Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Books I'm Reading

Right now I am reading Odd Apocalypse, by Dean Koontz. Love it! I cannot get enough of Odd Thomas. Can't wait for the next one.
     I have just finished Rick Riordan's (YA) The Serpent's Shadow, last book in the Kane Chronicles. Still need to read the two latest in the Heroes of Olympus series, Son of Neptune and Mark of Athena.
    I recently posted about reading Gamble by Felix Francis and how delighted I am that I liked it and look forward to the next one. I plan to go back and read Crossfire, the previous release of Dick and Felix Francis (before Gamble was published). 
    I am still sporadically working my way through Patrick Rothfuss' tome, The Wise Man's Fear. It is still incredibly awesome, I just don't get to pry my Nook away from my husband very often to continue reading it.
    My random (picked-up on a whim and not sure why) non-fiction title of the moment is Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a book about meditation, which I totally don't understand and have no real interest in, but the book is holding my attention.
    I am looking forward to reading Wicked Business, second book in the new series by Janet Evanovich and anxiously waiting for the next release in the Sookie Stackhouse series (Charlaine Harris), the new Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher and a new title from Tim Dorsey.


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Second (And Third, Fourth and Fifth) Chances

In my last post I wrote about the book Gamble, by Felix Francis, who, since the death of his father Dick Francis, has been co-writing (possibly completing, whatever) his dad's books. I described how disappointed I was in all but the first of these "collaborations" and by the fourth one, I gave up. Then I read the fifth and liked it very much and am looking forward to the next.
     Many years ago I read a book - don't know how I finished it, wanted to burn it a dozen times - that I immediately place on my five worst books I've ever read list. It was called Riding Lessons by an author named Sara Gruen. She wrote a sequel, Flying Changes, that I never picked up, having vowed to never read another book she had written.
     A few years back she wrote another book, Water For Elephants. After it had been out for awhile and just before the movie came out, I picked it up and started reading. It was a best-seller obviously, and it never occurred to me, in spite of the unusual name, that it was written by the same woman. (I have since learned that Riding Lessons was a bestseller and I have to wonder if this was before or after the phenomenon that Water For Elephants turned out to be.)
     I agree with most of the world that Water For Elephants is a great book. It really is nothing like her first novel, which will never free itself from my-most-disliked-books-of-all-time-list. And I have to say that I'm glad I read it, and think I might have even if I had realized who the author was.
    In the second paragraph above I used the phrase "worst books I've ever read", and just above I mentioned my "most disliked" books. Those two phrases don't mean nearly the same thing, and I have to say that by worst book, I am stating an opinion.  I have not read Sara Gruen's latest novel, Ape House, and not sure that I will.
     These two examples make me aware of how unfair it is that I - and many other readers - give up on an author because we didn't like one (or more) of their books. Another of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, who is an incredible writer, has written many books that have failed to impress me. So has Stephen King, arguably one of the most talented writers in the history of writing.
      I have recently published my first novel. It is a good book. I am proud of it, but it is not a great book. I know many, possibly most readers, will not be impressed, but might still read the upcoming sequel. I have written a lot about authors "growing" in their writing talent as they continue learning to write and become more experienced.  I hope and expect that will be true of me as well. But it won't matter if readers - like I have on occasion - give up on an author after a less than stellar book.
     In the future, I'll try to judge a book on it's own merit and not be influenced by past experience with a certain author. I will choose to read books that catch my attention and interest, regardless of how I felt about similar books. I'm sure, in most cases, I will be glad that I did.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gamble

The official title of this book is "'Dick Francis's Gamble" by Felix Francis. I'm not sure that title is properly punctuated, but that's not what interests me about it. I believe this is the first book (officially) by Felix Francis.
    As many people know, Dick Francis is my writing idol and all-time favorite writer; best writer in the world in my opinion (followed closely by Stephen King, who is an amazing writer, but not one of my favorites). Since his dad's death, Felix Francis has published four novels with both Dick Francis and Felix as authors.  Presumably his dad had started these books or written parts of them or possibly just had notes for them. Whatever the case, I have read each of them - and by most I was disappointed.
    The first one, Dead Heat, was good. Some of it I thought was very like Dick Francis and some I thought was not nearly as good as he would have written, but overall I enjoyed it. The next one I was not impressed with. Nor the one after. I started the third one and lost interest.
     Last week I picked up the latest, Gamble, and was delightedly surprised. It's not amazing; it's not written by Dick Francis. But it's really good. Not great, but I liked it very much. I am hoping, hoping, hoping that Felix has come into his own in his writing.
     I don't know how much of his dad's writing he had to work with for these five books, but except for the first one they didn't feel like Dick Francis novels at all. Not that I think Felix should write like his dad. Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, is a great writer - but his writing is nothing like his dad's, which I feel is a good thing. However, I have held hope that Felix did share some of his dad's writing ability and that I would enjoy his books.
     I am now looking forward to the next one. If his writing continues to be strong, I also hope Felix will be able to leave his dad's name off the title and create a following of readers on his own.


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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Writing Therapy

Saw my therapist yesterday for the first time in months; since just at the beginning of the chaos that has kept me from writing or even wanting to write. He was distressed that I haven't been writing (outside of blogging) and urged me to get back to it.
     He is possibly the best therapist in the world and while he doesn't write, he is a big reader and huge lover of books. He knows that those of us with any kind of creative nature have to create in order to stay balanced and happy. Writers have to write, singers have to sing, dancers have to dance, artists have to paint or sculpt or whatever. (I am not ignoring the other less recognized kinds of artists: jewelery makers, those who knit or crochet, fashion designers, etc. I know all such things are driven by the need to make something to share with the world.) Our creativity is such a big part of us that it is unhealthy to keep away from it.
     I haven't purposely kept away from writing. For a few months I haven't had the energy to write, even on the rare occasions recently that I have had time. But the urge to write is starting to rear is lovely head and I hope to get back to it soon.
     There will always be chaos - it's part of life - but hopefully not so much of it. I admire writers who can keep up with their writing in spite of the craziness in their lives. I am jealous of those who can use writing to keep themselves grounded when things get wild and stressful. It seems I'm not one of them, but maybe one day I will learn to be.
    So, the next time I have a few extra minutes and I'm not exhausted, I hope to do some writing. And I feel positive that soon I will be once again, planning writing time into my week and doing so on a regular basis. Perhaps it will create some order to battle the chaos.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My First Review

So I finally read the review of my book, Daylight's End, on Brianna Lee's Book Reviews (blog), and was very pleased. She only ranked it 3 out of 5 stars, which is good, but not great. Interestingly, what she said about the book, both good and otherwise, is very much what I think of the book also. It's my first published novel and it's good. And I think that's good enough.
     Of course Daylight's End is not my first book. It is common and sound advice that no writer should ever try to publish the first book they ever wrote. I wrote three previous novels that were not fit to be published. I may shorten them to novellas and publish them in the future, but I waited until I wrote a book that I thought was good enough to publish.
     Another reason I think it's fine that my book is good but not great: I e-published.  And that means if I find a way to improve the story, make the characterization stronger or the plot more intense, I can; then I can re-publish a new edition. This is one of the many great, great things about e-publishing.
    An interesting thing about Brianna's review was her brief description of the plot and characters at the beginning. Reviewers typically do this before giving their thoughts on different aspects of the book. I wrote a blog recently commenting on whether it was easier for a reader to briefly describe a book and do it well, when many authors struggle with doing that for their own books. Brianna's description of my book was so different from my own that while everything she said about the story and characters was true, I had difficulty recognizing that the book she described was my book. It was fascinating. I feel her summary of the book, while different from any I have ever written, was effective in making it sound like an interesting book to read.


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fear

I have  writing friend - amazing writer, amazing woman - who entered a short story in a contest for the first time a few months ago. She first shared it with several critique buddies, me included, and it was a great story.
     It was a contest where readers voted on their favorite story and within the first two days her story was in first place in the contest. Readers could also post comments and/or reviews. When I asked my friend a few days later how her story was doing, she told me some woman had written a lot of negative things in her comments and my friend had withdrawn the story.
     I was disappointed - well, shocked even - but my friend had a lot going on in her life and was emotionally fragile (and she is one of the strongest people I know) at the time and fortunately she recognizes this and realizes she acted rashly. The two times I've entered contests like this, my stories not only got few votes, but also few comments. A story that draws no reaction from the reader, positive or negative, can easily be considered a poor story.
    I recently sent my book to one of my new book review friends on fb and asked her to review it. I had followed her review blog and like her and her reviews. She posted recently that she had finished reading my book and was writing the review and I am terrified! What if the review is negative? I like to think I will react as I do to critiques - learn from it and improve. But I've never had a public review of my work and it's nerve wracking.
    Bless fb and my online horse friend Kimber Goodman who posts uplifting, positive and inspirational quotes, always with pictures of horses and often mentioning horses and riding specifically or as a universal metaphor. This morning I found this on on my fb news feed and I think it will give me courage to read the review of my book (which posted on my friends review page yesterday.)

"In order to live a creative life, we have to give up the fear of being wrong."

Because of the phrase "creative life", I feel like this should mention the fear of being judged or of failure or even not just producing our best work. It still got my attention and gave me what I needed to face this new experience. Everyone, especially artists and writers, should share and remember this quote.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Reviewing Books

I don't think I've ever written a review (at least not of a fiction book) - not an actual, deliberate review. I have made comments and blogged about some novels and non-fiction and books about writing.
     I've been reading some book reviews lately and I think they must be hard to write and really hard to write well. Not that the ones I have read aren't good, but I think it must take some practice and development of a system for rating.
   One of the hardest things might be describing/summarising the story. I know how hard it is for an author to briefly describe their own book and make it sound interesting. Is it harder or easier to do that as a reader - or does it depend on the book?
     I know from critiquing (and from teaching horseback riding) that I'm pretty good at being positive while making note of things that need to be or could be improved. I wonder if I could be honest about a book I really didn't like? I could choose to write reviews only of books that I did like.
     Is it more worthwhile to share with other readers books they would like - rather than books they should avoid? I don't think it's necessary to draw peoples attention to a book they might not enjoy, but it's always nice to recommend good ones.
     It sort of follows the adage about not saying anything if you can't say something nice and that makes sense to me.


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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Encouraging Bloggers (And Would-be Bloggers)

In my last post I 'reviewed' (my version of reviewing is like my version of research - meaning it would be derided by anyone with any skill for or dedication to either) the book Blog, by Hugh Hewitt. He made several interesting points that I thought merit consideration.
    One of the things he stated in his book is that, although many people feel the trend has been going so long, it's not worth joining now, it is never too late to start a blog. If you have something you want to share, whether with a certain target audience or just randomly, blogging is a worthwhile effort, and can be very effective.
   Some of the simple pieces of advice he gives are:

    Link freely - this helps readers find other interesting or useful information.
    Keep most blog posts short.
    Post often - so any regular followers you have will keep checking in for new stuff.
    Be generous in praise and attribution - I really like this, because I am a positive person and like to promote others accomplishments, qualities, etc.
    Keep titles short - so they are easy to remember and type in. I feel this is also true of blog names/addresses.
   
Hewitt, a very experienced and successful blogger, makes a point of saying that being a technophobe is no deterrent. He is so technology challenged that people heckle him for the simplicity of his blog - but traffic on his blog is off the charts. If you don't think starting a blog is easy, try it. (I did this and found myself with a blog unintentionally). To prove his point, Hewitt mentioned that he was blogging for 2 years before he leaned how to use spellcheck on his blog posts. I am hopeless with learning anything computer related and that only took me 14 months.


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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

'Blog' by Hugh Hewitt

This is so like me. I am sharing information - not quite a review - of a book that has been out for eons, published in 2005. And since it's about technology-related stuff, which ages much more rapidly than other things - its a fossil. I'm banking on their being an updated version out there, and because I (mostly) enjoyed this one so much, I recommend finding it.
    This is not one of those books - of which there are many - that I randomly saw at a family members house (although I did) and started reading because I am addicted to words and will pick up and read anything the way I will automatically eat any chocolate I happen to come across. I deliberately chose to read the book, because I thought it would help me learn how to blog more effectively.
     The subtitle of Blog is Understand the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World. The first part, among highlights of the history of sharing information from the earliest civilizations, gives lengthy details about the powerful way the very first blogs influenced media, politics and the public. I found all of this fascinating, especially the history.
    The second part of the book focuses on how blogging has evolved and how to use it and keep up with and ahead of the changes. The last part of the book gives specifics on how to use blogging to market your product or service.
     While the book turned out to be primarily geared toward businesses and organizations, it also addressed individuals and the many kinds of blogs and motivations for blogging.  It was far from what I expected when I started reading, but I learned a great deal and it gave me many insights that I can apply to my own blogging and that I will share in future posts for other bloggers and writers.
    Even if you have no interest in blogging or its influence and usefulness, this is an interesting book. Hewitt is a talented and entertaining writer - several times I laughed out loud while reading, which is always fun when reading in public places - and the book covers a lot more than blogging. As well as history, it offers business advice and commentary on human nature and changing cultural trends.
   Like many people who write about politics, Hewitt occasionally states unequivocally that certain political views or religious beliefs are "wrong". I don't agree with this, but I am one of those who just smirks at such comments and I don't bother to react to what I see as others narrow mindedness or ignorance. The incidences in the book are very few and not enough that I would warn anyone that they might be offended.
    I strongly recommend this book, a newer updated version if there is one, but if not, this one still has a lot of merit. We can still learn a lot from the ancient writings from throughout history and this can be viewed the same way.


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