blogging, books

Bookdragon New Year’s Resolutions (Guaranteed Not to Fail!)

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As long as you follow these instructions.

Don’t blame me if you stray from the path.

Common Resolution 1: Tackling that TBR.

Step 1: Don’t add anything new to your TBR until December 2019.

Step 2: Spend the next 11 months reading books you already own, have requested from the library, or as ARCs.

See how easy that was? Your wallet, your shelves, and your family will thank you.

Acceptable rule-breakers: You find out about a 2019 new release from a favorite author that you didn’t know existed; a friend lends you a book you’d feel guilty holding onto for an entire year; the book club you’re in features a title you don’t currently have or had even intended to go near.

Common Resolution 2: Review books in a polite amount of time.

Step 1: Set a deadline for when you need to have certain titles read by.

Step 2: Read said titles.

Step 3: Write said reviews and post them or schedule posting in advance.

Hints on how to make this stick: Don’t request more than one ARC a month; don’t tell more than one person a month you’ll write a review; don’t commit to reviewing *every* *single* *book* you finish. And always, ALWAYS, refer back to the Ultimate Rule on how to control your TBR.

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Common Resolution 3: Complete your WIP and get it on Wattpad/sent to an agent/self-published

Step 1: Type these words into your 62,845K word total manuscript: THE END.

Step 2: Find beta readers you trust to give tactful but beneficial feedback.

Step 3: Engage an editor or Critique Partner (CP) you trust to put said feedback into action.

Step 4: Do the dang editing. Don’t procrastinate. DON’T STRAY FROM THE PATH, YOUNG PADAWAN.

Step 5: Post on Wattpad. Send to agents. Or upload to a self-publishing website and press Enter.

Okay, this one I’m oversimplfying, I know. But, seriously, all you aspiring writers out there, GO FOR IT! The worst that will happen is that you determine this venture didn’t pan out. But publishing or becoming published is the ultimate Shroedinger’s Cat: You will absolutely never know what would have been if you don’t try.

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Less common resolutions include: Spending less time on social media, reading less hyped books, trying more new authors, and branching out into other genres.

My suggestions for all of these are so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself: Do them.

In all seriousness, though, I really hate to see what the competitive nature of book blogging has done to bookworms who just love to read. Not that I think we should do away with book blogging or anything that extreme — I owe SO much to my beta readers and reviewers and social media followers. But I truly believe that our biggest, and most acted on, resolution this year should be to go back to a love of the written word as the primary reason for doing all of this. It literally DOESN’T MATTER how many books we read in one year, how many ARCs we got approved for, how many reviews we posted, or how all of that compares to other bloggers. We’d do quite well to realize that.

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blogging, community

Drawing the Line: Internet Life and Real Life

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Has anybody else noticed this sort of odd thing about online life, where we don’t actually spend in-person time with all these other screen names, that are in fact also real people…and yet, we feel that some of them know us better than the humans we see face to face every day?

On the other side of the coin, we’re in this interesting paradox of wanting to share most of the parts of our “real” lives with our online friends…and sometimes we can’t.

For example, the week of Thanksgiving my family experienced a very surprising and unpleasant twist, and while it was (thankfully) resolved quickly, at the time it was going on, I was dying inside, and really wanted to be able to get stuff off my chest — but because there are now legal issues involved in it, I wasn’t sure just how much I could or should say.

And what makes such a situation even more frustrating is the fact that often I rely on the people I know either only online or that I know in person but live far away from me for support and advice.

Not that I don’t trust the people in my everyday life. But my relationship with them, or their sphere of influence, can be limited when it comes to certain circumstances. You wouldn’t go to the local librarian with your legal concerns. Or reveal details that directly affect someone else’s privacy. (Well, some folks would, but definitely not me.) So, if it means putting some slightly delicate matter on private pages in social media, to get some much-needed suggestions from people that I know have the information or resources I’m after — and also that I trust not to overly share with the random population — then I will do just that.

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But again, it’s tough, because while we feel close to specific individuals we’ve had consistent contact with through various online platforms, we do have to face the reality: How well do we actually know someone we’ve never met in the flesh?

And when the situation involves a loved one who may not want all of their deepest darkest secrets splashed across our own Facebook or Twitter, we really should respect that.

But when we need help, and we aren’t getting anywhere in our in-person lives, being able to turn on a computer or a phone, type in a few lines, and within possibly minutes get potentially a multitude of replies that tell us exactly what to do next, this can be invaluable.

If we get the desired outcome, does it really matter which route we take?

All the naysayers of the early 21st century who claimed that the internet would drive people farther apart really don’t have it right in this regard.

With a few keystrokes, I can be making direct contact with people half a country or half the globe away. And it makes our lives richer. I can increase my knowledge of different places and occupations and lifestyles without needing to spend a bunch of money I don’t have to travel long distances.

I can find a community of like-minded individuals who share my taste in books, movies, TV, and music, and become part of something bigger than myself. It can be isolating when you’re one of about 6 total geeks in your small town. But after half an hour online, discussing who’s your favorite Doctor and whether you’d choose to fight Daleks or Cybermen, I don’t feel alone.

And sometimes, that matters more than the deep, dark stuff.

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So, I decided where to draw the line based on the feelings of other people involved in a complex event, but I don’t regret for a minute revealing what I did to get the help and support I needed. And honestly, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten through without all the people online praying for us and encouraging me forward — no prying, no judging.

In the near future, I’m really hoping I can share more overtly regarding this particular matter, since I think it would be beneficial to other families to explain some of what I learned by being put in a situation I never thought I would. There are still some issues to review and see what occurs next. But I know that whenever I choose to open up, about whatever, there will be plenty of other screen names who I’ve never been in the same room with that totally have my back.

And that, blessedly, crosses every line.

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blogging, reading

Biggest Reads of 2018: Likes, Dislikes, Whys and Why Nots

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Good morning! So, since closing my Goodreads account, the major comment I received is that my reviews would be missed. In response, I promised more reviews on the blog. Let’s start out with a bang, shall we?: My biggest reads of this year, whether it was because of hype, personal anticipation, or something I learned about myself as a reader.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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This was a diversity title that I picked up purely because I’d seen it advertised on Goodreads. Normally, the hype alone meant I wouldn’t even consider it; hyped books and I do not have the best of relationships.

But, yes, I caved. Children of Blood and Bone held the promise of being distinct. Its focus is an African empire, a fantasy realm based on tribal history, and there were no overt modern political soapboxes. Did it deliver? In that regard, yes.

There is plenty of action and excitement and plot. The characters don’t feel like cardboard cut-outs (even though they are all archetypes), most of their decisions and motivations ring true, and the world-building is intense.

Now, here’s where it fell flat: IT IS TOO DANG LONG. What is the trend with making YA novels 550 pages?!?! While holding up this tome of a book, I was afraid my wrists would snap. I had to read the majority of it sitting with it propped next to me on the armchair or at the kitchen table. And it started getting into too many subplots that felt like they were there mostly to increase page numbers, and the overall story wouldn’t have suffered without them.

This further affirmed to me that I am not ready to give up on diversity titles…but I also am not changing my mind about really long books anytime soon.

My rating: 3 out of 5 shiny moths

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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I first heard about this book, and considered it a vital part of the cultural conversation, but I would skip it.

What changed? Peer pressure. It was everywhere, and there were weeks when you couldn’t even log onto Goodreads or Twitter without seeing something about it. Now, after having tried it, I can concretely say: No.

My opinion has nothing one whit to do with race. This is a book that did come along at a time when we need to be discussing things like police discrimination against minorities, based solely on preconceptions and stereotypes instead of cold, hard facts.

Here’s where my frustration lies with The Hate U Give: Its entire premise is faulty. Starr is the most unreliable witness ever, as she did not see what happened. She cannot confirm nor dispute the police officer’s account. That makes the whole plot absolutely nothing but an extremely biased social commentary, and in my view, that makes for a lousy piece of fiction.

My rating: No numbers, but the moths are drooping and sad

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

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This was also a selection due to social pressure — but kind of the opposite, as people have been saying it’s so awful, I sort of wanted to prove them wrong. Did it?

Well, yes, and no. This novel was actually the one Harper Lee originally submitted to her publisher, not the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman is about an adult Scout — just Jean Louise, in this case — and most of the material that became Mockingbird is definitely in its infancy. Watchman could easily be considered a sequel (and I think the publisher was guaranteeing sales based on that theory), though that’s rather unfair to Ms Lee, who never intended to write a sequel, and in fact thought this manuscript had been long forgotten or even lost.

The story is very 1960s American South, and it captures a pivotal moment in that culture that we’d do well not to ignore or pass over. Lee’s talent for storytelling is evident, but her particular flourish really wasn’t yet crafted. So Mockingbird remains the classic we all should promote, and Watchman should be a cautionary tale about the dangers of signing away all your rights to a big city publisher.

My rating: 2 quietly perching on a magnolia tree moths

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

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I picked this up on a whim with a birthday gift card. It was pretty good, but I don’t know that I’d read anything else by this author. The premise was a combination of a poor guy on Long Island whose house is literally falling into the sea, and flashbacks of a traveling circus that eventually connected with the narrator in the present day. This sort of style doesn’t quite work for me, and sure enough, I found myself skimming or even skipping the majority of the flashbacks. It took me too long to figure out how they connected to the narrator, and those chapters were too lengthy for in-between parts. Also, I’ve never had much interest in circuses, so that made me squirm with impatience to move on.

My rating: 3 crystal ball gazing moths

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

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This book and the next taught me more about myself as a reader in recent history than any of the others. In the spring, I joined an adult-book book club at my local library, which I normally wouldn’t do — and this selection just nailed it home to me why. A Piece of the World begins as a love letter to the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World, then devolves into unbased assumption, and then full-out fabrication on the lives of what were real people. The surviving descendants of the Olsen family should sue the living daylights out of this author.

And yet, this was a book club favorite. The other members seemed to have absolutely no realization that this wasn’t just a portrait of a certain moment in history, it was slander and libel. I was among the few who saw this un-novel for what it really was.

My rating: 1 very agitated moth

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Again, usually I don’t read thrillers or unreliable narrators — and now The Woman in Cabin 10 has secured my never trying furthermore.

It was also a book club selection, and I got very disenchanted after the first 100 pages. The building action sharply dropped off, the secondary characters who had been developing literally vanished from the page for several consecutive chapters, and the ending was rather anti-climatic, bordering on nonsensical. But here’s what got my goat the most:  The narrator wasn’t actually unreliable, she had depression and anxiety. When an author takes an unstable woman and puts her in a situation where murder may or may not have been committed, then makes it out to be she’s “unreliable” because of pre-existing mental illness, that is NOT COOL.

And once more, most of the book club thought this was a great story. To me, it was just painful, and pointless, to read.

My rating: 1 beating its wings against a brick wall moth

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

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Color me disappointed. You mix a well-liked author with alternate history, fantasy, and Bonfire Night (one of my favorite holidays), and how could that not be a win?

Well, maybe the story is too busy, but trying to weave political and religious overtones into a novel that threw in a bit of a vague magic system, and plenty of family and personal drama, all together, made me merely struggle to get engaged. And the alternate history kept tripping me up (for example, there’s nothing on record of Guy Fawkes even having a son who participated in the Gunpowder Plot). Maybe this type of genre just isn’t for me.

No numbers: The moths were too confused to even be present 

The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic by Eliot Schrefer

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This middle-grade fantasy is wonderful. The plot moves right along, the characters are lovable (or hateable where necessary), the emotions are real, and the whole story just draws you in from the start. I can’t recommend this enough to fans of animal fantasy. Normally I don’t commit to reading an entire series before the next book is even announced, but I will be keeping my eyes peeled for whatever comes after Mez’s Magic, 110%! (Finally, a winner!)

My rating: 4 exuberant and dancing moths

The Word Collector by Peter H Reynolds

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How can a picture book make you cry? This one totally does, and will. This author is a new favorite of mine. Check out all his other titles as well; you’ll cry over every single one, and thank Mr Reynolds for turning you into a puddle of disconsolate mess. The prose and messages are spot-on and incredibly beautiful.

My rating: 5 collapsed, joyously weeping moths

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blogging, writing

Turning Over A New Leaf

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See what I did there? Yes, it was intentional. (Sorry.)

Every once in a while, you find yourself at a crossroads that you know just can’t be avoided or detoured away from. It might be a change you actually hoped for, or something you knew was coming, so you’ve prepared yourself. But when it’s something that you really could’ve done without, or weren’t expecting, then it can put a lot of things into a different perspective.

Recently, I was very upset when I didn’t receive a job offer I was certain I would. In my head, I’d made plans for the changes to my schedule this position would require, and got excited about the prospects of going back to a field I love. When it didn’t happen, I was pretty devastated.

Then after a few days, I dusted myself off, and vowed to begin again. I refocused my energy on getting the boys ready for school; then I went back to the drawing board, checking local job listings, and learning more about opportunities for regional artists.

And I refused to be too hard on myself. No, I don’t have a contract with a literary agency, nor a confirmed salary, or a bibliography that more than a few hundred people have heard of. It doesn’t matter. No, it really doesn’t. Because I am on Goodreads, on Barnes & Noble, my books are being read and enjoyed by people, and 2 years ago, none of this was happening. So, I have plenty to be proud of.

Am I continuing to rethink some aspects of my life as it presently is, though? Oh, yes.

For one thing, I’m staying firm in my resolve not to participate in NaNo this year. The extra pressure isn’t what I really need right now. Plus, considering that you don’t actually get anything for free, except bragging rights, if you win, does not make me (who is on the strictest of budgets) want to set aside the time and brainpower. It doesn’t feel worth it.

For another, I’ve decided not to set any concrete release dates for 2019. There are several projects I hope to publish next year, but I cannot at this moment make any promises — so I’m not going to. When I have a better idea on when specific things are about to occur, I’ll let everyone know. In the meantime, everybody’ll have to be patient.

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I’m also not going to worry about how much I read, or what I read. The other day, I was going over my Goodreads account, and realizing that there are a lot of low ratings on my reviews, and it made me sad. So I tried to determine why — and I found that probably 80% of the books I’ve read in the last 2 years have been because of hype, and for no other reason. And this is generally why a lot of them fell below my standards. I’m a pretty picky reader, and I admit it. So, in the interest of creating more positive headspace, and being able to post more happy reviews, I am officially no longer going to add titles to my TBR based solely on others’ recommendations.

I know that might sound kind of odd — especially for a writer — but this will be for the best. And it doesn’t mean — not at all — that I won’t keep reading others’ reviews and staying aware of what’s new in the moment and hyped right now. But I won’t immediately run to my TBR and add dozens of books I will realistically end up not reading, or not liking if I do.

The reduced social media presence will most likely continue, too. While I’m aware that’s not necessarily the greatest move for my “brand,” I know I need to spend more time and energy on other endeavors now — partly so that I’ll have updates to eventually post on social media! Due to a number of factors making this summer difficult, I haven’t had the chance to make nearly as much headway on my WIPs as I’d like — and it gets tiresome for all of you when the only news I have is, “I remain behind — please don’t leave me.” Again, in the interest of emphasizing the positive, let’s come up with cool stuff worthy of sharing.

So, there are my resolutions for fall. What are yours in this new season?

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blogging, The Invisible Moth

Do You Have to Have a Theme for Blogging?

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I’ve touched on this in the past, but I’m thinking more and more about it lately. On the whole, I struggle with sticking to a layout that’s pretty rigid and too predictable; this may sound surprising to those of you who know I’m on the autism spectrum. But I, as an individual, get bored easily, and if things always stay exactly the same, never providing the opportunity for growth, then that rankles me.

To a point, it helps your reader base if they can more or less know what to expect when they return to your site. Humans are creatures of habit — even neurotypical ones — and they do like routine and not having their socks knocked off at every turn. And while I generally stick to the same bunch of topics, I know that setting those boundaries too strictly will eventually do me in.

Some pros of having a theme for your blog:

  • Readers who like to view recurring content and discussions won’t be disappointed.
  • There are memes, tags, and challenges to follow for many different categories and subjects, so you can find a lot of source material when you’re not sure what to post about.

Some cons:

  • It’s too easy to run out of ideas, tags, challenges, memes, or get bored with all of the above.
  • You can feel too fenced in or limited, and may purposefully avoid bringing up an important topic because it doesn’t fit in with your “typical fare”.
  • Posting to a tight schedule can become time-consuming and stressful.
  • All of this creates disenchantment with blogging itself, and you wonder why you started this in the first place.

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic.

Or, am I?

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I’ve only been blogging for 3 years, and in that short time, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, take a hiatus only to never return, or their posts grow more and more infrequent, and they’ll claim it’s just life, but the fact is, they’re enjoying the break from the unnecessary stress that can come from trying to develop and maintain a popular site.

Those who started blogging just for fun don’t really feel they’re missing out on much by quitting (especially when it isn’t fun anymore). But some of us are aiming to create a brand — like yours truly, since being a self-published author means doing all the marketing oneself — and keeping up this platform becomes important.

At least in some capacity. A lot of indie authors reach a point where we need to devote more time to actually writing, editing, formatting and designing, rather than the meme of the week. Though readers — who are bombarded with literally millions of options of titles/series/authors — will often respond more favorably to an indie author who has a medium where they share some personal details, offering a connection to the person behind the work, rather than the email address that endlessly spams you, “Buy my new book!”

Hence why I try to keep this space a combination of discussion, updates, and random thoughts, not simply newsletter-ish content.

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Especially when I don’t have anything significant to announce. Or, when it would all amount to, “I’m still struggling with the same WIP I complained about 6 weeks ago.” People get bogged down by that.

Plus, there’s more to me than being a writer. Yes, I hope to earn at least part of my living from book sales, and be known around the internet as an author first, blogger or Twitter persona or stay-at-home mom later. However, I do have a life away from my manuscripts — and that life helps fuel my inspirations, plots and characters, so it can still hold interest for my readers.

And not all of these things are books. Which is a major reason I’ve always been reluctant to classify myself as solely a “book blogger.”

When I first came to WordPress, I was really unsure what I wanted my niche to be, or if I even wanted to declare one. After several months, I realized that nailing down a few particular subjects to commonly converse about with others would aid my focus, and in building a base. (A base is a big deal if you’re undertaking a more expansive endeavor, like launching your author brand.)

So I turned to my reading habits and writing plans — and it did help. But now, it’s become complicated.

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As I mentioned above, posting about my writing, as opposed to seriously sitting down and writing, can begin to feel like a stall tactic. And that is not how I spend the majority of my life (even when I wish I could), because there are so many other aspects to my day.

Also, as I said, I tend to get bored easily. When something starts to seem stale, I itch to go after new stuff. This doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly abandon my plans for the rest of my fantasy series (don’t worry), but I will give up sticking to a schedule for reviews or announcements.

So, I guess from here on out, I’m declaring my blog a non-niche or theme-less one. Maybe it’ll be a little more difficult to explain what my blog’s “about”…or, will it be easier? I won’t have to worry that it doesn’t fit into a particular category or group. Realistically, I’ll reach more people by diversifying, not less. And I won’t start to become discouraged by what is, after all, my own platform.

Shaking it up can be good.

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blogging, writing

Common Misconceptions About Writers

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Announcing you’re a professional writer garners an interesting mix of reactions from passerby or new acquaintances. Some people will be absolutely fascinated and assume you must live some kind of jetsetting life, involving month-long working vacations on the coast of Spain, meeting celebrities, and attending conventions during which your name will develop its own actual hashtag. Other folks simply squint at you and indicate they’re a bit concerned you should get a “real” job.

Why do people even think either of these extremes? Well, it comes down to some rather unrealistic conceptions about writers and the writing life. Today I’ll examine some I’ve run across, and hope to dispell them, but the true aim is to have fun. While informing the ignorant masses. Ahem. Fun first, right.

#1: Writers must be incredibly brilliant geniuses. You think this because we create worlds and get paid for it, probably. Well, yes, imagination is an important tool in the creative’s box. However, writing a novel start to finish is about 14% imagination, 123% hard work. (Yes, the math is fine, ssh.)

Oh, yeah, coming up with an idea that hasn’t already been done a gazillion and a half times is a major bonus towards eventual sales and reader base. But if you have a fantastic notion, and utterly boondoogle it on the page, then you are sunk.

After waking up at 1:30 in the morning and scribbling down on an old post office receipt the phrase, “The killer was underground, hoarding his victims’ socks,” you still must make sure plot holes don’t pop up, characters don’t do things without motivation readers can relate to, and that you don’t write in one paragraph, “Uncle Arthur’s big gray horse,” only to put in the next chapter, “Uncle Amos’ big white horse.”

You are responsible for getting the research from reputable sources, for connecting all the dots in your story’s arcs, for crafting dialogue out of your own mind and didn’t just lift from threads you saw on Twitter. And while all of this does require intelligence, smarts do not replace the effort.

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#2: Writers all know each other and go to amazing writing retreats together. Ha. Ha, ha. Hahahahahahahahaha. Yes, some of the bestselling authors are friends, and sometimes get the chance to dash off to a cabin in Scotland for a week to work on their WIPs in one another’s company. But this is so extremely rare. (Ask people like Neil Gaiman and Maggie Stiefvater themselves.) (And, yes, I am an authority on the lives of these folks — I follow their Tweets.)

Besides the fact that no one really has the money for this type of thing (even New York Times bestsellers), we don’t have the time (so many professional authors have families and other ways they spend their free hours), or necessarily the inclination. Writing is largely a solitary pursuit — partly because of all the research and the thinking and deciding that must happen. If you’ve ever tried to figure out the best way to off a character while your kids are wrestling in the next room, and all you can hear is, “He’s licking me! He’s licking me!”, then you understand why quiet and being alone is vital to creating a good story.

Indie authors do tend to have more personal connections — a lot of it is because our platform is smaller, more tight-knit, and we rely on each other for occupational support, marketing help, and bouncing editing or design issues off one another. (Since we don’t have an army of copyeditors and proofreaders and artists and billboards at our disposal. Of course, many traditionally published authors don’t have an army, either, merely a team. Well, this is our team.)

#3: Writing a new book must be so easy for the seasoned author. Are you kidding me?! Does anybody realize just how long fans have been waiting for George R.R. Martin to finally release the next Game of Thrones book?! I once read the fantasy novel Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea, and it took her 13 years to complete it. Go ask anyone who’s published, and they’ll have at least one tale to regale you with, showing you that even the 5th or 8th or 11th title can be damn hard.

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#4: Writers always insert some of themselves into their main character. This is an interesting one, because it’s not automatically false by default of being on this list. In fact, it can be very true — depending on the situation we’re writing about, and whether we’re drawing on personal experiences for a particular arc or plot point or characterization.

For example, when I write about Avery and Madison — the autists in The Order of the Twelve Tribes — of course I’m bringing in certain things from my own existence and perspective. But there’s also a lot I flub — since I don’t live in the fey realm, like Avery, nor am I still 15, like Madison. I wasn’t homeschooled (as they both were), nor am I an orphan (Avery is). So while there are parts of these characters that are definitely close to my personal experiences, there’s just as much that isn’t, at all.

#5: Writers get to spend all day in front of their computer, churning out amazing sentences. Uh, no. Just, nope. Many indie authors have a day job, and write when they can, like on weekends or in the evenings. Others of us may not work outside the home, but there’s still plenty in the home to keep us away from our WIP — children, chores, errands, appointments, pets. The idea that we literally have nothing else to do for 8 hours Monday through Friday besides tap on that keyboard is downright laughable.

And most of these sentences are not amazing the first — second, umpteenth — time around. The final product that you read after buying or borrowing our book has been slaved over, for a copious amount of months. When the sentence in the printed book reads, “Tilting her eyes towards the indigo sky, she drank in the millions of pinpricks of silver,” it’s pretty much a guarantee that in the draft, it read, “She looked up at the stars.”

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#6: All of our characters are based on real people. Wellll….yes, and no. There are elements of my sons, my relatives, former neighbors, that make their way into my work, affirmative. Do I actually steal concrete conversations word for word, or map a character’s traits directly after someone I know? No! And while it’s certainly correct that we draw inspiration from real life, the fact is that most of us fictionalize the heck out of so much.

#7: Writers are naturally introverts. Not necessarily. Yes, we tend to pursue our occupation on our own, but that doesn’t mean we never leave the house or speak to another living human. Some of us are very outgoing, enjoy meeting fans, have lots of friends, and are often late to the retirement party or family reunion because they were trying to finish that chapter. It comes down to personality and individual tastes.

#8: All authors must be super rich. 

… … …

If by “rich” you mean we have a bunch of $4 pens from Staples, then, yes, we’re drowning in wealth.

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#9: They’re probably pretty full of themselves, because of all their genius and talent and fancy vacation homes in Paris. Okay, unfortunately, yes, some of us are stuck-up pillocks. Don’t judge a book by its cover, though (intentional pun, I swear). Most of us are normal people; our passion and calling happens to be in this field, but we don’t have inflated egos so big they stop us getting through the door of a Walmart. Many of us can be approached on social media, or even in person, and we don’t bite, I promise.

#10: I have no idea. Between it being Monday and Muffin being home with sniffles, and a bunch of new things just getting added to my to-do list, 9 is all I can come up with, folks.

What do you think, fellow authors? Any misconceptions to add?

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blogging, The Invisible Moth

Life, the Universe, and Everything

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(Or, a Brief History of Time. Or, maybe, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Yes, I am mercilessly robbing titles and subtitles from Douglas Adams, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Bryson. If any of you don’t get these references, come see me in the comments, so that we can properly educate you.)

Anyway, here’s what I’m gearing up to discussing: Those of you who have been around this blog a while may remember that I haven’t always focused on conversing about and promoting books (either what I’ve read or what I’ve written). Over the course of months and months, I debated whether to make the theme of my blog family life with autism, or just reading, just writing, or reading and writing, or… Too many combinations began to wrestle each other for supremacy in my brain. So, after debating, “Do I even need to stick to a theme?!?!”, I opted for concentrating on promoting my work, and encouraging other indie authors and readers of indie publications.

Well, I’ve done that. (Hopefully with a fair amount of success?? She looks down to the comments section to provide clarity on that front.) And I am immensely grateful to those of you who have shoved my blog links in the faces of faceless internet folks (hmm, does that make sense?), and insisted that everybody in the world read my posts, my published titles, my random quips on Twitter, and even my grocery list. (Sorry, guys, but my grocery lists are pretty functional and not exactly amusing or insightful.)

However, now we reach the crux of the biscuit: There is so much more I want to discuss. So many topics I want to cover. I’m really tired of theme-sticking (I feel sticky enough, dang it), of wracking my brain to come up with a subject within said theme that I haven’t already posted on, of feeling boxed in by said theme-continuing-method of blogging.

When I was about White Fang’s age, I decided that when I “grew up,” I wanted to be Erma Bombeck. She was a woman who made us laugh, yes, but she also made us think. She wanted her readers to take something away from her weekly columns — whether it be a much-needed chuckle, tears, or the inspiration to behave kindly and lovingly towards each other. I read her column every Sunday for years, until she passed away, and then I read her books. Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry formed my earliest notions of attempting to write about serious things presented in a humorous manner.

They convinced me that it worked.

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While I’ve chosen to try to make my career as an author, I am not just a writer. I’m also a mother, a dancer, an autist, a person of the 21st century. My inspiration that goes into my published titles has come from a variety of life experiences, from places I’ve been to, people I’ve known, books and films I’ve loved, cats I’ve treasured, music that made my heart sing and my body dance.

I’ve traveled (a little), I’ve stood in line for the latest Harry Potter release, gone horseback riding, watched a winter storm roll in to the beach in the dark of night. (Admittedly that last one was not the wisest idea, considering we were standing literally on the sand with the wind and waves ramping up, and the roads off the island were going to be closed any minute… But it was cool.)

There’s so much to this rich tapestry of life. And while I can’t ever hope to cover absolutely every single thing I may want to discuss on this platform (I’ll have forgotten 2 or 3 minor ideas by the time I post this, for the love of Pete), I’m sure going to try.

I’d never describe myself as fickle, but when something loses my interest, I have no qualms about leaving it in the dust. I don’t mean abandoning anything serious, like family, or flossing; but in the last several months, I feel as if I’ve talked about tropes, genre norms, character cliches, whether all the installments of a series should be the same size, and just what the heck headcanoning is until I’m blue in the face. I still totally love reading, and will be writing more of my own novels, and keeping up with my fellow bloggers, even if they tend to focus on these topics.

Though, when it comes to my own online spaces, I’m ready to diversify.

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When I’d only been blogging for a little while, all the advice I came across said the same thing: Decide what you’re going to post on, and keep to those subjects. The public doesn’t care for blogs that are all over the place.

Well, who cares? Who decided these people were the “experts” on blogging, and what the public does and doesn’t want? (Probably the same folks who are running corporations into the ground by continually rolling out ill-advised products many consumers then refuse to buy.)

Ahem.

So, looking ahead for this blog: I’ll be posting probably once a week or so throughout the summer, about whatever strikes my fancy at that point. There will still be relevant and timely updates regarding my publishing empire, but otherwise…this shall be the start of a journey.

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blogging, reading

Maintaining the Balance: Tackling That TBR Without Losing Your Bookdragon Marbles

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It really sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just don’t let your TBR get out of control. After all, reading novels is something we choose to do, and it’s not as if we’re being forced to add every single title we ever hear of to our I-want-to-read-this-one-day list. (Except you are when it comes to my books. Everyone must read my books.)

However, every week, there’s someone on Goodreads or Twitter, in their blog or writing platform, discussing how behind they are on their TBR. And when I think around 40 (what I currently have either on GR or on a scrap of paper somewhere) seems like a lot to buy/borrow and read within the next several months, there comes up a Tweet or a post that informs us all someone just culled 100-1,000 books from their want-to-read shelf.

So, here are some suggestions from this moth, who manages to regularly keep the numbers down. Because life is short, and I like to give advice, and trust me, you all need to take my advice (whether you know it yet or not).

(And, I really need to get a post out, to remind all of you I’m still alive, and this seems as good a topic as any. Brutal honesty wins out today, I guess…)

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Don’t worry about reading all the books “everybody else” is raving about. Between all the genres I just don’t try anymore and my limited funds, I couldn’t acquire every single title of note from 2018, or 2017, even if I wanted to. So I’ve given up attempting to even recall all of them. I do make note of the impending releases by authors I’ve enjoyed in the past, and titles in YA and fantasy (my favorites) that just sound great. Buuuut…

Don’t hesitate to edit the list. If you come across a bunch of ARC reviews from bloggers whose tastes generally fall right in with yours, saying that a certain hyped selection is really not doing it for them, listen to that, and seriously re-consider purchasing or requesting it. Or if you (as I recently did) get the book in question (maybe you didn’t cancel that pending library hold in time), get a few pages in (I usually give it through the first chapter), and your overall feeling ranges from “meh” to “what the heck?”, have no shame in setting that title aside.

Don’t impulse-order. Whether you may face book-buying remorse when that 10-title order from the internet shows up on your doorstop, or you’re trying to carry 10 hardcovers up the hill from your local library (yup, that’d be me) in snow, sleet and hail, more does not equal better. Focus on the releases you know you can’t live without that season. Like the newest Maggie Stiefvater. Or the latest Volume in The Order of the Twelve Tribes

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Know why you’re really choosing to read what you’re reading. Are you picking up a novel you’re actually dreading, but feel that if you pass on it, you’ll be “left out of the loop” on social media? Or can you not wait to open that cover because you just know a rush of emotions and fun and character development are coming your way? Yes, discovering new authors can be awesome. But there’s a lot to be said for sticking with the tried and true. For example, I learned in my youth that I honestly don’t care for murder mysteries, horror, romance, or most of the classics. So, it benefits me now (since it appears a few more days get chopped from my personal calendar every year since I turned 35) to not spend extra hours every month on books I just know aren’t my thing.

Reading is not a competition. Yes, it’s a good idea to encourage yourself to finish a selection in a timely manner. It shows self-discipline and being principled, and I come from a household where we keep saying “one day” and then one day never arrives on certain things. So once I start a book, I like to finish it within a week. (Re-reads are the exception to this rule.) However, don’t compare yourself to other readers. If it takes you a month to complete a really long book or one that gives you trouble because of vocabulary or time period or whatever, so be it.

Set reasonable limits. If you’re on Goodreads (actually, I should say when) and are realizing you can’t even remember why you added a particular title, delete it. If you saw a movie version of a novel and didn’t care much for the story, delete it. If there’s a book on your list that was added in 2015 and you still haven’t gotten around to it… You get the idea. Also, when it comes to “the 100 books everyone should read” and similar things, don’t get sucked into it. Seriously. Life is too short.

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Take advantage of the library. The library is great because of the free factor, and the no-guilt return if you didn’t like a book. Also, think of the space you saved on your shelves for the future releases you have to have (like all the forthcoming Beaumont and Beasley tales by Kyle Robert Shultz). Plus, investigating a book at the library, with your hands and opening the cover and examining the font size and how many pages there are — maybe even reading the first page — can really help you make up your mind. Sometimes online browsing just doesn’t cut it.

Forget about ARCs. Unless it’s the biggest release of your year, and your soul will shrivel into a useless husk without an advanced copy. Truly, people get fixed on the rush of frantically clicking the button on Netgalley, and then being approved for the latest “next Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Percy Jackson”. And then many times, the hype falls flatter than a skydiving pancake, and bookworms are found sobbing into their carpet until you have to build them a boat and rescue all the animals, two by two. Ain’t worth it, folks.

So, now that you’re all scratching your heads and saying, “Thanks a bunch, Daley, I basically can’t add anything to my TBR by an unfamiliar author, or that I won’t get around to reading within 29 days, or that didn’t come from the library,” relax, grasshoppers. Here’s what I suggest for keeping your list to a reasonable length, and not getting stressed out by attempting to get to the end of it before you’re 98 years old and can’t read small fonts or recall where you left the book…

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Do invest in reading a lot of reviews — good and bad — about new titles that may interest you. Take a few hours every month and devote it to finding positive and negative reviews of the same book. This could assist in making up your mind faster and possibly without spending money on a selection that you end up not caring for.

Buddy read anticipated releases. This can certainly help narrow down your choices for a particular week or month. It will reduce your TBR and achieve it pretty quickly.

Remember that above all, reading for fun is supposed to be just that — fun. So many of us became book bloggers in the first place because we love the world of story and the written word, and want to share that joy with others of the same vein. Pressuring ourselves to meet requirements that actually aren’t required won’t make us feel good; so let’s do away with them.

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blogging, community, reading

Reviews Are Still Important

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Here’s a sad little suggestion going around the internet: Book blogging isn’t necessary anymore. Yes, a lot of book bloggers are getting burned out, because it’s time consuming, and not always rewarding, and can feel repetitive. Well, on World Book Day, here’s why I think taking the time and effort to create our reviews and put them on our blogs is still important.

We can present an unbiased account of a title to a weary, cash-strapped public in desperate need of something good to read. Okay, maybe I’m getting a little dramatic here. But heaven knows that I’m a lot more satisfied with my library selections since subscribing to book blogs and Goodreads. As a busy mom/work-from-home writer, I can totally affirm for the majority of book-lovers that our spare time and spare money is limited. So we’d really appreciate a heads-up if we’re about to drop precious coin and hours on a novel that will make us want to run away to Albania and become a goat-herder in despair.

Since we aren’t being paid for our opinions, we have no reason to sugarcoat what we didn’t like about a book, or encourage people to buy it if we honestly feel they’re better off choosing a different release.

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We’re helping to keep alive the art of literary analysis. Yes, I’m completely serious. Less and less in college and even high school are English classes teaching how to accurately analyze a piece of literature. More and more on Goodreads, I’m seeing low ratings posted by younger (teen) readers for literary-complex books, and their reason is simply: “I didn’t get it.” No, most people won’t go on to break down symbolism and allegory and archetype for a living. But it is a VITAL skill to possess. It encompasses problem solving, objective debate, understanding motivation, and learning from past failures.

We’re giving critical feedback to authors — especially indie authors. Indie authors are quite often people without creative writing degrees who are self-publishing purely for their love of the written word. A lot of us can benefit from receiving detailed reviews that point out what readers loved and what they thought could stand to improve. We don’t have big publishing companies throwing a ton of advertising at our work, so this can definitely make a difference in sales, as we can get a concrete idea of what our target audience is after.

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So, what makes or breaks a review? Not whether you give the book a positive or negative review. It’s the WHYS.

You need to be specific. You don’t have to go through the selection chapter by chapter (in fact, many people would rather you not do that), but you must explain why you did or didn’t like something.

A lot of it does come down to personal taste. Certain content and genre preference should not be considered gold standards for “good” or “bad.” It’s absolutely valid for “like” or “dislike.” But, please, please know the difference.

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Here’s what I look for when I read a review:

Adjectives. PLEASE stop just typing in, “This is soooo good!!!” and logging off. This tells me NOTHING. If you say, “This novel had a lot of clean humor that had me laughing out loud, flawed but relateable characters that I was cheering for, and an action-packed plot with a jawdropping resolution,” then I have a much better idea of what you think. And, by the way, I’m aware how “writer-y” the above example sounds. But I feel it’s important to develop a real craft to how you opine. Even if you never intend to have a career as an author/journalist/librarian, there’s an impactful difference between: “This book was stupid” and “The main character made a choice that put others in danger, and I thought that was a bad move.”

More than a rehashing of the blurb on the cover. I can find the synopsis of the plot aaaaanywhere. That doesn’t give me any insider information. Which is what I’m after as I peruse blogs and social media.

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I avoid haters. If you really, loathed the content, the style, the story, or everything of a book, this is actually fine. This is free speech in action. I’ve left a few scathing reviews myself, when I truly felt it was warranted. However, you’ll never catch me sending hate email or tweets to the author, or the reviewer, and I won’t track with those who do.

You must have read the book for yourself. Recently I learned that some people are leaving 1-star/5-star ratings for titles they’ve never laid eyes on simply because their friend/relative/minister/favorite celebrity claimed it was racist/prejudiced/inappropriate. No. …No. 

The same goes for folks who think that any fiction tackling tough topics (racism, war, suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, self-harm, addictions) is “bad” simply for discussing the hard stuff. NOPE. Not a valid reason to slam a publication.

 

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A final few words: Are all our reviews going to be totally awesome little articles of genius? Yeesh, no. I’m sure some of mine aren’t detailed enough, or may have used too much slang for a broader audience. Is this okay, too? Yeah. If I had a tough time getting my thoughts to coalesce on this or that book, well, I’m only human. And I can always go back to my Goodreads account and revise later.

Do remember that people are getting something out of your reviews. Keep it up.

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blogging, community, writing

Spring Cleaning Writer Tag Challenge

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Good morning, everyone! So, I’ve been nominated to participate in this original tag, created by Deborah O’Carroll, and it’s a tag just for us writers!

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Rules:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you
2. Share the picture
3. Answer the questions (naturally…) or even pick and choose which ones you answer
3.5. Tag 3 other writers and inform them that you tagged them (via comment/message/email or hey, even carrier-pigeon or smoke signal; I’m not picky)

1. Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

Most writers do start out the new year with specific goals in mind. As of early January, my plans for the next 12 months were to: finish Volume 3 and start on Volume 4, do some more work on the field guide, and plan out the prequel.

As of March 21st, here’s where I stand on all this: Volume 3 is almost ready for editing. But I’m going to take some time on that. My hope was to get it published sometime in April; hopefully that will still happen, but I am not pushing myself to make it occur no matter what. I want Volume 3 to be as good as it can be, and that means lessening my self-imposed deadline for its release.

Also, while I do hope to still finish the draft of Vol. 4 by the end of summer, since I have also promised White Fang we will work on our Super Secret Co-Project once the school year is over, I am being totally realistic about Vol. 4 not being available until the fall. Nothing like long-range goals, eh?

Also, the field guide and the prequel I’ll probably work on in fits and spurts, when the inspiration hits. There’s no rush right now on either of those (though I am excited to create both of them!).

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2. Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)

At the moment, I am in Painting The Walls In Colorful Hues with Volume 3, and very soon it will be Polishing The Windows And Putting Flowers In Vases. (I love the analogies, Deborah!)

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3. Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

“She’d only been 19 years old when a nervous, confused, mid-twenties Daniel Novak approached her…seeking a nanny for his newborn halfbreed child. …Lily quickly fell in love with the beautiful baby girl who had astounding violet eyes and could make objects float above her crib.”

“Mom! Can we go yet?! I haven’t played Minecraft in 36 Earth hours!”

“Avery had never learned to play solitaire… Hence, she was constructing a house of cards while she waited… And she was using magic to do so, meaning this deck of cards was rapidly coming to resemble a 3-story mansion with a balcony and an astronomy tower.”

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3.5. Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)

I shan’t be doing this part of the tag (since we are having technical difficulties around my house, and camera software is not easily accessible at present). But here are some tips from Deborah for those of you who wish to:

  • Organize your notebooks and papers if you’re a physical type of writer
  • Sort your computer files and tidy them up if you’re a digital sort
  • Do some real-life cleaning up of your desk or writing space or room in general, if you exist in the physical world at all (which I rather hope you do)  

     

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(Sorry I can’t prove it right now, but I do exist somewhere out here, I swear!)

Thanks so much for the fun tag, Deborah! Visit her at: https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/original-tag-writerly-spring-cleaning-challenge/.

I’m tagging (and you most likely have already been tagged, but take pity on my poor overwraught genius brain): Kyle Robert Shultz, SM Metzler, Hannah Heath, and Aria E. Maher. Happy spring cleaning, writers!

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