animals, humor

The Genre Book Club and the Storm

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So, I had an interesting evening last night. A line of thunderstorms had started moving through our area just before I left for the genre book club I attend once a month at a (the only) local pub. The scene as I drove wasn’t as bad as the image above, but it was a possibility.

As I pulled into the illogically jammed parking area (I resorted to stalking a guy who had just come out of the pub back door, until he fiiiinally got into his car and left), the rain had started, and I was definitely eager to put up my umbrella and make a run for it.

On my way inside, I crossed paths with the librarian (head of the club), who was bringing in stuff from her car; she told me that we’d be meeting in the back (in the actual brewery), as the pub itself was — obviously — rather crammed.

So I made my way through a virtual traffic jam of customers to the brewery.

When the librarian returned with books, she also had a furry guy very similar to this with her:

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His name is Zeus, and he’s scared of thunder and lightning (poor boy!), so his human mom didn’t want to leave him home alone right before the storm hit.

MY EVENING OF ADVENTURE WITH A DOG:

Now, despite being a cat whisperer, I have this interesting situation with dogs: Dogs, for whatever reason, love me. It creates awkward moments with Toby, when I come back from an unexpected encounter with a canine and he smells it on me. And sometimes the dogs are just a little too happy to see me for my physically sensitive comfort. (Between the nails, the breath, the panting in your face, and possibly getting licked in your eyeball, a spontaneous intimate visit from a dog is not my autistic opinion of a fantastic experience.)

But Zeus is awesome. He took to me right away, not only letting me pet him but also keep my own space; he also followed my instructions, and didn’t resist when I had his leash.

And I went to rescue him, more than once. He wasn’t in a sit-still-with-head-on-paws mood. He was under the table, visiting the next table over, trying to wander upstairs, trying to go deeper into the brewery, and even running out into the rain. I dove after him, and, yes, got wet, but it was worth it. (He thanked me by staring soulfully into my eyes and panting adorably while I stroked his head.)

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See, we were in a space similar to above, and the “loading dock” door (like a huge overhead garage door) was open, so we were discussing books while the thunder rumbled and the lightning streaked in the distance, and the rain pelted down and the wind sometimes tilted it sideways. Poor Zeus did a lot of whining and sticking so close to people that his tail accidentally whapped some legs and backs. All (four) of us readers helped keep an eye on the poor furry lad; it was a small gathering this month, based on the weather, and the fact a lot of people are out of town this time of year.

We had fled to this part of the pub before, when the noise in the general interior got to be too much. It certainly is one of the most unique settings I can picture for a book club meeting. But last night the added element of the enthusiastic storm and Zeus’ presence took the atmosphere to a whole ‘nother level.

AND THEN THERE WAS THE STORY OF THE BAT:

So, while we’re in this environment, the librarian tells us that there was a bat in one of the library restrooms earlier that day.

Yes, a bat. The flying mammal kind. And it was in the toilet.

One of the patrons noticed when she went to wash her hands. This is a kid (yes, it was a teenager) that White Fang knows, and nothing fazes her. So she calmly reported this turn of events to the assistant at the checkout desk, and went back to what she’d been doing.

The assistant went…well, would it be too awful to say “batcrap”?

The librarian had gone to run errands, and after receiving an…important call on her cell, she returned to the library, to find her assistant Googling “bat exterminators.”

Upon investigating the bathroom in question, the librarian found one poor wet bat, wings folded in close, ears drooping. (Yes, this is just how she related it to us. I was torn between feeling so bad for the bat and wanting to laugh hysterically.)

She proceeded to fish the bat out (yes, out of the toilet), and rushed it to the bushes outside. She spread the sodden animal out in the bush, hoping it would dry out and fly away.

(Also, while she was telling us the story, I couldn’t help but think of the time my uncle found a bat in his house, and fashioned a net from items in his garage to catch the bat and then release it. His reasoning behind this approach was, “What would Macgyver do?!”)

The librarian was pleased to report that later, when she checked the bush, there was no sign of a bat, wet or otherwise. (I was also satisfied with that outcome.)

Eventually, having chosen our books for next month, we all bid good night to Zeus (and the librarian, of course).

The rain had abated for my drive home.

And, yes, Toby was somewhat miffed when he smelled grateful dog on me.

He got over it.

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pop culture, reading

Is It Wrong To Get Rid of Books?

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So, apparently I live under a rock, because I’ve only recently heard about Marie Kondo, and the ire of booklovers she incurred by suggesting, as part of her decluttering program, that you shouldn’t hesitate to get rid of books.

It’s a topic I’ve touched on before — decluttering, as well as whether or not to keep all the books you ever purchase or acquire. When I was younger, I read up on what was then a hot bandwagon — Feng Shui — which is basically what Marie Kondo is doing and just re-branding it. (Sorry, folks, nothing new under the sun.)

But, anyway, I do believe there are instances when keeping books you simply didn’t like becomes a rightfully big debate — and it’s not as clear cut as “I didn’t like it.” There have been a lot of books I’ve read that I didn’t care for the style, the plot, the characters (maybe all of these!), but I could see the value these titles would have to someone else. Or there was a deeper reason I didn’t just aim for the recycling bin. In fact, many reasons.

Here are my breakdowns of why and when it’s okay to get rid of books, and how you should do it.

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Why you don’t have to keep books:

You just know you’re never going to read it again. And this does not make you a terrible person, nor give the rest of us the right to revoke your bookdragon license.

(It’s one of the best things about libraries — if you turn the last page and have a sour taste in your mouth, the objectionable item simply goes back to the dropbox. However, if you spent money on something that just didn’t do it for you — or even worse, makes you downright ticked off — then you may feel guilty for tossing it in the Goodwill bag. I’ll get to more on that in a minute.)

It turns out there’s a more appealing edition out there. Maybe the paperback cover catches your eye more than the initial hardcover release. Or there’s a new printing of a favorite classic, yet something will have to move in order to make room on your shelves.

(Again, I’m getting to the hows.)

You’ve outgrown something. In this case, I’m particularly thinking of that romance or mystery series you loved when you were 14…but now you’re 22…or 32, and you realize your last re-read was somewhere around 2011. Nostalgia will live on, regardless of whether you still own the items.

(Take a deep breath. It’ll be okay. I promise.)

You do just have too many books. For the amount of space in your house. Or you’re moving, or going traveling for a long time, or changing jobs and a lot of that material now feels irrelevant. It really is all right to engage in a purge.

 

How to pass on these rejections — ahem, these still-valuable objects that have brought something to your life, and will affect the lives of others:

A secondhand shop or charity donation. Goodwill loves getting anything in decent condition that will have quick turnover. And many bookworms frequent charity shops because of the prices and the variety. And remember, one man’s trash is another’s treasure came to be a cliche with good reason. Books are subjective!

Give to a friend or relative whose cup of tea is absolutely that genre or topic. You don’t even have to tell them that you personally didn’t like it. It truly doesn’t matter. One man’s trash…

Local libraries are always happy to take what you don’t want. Libraries are on tight budgets, and us giving them next-to-new books that they can add to their catalogues, or use in fundraising sales, or as prizes for summer reading programs totally makes their day.

You can sell book club or subscription box editions, and it’s honestly not a crime. The tricky thing about places like Amazon is that they generally won’t take special editions for re-sale. But Owl Crate, for example, has its own Facebook page for buying, selling, and trading titles from past boxes that didn’t fit your fancy. It’s all above board, and lots of people are happy to pay you a few bucks to receive that edition or that merch they missed out on at the time.

What about ARCs? This isn’t as big a deal as it was; most bookworms have started getting together to swap ARCs that they no longer have a need for. It is important to only give away ARCs, though, especially indie advance copies. Since final changes to a manuscript may not occur until after ARC feedback begins coming in (this goes for traditional and self-publishing), you can’t correctly (or ethically) sell an advance copy as a “finished product.” Plus, indie authors need every single royalty we can get — and we foot the bill for our ARCs, not some big-bucks professional marketing team. So if you sell an ARC we didn’t get a royalty for…that not only literally robs us, it’s just plain a slimey move.

The long and short of this discussion, though, is that, while it’s perfectly okay to get rid of books, there are proper ways to do so. Books, even if they’re mass produced, are the direct result of people’s very hard, usually original work. It’s like any other piece of art — and, yes, we should be thinking of books as art, period.

Even non-fiction. Even erotica. Even religious texts or teachings we may not agree with. You can (and should) have your own opinion on what you believe is worth reading, and why. But so many of us who think Picasso was an idiot or that Jackson Pollock is overrated still wouldn’t just toss their paintings into the nearest dumpster. So, don’t do that with any objectionable reads you come across, either, okay?

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blogging, pop culture

A Bookdragon Gone Rogue

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In the last year, I’ve decided to go distinctly against the grain of what most book bloggers have been obsessing over  cultivating as part of their platform. I opted out of Netgalley (mostly because I realized I couldn’t afford an e-reader or decent Smartphone), got off Goodreads, and never created an Instagram profile. I no longer keep a physical TBR, an active log of what I’ve recently read, and the only cohesive reviews I’ve put together in the past several months have been on this blog.

And does all of this unstructured approach make me feel more…chaotic? unprepared? ready to run off to Albania to herd goats? Nope. In fact it’s…liberating. Relaxing. Indulgent.

I don’t panic about my traffic and stats. (No, I genuinely don’t right now.) I don’t care if I missed a trend or hashtag game. Does this make me seem less friendly or less subscribe-able? Not sure. Maybe? (Hopefully not.)

I just want to enjoy what I read, and be reading it because I want to. Trying to keep up with who was reading what and which trend or bandwagon they were covering just made my head spin. So I gave up the sprint.

And, honestly, I have no regrets. Watching my fellow book bloggers becoming increasingly agitated over Instagram deciding to turn evil, over the fierce competition for ARCs, the pressure to post positive reviews no matter their own opinion on the title just makes me certain of it. Life is too short and other things more important than to get caught up in unnecessary drama that will send lifelong readers fleeing a pastime they once reveled in.

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So, now we come to the inevitable critique of this discussion: Since “bookdragon” is a title that came about as a result of behavior like hoarding masses of books, getting the jump on new releases, following what’s “in”, and keeping tabs on the ebbs and flows of the publishing industry, if I’m opting to abstain from a whole lot of this, do I still get to carry my “bookdragon” card?

I say yes.

And in addition, I think more of us should choose to go rogue.

I think we should start new movements, to bring reading back to this place of being about armchair adventure and emotional rollercoasters and perspective growth, rather than about status and position and fleeting popularity.

We should begin to forget why we wanted to be a book blogger…and remember why we wanted to share our favorite books with others.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “early days”, when we’d simply gather together to flail over the latest announcement from a beloved author, our genre’s newest publications, a debut title that broke all the tropes, or just simply loving books. Loving to read.

miss this.

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Can we please go back to maintaining the bonds, instead of stepping up rivalry? Shouting from virtual rooftops, “HA! 22 BOOKS IN 31 DAYS! LOOOOSERS!”, really doesn’t make you a more accomplished person. Or very nice.

There’s been such an abrupt shift. When I first became aware of book blogging actually being a thing, and actively joining in the reading and commenting, I was so excited it could barely be contained. (Okay, that’s a flatout lie. I didn’t really bother containing it at all.) As a lifelong reader and writer, I had found my people and it was the best.

Then, almost before we knew it, there were lots of people either leaving blogging or social media entirely, citing too much pressure and subsequent burnout. Instagram is quickly becoming the same thing. And many authors — trad and indie, big and small — have been treated appallingly on Twitter because their titles didn’t line up with what bloggers (with no control over these publications) wanted.

The atmosphere has grown too toxic, too fast.

So, I went rogue. And I’m encouraging others to do so as well.

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I’ve made some of my best friends these days from getting into book blogging. Supporting each other was something we did so well. Nowadays we feel splintered.

None of these problems are by far universal or applied to every aspect of a booklover’s lifestyle. But there’s definitely (sadly) enough garbage going on to sufficently dampen a lot of people’s former enthusiasm — including mine.

And as a bookdragon, I’m going to do more than blow smoke about it.

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family, Parenting

Way Outside My Comfort Zone

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Warning: For those of you that are not a fan of reptiles or anything with more than four legs, you might want to skip the pictures this time.

What, me, have something other than adorable and awww-inducing pictures of animals in a post? Yup. Sorry. Hey, didn’t the title tip you off a little?

Last night, I took my sons to the annual visitation of a local snake and reptile handler at the library. White Fang has gone every year since he was in middle school, but this was Muffin’s first time. And mine. Usually I drop White Fang off and hurry away to wait for the event to finish. I do. Not. Like. Snakes.

But last night, I stayed, partly to help supervise Muffin, partly to witness his reaction to this new experience.

I have to admit, I am really glad that I hid my reaction from him.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. They started off with a huge (not kidding on the huge bit) bullfrog, and a tortoise. That I could handle. But then we moved on to the baby alligator (which Muffin thought was awesome — me, not so much), and then, eventually (finally??) the snakes.

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These are serious snakes, too. This guy owns one of everything, from little ball pythons to the big Burmese pythons, to rattlesnakes and cornsnakes that were rescued from getting stuck on a tractor trailer (making deliveries from southern states, including — to the surprise of the driver — a lost venomous snake), or from being illegally held as pets and wrongly released into the wild without proper supervision from authorities. So, while I appreciate that this guy is keeping our children and our pets safe, I’m not quite sure I have sympathy for the reptiles themselves.

The fear factor carries a lot of prejudice with it. Although I managed to do pretty well with the smaller snakes and even the tarantula (her name is Rosie), I was still rather uncertain about letting Muffin touch any of the animals at the end of the show.

This is the part everybody comes for — after the structured informational session, everyone has a chance to get up close and personal with some of the safer reptiles. I already knew this since White Fang has been attending the event for years — and he’s been more than happy to tell me what animals he’s gotten pally with.

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Before the after-show commenced, I’d decided Muffin was allowed to make friends with the baby tortoises, and that was that. At first, he was cool with it — he actually followed directions really well, and didn’t need much help holding the little shelled beasts gently and respectfully. Lovely.

Then White Fang announced he was going to hold Rosie. And continue his yearly tradition of having his picture taken with Boo. Boo is a six-foot-long albino Burmese python.

Yes, that’s what I just said.

And, of course, Muffin wanted in on the action.

Luckily for my heart, I was already aware that Boo is a rockstar of docile snakes, and has traveled to many local events and never had an incident involving children (or adults, for that matter). But still I, personally, have never gotten very close to her.

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That all changed.

White Fang held Boo. Muffin stood next to him and pet Boo’s tail. I took the pictures. And I was within 4 feet of Boo, to be able to get a decent focus.

I didn’t freak out when Boo turned her head towards Muffin’s face and actually made eye contact. (Neither did Muffin, by the way).

And when Muffin held Rosie the tarantula (yes, I’m still telling it like it was), I didn’t experience a coronary episode. (And that was an achievement, let me tell you. This is the nosiest spider I’ve ever seen. It was all crawling up people’s arms and, “Hey, how’re you doin’, let me see what’s over here!…”)

So, while I survived the night, I wouldn’t consider myself over my fear of snakes, spiders, or anything that legit could kill me in the desert or the swamp. And I don’t anticipate traveling to Florida or Mexico anytime in the near future (or, realistically, ever).

But, I looked a Burmese python in the eye, and, interestingly enough, felt pretty good about it.

Still, I’ll take the traditional cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, fish and farm animals any day.

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The Invisible Moth

Autistic Author Confessions

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I have confessions to make. Yes, plural.

First, I am somewhat purposefully neglecting my more complex WIP…also known as Volume 4.

Why? Well, after delivering a bombshell in Volume 3 (no spoilers, I promise, for those of you not yet caught up), I’m finding a proper encore a bit hard to create. It’s almost like stage fright.

Here’s my second confession: The stage fright comes after a series of rejections from book snobs.

Should I really care what book snobs think about my little fantasy masterpiece? Maybe not? But here’s confession 3: I do.

I went through a very, very rough experience in the spring, with trying to expand my local promoting, and it falling flat on its/my face. Confession 4: I was really wondering if I should just throw in the towel on this whole indie author thing.

There are times I wrote several pages of a new draft for Volume 4, or for a playing-around-with-ideas prequel, and then just literally shredded them. (C5)

And since I am poor and paper and ink can be expensive when you’re on a tight budget, simply chucking drafts is a blow to the wallet and the self-esteem. (C6)

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I felt so worn down by the lack of progress that I almost put How To Be A Savage on hold indefinitely. (C7)

Finally, I pushed through to finish the bloody thing, almost out of spite at my obstacles. And after some of the early feedback I’ve gotten, I know it was worth it.

Now I’m diving back into Fire and Wind, and am determined to have the (3rd – C8) draft done by the end of summer.

Despite knowing part of self-publishing is doing the marketing yourself, I am very loathe to promote the heck out of Savage. (C9) I is tired.

For the sake of my own mental health, I left Goodreads last year, and therefore am not monitoring if my new works are being listed on that site. This not happening will slightly hurt the marketing aspect, but I am willing to leave it up to any GR Librarians I may know.

(C10) I am hoping someone will put Savage up on GR. And start the ball rolling with a glowing review. One of the few things that’s kept me going in these last several months of hell is knowing I do have a support base.

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After feeling for quite a while (far too damn long) like I was sleepwalking through life, I am ready to attack at least my writing, for the sole purpose of enjoying writing. I am DONE with what the book snobs think. They can go away and do something unpleasant and metaphorical to themselves. (C11)

Also, I’m not going to keep apologizing for not having a new book ready to publish every 6 months. (C12) Books will be ready when they are ready, and that is that; amen.

If there’s a lack of writing announcements, I may have to find more ways to add content to my newsletters; I’ll figure it out. (C13)

I’d told myself that not going to Realm Makers this year wasn’t a big deal. I think I lied to myself. (C14) To all of you going, have the BEST time and take a million pictures to show the rest of us. While money and travel are always concerns for me, I do continue to pray that one year soon I can overcome those issues, and the utterly terrifying idea of being around a crowd of mostly strangers for 3 whole days, to join all of you. (C15)

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I’m going to stop beating myself up because I haven’t had a book signing yet. (C16)

My focus for the next couple of months is going to be the writing itself. The process. The plotting, getting to know my characters again, remembering why I have to keep sharing their stories with others. Recapturing the passion.

And, boy, do I need it. I won’t lie and claim I’m not fretting about my birthday coming up next month. I feel OLD. Absolutely no one will make me feel better by pointing out that next year I shall become the meaning of Life, the Universe, Everything. In 2019 (!), I do NOT want to be 41, and am being a whiny baby about it.

I do feel that I haven’t achieved enough for having been on the planet this long. (C17) I have found peace in the acceptance of factors beyond my control and situations or issues I can’t solve on my own. But Time seems out to get me right now, and the thought of what I still need to accomplish (like putting my boys’ future in good shape) is certainly intimidating.

I need to learn how to paw slap this mentality away. (C18)

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This would be a really good point to recall that when I was turning 31, I wasn’t an author yet; but was successfully, finally, finishing a college degree, and slowly molding myself into a rockstar autism parent.

I hadn’t started a blog yet; but without going on the journey of studying Early Childhood Education and becoming more familiar with social media, I wouldn’t have known what issues special needs kids and their parents are facing, nor been brave enough to get my own opinions on the screen.

I hadn’t yet finished the 5th draft of what would become Masters and Beginners; if I wasn’t querying agents and receiving rejections back then, I wouldn’t have felt spurred to dive into NaNoWriMo in 2016 and at last complete the manuscript that launched my self-publishing endeavors.

Without having the guts, and the don’t-give-a-damns, to attempt this undertaking, I wouldn’t know many of the friends I’ve met since they first read my blog, my Twitter, or my books.

I can’t believe I almost didn’t do it. (C19)

In spite of all the downsides, I’m really glad I did. (C20)

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pop culture, reading

Do Our Reading Tastes Change Over Time?

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Is this even something to be concerned about? Maybe it’s just a bookdragon thing, because we’re already so tuned in to what genres and topics and styles we gravitate towards. But honestly, this is something that’s been nagging at me over the last several months.

When I was around White Fang’s age, I realized that a lot of the childhood favorites on which I learned to read were feeling, well, stale, and not as interesting as they had in elementary school. And, really, there’s nothing wrong with this, because of course your interests are going to alter as you grow from a child to an adolescent. So, experiencing the sense of setting out on a bold new adventure, I began scouring the library shelves for adult fiction.

After several years of this, I found myself a bit weary of overdone cliches and tropes I just couldn’t tolerate, or purple prose and “literary genius” styles that I cognitively couldn’t understand. Yes, I’m mature and bright, but complex and abstract allegories do absolutely nothing to enhance entertainment value in my reading pursuits. So, despite being well past the age that most people are expected to be enjoying YA fiction, I dove into it, with gusto.

Now we’re at the point where I’ve come to another realization — I think I may officially be past a stage of life where I actually, concretely care to read about teenage angst. Even if it’s well-written, and funny, and poignant.

It’s such a perplexing conflict, because I write adolescent main characters, and obviously need to have realistic insight into their problems or concerns. However, I don’t write exclusively from a YA POV, so maybe that’s where the crux of the biscuit lies. I can relate to that part of life, having been through it myself, and now that I’m raising a teenager. Hence, I can also see very well the POV of my adult characters — not wanting their kids to make “learning curve” mistakes, yet knowing some things are probably inevitable, and that sometimes taking a step back may actually be more productive for the next generation.

Given these facts, it’s dawning on me why I have such trouble reading current YA fic that portrays all the grown-ups as bad, and adolescents behaving as adults, through some apparent magical osmosis of learning responsibility from stereotyped “sensei” mentors.

Realistically, when I was in my late teens or early 20s, these tropes wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much as they do now.

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So, in the past year, I’ve tried going back to adult fiction. And it has been a spectacular flop. I can’t seem to find a title aimed at readers over the age of 22 that doesn’t include potentially graphic violence, profanity, and explicit sexual content, or that isn’t so ridiculously pretentious, or that isn’t so squeaky clean it’s downright inane. Despite the fact that I did actually enjoy a few of the many novels I attempted, even when they contained some of these seedier elements (A Song of Ice and Fire), most of them I couldn’t wait to return to the library. With a note recommending they be the first books tossed on the bonfire in the event of a long-time electricity outage during winter.

This I find an interesting quandary to be in. While I am very aware of what “the real world” can be like, I do read to escape, to dream, and to aspire. I have my own spiritual and political beliefs, and I reached them through years of experience and discussion and comparison, and personally, I’m just offended by hoping to lose myself in a fluffy romance, only to find an agenda being shoved down my throat around page 200.

That’s another issue getting between me and modern publications — Why must they all be SO LOOOOOOONG?? Is there a new rule for authors that I wasn’t told of? “Since 2016, anything you write with the intention of selling must be no less than 325 pages”? I’m 5 feet tall, folks, I will literally break myself carrying a stack of recent contemporaries across the parking lot to the car.

And then there’s the whole genre problem. Murder mysteries bore me to tears anymore. Same goes for chick lit. High fantasy I generally avoid, because I can’t even pronounce a quarter of the character names or place settings, and I’m so over the idea of entire chapters being dedicated to “the characters walked for miles and miles and the narrator described the material their bootlaces were made of.”

And what in the world has happened to historical fiction?! Basically there’s no such thing as historical integrity these days. Authors and publishers apparently feel totally all right with changing facts or altering important details to suit their creative whims. Yes, artistic license should be allowed; but when pure invention is permitted to pass for unquestioned truth concerning real people, that’s where we should all draw the line. And I don’t see that line anywhere on the horizon. That means I will make my statement by not reading any more of this trash, and calling it what it is.

The saddest thing of all this recent upheaval is that: I do not have many new books to read.

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All bookdragons completely understand the rush of discovery, the thrill of finishing a new author or title that has just made it onto our favorites list. And the extreme low point of a big letdown. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the ground-thumping-end of the seesaw for too long when it comes to new reads. Not only is it frustrating, it’s gotten way too old.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve been mulling over what to attempt for summer reading, I’ve decided it’s time to nail down some hard and fast rules.

One: I do not need a specifically adult or specifically YA novel. I need a style that doesn’t talk down to the reader, that sticks to the point, and introduces me to at least somewhat original characters.

Two: I’m not going to apologize for not liking certain genres. Fantasy and speculative fiction simply is my jam, and whoever doesn’t agree with that, doesn’t have to, but I’m done worrying that my tastes are inferior.

Three: I’ll have to start setting aside more time to further research titles everybody’s raving about. Just receiving positive feedback from others doesn’t mean I, the persnickety bookdragon, will like it.

Four: Most of my library checkouts will be for Muffin. At least for a while. Until aforementioned research has been conducted, and I can place holds with confidence.

Five: I’m going to stick to these rules, and be better off for it.

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Fantasy fiction, self-publishing

Author Interview: Kyle Robert Shultz, Master of the Afterverse

 

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Q: So, you have successfully launched an entire fictional universe, lovingly described as “The Afterverse.” Can you give us a summary of what this means and the major players involved?

A: The Afterverse is an alternate universe in which practically every fairy tale, myth, legend, and classic story in existence is a real historical event. This combination of stories has led to the development of a “modern” world similar to our own in many ways…except that magic and magical creatures exist in the Afterverse. Currently, I have two series of books set in this world. Beaumont and Beasley takes place in the 1920’s E.A. (Ever After) and revolves around the adventures of detective-turned-Beast Nick Beasley and enchantress Lady Cordelia Beaumont. They investigate cases pertaining to fairy tales and other European mythology. Crockett and Crane is set in the Old West of the United States of Neverica (during the 1890’s E.A.) and centers on monster hunter Todd Crane and U.S. Marshal Amy Crockett. It involves American folklore and legends. I’ve also written a number of short stories and spinoff concepts that delve deeper into other eras and settings in the Afterverse.

Q: Your next releases in the Afterverse are “Deadwood” and “The Gepetto Codex.” Can you tell us a little more about each of those?

Image result for kyle robert shultz             Image result for kyle robert shultz the geppetto codex

A: Deadwood (releasing June 30) is Book 2 of Crockett and Crane, while The Geppetto Codex (release date TBA) is Book 5 of Beaumont and Beasley. However, they actually retell the same story—the tale of Pinocchio, which has something of a darker edge to it in the Afterverse (not that the original wasn’t fairly dark already). In Deadwood, Todd Crane and his friends fight to save a town from a mysterious magical entity that can possess and control wood, which is a lot scarier than it sounds. The Geppetto Codex focuses on two characters who have remained on the sidelines in the Beaumont and Beasley series thus far: Gareth Llewellyn (a faun) and Sylvia Kirke (a dryad). They travel to Vetri (the Afterverse equivalent of Venice) to investigate sightings of mysterious monks who have the power to transform people into wooden statues. This book also builds on the mystery of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a character who was introduced in the previous Beaumont and Beasley installment, The Hound of Duville and Other Stories.

Q: What are – broadly speaking – your future plans for the Afterverse?

A: The Beaumont and Beasley series will run to at least fourteen or fifteen books. I know how the overall story will end, but I’m not in any big hurry to get there. I’ll write as many books as this series needs to do justice to all the character arcs and storylines that I’ve introduced and give them closure. Books 1 to 3 form a sort of introductory trilogy for Beaumont and Beasley. Books 4 through 8, when complete, will constitute a storyline I’m calling “The Jekyll Saga.” This arc will bring a number of the plot threads begun in the earlier books to a close, though not all of them. A third major arc will begin in Book 9 (title TBA), and a fourth and final arc will bring everything full circle and complete the story begun in Book 1, The Beast of Talesend.

The big storylines which started in Crockett and Crane Book 1, Horseman, will conclude in Book 3, Westenra, to form a self-contained trilogy. However, the series will continue after that with installments that are more stand-alone and less arc-heavy. I have a lot more folklore from this side of the pond that I’d like to use. Book 5, for example, will focus on Canadian legends and history.

I have other Afterverse projects in the works, as well. The Blackfire series, which features my fan-favorite dragon Malcolm Blackfire as a main character, will run to at least five planned books; possibly more. I’m also working on a more modern urban fantasy series with Afterverse elements called “American Gargoyle.”

Q: You recently published your first non-fiction title, reverse psychology writing advice that you’ve appropriately called “Not Write Now.”

A: Yes, that was a lot of fun to write. I wanted to bring something new to the writing-advice market, so I decided to flip writing advice on its head. Not Write Now will explain to you exactly how to avoid writing, but in the process, you just might find yourself writing more than ever before. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I started this journey…because at that point, I genuinely did want somebody to tell me to quit writing so that I wouldn’t be in a constant battle with my inner critic. My hope is that Not Write Now will be the kick in the pants that will help some authors out there to stop listening to their inner critic.

Q: Are you planning to add more non-fiction to your author resume? Give us the scoop on that.

A: I do have one other nonfiction book planned at the moment. It will be called Character Boot Camp, and it will essentially be a bunch of fun exercises authors can use to bring depth to their characters so that they feel like real people and not just cardboard cutouts. It will be in the same humorous vein as Not Write Now. This book probably won’t be released until early 2020, however. Beyond that, I don’t currently have any other nonfiction plans, but I would like to add more titles of this nature to my platform eventually.

Q: In recent months, you’ve made some changes to your platform (for example, shelving the podcast, increasing free stories to newsletter subscribers, relaunching books, adding a Patreon, etc.). For the benefit of other writers considering any or all of these approaches, could you discuss a bit what the decision making process was on what to keep and what to let go of?

A: In general, I try to make sure that my writing always comes first, which is what I would advise other authors to do as well. It’s very easy to fall down a rabbit hole of some other aspect of indie publishing and leave the actual writing process behind—or at least, it is for me. And there are some things, like marketing and a certain degree of social media activity, that we can’t really forgo as authors if we want to be successful. All the more reason to make sure the core of our platforms doesn’t veer away from simply producing good stories. I’ve learned not to bite off more than I can chew in terms of side projects. The podcast was very time-consuming, and while I enjoy writing nonfiction books now and then, I don’t see myself ever committing to a weekly audio production like that again. I know there are many people who manage to maintain a podcast in addition to a fiction-writing career, but I definitely don’t have enough time for both. Boosting my newsletter freebies, on the other hand, is something with a tangible return that doesn’t require me to take time away from story-crafting. Relaunching my books late last year took a lot of time and effort, and it did require me to postpone drafting new books for a while, but it made a big difference for my visibility and sales. The Patreon has thus far been a rewarding addition to my platform which grants me both an additional income stream and another avenue for interacting with fans. However, I paused the Patreon over the months of May and June because I knew I couldn’t do the short stories I was releasing there justice while also working on the full-length novels that many of my readers have been waiting for. In the end, there’s always a delicate balance between reaching new readers and giving current readers what they deserve. If a particular project disturbs that balance, I know it’s time to make a change.

Q: Finally, because this is a topic we don’t get nearly enough updates on, please tell us how Muffin the dog is doing. 

A: She is doing marvelously. I just got her a kiddie pool to splash around in, which makes a big difference during the hot summer months in the Idaho desert. She loves it. And it tires her out, which allows me to have undisturbed writing sessions in the late afternoon and evening while she sleeps. 

Image result for kyle robert shultz muffin

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