Wednesday, April 7, 2021

IWSG: Calculated Risks

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.

April 7 question - Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton! Be sure to check out what they have to say, and visit other writers in the blog hop!

So, am I a risk-taker in my writing? Well…kind of. 

I'm trying to build a writing career, one that will eventually financially support me. So, when I make choices about what to write next and where to focus my energy in this moment, I'm considering marketability and cross-pollination with my other published work as one of the factors. So, sometimes that means putting down one project that doesn't have a publisher waiting on it, so I can work on one that does--selecting what to work on when based on slightly more mercenary criteria rather than merely following my artistic whims. 

But I don't let that make me play it completely safe. While I don't seek out controversy for its own sake, I don't pull back from it if it arises naturally in my work. My novels address some pretty serious issues: ageism, sexism, misogyny, violence, trust. I don't pull my metaphorical punches any more than my heroines pull their physical ones. If the story needs to take on something potentially controversial, then it will. 

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On the other hand, I also LOVE trying new things as a writer. So, there's a balance to be struck between moving forward where I've had success and in experimentation and growth. I use short fiction for this. So, while I'm continuing to write The Menopausal Superhero series, I also slip in a little time to write in my first-love genre of horror stories and to try on other sub-genres of speculative fiction. 

It lets me try out different approaches, narrative styles, and forms without the time commitment required by a novel. 

My favorite way to challenge myself is to write for anthologies. When I hear about a themed call that captures my imagination, I jump in. Even better if it's something I've never written before, like that time I wrote a vampire story for Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, even though I'd never written a vampire story before, just because I LOVED the premise of the anthology so very much and wanted to be a part of it. 

It's always a risk to try writing something new, but I'd argue it's a risk to never try writing anything new, too--stagnation is real, and can cost your passion as well as your opportunity to build a career. 

So, I'm a planned risk-taker, I guess, willing to try something new, but only when the time is right. How about you, fellow creatives? How do you balance risk in your creative life? 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Reads, 2021


March was a mood around here. I had no idea what I wanted most of the time, so maybe that's why my reading list looks like a surprise grab bag. I've got young adult, classics, nonfiction, romance, mystery-horror, and I'm not at all sure what to call My Best Friend's Exorcism (other than awesome). 

I finished 7 books this month, and as I write this on the first day of April, I'm in the middle of 4 books. I tend to be reading at least three at any given time: one in paper, one on Kindle, and one in audiobook form. That way, I have something to read regardless of where I am and how screenburnt I am. 

I had pretty good success with this month's choices. I at least *liked* everything I read, and I loved two books. 

So, here's the run down: 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. S├ínchez. As the title suggests, this is a young adult novel about a young Mexican-American woman navigating her bilingual, multi-cultural life. I appreciated how much Julia felt like a real teenager to me, and the empathy brought to all characters. The book avoided the YA pitfall of making all adults clueless or heartless by making the adults in Julia's life into real people, too. 

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My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. My favorite read of the month came to me in a roundabout way. I'm part of an online community hosted by Sarah Gailey, and there's often a book-of-the-month up for discussion. The cover and title of this one intrigued me, reminding me so much of my teenaged years, and that makes sense since it is mostly set in 1989, the same year I graduated high school. This hit the 80s nostalgia vibes hard, while winning me over with an engaging story of a friend who refuses to give up on a friend, even when it gets really really hard. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read this one for my First Monday Classics Book Club and I'm really looking forward to the discussion on Monday!  I've read it before, but I was a teenager then, and it's quite a different experience reading it as an adult. Surprisingly engaging for a book with a meandering plot and wandering character arcs, full of slice of life anecdotes and beautiful philosophical meditations on life, poverty, and immigration. Definitely not as difficult to read in terms of language and sensibility as some classics. The very definition of bittersweet. 

Six Nights in Paradise by Ashley Cade. I know Ashley on Instagram, and I bought this book when it first came out to support her career, but I haven't been in the mood for a romance. I'm kind of a picky romance reader, in that I don't read straight romances (as in books that are ONLY romances) very often, and I can't binge read them like some people do or I get fed up with the tropes. I very much enjoyed this story though of two young people getting a second chance at romance with one another. I even got into the contrived situation of going on a Honeymoon trip together so as not to waste the trip money when the wedding falls through. The characters had great chemistry and I was cheering them on. What more can you wish for in a romance? 

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. This book has been ALL OVER Instagram, and since my children were both fans of her work for younger readers, I decided to give it a try. There was quite a bit to enjoy, but it didn't prove my cup of tea overall--we stayed too much on the surface, letting plot rather than character drive the story, and that's not my jam. I'm starting to think I'm a hard sell for Faerie stories, since I've found so few I loved. Tell me in the comments if you know of a great one I should try. 

Odd Thomas: You Are Destined to be Together Forever by Dean Koontz. I've gotten a habit of looking for the shortest books in my Audible and Chirp libraries when I'm not sure what I feel like reading to see what Past Me thought looked interesting. This time, I found Odd Thomas, as character I've heard of, and watched a movie about, but hadn't read any of. This was just a short story, but it did its job and intrigued me enough that I am likely to seek out more of the series at a later date. Supernatural-paranormal intermixed with mystery is a favorite combination for me. 

I picked up Dan Rather: Stories of a Lifetime for the same reason. Well, that, and the fact that his longer book is sitting in my Kindle waiting for me to choose it, and I thought this might be a way to gauge my interest in that longer book. Good news: I liked it. Rather is a personable storyteller and I found parts of it quite touching. I'm a sucker for a married man who loves and appreciates his partner, and Dan clearly recognizes his good fortune in his marriage. I also liked seeing the man freed from the constraints of maintaining objectivity now that he's retired, and being allowed to speak his own mind on political subjects. Heads up: he's anti-Trump, so if you're not, you probably won't like this one. 

So what did you read in March? Find anything wonderful? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.