Recommend Me Some Books

What are you reading right now? Anything lately that knocked your socks off or made you laugh out loud? Better yet, anything that made you cry? Send those titles my way.

It’s amazing how little time authors have for reading — for me, it used to be between deadlines and whenever I sprained or broke something. I didn’t like carrying books in my purse, so I rarely read much away from the house. Since I got the Kindle, all that’s changed. I read while Bob’s pumping gas, in the post office or the pharmacy. I read through physical therapy and while I wait in doctors’ offices. In fact, I read any time I have a chance to grab the Kindle out of my bag and open it to a page. (I had it out in a restaurant a few weeks ago, the waitress started asking questions, and by the time I’d shown her some of the features, she was sold on it for a Christmas gift for her niece. And my therapist is interested, too.)

Right now I’m reading Enchanting the Lady by Kathryne Kennedy, a British historical where magic is an accepted part of everyday life. The hero’s a shapeshifter — a magnificent lion — while the heroine, the daughter of two powerful magickers, has no power. I love a familiar setting that’s been turned upside down.

I’m also reading I Quit: Stop Pretending Everything is Fine and Change Your Life by Geri Scazzero. Geri’s a pastor’s wife who one day quit his church in search of a better fit for her. Quitting is not something that comes easily to me, but Geri points out that quitting is just really a way of choosing something else. If you quit lying, you’re choosing to tell the truth. If you quit saying yes to everyone, you’re choosing to spend time on the things that matter to you.

And I just finished Native Star by M.K. Hobson. It has an American West setting, but again, magic is a more-or-less accepted part of life. I liked the book a lot, though it’s written entirely from the heroine’s point of view. The hero, Dreadnought Stanton, was an interesting character, and I would have liked to been in his head a bit.

So y’all tell me what you’re reading now.

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Who Was The Winner Again?

Quick!  Tell me who won that British talent show the season Susan Boyle lost?  What about the winner of American Idol the season Jennifer Hudson lost?  I don’t/didn’t watch either of these shows, but even I have spent money on work from these two ladies while I wouldn’t know the winners if they ran me over with their car.  Why?  Because winning isn’t always the best thing.  Jennifer Hudson made liars out of the AI judges the next year by winning a Golden Globe, Oscar, AND Grammy, as well as starting a hotter than fire career.  And do I need to tell you how well Susan did?  Pre-sold the HIGHEST number of CDs with her first album.

I’ve seen writers get discouraged because they didn’t place in contests.  So?   Tell you a secret.  When I first started, I took to heart that my writing wasn’t very good because I didn’t win in the OWFI contest.  But, surprise, surprise!  The manuscript that only placed second in ONE contest sold to Silhouette after only one rejection.  Guess which meant more to me?

Now, I’m not saying don’t enter contests.  Just choose wisely.  Enter the ones that offer quality feedback or who have editors as final judges that you’d like to see your work.  Take ANY placement as a small ego boost to keep you writing when things are going badly, but don’t let them be the judge of your writing.  Just as not every editor will like your work, not every judge can pick out a seller.  Stay true to your voice and your dream.  I firmly believe EVERYONE could be a published author, but those who don’t make it are those who don’t stay true…and give up.

So where are you along the road?  Or are you the winner no one recognizes…yet?

Conversate

Grab a beverage and come sit. Let’s conversate for a moment.

If you’ve listened to the radio or TV anytime in the last year you’ve heard stupid words like “conversate.” While I’m not against making up new words, but seriously? Maybe I watch too much NASCAR or sports and that’s why I have picked up on new fangled words.

I’m not dissin’ on the athletes or  race car drivers–I can get totally flummoxed when put on the spot or nervous. I’m directing my ‘irkedness’ to the commentators. They should know better.

What does this mean to us as word crafters?    

What happens when we use unconventional words in our stories?   I don’t think it is my job to expand a reader’s vocabulary, but I won’t dumb down my writing to a 5th grade level if that isn’t my voice or true to my character. 

When our characters converse, how far can we push the boundaries?

Should we or shouldn’t we?

How Does Something So Boring Become a Classic??

Marilyn the Kindle girl here. Being probably the only romance author in existence who’s never read Pride and Prejudice, I downloaded it to my Kindle so I could remedy that fact. While I was it, I also downloaded The Scarlet Letter, something I hadn’t read since high school, and a few other classics.

Call me common, low-class or just plain dumb, but what yawners!!! I started with P&P but lasted only a few chapters before I went on to something else. Maybe it was just my mood, or the temptation of better books just a click away; I’ll try it again later, though.

 Then, having read everything else on the Kindle, I turned to The Scarlet Letter. 

I’m surprised I was still willing to pick up a book in high school after forcing my way through TSL. Obviously, pacing was not an issue for ol’ Nathaniel, since he spends the first 18% of the book (Kindle doesn’t give page numbers) talking about his amazingly boring years working at the Customs House in Salem, along with the amazingly boring people who worked there with and before him. My only interest whatsoever in this whole dreary section was that I’ve actually been to the Customs House and the description brought it back to life for me.

After we finally get into Hester’s story, I thought okay, it’s going to get better. NOT. Nathaniel sure loved the sound of his words. Big words. Long strings of them. In sentences that had no end. It didn’t help any that this electronic version was in need of a good copy editor — missing punctuation and misplaced words.

I wound up skimming through long, boring, repetitive passages, only to reach the end with a wrinkled brow, a dazed mind and only one thought: “Huh?!?”

So this book is a classic. I just wanna know . . . a classic what??? 

I Blog, therefore I Am

Hi!  Will Shakespeare here.  Today was the real pits.  See, I’m working on this new play and I just can’t think of a title.  It’s about a guy named Romeo who is in love with Juliet, a girl from a family his family is feuding with.  I thought about calling it THE HATFIELDS vs THE MCCOYS, but I dunno.  Whadda think?

The above is what I fantasized could have happened if the Internet had been around in old Will’s day.  I know the prevailing wisdom says that blogging is very important for the wannabe writer.  But that’s what was said about putting out a newsletter, joining chat groups, and various other online activities.  Today, there are millions of blogs, websites, loops, lists, etc. And now there is Facebook, Twitter, My Space..oh, my!  So many online avenues, how does a writer promote themselves most effectively?

First, prioritize.  How much time are you willing to spend AWAY from your writing?  What are you comfortable doing?  Will your participation strengthen your brand or dilute it?

Second, once you decide what you are going to do, do it well.  If you blog, make your blogs well-thought out, correctly spelled posts.  If Facebook or Twitter works for you, don’t sound like an idiot.  Personally, I don’t care if you have a PB&J sandwich for lunch or that you’re on your way to get a pedicure.  And to be honest, if I had the kind of readers who wanted to know that about me….well, it sounds like stalking to me.

Third, don’t be a constant advertisement.  If you’re mentioning your newest title in every post, stop!  If you can’t say anything without tying it to your last book, you need to take time out with your family; the writing has taken over your life.  Instead, look for some way to make yourself stand out with what ever venue you choose.

And last, but not least, keep current.  I know!  I’ve got my nerve saying this when I haven’t updated my website in months, but part of the problem is my belief that the Internet is too crowded and I’m trying to spread myself too thin.  So, I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to do what I want and what I do best…write my stories.  I’ll use the ‘Net for promotion, but you won’t find me everywhere.  You won’t find me leaping on the newest Internet ‘wonder’ to come along unless it’s something I can participate with a full heart.

Share

Saturday afternoon I went to a Celebration of Life. This wasn’t really a funeral, but a gathering of family to socialize, eat, and share memories of a woman who treated me as one of her kids. Those few hours spent with others made me realize how important the people we surround ourselves are.

Sometimes you will never know how you will impact a person. Sometimes you might see how they have affected your world. Sometimes you will embrace the change they’ve made on you.

As writers, we get the opportunity to share our words, and hopefully, change our readers–if only for a fleeting moment, or a lifetime.

Glomming

I had this all written yesterday except for the last sentence, and my keyboard locked up on me. I had to reboot the computer, fully intending to come back and finish the post so I could schedule it. Of course, it wasn’t a simple reboot; there were 16 freaking updates to load, and by the time it finished, I’d forgotten what the heck I was supposed to do. Yes, my memory is that short-term. Sigh . . .

Glomming, in case you’re not familiar with the term, means finding a new-to-you author and buying all of her books you can, then settling in for a field day (or week) of reading.

I don’t glom too many authors, but I’ve been reading two almost exclusively the last few weeks: Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter books (not new to me, but it’s been twenty years or more since my last reading) and Deanna Raybourn’s (http://www.deannaraybourn.com) Lady Julia Grey books.

One of the lovely things about reading an author’s backlist straight through is getting to follow the characters in a series without that annoying wait for the next title. You don’t have time to forget important details or events; you still remember who everyone is.

One of the downsides — really, about the only one in my mind — is that you notice little quirks in the author’s style. S/he might use a particular word or phrase repeatedly that you don’t pay much attention to in one book, but when you read three or four books in three days, it jumps out at you. S/he might use the same words to describe different characters in different books, or s/he might state a fact in book 1, then change it in book 3. If you were reading the books as they were published, you’d probably have forgotten it, but when you’re going straight through, it glares. But that’s a small price to pay for immersing yourself in someone else’s world for long stretches at a time.

Do you glom? Do you relish reading an author’s backlist straight through, or would you rather space it out over a period of time?