Monday, June 17, 2024

Under appreciated novels, 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's your favorite under appreciated novel? 
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Oh my, that's a tough one. I mean, when I LOVE a book, it's strange to me to realize that other people haven't even heard of it, but that's often how it goes. There are SO MANY books, and even among friends who read as much as I do and more, we only have some crossover. 

Under appreciated is also hard to gauge. It's not like I'm checking their Rotten Tomatoes rating or something, right? 

Still, a novel did come to mind when I read the question: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. 


It's not as obscure as other novels I could have chosen, but anytime I bring up Shirley Jackson, people say, "Oh yeah. She wrote The Lottery, right?" or maybe, "Is that the Haunting of Hill House lady?" Both of those are true, and both of those works are also genius (though I think Castle is better). It's this one that wanders the backrooms of my mind, and pops out to jump scare me from time to time. 

Like a lot of Shirley Jackson, there's not anything supernatural going on. Her horror is only rarely about ghost or monsters. Mostly, it's in what people do to one another. Some call her more specific genre "domestic horror" and I think that fits well. Other than Hill House, her stories mostly take place in mundane settings:  small towns, gardens, post offices, grocery stores, homes. 

What I love about Castle is Merricat, the main character and somewhat unreliable narrator. She's intense and scary in that way that very young people can be, and as the fuller history is revealed her complicated relationship with her sister Constance becomes fascinating. 

So, that's my pick for today. How about you? Do you have a favorite novel that no one else seems to love the same way you do? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 


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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

What should IWSG do next?

    


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 June 5 posting of the IWSG are Liza at Middle Passages, Shannon Lawrence, Melissa Maygrove, and Olga Godim!

June 5 question - In this constantly evolving industry, what kind of offering/service do you think the IWSG should consider offering to members?
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Once a month affirmations and celebration and engagement through the blog hop is quite a gift already, honestly. The time our monthly volunteer moderators put into helping ensure that everyone sees engagement and that the tone is positive and kind is not to be discounted!

The anthologies have also been great for encouraging writers to finish things and given quite a few among our number some publication credits. 


I know there are also other things that happen that I haven't found the time to participate in very deeply, like book clubs and social conversation opportunities in the Facebook group. There really is already a lot going on this group, and the more you invest yourself and your time, the more you can get out of it. 

Since I can't spare volunteer hours at this stage of my life to make anything happen (I'm already spread too thin), I feel odd making suggestions, but since y'all asked, here are a few things to consider:  

  • In-person gatherings, regionally, like networking socials or write-in meetings
  • Zoom versions of the same
  • Classes and webinars members can take to learn about writing craft and the publishing business more formally
  • Group readings at conventions
  • Development of a directory of members, which can be used to connect with other writers who live near you or write in similar genres 
  • Development of a podcast or program where writing topics can be discussed in a panel format

Clearly, all of these take time and energy though, and I know how difficult it can be to keep a writing life going alongside the "ordinary" demands of day jobs, families, households, and caregiving, so I truly appreciate the work that already happens in this organization.  

Even though I'm now stuffing a full time writing life into part-time hours and time is at a premium, I'll keep finding time for First Wednesdays because the camaraderie has meant so much over the years. Thanks, IWSG! 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Bad writing advice, 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's the worst piece of writing advice you've ever received? 
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I can't honestly think of one single piece of advice that stands out as "the worst." Most of what has been sent my way has been well-intentioned. 

But anything that is entirely prescriptive and acts like there's one right way to write? Yeah, that's when I stop listening. 

image source

I LOVE to talk writing and publishing with other writers and learn about the tools and techniques they use. I've tried a lot of things because I read about them in blog posts, or heard about them in writing groups. 

Some have worked for me (like keeping a daily writing chain). 

Others have not (like outlining). 

What's really important though is the acknowledgement that creative process is highly personal and individual. There's no single right way to do it; no silver bullet that will guarantee fame, fortune, and success; no magic words that will suddenly make it easy. Anyone who tells you there is? 

Well, keep an eye on your wallet!

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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?