And, using this as an example [please forgive me Annette!] I have not purchased her first (or first as far as I know) book, because I am not sure from the description if it delves into the paranormal or if I am mis-reading between the lines of the description.

        Okay, who knows at this point if I have even answered your question, Erin!

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  5. Erin, great blog, I often wonder the same thing … most of the ways that you and others find books, I use. And I WISH I was a reader early on … truthfully I didn’t become a real-reader until a bit after college. In some ways that was good (the early 90’s) as there was a larger offering of lesfic. I was even lucky enough to live in West Hollywood, CA which had several large shelves of Gay and Lesbian Fiction books at the Public Library (my parents too were teachers, later Mom became a librarian). So, there in the past and today I discovered Lesfic authors at the library … Katherine V. Forrest, Penny Hayes, Claire McNab, Kate Allen, Celia Cohen, Jayne Maiman, Jean Darcy, Penny Mickleberry, Deborah Powell, Pat Welsh, Amanda K. Williams, and surprisingly in the last five years Lynn Galli, Cari Hunter, Gill McKnight … I think I ‘discovered’ Geri Hill’s work from the Public Library too … but it was more like 7-8 years ago. I am still playing catch-up on the “classic” lesfic authors –Sarah Dreher (thanks to Cari Hunter’s praise), Lee Lynch and even Sarah Aldridge. Sometimes I get lucky and “win” a book here at Women and Words or other generous websites, which is great!!! Andi Marquette and Jen Silver to name a few wins that are “winners”. At used bookstores, I use the ‘look-for-known-favorites’ and LF publishers, but I wonder how many I miss using that method. There is ONE independent bookstore that has a new and used Lesbian Fiction section-found some winners there, namely Kate McLachlan (used book “Hearts, Dead and Alive”), Ronica Black (used-“Hearts Aflame”), Jove Belle (used “Indeliable” still my fav of Jove’s) and a new favorite Robin Alexander (used- “A Kiss Doesn’t Lie”); new books/authors (to me, at least) I usually look at online reviews before buying, unless I’m flush with cash then it’s the blurb (Melissa Brayden, I discovered this way). There are tons more I discovered through LGBT collections/libraries, used books and other highly reviewed or “favorite” lists of others … I even have a spreadsheet of almost all the lesfic books I’ve read … Sorry, didn’t mean to go on and on … Oh, and by-the-by I LOVE the another reader’s perspective (as I do authors’) and LOVE to have a place to talk Lesfic Books!!! Okay, gotta go the Dog wants his walk!!

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    1. Barbara! That is an awesome selection of finds at the local library! I’ve tried that once or twice at several places I’ve lived without much success. If I do track down an author there it is usually one I’ve read but will check it out just to make sure the library knows it’s in demand. I’ve also just recently found that there is a way to request books be brought into the library so I need to explore that more. Thanks for responding!!

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