Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reading and Writing

I was a reader for a long time before I became a writer.  I know. That's a sort of 'well, duh' statement.  People have to learn to read before they can learn to write.  (Don't quibble, just go with me here.)  The reason I make that statement today, though, is I've noticed something kind of curious lately.  I've been reading newly published books and all but one lately felt like the writer wasn't also a reader. 

Or maybe it's just me.  I have been reading an awful lot of old books lately.  Old as in 1940s through 1980s.  They seem to have a different way of approaching the art of writing.  Not exactly sure what it is.  Not consciously anyway.  All I know is something feels right with these old books and something feels wrong with the newer ones. 

With that one exception, of course.  Silver James' books feel right.  Maybe she's just an old reader like me.  I know she's a voracious reader like I am.  Which adds anecdotal evidence to the theory that these new writers aren't readers, I guess.

Of course, it also helps that my editor is also a reader and she keeps me on track when I start to wander off.

Here's an example.  I picked up a book yesterday that sounded deliciously fun.  Great blurb. Awesome cover.  Loads of good reviews.  I opened it and began to read.  The thirty year old heroine was a spazz.  Okay, I can deal with that.  Main characters at the beginning of their stories are often slightly off but they get better.  It's called 'character growth'.  The plot device used to get her to a point in her life where she needed to be to have the plot make sense was forced and unlikely.  I was still willing to move past that.  And then the author introduced the 'best friend' - a mother of two who was so head over heels in love with her husband that the MC wanted to have that kind of life... except after the introduction, the characterization made her out to be a vapid bitch who was mostly interested in ogling man-candy, drinking, and trying to set the MC with hot guys. Then she became totally pretentious and snotty, and I closed the book.

I mean, it's okay to have a character like that.  They have their place in fiction, too.  Except her actions were anathema to the description of her. 

And the author would've known that if they had looked at their book through the eyes of a reader.

I also recognize that sometimes stuff like that is hard to see because writers are too close to the writing.  I get that.  That's what editors are for.  The right editor can catch that crap ahead of time.  The wrong editor can actually insert that crap, but that's a different blog post.

Leaving that book aside where it belongs, I moved on to the next book I'd downloaded.  Interesting premise.  Grabby blurb.  Great cover.  Plenty of good reviews.  It opens with a guy waking up in some kind of chamber with people in the room.  Not something one is supposed to do as a writer, but I'm all about stepping outside the box, if it works.  This isn't working for me.  The sleeping dude's describing all these people, but it's unclear whether he's even opened his eyes yet.  None of the people seem to act like he's awake, that's for sure.  I can tell the author wanted to make sure all the key players got described right off, but it's not working for me as a reader.  Not sure if I'll keep trying with this one.  But it feels like the writer wasn't a reader here, too - at least not a reader of the genre he's writing. 

I seem to remember an older piece of fantasy fiction that started out in a similar way - a character coming into consciousness after a long period of time - and it worked then.  Can't for the life of me remember which book it was, but I remember it working.  It can be done.  Just not here.  :shrug:

And lest you think I'm a bitch typing all this down, or that I'm acting like this could never happen to me, I'm trying to whittle the wood down to something here.  Of course, it could happen to me.  It probably has happened to me.  Maybe that's why my genies books are flopping spectacularly - although several people I trust who've read them love them, so I don't know.

It's just something all writers should be aware of - even if it's back in their unconscious minds.  We write stuff for readers.  All kinds of readers.  Therefore it follows that writers should also be readers.  Readers know what they want from a book.  They have an instinct for what works and what doesn't, even if not all readers have the ability to write.  If you're a writer and reading this, though, I want you to think about it for a while.  Are you writing in a way that encourages people to read your words? 

And if you're a reader, I apologize for any instance where I may have forgotten the very things I'm talking about here.  I try, but sometimes I may fall down a bit.  I'll keep trying. 

Without naming any names, have you read any books that made you think the writer wasn't a reader? 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Update - Week 21

Okay, here's the dealie-bob.  I think I had some serious burnout going on there.  I'd been so focused on editing and publishing that I hadn't written new words in months.  So, I took an unintended break from all of that.  Lo and behold, the creative juices burst out this past week and I got started on SCIU #3.  I got about 5300 words out before I stumbled, but it's there and I kinda sorta know where I'm going. 

Up Wish Creek still isn't ready to go to the editor.  If you're reading this JC, I'll email you with some kind of updated schedule.  If you're a fan and reading this, when I figure it out, you'll know when I know.  And I apologize deeply for delaying the release of this 3rd book in the genie series. 

In other news, we've been weeding the gravel paths and borders and the driveway. The border by the iris bed is done.  The border by the front bed is done.  The border around the cedar bed is done.  And I did the drainage thing next to the driveway.  Hubs has been working exclusively on the driveway and he's 2/3rds done.  So, basically, everything that other people can see from the road is done or almost done.  Then we move to the sides and back of the house.  The southeast side of the house - under the deck - is problematic because the Eastern Phoebes I had thought were done with their brood are not actually done.  We'll wait until the nest is empty before we get up under there so we don't freak them out.

Yesterday's weeding, while satisfying, has wrecked my hands.  Aspercreme! Stat!  It all does look so nice when it's done, though.  =o)

I read a bunch of stuff last week.  All of it was old and all of it was hardcopy.  I also tried to read several different ebooks I had withering on my Kindle.  I didn't actually enjoy any of those.  Bleh, ewww, and 'omg, doesn't this person know about editors'.  That kind of stuff.  Let's just say the pickings were so 'meh' that it made me not want to reading anything. (No wonder all my recent reads have been old, right?)  BUT my friend, Silver James, released her latest book on Friday - Night Moves - and I'll be getting to that shortly.  I love her books and I adore her writing style, but this one might be a little on the spicy side for me.  We'll see.

The deer still appear to be pregnant.  But who knows if it takes them a little while to get rid of the baby paunch? 

That's it for me today.  What's been up in your world?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday This n That

I went to bed last night at around 10pm, cuz I was tired.  At the time, my brain agreed.  Then when I was in bed and trying to fall asleep, my brain decided it wanted to go write some more.  My body disagreed.  An epic battle ensued wherein my brain was like Patrick Swayze's ghost trying to convince Whoopi Goldberg to help him.  (Although, thankfully without a bazillion rounds of 'Henry the Eighth'.)  In the end, my body won, but it was a costly victory.  Now my brain is gloating that I probably would've gotten more sleep if I'd just gotten up and let it write.  My hands just flipped my brain the bird.

It is good to be writing again. 

The other day I was sitting in the living room when a blue jay flew into the redbud tree outside our picture window.  Then I started hearing a strange melodic series of notes from the blue jay.  I laughed and asked it what the hell it was doing. Shortly thereafter, I realized what it was doing... Imitating a recorder.  Four perfect notes.  I know why... The neighbors' grandkid practices her recorder outside.  I told Hubs "If he starts doing 'Mary had a Little Lamb' I'm going to freak right the fuck out'.

When I lived in FL, we had a local mockingbird who could imitate the neighbor's phone.  Never knew blue jays could be that precise in their mocking, too. 

We've hit the rainy season here, I guess.  Every day a little storm.  I'm hoping today's holds off until I get home from the store. 

Speaking of which...

What's on your this n that today?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Art of Falling Down

I wrote this for FB yesterday...

"Okay, so I was working in the yard today. I started out weeding, which led to redoing the gravel path beside the iris bed. I had to take out all the large flat stones, smooth all the rock chips, and then replace all the large stones again. As I was placing a heavy stone, I got my center of gravity out of whack, on a hill. Yep, down I went. Tripped a little, staggered a bit, and landed flat on my chest in the grass. Hubs said I was lucky I didn't hit my head on the rock wall border. I say it was skill. Lord knows I fall enough to know how to do it with finesse. I didn't break anything. Many bruises are now beginning to show, though.

I did finish the gravel path and the weeding before I came in to take some Aleve. So that's done. We'll see if I put in the iris bed extension tomorrow."

If you know me, you know I fall about once a year.  Slip on the ice, slip off the stairs, trip over my own feet, and, this time, lose my balance and fall downhill.  I do it so much that I've learned how to do it so I rarely hurt more than my pride.  Bruises fade, scrapes heal, and I'm back to myself.

It was a close thing yesterday.  If I had allowed gravity to take its course, I would've faceplanted into the wall of concrete landscaping blocks or into the rock-chip path with the large stones I'd already placed.  Instead, I turned and twisted and let gravity take my top-heavy body down the hill a little ways so I landed in the grass.  It wasn't entirely a conscious act.  All I knew was I had to do whatever I could to NOT land on an unforgiving surface.

I put my arms out to catch myself at first.  Bad idea.  That's how wrists get snapped.  So, when I felt the first twinges in my wrist, I stopped that and let myself hit the ground.  On my chest.  Soft tissue holds up better than bone.  And I have a lot of soft tissue protecting my ribcage. 

This morning, my wrist still hurts, but it isn't broken.  I caught a rock with my ankle, so there's a bruise there, and I caught a rock with my knee, so it's also bruised.  Scraped up my arms a little, probably on twigs in the grass.  My breasticles are bruised.  Not fun, but not fatal.  Nothing is broken and I didn't hit my head or jostle my brain too much.  Win-win.

Falling is sometimes unavoidable.  What happened yesterday was that I got my center of gravity displaced when I hefted a heavy rock into place and once I let go of the rock, the heaviest part of me was pointed downhill.  Gravity took over.  I know better for next time - heft the rocks with my body pointed uphill.  Work with gravity instead of against it. 

After I got up and Hubs was sure I wasn't broken, I finished the rock project. If I can find a way to wear a bra without too much trouble, I'll be back out in the gardens again today.  I have iris bulbs to plant and a new bed to create for them.  On the downhill slope, but no rocks involved.  I'll go out and make my bed, and let the irises lie in it.  Because the main idea in the art of falling down is being able to get back up and try again.

And, of course, trying to avoid falling down next time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Update - Week 20

Okay, so last week held both my birthday and my anniversary.  Thanks to everyone for your happy wishes.  =o)

Fertile Ground went live.  I didn't go with the pre-order thing this time to see how things would pan out.  Umm, I ended up with fewer release day sales.  :shrug:

Not a lot got done in the writing arena.  I did some editorial inputs for Up Wish Creek.  I may push the release of this one back to September.  I apologize to the fans who might have to wait an extra month, but I've hit the writing blahs and can't seem to muster the will to edit right now.  Or the urge to write right now.

This might also nix the idea of a fourth book out this year.  Frankly, a big part of it is slow sales.  Publishing costs a lot of money and the well of fundage needs sales to stay fluid.  If I'm spending time thinking about how I'm going to fund the next book, and worrying over craptastic sales, I don't have as much brain space for new words.  And I don't have the gumption to edit books that won't sell.  Make any sense? 

To the monetary end of things, I do have some marketing stuff on the schedule.  Friday I had an ad in Authors' Billboard.  This coming Friday, I'll have a book excerpt going live on Omnimystery News.  Next Sunday, I'll have an ad at Robin Reads.  If those help sales pick up, we could be having a different discussion on production schedules and gumption next month.

The summer people are beginning to flock to the neighborhood again.  And jumping on the DSL.  This means I get slow internet from about mid-afternoon to late evening.  Slow as in I can't get Facebook to load new stuff and Gmail to refresh.  Hence, most of my online interacting will be in the mornings. 

In other news, the deer coming into the yard are so fat pregnant, I'm surprised they can walk.  We should be seeing a drastic slimming of them all soon.  And fawns soon after.  I hope.  Last year wasn't the best for fawn viewing. Oh, they had them - we saw young deer in the fall - but they didn't bring them around the yard.  I hope they bring the babies here this year. :fingers crossed:

Okay, that's enough from me today.  Sorry for the whining.  What was up in your world last week?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday This n That

Yesterday was my birthday.  (Yes, I made him marry me the day before my birthday.  Best present I ever received. Hands down.)  Here's how the day went down...

- Called Mom - because, hey, she gets all the gratitude for bringing me into this world.
- Went thrifting where I picked up 11 books for $1.10.  All paperbacks. Mostly old. I think the oldest is a Zane Grey from 1943.  I also picked up a Jack London I'd never heard of (not old, but still...), some Don Pendletons, Flowers for Algernon (old paperback that had been rebound to hardcover), Oliver Twist from 1954 in nearly mint... and some others I can't remember right now and I'm too lazy to get up.
- ate lunch
- laid down to take a nap, but couldn't sleep
- went fishing for 5 hours wherein we caught many panfish (4 big keepers) and one rock bass that we weren't sure was big enough so we threw her back.
- took a shower
- cooked the fish that Hubs cleaned and ate them up.  Nothing quite like eating fish you caught yourself that had been flopping around only 30 minutes before.  Can't get fresher than that unless you eat them raw right where you caught them.
- fell into bed and slept like a rock

It was a lovely day.  And I'm paying for it today.  5 hours of sitting on rock ledges, climbing around them like a monkey, casting, reeling, fighting fish, etc. have left me sore.  Plus, I have one hell of a sunburn. I also cut my finger with fishing line.  My own stupidity.  Still awesome, though.  Worth every ache.  (Yes, dears, I slathered my burn in Aloe Vera and slathered the cut with Neosporin before I went to bed.) 

Here I am with the fish:


That's all I have for right now.  What have you got?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Twelve Years

Yeah, I have been writing for twelve years now, but that's not the point today.  Today is my anniversary.  Twelve years ago today I married the man who would become my best friend.  He was already my biggest supporter.  Hell, he's the one who told me - before we were married - that I needed to devote myself to writing books and nothing else.  Thanks to him and his financial support, that's exactly what I've been doing since 2004.

Lemme back up a little.  In January of 2004, I had the idea for my first book.  Or what would eventually end up being my first book.  And I was committed to finishing it - something that had never happened before.  In February of 2004, I met Hubs.  In an attempt to woo him, I sent him the first few chapters of The Comet (which turned into Spectacle, which turned into Fear Itself.)  He was suitably wooed. 

You've probably heard this story before, but we didn't actually meet-meet in February of 2004. We met online.  And much writing was exchanged back and forth in the form of emails and chat messages and Word files before our actual meeting in April.  6 weeks later we were married.  Whirlwind, but it's worked for us.

I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.  I wish I'd met him way before I did, but then I wouldn't have been in the right place and neither would he have.  We met at just the right point, when we'd learned all the life lessons we needed to be the right people for each other. 

Twelve years later, we are still the right people for each other.  And I haven't regretted a single day of our lives together.

We aren't doing anything today.  We talked about it.  Neither of us was particularly interested in going anywhere or doing anything out of the ordinary.  He has his work to do.  I have mine.  I might make something fun for dinner.  Otherwise, we'll spend our day like we usually do - together in our little log home in the woods.  Just the way we like it. 

He won't read this.  He never reads my blog.  But he knows.  I show him every day how I feel about him, and he does the same for me.  I just wanted to write this and celebrate with all of you how happy I am.  =o)