Friday, July 18, 2008

My Name is Tracy, and I Have a Book-Buying Disease

(cross-posted at

I’m starting to think that my Book-Buying Disease is getting serious. My husband and I are in the process of trying to sell our house in a truly awful market, and the first thing our realtor said when he walked through the place was, "Books. You have to get rid of all these books."

I nearly fired him on the spot.

But then, I realized, he was just trying to help. The cleaner and more clutter-free your house is, the better its chances of impressing a potential buyer. But my books? They are not clutter. They’re … they’re … MINE. Sure, I have at least two full shelves-worth of books that I’ve purchased in the past and haven’t gotten to—cast-offs from garage sales and library book sales, bookstore bargain bins and, yes, books that I’ve gotten full price. Books friends have given me, and one guilty loaner that I have yet to return. (No, I’m really not one of THOSE people. I’ve tried several times to return it—the owner and I just can’t seem to get our acts together to meet up for a hand-off. I swear!)

I find a geeky comfort in sitting among my shelves, trying to decide which one to read next. My favorite part about moving (and we’ve done that a lot—my husband just retired after 20 years as a Naval officer) is getting to re-alphabetize my books. I once got a job at Barnes & Noble, even though the manager had to work around my rather labyrinthine grad school and tutoring schedule, simply by chirping, "But I LOVE shelving books!" with way more geekalicious enthusiasm than was probably necessary.

So anyway, I did pack up the vast majority of my books, which are sitting in the garage, boxed up in sad little stacks. Sometimes, they call to me when I am sleeping. But my husband and my realtor tell me that if I want to sell the house, I have to ignore their cries.

The bookshelf they were on was so old, it literally spat shelves on top of me and then fell over in an exhausted heap as soon as I’d removed the last book from it. I had to throw it out, but I still have two beautiful, handmade oak bookshelves in my family room, which I left standing with my realtor’s blessing, showcasing some of my prettier hardcovers and paperbacks.

And I allowed myself to keep ten unsightly paperbacks, a manageable To-Be-Read pile that fit neatly underneath my bed. I decided I would finally read those ten books that I’d been meaning to get to—including improve-your-mind classics like Dickens’ Great Expectations, Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo, and the newly annotated version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Plus, there were a couple of Intrigues in there, some longer mainstream and romantic suspense, and two women’s fiction titles: Ann Brashares’ The Last Summer of You and Me, and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Make Him Look Good.

I read P&P in all its annotated glory (fun!), finished Count of Monte Cristo (way fun!), and flew through the Intrigues (you know how much I love those). And then, the siren-call of Barnes & Noble proved to be too much.

From my neat, compact pile of ten, I have added so many to that TBR pile that I now have enough books, purchased or found since November, to fit into a giant plastic bin next to my bed. Which I KNOW would make that vein in my realtor’s temple twitch in disapproval like an electrified banshee. There are no dust bunnies underneath my bed, because there are now so many books smashed into that small space, they crowded the dust bunnies out. (The Great Dust Bunny Diaspora of 2008 apparently led them all into those narrow spaces between my refrigerator and the kitchen cabinetry.)

And yet, I just went to a couple bookstores last week as a stress-relieving outing. I meant to just browse the shelves and perhaps pick up a magazine, but good intentions aside, I ended up adding the following to the TBR avalanche:

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer: Two adult friends have been after me to read this book forEVER. What has these two otherwise level-headed women to go completely off their heads over a teenaged vampire, I don’t know. But I want to see what all the hype is about.

The Broken Window, by Jeffrey Deaver: Deaver is my hero. Best. Suspense. Author. EVAH. His plot twists are THE most amazing and unexpected in the mainstream suspense field, IMHO, and he was doing CSI stuff before CSI came on TV and made it cool. Deaver’s an autobuy for me, so, you understand, I HAD to get his latest. I’m halfway through it, and it’s A. May. Zing. Totally worth full-price (after my B&N discount, of course).

PS I Love You, by Cecilia Ahern: This one I actually traded for at my local used bookstore. (Sorry, Cecilia! But don’t worry—if I like it, I’ll buy the next one new. Why? Because that’s the way my disease works.) I just watched the movie and liked it so much, I wanted to read the book. Which so far is quite different from the film! For one thing, Holly is Irish, not an American married to an Irishman she met on vacation. The differences are very interesting.

Hood, by Stephen Lawhead: Does anyone remember that short-lived BBC series Robin of Sherwood, which aired on Showtime back in the 80s? I ADORED that series (which was FINALLY released on region 1 DVD last year), which marked the first time I fell in love with the Robin Hood legend. Someone gave Lawhead’s retelling of the legend and it’s sequel, Scarlet, GORGEOUS covers that drew me in like mosquitoes to a bug-zapper. I read the back, skimmed the first couple of pages, checked out a couple reviews, and then that bad boy was MINE.

Seriously, four books. What is my PROBLEM? Where am I going to put these things? What am I going to do when the ugly bin beside my bed finally explodes and I have nowhere else to hide my seriously out-of-control habit?

Maybe I can cram a few into that little space beside the refrigerator.

Am I the only one who has an out-of-control book habit? And what’s on your summer reading list?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Happy (late) 4th of July ... and Other Stuff

(cross-posted at the Intrigue Authors blog)

Hope you all had a happy 4th of July!

So as well as celebrating the 4th, I an continuing to celebrate the end of the latest Mercury in retrograde cycle, which ended several days ago. Normally, I'm not one of those people who lives and dies by my horoscope, though I have to say, I do fit in well with the conventional Scorpio profile--which is, long story short, an emotion-driven, intuitive hermit with big eyes. But that, I feel, is more of a coincidence than anything. Although I could probably be talked into changing my mind about that when Mercury is in retrograde.

Mercury turns retrograde three times a year, meaning that it appears to be moving backwards in the sky throughout the Zodiac--an illusion caused by the orbital rotation of the Earth in relation to the other planets. According to, Mercury "rules thinking and perception, processing and disseminating information and all means of communication, commerce, education, and transportation.... Mercury retrograde gives rise to personal misunderstandings; flawed, disrupted, or delayed communications, negotiations and trade; glitches and breakdowns with phones, computers, cars, buses, and trains. And all of these problems usually arise because some crucial piece of information, or component, has gone astray or awry."

Is it any wonder that news that Mercury is in retrograde passes like wildfire among many writers? Communication AND technology gown awry--what fun.

I'm convinced that Mercury goes into retrograde simply to mess with me. Here's a list of every communication and mechanical thing in my life that went astray or awry during the latest period:

* A flight I was on from DC to Minneapolis was turned away from the airport ten minutes before we landed and diverted to Madison. Four hours of uncomfortableness later, the plane lifted off and attempted to land in Minneapolis DURING A TORNADO WATCH. This resulted in all sorts of fun turbulence that had me literally wondering if the plane was going to flip over and wishing that it would already, because if I'm going to die anyway, it might as well be over with quickly.

It also resulted in the people behind me having a nice 'I love you, man' moment that the romance writer in me might have enjoyed if I hadn't been contemplating my own mortality at the time.

* My clothes dryer stopped working. Of course, it feigned competence the entire time, emitting all the usual whirring noises, blasts of hot air, and actually tumbling my clothes around for hours. Did it dry them? No, it did not.

This is, of course, a mere three months after I paid the Sears repair guy way too much money to fix said dryer. But I'm not bitter.

* My mop handle broke. My environmentally conscious email to the company asking whether I could purchase just the handle without having to waste resources and buy the whole mop again went unanswered.

Was it my email that went awry, or the Method corporation's customer service policy? You decide.

* The produce drawer on my refrigerator cracked in two. This might be due to the fact that I married Lenny from Of Mice and Men (only in that he's constantly breaking things because he doesn't know his own strength.) and not Mercury's whereabouts.

* My laptop froze one day while I was working, emitted a series of mini-explosion noises, and died unceremoniously in my arms. It's taken me three weeks and five distraught phone calls to technical support to get the problem properly diagnosed (No, my laptop did not explode just because I installed Lego Star Wars without rebooting first! No, I did not spill anything on it. NO, I don't download attachments from the Queen of Timbuktu because she promised to leave me her millions. NO! Just ... no.) and a series of replacement parts ordered. The guy who was supposed to come install said replacement parts was delayed by two days.

* My craptacular Kenmore vacuum cleaner stopped sucking the way I want it to for the thousandth time, and started sucking on a whole new level. This particular vacuum (not-so-affectionately known around my house as The Soul-Sucking Lemon from Sears) was voted a "best buy" by Consumer Reports, BTW. It's a "best buy" if you don't mind it breaking down three or four times a year, so you can take it in for repairs and enjoy three weeks of nasty buildup forming into a light crust on your carpet while you wait for your best buy to come back from the shop.

I bought a new one--a highly regarded and highly expensive German brand, because someone told me, "You could drop it off a building, and it still wouldn't break." Although not about to test this theory, I am thrilled with its performance.

In the spirit of mangled communications spurred on by Mercury in retrograde, I hid it in a back closet and did not tell my cheap@$$ husband, who thinks that The Soul-Sucking Lemon from Sears suddenly decided to rally and actually clean the dirt off the carpet instead of picking it up and spewing it back into the air like a lint-and-sand fountain.

Now that Mercury is out of retrograde, I'm not sure when the Dirt-Sucking Miracle from Germany is going to, so to speak, come out of the closet. Whenever I feel like watching the dh whip out his calculators and household spreadsheets and working himself into a frenzy of budget-adjusting frugality, I guess.

* My husband ignored my repeated requests to pick up his socks and sweep up his stray coffee grounds from the kitchen counter before I take all of his socks and coffee bags and have a bonfire in the back yard. Of course, he ignores such requests when Mercury is not in retrograde, but it's nice to have something else to blame for a change.

* The paisley scarf Rachel Ray wore in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial was mistaken by a prominent newspaper columnist as being a (checkered) keffiyeh worn by Palestinian political extremists, and Dunkin' Donuts was forced to pull the ad. This has nothing to do with me, as I do not have a Dunkin' Donuts near me and I do not own a keffiyeh--or a paisley scarf cleverly masquerading as a keffiyeh. I was just glad to see that Rachel Ray's life is hard during Mercury in retrograde, too.

Anyone do anything exciting for the 4th? And did you survive Mercury in Retrograde unscathed?

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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