Monday, August 28, 2023

Nibbles while I noodle…or not: 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 snack do you like with your cuppa (coffee/tea)?  

Most of my tea or coffee is a morning affair, enjoyed alongside breakfast. My writing time usually comes at the end of the day, after the job, supper, and family responsibilities have settled. Much too late in the day for me to have caffeine if I'm going to sleep at night! 

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In the winter, I might have some Tension Tamer or another herbal tea for the warmth and comfort while I write, but here in the height of summer, it's ice water. I'm too hot all the time--which is part of why I can't wait for Fall to come and rescue me.  

I don't eat while I write, so no snacks for me with that second cuppa. Eating-while-distracted is a recipe for disaster for me: either I'm clumsy and make a mess, or I eat too much because I wasn't paying attention, or I forget the snack altogether because I got focused. 

How about you? Can you snack and get creative at the same time? What's your snacking pleasure? 

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Monday, August 21, 2023

Beta Readers and the Role of Feedback: 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 use beta readers? Have they been useful in improving your writing?  

Beta readers can be really useful…and not so useful. The tricky bit, I think, is finding folks who are available on your timetable and can provide the right kind of feedback. 

For any folks reading this who don't know, beta readers are people who read an author's work after it is complete, but before it is published, when there's still room to take feedback and improve the work.
Sometimes, these can be other authors, but ideally, they are readers who enjoy the genre you're writing in and can be articulate about what they like and don't like, but who aren't necessarily going to respond the same way another writer would. 

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I have used beta readers, but I rely more heavily on my alpha readers--writing friends who serve as critique partners, reading work in its more raw state and through their feedback helping me refine the story while I'm still writing it. 

I've been in the same critique group for 15 years now (though the membership has shifted over the years, with folks leaving and coming in) and we discuss excerpts of our work-in-progress and will also serve as beta readers for one another when the book gets to that stage. 

It's a process that works well for me and helps me maintain momentum, but I know it wouldn't work for everyone. Knowing when in your process to seek feedback can be quite challenging and might even differ from project to project. 

I've also participated in beta-exchange groups, where authors read one another's complete books and give feedback. 

A few times, I've been able to get readers who are not also writers, but that's tricky since I've been working within a series for almost eight years now and I'd really need people who've already read the rest of the series before giving feedback on the latest volume. That's a lot to ask of people giving their time and energy for free (which most of them are). 

I've gotten great feedback in all these scenarios…and I've gotten vague, contradictory, and not-that-helpful feedback, too. As in most things, your mileage will vary. 

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It can take a lot of time to process all the feedback, too, looking for patterns and evaluating whether a critique necessitates changing your work (because most readers seem to agree that something is a problem) or if it's just one person's point of view (and other readers disagree). In the end, the story is still yours to tell, so you don't have to incorporate any of the feedback at all if it doesn't fit your vision.

But feedback is so useful! And the finished story is often tremendously improved by the process. 

Since I've been working with a traditional publisher, I've spent less time seeking formal beta readers, choosing instead to lean on critique partners and alpha readers, then rely on the editorial process to find anything that isn't working in my completed book. 

How and when do you seek out feedback in your creative endeavors? If you're a writer, what's your experience with beta readers? If you're a reader, do you want to be a beta reader for me? I'm hoping to have a draft of the final Menopausal Superhero novel ready for feedback by early November. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Monday, August 14, 2023

Breaking the Ice: 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 ice-breaker (meetings, parties, dates, socials)?  

Like many writers, I run towards introverted. I've developed a healthy collection of social skills and coping mechanisms over the years, but "peopling" still wears me out

A face down cartoon cat with "fumes" coming out its head and the slogan "too much peopling"
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I detest most so-called ice-breakers, those weird little (extrovert created) games that force people into unnatural interactions with strangers should be illegal under the Geneva conventions as torture. As a teacher, I was subjected to so many of them over the years in the name of team-building and collegiality. 

No, I don't want to build something out of marshmallows and toothpicks with a table full of strangers or compete to see who can find someone who has been to France the fastest. This does not make me feel good or result in a human connection that matters in any way. 

a container of "icebreaker sours" candy
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But I do recognize that there is a need to meet people. I appreciate being left to do this in a low-key way, at my own pace and volume. Honestly, meeting people works best for me if I can meet one or two people at a time, and there's a mutual acquaintance there to connect us. 

In in-person, writer-centered activities, it's easy to meet people though. I just ask, "What do you write?" and sit and listen. 

Online, there are plenty of people posting little games, surveys, or questions, and I can just join in that conversation. I can participate in things like this blog hop, where a group of people are all in their own space, but thinking and talking about the same things. 

I don't want anyone to break the ice, honestly. I'm happy to let it thaw more naturally, a little bit at a time. 

How about you? Do you like ice-breakers? What works for you when you're meeting people? 

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Monday, August 7, 2023

My Author Origin Story: 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 author origin story?  

In some ways, I've always been a writer, at least since I could actually hold a pen or pencil and physically write. My first poems were written when I was only six, in first grade. "Beauty is in the great, tall trees/bending over in the breeze" and stuff like that. 

In other ways, I've only been an author for a decade or so, starting when I panicked a little over the idea that I was turning 42 and still hadn't written a book, then committed to a daily writing habit, and started finishing things, submitting them, and getting published. 

But the important part of my author origin story isn't in the exact details. This heroine's journey begins with reading. 

The first book I can remember loving was a collection of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. It was a tall, slender volume with a blue cover. I had to lay it down on the floor and stretch out my arm to turn the pages. By the time I was three years old, I had it memorized, down to what words went with what page turns, and convinced my grandmother that I could already read (I couldn't--I just knew that book by heart). 

I had a pretty healthy collection of Little Golden Books as well, since that was my bribe for being a good girl at the grocery store. I'd put up with a lot for the promise of a new Little Golden Book. 

When I got a little older, Mom and I (and little sister, when she came along) became regulars at the library. I was such an enthusiastic little reader that the book mobile ladies would hide books under the seat for me so they'd still be available when they got to my house even though we were one of the last stops. To this day, I am grateful to my library and librarians for all the worlds they opened to me through their shelves. 

But yes, reading was definitely my conduit into writing. I'd make up other endings or additional adventures for stories I loved, and over time I started writing them down. Really, it's no surprise to anyone who knew me in childhood that I grew up to be a writer. 

Writing sometimes feels to me like reading notched up to eleven. If reading lets me walk in someone else's shoes, writing lets me wear their skin and look out through their eyes, imagining all the details of a life very different than my own. It's one of the great joys of my life and I hope to enjoy it for many years yet to come. 

How about you? Do you have an origin story for your heart's endeavors? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! 

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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Inner Conflict and the Writing Process: 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 August 2 posting of the IWSG are Kate Larkinsdale, Diane Burton, Janet Alcorn, and Shannon Lawrence!

August 2 question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

By the time I actually finish a piece of writing, as in "this is ready to submit for publication," I've worked my way through all my angst and anxiety about it and I believe in it and want to get it in front of readers. 

So, I'd have to say "sort of" in answering today's question: I've felt that way while the piece was still in-process, but I made my peace with it before I called it done. 

I've definitely written some things that surprised me--that were very different from my usual in theme or style or content. I've spent a little time worrying that the change won't go over well with my readers now that I've established a small following, but in the end, my writing life belongs to me and is about expression of what's going on inside my mind and heart, so I don't hold myself back for long worrying about reception. 

Me with my "half hero/half horror" banner at Ret-Con

I do warn people though. People who know me for my Menopausal Superhero series are sometimes really surprised to find out that I write dark fiction and horror stories, too. And both groups have been surprised by a few pieces that took a more literary bent and weren't really speculative fiction at all. 

I have some writer friends who establish pen names for their work in different genres, and that seems like a great technique to me and a good cue for readers, but I get tired just thinking about managing more than one of me, so it's all just under my real name. 

For other writers coming to my site today, how does this play out for you? For readers, how do you feel about it when an author you enjoy puts out a different sort of work than what you already know and love? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!