One Day in December (a Holiday Update)

Photo © 2008 Glenn Harper CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s the day after Christmas (or close enough, anyhow). And you know what that means: Everyone breathes a sigh of relief that Uncle Albert is on his way home for another year. No, seriously, it means we all return all the gifts that we didn’t actually want. Except that I didn’t get any of those, or at least none that I’ll return.

We all scaled down the holiday a bunch this year—and will probably even further next year—except for my little niece, who played the social butterfly and chatted everyone’s ear off between laments of “I wish I had more presents.” My sister-in-law and I tried to explain to her that part of the fun of Christmas is seeing our family open their presents, too. I don’t know whether she got it, but I have faith that someday, she will.

I got a couple of books— What else? Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks, and Night of the Wolves, by Heather Graham. (Yes, I do enjoy romance novels, but this one has a picture of a guy, trim and fit, on the cover, with his shirt unbuttoned all the way down. And according to the book summary, his name is— gack Cody! I feel really uncomfortable about all of this. But the Missus bought me those books, and the Little One gave them to me, and so I will read them, both of them. By the way, since when did Harlequin stop putting their brand-name warning label “Harlequin” on their books?!)

One of the first things I did was to quickly count words, by counting pages. The HQNâ„¢ book, of course, has 298 pages—so less than 100,000 words—plus a bunch of pages for ads, plus a page about the author. (Heather Graham has really long, straight, blonde hair that flails around her shoulders, like she just got out of bed in the morning and hasn’t had a chance to brush it yet… Eh, ignore me. Maybe the book will be okay, anyhow.)

What intrigued me was that the Nicholas Sparks novel also has less than 100,000 words, although it could be approaching 100K. (335 pages in a mass-market paperback covered with 9-point Palatino at 31 lines per each tiny page—the publisher is getting every last square millimeter out of that pulp, and who cares about legibility?)

But I wonder whether the small novel is coming back into vogue. Kirstin Butler posted as much on Twitter yesterday. (Sunday afternoon is the best for Twitter, because all the e-marketers are off for the weekend.) But she hasn’t any real research to support the belief, any more than I do. Even if I did have real research, I’m biased, because I like reading small novels, and I like writing them. And I actually think I’m developing a mental allergy to any book over an inch thick (except for Sherlock Holmes, because that’s a collection of short stories).

Meanwhile, I continue to plow through the Advance Edition of my own short novel, From the Ashes of Courage. (As I have been all weekend, including the holiday.) I’m now a quarter of the way through the final editing pass, which is the very last phase. And then it will be off to the printers.