Monday, May 27, 2024

Reading for enjoyment, as a writer, an open book blog hop post

  

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How do you turn off your internal editor when you are reading for enjoyment?

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It can be difficult, once you "know how the sausage is made" to gloss over errors, inconsistencies, and less-than-stellar stylistic choices in someone else's work like you might have done when you were "just a reader." This is especially difficult in sloppy work, where you start to wonder if the author tried anything at all, like spell check or Grammarly? 

Honestly, I've always been a fairly judgey reader in that regard: I expect good writing in published books. It has gotten worse since I started doing it myself, though. 

I get super annoyed by poor craftsmanship, because author life is hard enough without people half-assing self-publishing and making it that much harder for everyone to get readers to give indie-published work a fair shake. Readers who have been burned by poor quality work with minimal editing are less likely to reach for indie work in the future, so it hurts us all. 

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But, I can usually achieve a state of immersion and become "just a reader" again, and if I can't…well, I don't have to finish every book I start. 

I do a lot of my reading these days as audiobooks, so that helps a little. I can't see the words on the page and a good narrator can smooth out rough patches. Sometimes a good narrator can take a merely good book and make it great, or take a mediocre book and make it good.  So, that's part of it, for sure. 

Sometimes, it's an act of will, reminding myself I'm not providing a critique or a beta read, but just reading. If the story is working, it'll pull me in and my inner critic will quiet down and let me enjoy. 

If I can't achieve that feeling of immersion, then I usually set the book aside and figure it's not for me, or at least not for me right now. Sometimes the reason I can't immerse into a story has nothing to do with quality, but about my own state of mind and stage of life, or even just that I've read too much of the same sort of thing in a row. 

How about you? If you write, do you find it harder to lose yourself in reading now? What pulls you out of that feeling of immersion? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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DNF: did not finish, an open book blog hop post

  

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What determines whether or not you finish a book you're reading? Do you review books you didn't finish?

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The short answer to this one is "the first few pages." 

For most of my reading, if a book doesn't have my interest by thirty or so pages in, I figure it's not a book for me, and I just let it go. That said, it doesn't happen to me very often because I know me pretty well by this point, and I seldom pick up a book that isn't for me. 

Most of the reads I don't finish weren't just personal picks, but something I was reading for a class, or for a book club, or because someone gifted it to me. Sometimes those are worth finishing, even if I don't enjoy them, for the social bit: talking about books with other people is one of my great joys in life, probably right under writing book and reading books!

One book I've made multiple attempts at and never finished is Ulysses by James Joyce. That book might be my personal reading nemesis. I've made it through plenty of dense classic novels in my time, but this one I couldn't handle. 

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Generally, I don't review books I didn't finish. That doesn't seem fair. Maybe whatever was frustrating or annoying me in that opening made sense later and, had I continued, I would have come to appreciate what the author was doing. 

How about you? Do you finish what you started in your reading life? 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Selling your books in person, an open book blog hop post

 

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you attend book selling events? What is your best tip to sell books at one? 

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I do indeed, several times a year, attend events where I sell my books. In fact, I attended one just this past weekend, Ravencon in Richmond, Virgina, and had a lovely time! I've got Galaxycon upcoming in July, and Bookmarks Book Festival on my calendar for September, too. 

Display is key at these things, in my observation. It's one of those cases where investing in a few eye-catching items can make a lot of difference. In my case, I've invested in a table runner, a standing banner, printed bookmarks, and a couple of different types of bookracks for table display. 

Me with my table runner and upright book rack at Concarolinas in 2021

All of these help a reader make a good guess from across the room whether or not my books would be of interest to them. 

Of course, I didn't buy these all at once, but a piece at a time, with different events in mind. In fact, I had another banner before this one that became outdated when my Menopausal Superhero books got a rebrand in 2019. I expect that, in the future, I may want other banners as my catalogue expands. So, I balance that when I'm deciding how much I'm willing to spend on these display items. 

My standing banner behind my Galaxycon table in 2023, with my new spinner rack.

The logo and imprint name "Dangerous When Bored" on my table runner will often elicit a smile from someone walking past my table at an event, and that might make them slow down and look at my covers. The "half hero/half horror" with book covers gives a reader a hint even at a distance what my most common genres are. 

Once a potential reader stops by my table, I introduce myself, asking a question or making a comment when possible to try and get a conversation started. (It took me some time to build comfort with this bit, BTW, since I'm a hardcore introvert). I'm convinced more than one person has bought a book from me because I complimented their clothing or understood the reference on their tee-shirt. 

I try to gage if a reader is drawn in by any particular cover and offer a little more information about that particular book. Saying nothing at all can be bad, because you seem disinterested and the reader might need you to start the conversation, but saying too much can be overwhelming, too. I've got a very short, pithy pitch for each book at the ready and only go into more depth if that seems wanted. 

If they seem like they're going to walk away without buying, I thank them for their time and try to get them to take a bookmark, so they can check out my work online at their leisure. I often see a spike in online sales in the days following an in-person event, too. Some folks want to support you, but have burned through their budget, or have limited luggage space to consider. 

So, there you go. My best advice is to make as easy as possible for the potential reader to ascertain what kinds of books you're selling through well chosen display items and swag. 

How about you fellow Open Book bloggers? What works for you? For readers stopping by my blog today, what kinds of things will get you to buy a book from someone at in-person events? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Driven to Distraction, an IWSG post

      


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Victoria Marie Lees, Kim Lajevardi, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

May 1 question - How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?
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So, I'm one of those middle-aged women who found out she was ADD when her children were diagnosed and the waves of recognition splashed me in the face and left me sputtering. 

As a GenX woman who isn't hyperactive, I was always told that I was "right-brained" and encouraged to "develop discipline" or I'd never succeed in this world. 

And, so, I kind of did. 

Not that I recommend this approach for others--it was often painful along the way. My need for quiet was regarded as antisocial, rather than introversion or overstimulation and I spent a lot of time trying to be "normal." 

Now, I'm the list-making, calendar and alarm dependent sort of ADDer. And I just turned 53, so I've had a minute to understand my brain weasels and make peace with them, developing patterns that support me and help me get done what I need and want to get done. 


cartoon of several colorful weasels bunched up together into a brain shape with the words "brain weasels" at the bottom.
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At this point, I'm pretty good at self-regulation and using external support tools to ensure adequate productivity. My brain weasels aren't completely tamed, but they are mostly cooperative. 
My super power as a neuro-spicy gal, is that when I concentrate, I can really really concentrate. Once I'm "in the zone," I can fail to notice almost anything else, from big external things (like thunderstorms) to smaller internal things (like hunger) for as long as my focus period lasts. 

On the downside, it can be hard to settle into those deep concentration moments, and to make sure that, when I do, my focus is on the "right" thing. 

In my writing life, that means staying focused on the project at hand until I've finished it and not running madly down the street after the "new shiny" idea that wants to jump the line. 

So, I have two techniques that help me: 

1. Bribery: I promise myself that I can play with the new shiny, but only AFTER I work on the current project for a certain amount of time. (Oddly, promising myself different work motivates me to do work). Work first, then play, you silly little brain weasels. 

2. Ritual: I've tried to Pavlov myself, training myself to associate certain things with "writing time" so I can elicit that concentration regularly. I have a cup of Tension Tamer tea (smells like writing!), and I sit in my writing oasis on the green sofa (feels like writing!). So, the setting and the smell tell my brain, "It's writing time!" 
Distractions do still derail me sometimes…and sometimes, they absolutely should, because the health and wellbeing of my household is more important than my word count and my imaginary friends. 

It's always this balance of when to fight and when to give in to distraction. All work and no play does make a Jacqueline a dull girl, so sometimes a break in discipline is just the right thing and will feed future productivity, but too much distraction just builds disquiet and leaves me frustrated. 

While I do have to be disciplined about which project I keep my focus on and about just sitting down to write each day, I'm a complete pantser in the writing itself. I think this is the compromise with my brain weasels: we will be organized and focused about what we're doing, but have a lot of freedom to play once the parameters are set. 

How about you? When you struggle with distraction what works for you? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Changes in the blog-o-sphere

    


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!!

April 3: How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed? 
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I hardly remember a time when blogging and social media weren't part of my life, but a quick check tells me that I started this blog in June 2009, apparently when I was feeling sad because my eldest was away visiting the bio-dad (AKA my ex-husband): https://samanthadunawaybryant.blogspot.com/2009/06/funny-things-make-me-sad-when-shes-away.html



That seems like an odd one to kick off a blog with, no "Hi! I'm Samantha and I'm a writer" confession? No big pronouncements about what I intended to do with the space? So maybe I had something before this and I've forgotten. 

If so, well, I've forgotten. 

From the look of it, I took off in fits and starts. 14 posts in all of 2009, only 3 in all of 2010…and there it is! 2014, the year I committed more fully to my writing life and wrote 112 blog posts apparently. 

That makes sense. I committed in a daily writing habit that year, starting a chain that remains unbroken a decade later. I had a goal of posting once a week, I remember, and it looks like I blew that out of the water! Go past me!

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Blogging has definitely changed for me over time. At first, it was just a way to make myself put some words out there into the world more often. Sort of a public diary about whatever was on my mind. It was about building a habit of writing and sharing it.

These days, I don't need my blog for those same reasons--I write every day and publish regularly enough to keep up some semblance of a writing career. But I still value having my own little piece of the web. It's a sort of record of my journey, at least for this section of my life, and since I'm bad at record-keeping in general, it's nice to have. 

Even though Blogger isn't well supported anymore and that gives me technical trouble from time to time, and even though I have need of a more robust and navigable website, I haven't moved it over. That's part nostalgia and part inertia probably. Plus I've got books to write! I don't really want to spend too much time and energy on my website. 

Sometimes "keeping up with the blog" feels like too big a chore alongside finishing the latest novel, promoting my published work, attending conventions, etc. I never let it go entirely, but I don't stress too much about whether I put something out once a week anymore, or spend too much time obsessing over metrics and numbers. 

Some of my posts have found a broad audience. Others were visited by twenty or so folks who probably all know me in real life (Hi, Mom!). 

That's okay. These posts are still ripples in the stream and have the chance to build into career-building waves. 

My posting these days is more about networking with other writers and bloggers (like you guys!), a bit of self-promotion for my writing life, and just making sure that SEO crawlers find a LOT of content with my name on it out there. Discoverability, baby!

We all do what we can, right? 



Monday, April 1, 2024

Too old or young for writing? An open book blog hop post

 

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How old is too old to be a writer? Too young? 

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One of the great things about writing is that it's something a person can do at any age. 

Once you're literate in at least one language, at whatever age that is, you can start writing. 

And even at the other end of the spectrum, when some of us start to struggle with things like fine motor control, vision, and mental endurance (if we weren't already), writing is still a possibility, even if you have to change the tools you use to do it. 

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Since I'm a writer who didn't start taking this seriously until I was 42, I'm probably a little biased towards older writers, but I've met some very talented very young ones, too (and I only get a little jealous that they've gotten it together sooner than I did). 

Each stage of life comes with its own insights and wisdom, so a writer isn't necessarily more or less prepared to take on a story or a topic based on their age. Experience isn't age-specific. Neither is imagination. I'd argue more that skill comes with practice and effort, things that a person of any age can invest in. 

Personally, I feel like I'm about 35, and I've felt like I was about 35 since I was about 15. (In reality, I'm soon to be 53). 

My writing life is going well. I'm pleased with what I create and happy to be finding an audience. I've got the confidence to say no to opportunities that aren't going to be good for me, and not eat myself up with worry about whether I've made the right decision afterwards. 

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I'm good with how it worked out for me, and only occasionally mad at myself for "wasting" time in my younger years. After all, the things I did then made me who I am now and brought the people I love into my life. Travel, home-making, reading stories to my children, and walking in the woods may not have earned me any publishing credits at the time, but all those experiences feed what I write now. So, they were worth it, both intrinsically and extrinsically. 

But you know what? People are judgy, especially on the internet. No matter what you do and when you do it, someone will disapprove and try to make you feel inadequate. 

Don't let them! 

Art is for all ages and stages. 

Do it for you!

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Monday, March 25, 2024

I Can't Wait to Read… (an open book blog hop post)

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Is there a book in your TBR pile that you're more excited about than the others? 

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My TBR isn't exactly a pile, since I read digitally (ebooks and audiobooks) more than I read on paper these days. 

And, while I do intend to read every book I put in those libraries, I don't have them ranked for urgency for the most part. I'm more of a mood reader, picking my next read based on what I feel like reading at the moment. 

So, I'm excited about all of them, or I wouldn't have purchased them, but which one I'll read in what order is more of a choice in the moment. 

There are exceptions, like book club reads, where I agreed to have read a certain book by a certain date, or review copies from colleagues, where I agreed to read it and provide a review by a certain date, or research reads for something I'm trying to write. 

I just finished The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, a choice for my First Monday Classics book club, which I read as an audiobook/ebook combination and I really enjoyed it, so I immediately bought the sequel, Ripley Underground and plan to read it soon. 

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I've been binging books by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). In fact, I'm reading The Hollow Places by her right now, as I write this, as an audiobook. I've read several of her darker books and her Paladin romance series as well as her humorous fantasy A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Magic. She write quirky interesting characters, and intermixes a kind heartedness with an appreciation for the weird and creepy and I'm really loving that vibe right now. 

When I find a series or a writer whose work I really enjoy, I tend to just gobble up the whole catalogue until I've read everything I can easily get my eyeballs (or ears) on. 

On my 10th T. Kingfisher this year!

I just bought Lyz Lenz's This American Ex-Wife since I read and enjoy her posts on Substack and that piqued my curiosity about her book, so that will probably float to the top of the pool soon, too. 

A long time writing friend, Nolah Reed just brought out Becoming the Cat, which I read early drafts of back when we shared a critique group, so I'm excited to read that, too.  

But, honestly, I'm excited about them all, and at this point, I'll have to live several hundred years to have time to read them all!

How about you? What are you excited about reading? 

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