Books make the best gifts

Okay, so maybe books don’t make the best gifts. I’ll admit that I’d rather be given a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ over a Stephen King book. One exception to that if the Stephen King book was a first edition signed copy. If my “Secret Santa” was looking to gift me one of those phones, then make sure it’s able to be on the Sprint network. Just saying. Now onto this week’s rant.

There are many reasons why books make the perfect gift. Here are some reasons why:

1. Books are easily transportable. You can’t take a 72-inch flat screen television with you to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and watch as you wait in line to renew your driver’s license. You also can’t take a Playstation 4 with you to a government meeting and play the new Star Wars game a few minutes before the meeting convenes. I’ve tried. You just end up with council members giving you weird looks as you try to plug an HDMI cable into the monitors. Books can be taken with you wherever you go. It doesn’t matter where you go: churches, meetings, the BMV, even the bathroom. All of those places and more, a book can be taken with you. Last detail about that: if you’re borrowing a book from the library or a friend, don’t take it into the bathroom. That’s common courtesy.

2. Books are cheap. If you’re like me, a writer, you can’t really afford to spend a bunch of money on Christmas presents. I mean, you could spend rent and bill money to buy that perfect, albeit expensive, gift for your loved one. You might be asking them for a place to stay while you catch up on bills, but whatever. Books are the perfect alternative. You don’t have to drop $400 dollars on a book unless it’s a signed first edition of Stephen King.

3. Books are personalized. Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, etc. Everyone has a preference when it comes to works of fiction. Or non-fiction. Choosing the perfect book for that person tells you that you know them enough to know what types of books they like to enjoy. Televisions aren’t personal like a book can be. Just make sure you take in deciding which book is right.

4. Books require no assembly. Unless you buy a book from Ikea, you don’t need to assemble anything the night before Christmas. Plus, they need no batteries. I can’t tell you the money I’ve spent buying batteries for gifts that didn’t include them.

5. Books make the perfect re-gift. When you’re finished reading a book, you can pass them on as a White Elephant book. If you’re like me, you wear a book out in the first reading. I typically crack a spine of a book more than I crack my own. If it’s a hardback, then maybe that’d be an okay book as a regular gift. However, if you bend the edges of the pages like I do, then maybe consider buying a newer version.

6. Books don’t hurt as much as other things. Have you ever stepped on a bunch of Legos? Have you ever banged your head on a television? Stepping on the edge of a book, a pointy hardcover, is a pretty difficult thing to do. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
Literature is something that I’ve tried to purchase for my friends and relatives for birthdays and Christmas gifts. Personally, I like hunting for the right book. Sure, it may take time but that’s what makes gifts so enjoyable. Remember that old saying, “It’s the thought that counts?” Books personify that sentiment.

Happy hunting and merry Christmas!

My newest book release and following your gift

On Saturday, Feb. 2, my third book is being released by Burning Willow Press, LLC (BWP). They are a phenomenal company that cares about the quality of the books they publish. It can be purchased at a variety of places, but if you search “The Book of Ashley, James Master” on Amazon.com you’ll find it easily. Enough of the shameless promotion though.
I watched a video of Steve Harvey while hiding inside my home during the polar vortex on Wednesday. He talked about how you should follow your gift and not your passion.
“All of you have this gift, identify it. It’s the thing that you do the absolute best with the least amount of effort. That’s what you should be doing. You’re wasting your time pursuing your passion,” Harvey said.
If I’d watch this video a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have understood this message. Up until a few years ago, my passion was playing video games. I’d spend hours playing them, didn’t matter what game it was. Admittedly, I was pretty terrible at esports or other competitive video games. That ruled out playing video games on a professional level. I was terrible at computer programming, ruling out creating video games.
I spent so much time and money trying to follow my passion instead of following my gift. Making the choice to follow my gift, my life has been changed. I have a better paying job, several published works, and an interesting side job with a really great publishing company.
Some of you may be thinking, “but Jim, don’t you work for BWP? Doesn’t that make you biased?” The answer is… sure, maybe a little. For full disclosure, I will state for the record that I am a contracted author for seven books with BWP as well as an editor for them. I also work in the submissions department which typically entails reading submissions and giving my opinion on whether they would be a good fit underneath the BWP umbrella.
Having said all of that, I don’t believe that it would change my view on the publishing company. If anything, this relationship has strengthened my view on BWP. If you ever get a chance to talk with Edd Sowder, VP of the company, you’ll come to the same conclusion I’ve reached. This man loves four things: his wife Kindra (author and BWP President), his company, his coffee, and his authors. You can typically find Edd on the Writer Imperfect Twitch stream that airs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you don’t watch Twitch or don’t know what that is, then go to YouTube and search Writer Imperfect with Joshua Robertson.
Enough about Burning Willow Press, LLC though. Let’s talk about my newest release. For those that might be interested, The Book of Ashley is the third book in my series, The Soul Eater Chronicles. The whole series is based around demons, monsters, and the holy crusader that stands against the darkness. When people ask me what kind of genre the series falls in, I typically call it “Religious Horror.” Basically, if you like monsters, demons, and books about good fighting against evil then these books might be for you.
This will be the third book I’ve had published. I’ve also had three short stories that I’ve had published in anthologies. All of them with BWP. Every time I publish something, there’s this triumphant feeling of accomplishment. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced while playing video games.
I know that last week’s rant might have seemed like I didn’t exactly like my profession. Which is totally the opposite. I do not regret one word that I’ve written in the last five years of being a news writer/author. I am so grateful to be doing what I’m doing for a living. There’s nothing else I could possibly see myself doing. Well, maybe I’d be doing something in the dining service/gas station arena. I sure wouldn’t like it, whatever it would be.
“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway,” said Junot Diaz, professor of writing and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008.
Even if I was still working in a gas station or as a supervisor of a café at a college, I’d still be a writer. Even if I received rejection after rejection, I’d still be a writer. Even if I had absolutely zero training in the craft, I’d still be a writer. Even if I lived in Michigan, I’d still be a writer (because if I lived there, I’d need something to take my mind off the fact that I lived in Michigan).
Identify your gift and follow it. It doesn’t mean that you must abandon your passion. I still play video games, but I’m not focusing my time on it.

Books make the best presents

Tis the season, am I right? Now that we’ve all feasted on ham, turkey, gravy, stuffing, and that delicious cranberry sauce it’s time to do what we all love to do after Thanksgiving. And no, I don’t mean sleeping. I mean, I love to do that too. But there’s something else that I love.

Christmas present shopping. There’s a plethora (I love this word) of different days dedicated to the purchase of gifts for your loved ones. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday.

That whole weekend is a bit sadistic if you really think about it. First, Thanksgiving has people stuffing their faces on as much food as they can before going out and fist fighting for all those sweet deals.

Come on, you had to know that was coming. However, I don’t really spend that much money. For me, shopping isn’t really about spending money. Sure, we all spend money when we brave the cold and the other crazy people that want to save $5 on something they could get cheaper on Cyber Monday. 

Allow me a moment to backpedal. When I say “other crazy people” I include myself. And when I define that phrase it means “people that willingly go out to businesses in the dead of night to battle other warrior-shoppers for the right to claim a discounted item as their prize.” It’s really not an insult when you call people “warrior-shoppers” right?

When I go out on Black Friday, it’s typically to do some people watching. So, that sounds a bit creepy, but as a writer watching people is all part of the job. When you’re writing a story with humans in it, you want to try and capture human nature. And nothing portrays human nature like crowds fighting for $10 copies of the newest Call of Duty game. Seriously, that happened. I was at the South Bend Wal-Mart standing in a circular crowd with the cardboard box of games in the center. As the sales started and the shrink-wrap pulled free from the box, the crowd surged forward as one. Of course, the people at the front that already nabbed their copy tried to move out of the way of the others, it created a wave of push and pull. For a moment, I felt like I was swimming with waves coming and going. 

Over the years, more shopping days have been added. Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday now distract those “warrior-shoppers” from Black Friday. Maybe we should just change Thanksgiving to something more shopping savvy?

If you’re not inclined to fight the shopping horde this weekend, I’d suggest a better shopping alternative: books. That’s right, I said it. Go buy your friends, families, and other miscellaneous loved ones some books for Christmas. Here’s some quick reasons:

• Books are fairly cheap.

• Newly released books are never hard to find.

• Books often don’t weigh much so carrying five to ten presents to a loved ones house is fairly easy.

• Books are easy to wrap.

• Books fuel the imaginations of everyone reading them.

• There’s a book for literally (a literature and literal pun) everyone.

• Books make excellent White Elephant gifts.

• If you buy a book from a local author you’ll be participating in Small Business Saturdays. Do it.

• When someone asks you what you bought, tell them you purchased magic. Because that’s what books are: magic.

• Books, unlike video games, never need updates.

Go to a brick-and-mortar store, shop online, or go to Goodwill/Salvation Army and pick up some books instead of that new video game or that 1,000,000,000,000 inch television for $169.99.

Your wallet will thank you. And so will I.