Sunday, December 16, 2018

My rather long To Read list and the reasons why those 38 books are on my list

My To Read list is usually about four to six books long. I often read two books a week. But this year has been especially fraught with interference and life stuff in general.

I have embarked on a study program for becoming a better marketer of my fiction novels and my one non-fiction work. Because I decided to dedicate my time to improving myself in this area, that meant less entertainment/escapism reading.

However, I have a few mailing lists which send me what's new with my favorite authors and those that are similar. I'm a sucker for a new book, so my list for reading has continued to grow while I've been off on my self-enhancement activities. So this is the list that calls to me daily.

Daily, I say, "No, I have to grade. No, I have to review copy editing. No, I have to lesson plan. No, I have to write (because that is the part of my life that truly entertains me). No, my husband must come first. No, I'm going on a bike ride. No, I have to put in my early morning workout. No, Cagney and Lacey need their treats, bellies rubbed, toenails clipped, to be fed, to be brushed, to be treated for ear infections, the list goes on. No, my daughter is texting me. No, I have to write a new ad. No, I'm going on Twitter for five minutes. No, I'm writing a newsletter. No, I'm....  And then there's that crazy requirement that I sleep now and then.

Okay, you get the picture. I haven't read a fiction novel in about four weeks. The last book was by Becca Andre, one of her Soul Iron series. I admit it. I was already in my "improve my marketing plan," and her book caught me in a moment of weakness. Buroker snuck in there, too, but I could rationalize it because she was serializing the story on her blog. It fell under research, sort of; it sounded good at the time. It was on her blog, alright!

Below is my list and my reasons for putting each book on my list. I am looking forward to reading them all though those related to my self-improvement efforts will be read sooner for obvious reasons.

  • The Cornered Cat by Kathy Jackson Reason: my husband is teaching me how to shoot. This book was recommended. I've already read about two thirds of it. For me it's a read in doses kind of book.
  • Email Lists Made Easy  by Kirsten Oliphant Reason: The idea of email lists leaves me nervous and uncertain. I need all the help I can get.
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose: Reason: I was curious if I was reading like someone else. I'm part way through reading it. So far I qualify.
  • Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance Reason: I am fascinated by space. I like to read about people who are driven to make their dreams come true and do. This is a good combination read of what I like.
  • Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thomson Reason: I need to be challenged sometimes. I've done the first few challenges and should probably do some more.
  • The Aurykon Chronicles Books 1-5 by Ron B. Saunders Reason: I think my daughter bought this on our account, but I'll probably read it.
  • The Legacy by Luke Romyn Reason: it looks interesting
  • Generational: a Starship Adventure by Norman Turrell Reason: space adventure with a starship.
  • End of Days boxset by Meg Collett Reason: curiosity
  • The Final Formula by Becca Andre Reason: I've read another series she wrote and like her style. This one caught my eye.
  • Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle Reason: I'm in a Facebook Group he monitors, and I like his attitude about writing and marketing. And I'm self-improving, right?
  • Shine by Dannika Dark Reason: continuing the saga
  • American Vampire by J. R. Rain Reason: I'm caught up in this particular series
  • Blood Moon by J. R. Rain and Matthew S. Cox Reason: same as above
  • Moon Bayou by J. R. Rain and Rod Kierkegaard, Jr. Reason: I like series.
  • Drawing Dragons by Sandra Staple Reason: I like to draw. I like dragons. I'm writing a series with dragons. I want to draw better dragons.
  • The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov Reason: He's one of my old favorites since childhood. I started at the A's in the library scifi shelf.
  • The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Books Reason: I've read most of the Shannara series, (and many of his other books) but they are all in paperbacks, so I got the first set in digital so I can reread them.

  • I Wish by Elizabeth Langston Reason: there's a genie
  • Naked Truths about Getting Book Reviews 2018 by Gisela Hausmann Reason: I could use some book reviews as do all writers. Help is help.
  • Eidolon by Grace Draven Reason: I've started this series and love it. Of course, I would purchase the next in the series.
  • Darkness Dawns by Diana Duvall Reason: I'm not certain. I usually don't purchase books with bare chested men on them. Perhaps I was tired.
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson Reason: It's been a while since I've read a work of Robinson's. It's about time I appreciated his writing again.
  • Newsletter Ninja by Tami Labrecque Reason: What I said about newsletters still stands.
  • Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan Reason: I enjoy Anglo-Saxon period poems and epics. Maybe this will have a similar feel.
  • The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien Reason: Okay, it's Tolkien. There is no better reason than to read Tolkien than because it's Tolkien.
  • The Final Formula Collection by Becca Andre Reason: see previous Andre entry.
  • Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Meeks Reason: I have actually read this one three times. It's still on the list because I occasionally go back to it. There's a sticky note on the back of the bookcase in front of my desk with a reference to Chapter 14. I'm probably planning to read that chapter again.
  • Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran Reason: part of my self-improvement plan. It's been well spoken of, so it's on my list.
  • Eye of Truth by Lindsay Buroker Reason: Like I need a reason. I pretty much read everything Buroker writes. Enough said.
  • Duty Bound by Lindsay Buroker Reason: I remain solid in my previous reason.
  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card Reason: I like the Ender and Bean novels. This is likely to be nothing like them. I like fantasy novels. But I recently started writing fantasy novels, so...this is research.
  • Origin by Dan Brown Reason: There are probably several people who read Brown who would say, "Do you really have to ask?"
  • The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman Reason: enter more self-improvement. I'm selling a house and was surprised how this book is helping write good sales copy.
  • The Big Sigma Collection by Joseph Lallo Reason: I read his Free Wrench series. So I'm reading this one because I really like that one. Also he wrote a book in one of the Buroker's worlds, and I liked it.
  • Fractured Stars by Lindsay Buroker Reason: Really? Did you expect me to have another reason?
  • Dark Light by Jodi Taylor Reason: love her St. Mary's series. This is a different type read, darker, but I enjoyed the first book, so this is the second.
  • Lost Time by D. L. Orton Reason: sounds like time travel, and I like time travel. I write time travel. I find it hard to resist a good time travel book. Actually, I know it's time travel because I read the first book in the series. It was very, very good.
What's your list comprised of? Is it a case of being busy or do you just like having a well-stocked eReader?

#digitalreads #books #sellmorebooks

Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Important ingredients to a writer's office

I've had my new office for about a month and a half. But my point about writers and offices doesn't start there.

My first office was a folding table about 2 1/2 ft. by 18 in., an old TV stand with a shelf and my daughter's dingy purple desk chair.

I would move the assemblage to the front of my living room near the window in spring and summer and to the back of the living room a few feet from the gas stove in fall and winter.

It had two positive qualities: portability and the shelf in the TV stand. I used this arrangement for four years along with a lengthy extension cord. I did not complain.

In August, we visited a consignment furniture store.

We've bought our china cabinet, two bedside tables and a dining room table at this store in the past. Walking through the shop is one of our favorite monthly activities.

I was walking one way, my husband the other when I heard him call my name. He waved me over.

Along one display wall stood a set of wall cabinets, solid wood, cherry finish, near new condition: five bottoms with doors and drawers, two uppers with shelves, one each with cubbies (aka wine bottle slots); let's call them cubbies.

"This would make a great office for you."

I'd given the pieces only a vague glance. Now I looked closer. He gave me my space, backing up and leaving me to my imagination.

It took me about two minutes to realize I was not leaving the store without them.

Then behind me, my name was whispered, a sense of urgency in the quiet word.

I turned. Instant, total, "I must have this!" sprang into my mind. If I had to choose -- this piece was it.

Mounted on the wall across from those amazing cabinets was a miracle.

I had been telling my husband how much I wished I had a white board or a magnetic board or even a pin board to plan my novels on.

Eight feet of combined planning board spread open before me. On the inside of the doors, right and left, were fabric covered pin boards. Dead center: a magnetic white board. Above, a pull down screen. Below a tray for markers, eraser, pens and pins.

I wasn't leaving without it. I would sacrifice the cabinets to have this somewhere in the house. I didn't care where. There's a huge blank wall in our downstairs bathroom.

Time to look at prices. All pieces were on their last week of sale -- lowest price each was going to go.

It took two trips, but we got all ten pieces home.

My new office in the living room has three walls. One has six cabinets, three uppers, three lowers. The second wall has three lowers and the planning miracle. Third wall has three boxed kitchen floor-to-ceiling cabinets to give me privacy (temporary). My desk is a 4x2 folding table and is backed by a bookshelf facing the other way.

So what are the five essential ingredients to a writer's office after 1 1/2 months:
  1. a flat surface sufficient to hold one laptop computer, an upright organizer, bottle of water, notepad, ipad and a cup with pens and other oddments. 
  2. the back side of a bookcase for sticky note to-do-list
  3. a planning board (with multiple planning modes)
  4. cubbies
  5. a writer
Please note: there was no mention of portability or a shelf.

Extras:  supplies for said planner board, books and various electronics neatly organized in drawers, cabinets and shelves.

My final advice. Find yourself a consignment shop. There is bound to be some fool willing to sell a miracle planning board.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Recursive layering as I write ~ my 3 steps

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
When I write, it is the voice of the character that comes first. I hear the dialogue, and it generates setting, conflict and motivation for me. So when I write, dialogue is first. Sure, there will be tags and description that comes with it, but it is minimalistic. 

After a run of dialogue, I will head back over the scene and start layering characterization, reaction and action. I return again to consider setting. And then again, I return to add sensory details, behaviorisms and determine what backstory contributed to how the scene went, how it will affect future plot issues and did any subconscious writing take place that dug into the story deeper (which is always a hallelujah moment). Sometimes a character will say something or do something, and I’ll just sit there and think, whoa, that explains a lot or that is going to be a bugger to get over.

For example, in At Any Given Time (Students of Jump, a standalone CES novel), Samantha worries about how she'll react to the sight of blood, hers or someone else’s. She knows it makes her nauseous and dizzy, a complication that worries her. This is not a major issue for a time traveler under normal conditions, and she has lots of time jumping experience. But this time with an injured search and retrieval jumper, it turns out to be a real issue she has to manage through. That’s not the main conflict, but it sure added dimension to an already bad situation for Sam. The fact that she is fully aware of her problem with blood and is self-reflective and determined to get the situation rectified provides humor and stress to the story that the little aspect of character helped to create.

I suppose it sounds rather clinical to say I tuck in more details later, but it is not like that at all. The initial run of dialogue flows out as if I’m eavesdropping from behind something and can’t see or hear anything but what they are saying. It sets the stage for the whole scene. The layering is another me standing there in the room, cave, whatever the setting is and looking around, smelling, touching things, asking the character questions and really just being a peeping Tom for my reader (and me, too).

Every writer has their own process. This is mine most of the time. Some writers edit like mad as they go and other writers don't go back over their work until the complete draft is done. And there are numerous variations in between. If you're a writer, what do you do? If not, have you thought about how writers build their stories? 


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pre-order: The Dragon Question

What if he's forgotten the question, but she still has to find the answer to save him?

I'm excited to announce that the first book in the Solstice Dragon World is ready for pre-order. This story has features of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale but is not firmly written around that framework.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords.


Just take a look. It might be the book you've been waiting for.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Why when my treadmill dies, I'm buying another one

My treadmill: an oldie but a goodie
It has been interesting how my writing process has changed over time. I’ve always approached every writing project with an idea of how the story was going to end. Sometimes I have an outline but usually not. Looking back, I can see some constants: a title tends to come to me first followed by the main characters. Over the last two years, I have found that the book cover is my most inspiring starting point. It follows on the heels of the other two constants. The cover acts as a focal point I can return to as I progress through the story.

Book 1, Standing Stone Series
My second series, Standing Stone, had its covers before I even started writing. The same has occurred with my third series of books (Solstice Dragon World) that I’m working on now. Each Standing Stone cover provides a key character and the stone that is the crux of the story. In the case of SDW novels, it is the main character and the location where key events take place. Each of these covers help ground my writing and are designed to give my reader a sense of the story. I feel with the covers done, I am certain the novel has a developed core. 

I have a contemporary story with about 18,000 words, no cover yet. It’s been sitting for three years. I know the characters, the title and the end point moment. I think I need that cover. I have a space opera: 30K words. No cover. I don't want to admit how long its been sitting. It really needs a cover.

Knowing the ending is very important to me. I don’t need to know the details, just a key moment that will test the main character and bring them out the other side of a conflict, and even that is mutable. It becomes my north star. I may tack numerous directions on my way to it, but having that fixed point in the back of my mind keeps the story rolling. I can ask myself, “How does this relate to that? How does this decision ultimately lead the character there?” I find the answers on the treadmill.

Writing itself has changed for me as well. The treadmill has become a source of inspiration and direction. While striding along, I can focus on one question, one scene, one direction that needs development. Nothing else will interfere. My husband isn’t going to show up to talk to me. He respects exercise too much. My time on the treadmill is set, so there’s no getting off which can sometimes create an urgency in me to write as soon as my time is up. 

Since I exercise every morning before I head to my job, that urgency has is flaws, but that impetus to write with a fully-developed idea gives my writing direction and flow even if I have to wait to write until that evening or after a mound of grading. It is an appointment I feel I must keep because I know being on the treadmill will result in a better first draft. It is also my best opportunity to go over a scene numerous times and realize what I missed or how I can incorporate more character or plot development. Of course, there is the added positive of keeping me in shape since writing means I’m sitting in a chair often for hours at a time.

I talked about change in my writing, and I have mainly covered what I do now. So what was my approach in the past? 

The past:

  • An idea would come to me. I’d sit down and write. Then stop where my idea ended.
  • I’d lay down on the couch and think about a question, such as "How is he going to deal with his daughter’s unwillingness to talk to him?" Fifty percent of the time, this resulted in an unplanned nap.
  • I would have a title and a vague notion of how the character was dealing with a situation or causing a situation 
  •  I'd sit at the computer and hope more words were going to come soon
  • I would develop when I redrafted, slide in side stories and look for inconsistencies
  • Writing a novel was a yearlong process
  • No cover
  • A working title (very much subject to change)
  • Ill-defined characters, setting and plot that took a lot more work to develop and clean up
  • One novel at a time
  • One book a year and a full-time job

VS the present

  • An idea comes to me. I get on the treadmill and walk (fast and on an incline: don’t want you thinking this is a walk in the park :) ) and hash out the idea, Socratic method.
  • I write through the developed scenes (after that visit to the treadmill)
  • Title, character with backstory and fully-fleshed appearance and behaviors. Distinct main conflict and side conflicts. 
  •  I’m at the computer to write, not sit
  • Development occurs in process, daily, a much more recursive process that results in a better first draft
  • Redrafting occurs daily and is more about layering in deeper description, searching out inconsistencies, clarifying, and copy editing in an ongoing approach (more about this in another post)
  • Writing a first draft of a novel takes a month and a half, average word count 90K (summer time writing – six months during the active school year)
  • A cover (changes subtly over time, but the main concept is set)
  • A title (still may change but rarely) 
  • Well-defined characters with greater depth, setting is full of sensory details, the plot is organized and part of a greater series
  • Three novels in development and linked together by plot, setting or characters
  • 3+ books a year and a full-time job

I’m pleased with the changes and enjoying how it makes my writing better and though nothing makes writing a novel easier, this process does make for better flow and direction to my writing, which, after all is said and done, is what makes writing an enjoyable activity. This is why my husband will say, “I know you want to write today and you enjoy that, but can we do something fun together?" I can walk away from the computer not feeling like I’m losing my “special time with my story” to my “special time with my husband.”

That's why my treadmill isn't going anywhere. It takes my writing where I want it to go. So what fosters your creative side? Tell me in the comment box below, and it doesn't have to be about writing.

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