Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mike Orenduff is Here!

Mike is a terrific guy, everyone. He entered my book, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, in the New Mexico Book of the Year Awards, and it was actually a finalist! So was his book, THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN. Fortunately, our books were finalists in different categories. Not that either of us won, but hey . . .

Bookstores in the Visual Age

From my tiny pied-à-terre on the corner of 11th and Broadway in Manhattan, I have a view of Strand bookstore (Corporate tag line: eighteen miles of books). It’s virtually impossible to look at the entrance for more than thirty seconds without seeing a customer enter or leave. Being in a city with eight million people - a million of whom claim to be artists or intellectuals - makes it easy to sell books. But there is more to the story than having a lot of potential customers. You have to know what they want. 
Namely: actual books.
The last time I was in New York long enough to become engaged in the city, the Strand was featuring The Interrogation by J.M.G. Le Clezio, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi, the bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
Meanwhile, a few blocks north, Borders was featuring My Life by Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, a vampire book of some sort (I did not take note of the title) and an Italian hard salami selection. I am not making this up. Magic Johnson is famous for playing basketball and contracting HIV. But it doesn’t matter what you are famous for. You can be famous for being famous, and that is enough to get you a book deal. On the tables of that now defunct Borders, there were books by Julie Andrews, Rachel Ray, Willie Nelson, Tony Danza, Pete Sampras, and Perez Hilton. 
Do I sound like a snob? I like Willie Nelson’s singing, Pete Sampras’ serve, and Rachael Ray’s cooking. But I can only read so many books in my lifetime, and I’m not going to waste a slot on people who whose books were published because of their notoriety rather than their ability as an author.
Borders is gone and good riddance. But many indie bookstores have also closed. My hometown has a population of three-quarters of a million people and not a single Indie bookstore. Here in Valdosta Georgia, metro population of a hundred thousand, we have no indie bookstore. We have a Books-A-Million, but that’s more of a gift shop and coffee house with a few books in the back.
People tell me bookstores are doomed. We live in a visual age, they say.
So did the cavemen. Then we learned to write, and the written word extended not only our store of knowledge but also our ability to think. Writing and reading enable us to analyze and understand what we see in a way simply seeing cannot. The only difference between a caveman and many of my students is the latter have I-pads. My students have more ‘visuals’ than the cavemen, but neither group can write. Have we come full-circle?

“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque's town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money -- but never to lie, cheat or steal. Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein. "The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier" is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits. It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times
Information about the books:
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.
Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it. His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.
While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.
His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called "the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.


Alice Duncan said...

So glad you're here today, Mike! I'm sorry I screwed up your post time. Sigh. All my fault :(

Mizmak said...

Hi Mike! Love the post - I feel lucky to live in Seattle, where I am so used to having a choice of independent bookstores (including Seattle Mystery Bookshop where I get your books!).

A friend told me recently that reading books on an e-reader didn't work for her because the *kinetic* experience of reading a book helped her remember where important passages were, and somehow helped solidify the text in her mind. Her experience with the three-dimensional object was much more "interactive" (and rewarding) than anything on a screen.

Now to your wonderful books - what is Hubie up to these days? How is his romance going? And will his friend Susannah ever finish school?

Thank you, Alice, for hosting Mike. I'm a dachshund owner of lonnnnnnnnnng-standing myself!

-Alexandra (Alex) MacKenzie

M.M. Gornell said...

Always enjoy learning a little more about you, Mike. A very thoughtful post (as always!)and sure wish I could come back in 100 years or so and see what happens--maybe I can? (smile)

Good post.


Alice Duncan said...

Another wiener lover! Glad you stopped by, Alex. And aren't Mike's books wonderful? I love Hubie :-)

Ingeborg said...

I enjoyed the post. Thank You

Caroline Clemmons said...

Mike, you are so funny that I can't wait any longer to read your books. I bought them for my husband for Christmas, but I'm going to cheat and start one today. So call me Mrs. Grinch, I don't care. Of course, I'd still like to win you books for the other people on my gift list.

As for book stores, I believe we'll always have print books for those "keepers" but that e-readers have replaced a lot of paperbacks because we read them and move on. I have lots of keepers, hence cluttered bookcases, because I reread my favorites. Knowing the ending doesn't eliminate the pleasure of reading memorable writing.
I differ in your opinion of Borders. They were my favorite bookstore in Fort Worth because they were so friendly and helpful. There are no indie bookstores left in our area of which I'm aware, except for used bookstores. Sad.

Sheila Deeth said...

Loved the post. Luckily we still have quite a few indie bookstores around Portland, though I must admit, Borders was a great supporter of local authors here too, so I'm sorry to lose them.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Great post, Mike. There are four bookstores in Casper, one of them for sale, and a couple of used bookstores that seem to be doing well. Although I enjoy my iPad and Kindle, I treasure my print books even more. Much more!

Karen Mayers said...

We are very lucky that the San Francisco Bay Area still has alot of independent bookstores. Our mystery bookstore in San Mateo is changing hands, which worries me. I know Ed needs a break, but it currently has a very warm and welcoming staff, and I am concerned that they will disappear during the transition. We will miss Ed's leadership greatly.


WS Gager said...

I vote for the cafe man. He knew how to roast a big chunk of meat. No communication needed.
W.S. Gager on Writing

Anne K. Albert said...

"I’m not going to waste a slot on people who whose books were published because of their notoriety rather than their ability as an author." Well said. I feel the same way, and put my money where my mouth is!

Great post, Mike!

Mare F said...

I deeply mourn the loss of the indie bookstores. There are none for miles where I live and there are times when I just want to spend time surrounded by books.

Mike Orenduff said...

Caroline and Shiela,

Maybe I was too harsh on Borders. From what you say, there were some good ones. I guess even though they were a chain, they varied from store to store. The one's I did signings in were awful. The employees seemed like temps and were not interested in books. But the worst part was that they put a lot of indies out of business. Then they never paid the publishers. When they closed up, they owed tens of millions for books they sold but never paid for, and money publishers don't collect can't be used to pay royalties. I do feel bad for the good employees like the ones you mentioned who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. My hope is that in some of the midsize cities that Borders left bookless, a few new indies will be started, although in this economy, it would be a challenge. Anyway, thanks very much for all the comments.