On reading and authors and genres

Journal and fancy writing setTo try to spur my reading this year, I signed up for the GoodReads reading challenge, setting my goal at the fairly doable one book a week level. Fifty-two books in a year? No problem.

Now, I have some rules for myself. I can count books I started before this year but only finish this year. I do not count books I read with my daughter, no matter how wonderful such books (like Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail, Hamster Princess, and the whole Dragonbreath series) are. Serials only count as a completed set, not individual episodes. Books that I don’t finish don’t count. And for every library book I read, I have to read at least one book on my Kindle or Nook app (mostly because of how many I have piled up on them — far more than this year’s reading can account for).

I’m actually trying to do a little better than 52 for the year, and I’ll let you know how that works out.

I’m also (inspired by Jeffe Kennedy) trying to put together an actual list of what I have to read, both electronic and hard copy, with notes about genre and how I came by the book (friend wrote it, saw it recommended, was looking up the genre on Amazon, whatever). I’m probably not going to post the actual list — I would be much too embarrassed — but it will be a good reference going forward, and possibly a reminder that buying more books will be counterproductive. (Will I let that stop me? Um …)

I’m also trying (prompted by Connie’s post) to remember to actually review the books I read. Signing up for the GoodReads challenge makes that easier because to get credit for the book, I have to go to GoodReads and mark it read. While I’m there, I can add a bit about what I thought without too much effort.

Don’t want to cross-post my reviews here, but I would like to talk about the kinds of things I’m reading. So what I’m thinking is taking Wednesdays to talk about a rotation of genres/subgenres, and different authors in those genres. For example, urban fantasy, steampunk, SF (may break this down more), paranormal romance (maybe even other romance!) … The point of the posts will be to highlight why an author fits into this genre, what notes they hit that readers look for (or at least that I do!), and where good starting points are to jump into this author’s work.

I’ll be honest. That can get intense, a lot to get written up, especially when I have both work and writing deadlines to deal with, so there may be weeks I don’t get the post up, or I may wind up tapering off or even giving up halfway through the year. We’ll see how this goes.

But if you have suggestions for genres you want me to include in the rotation, or authors to recommend (because really, I was kidding about having enough to read, right?), feel free to drop them in the comments. Or tell me what you’re reading right now that you’re really enjoying.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this bit of humor from when my son was doing a Google search. (No, I don’t remember what he was actually looking for.) Pretty sure that third one requires a getaway car.
Google search autofill

Beach, mountain, and other summer reads

Preface: I completely forgot to post my thoughts for the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour this week. Fortunately, I’m only a few days behind. Can we all pretend I posted this on Tuesday when it was due? No? Ah, well.

So this month’s post is all about planned summer reading or rereading — what’s in the TBR pile, what am I reading, that sort of thing. I do try to talk about my recent reads in my newsletter, but one thing I have discovered is that if I talk about what I’m in the middle of reading, or (sometimes) what I’m planning on reading, that can take the fire and interest out of my reading, and I don’t wind up finishing the book. We’ll see if that happens this time.

A couple of rereads on my summer agenda: Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (first book in the Wheel of Time series), audiobook read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer; and Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip (entire trilogy: The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind). The audiobook is for vacation driving; no one else in the family has read any of the books, and epic fantasy is a solid choice for everyone. The other is a long-standing favorite of mine, more of a comfort read than anything.

Also on the audio end of things, except not really: I grabbed both Ivanhoe and the Man in the Iron Mask for me to read aloud to the family. Not light reading perhaps, but good adventure stories.

I picked up the epic fantasy book bundle from StoryBundle, with lots of interesting looking books in it, so there’s that, too. And I have some urban fantasy reads sitting in my Kindle app, including some shorter work from Kevin Hearne in the Iron Druid series. The only real questions for me are what order I’m going to read things in, and how much will remain untouched at the end of the summer.

Oh, and I have a couple of samples I’ve picked up, too, to decide whether to read the full books. I’ll probably talk about them after I read them and make decisions.

What’s in your TBR (to-be-read) pile?


Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Beach Reads” — June’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the next posts in the series, by Sandra Barret, D. M. Bonanno, and Margaret McGaffey Fisk.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on first stories, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!


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Where I hear about books

I talk about books everywhere — here on my blog, in my newsletter, on writers’ forums, on Facebook, on GoodReads — and I see them mentioned in a lot of places as well. I see covers posted by friends on Facebook, I see what’s coming soon via NetGalley e-mails, and I see reviews on GoodReads.

Where I hear the most chatter, however, is often Twitter. I follow a lot of writers, so I hear about what they’re working on and what they’ve got coming out, of course, but I also see a lot of “I just finished X’s latest book, and I’m still crying” or “I couldn’t put this down” or “Although I liked this, it had some problems,” as well as links to more in-depth reviews.

It’s not a readers’ community in the sense of people gathered just to talk about what they’re reading, but it’s a good snapshot of what’s out there at any given time.

Have you ever used Twitter or other social media to find a good book to read or to share it with others? How’d that go for you?

That’s a lot of books

Last year, you may remember, I was selected to serve on the jury for the Andre Norton Award. I checked out books from the library, I grabbed ARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss, I bought a few books (mostly ones I would’ve bought for myself or my son anyway), and publishers and authors sent copies of books for consideration.

I didn’t read everything. I didn’t even finish every book I started. I did read a lot, and I can say there is a huge variety out there in middle grade and young adult books.

(stacks of books)

There’s SF and steampunk, dark fantasy bordering on horror and dystopia; there’s humor and graphic novels, fairy tale retellings and ideas drawn from myth; alternate history sits side-by-side with secondary world and urban fantasy. There were books that are first or second in a series, and others that were the culmination of one. There are debut novels, novels in translation, and novels by established favorite authors. In other words, something for everyone.

Oh, and that picture up above? It’s incomplete. That I can think of, both Greenglass House and Marina are missing (my son probably knows where they are), and there are almost certainly others that aren’t occurring to me at the moment.

What happens to them now? A good chunk are going to my son’s reading teacher. The reading teachers like to have books on hand in case students forget theirs or need ideas on what to read next. I don’t know whether she’ll share with the other teachers at the school or what, but the books will be appreciated.

Would I do it again? If I were asked by the head of the jury to participate, I’d most likely say yes. However, I spent a good chunk of the year feeling behind and knowing I wasn’t doing as much as other members of the jury, and I think they might be better served with someone else. If you’re in SFWA, enjoy MG/YA, and are up for a lot of reading, consider applying to be on the jury. I guarantee it’ll open your eyes to the breadth of the field.

The week (so far) in books

pile of books

The spiral-bound one on top is The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (due out in October). This photo doesn’t include the ones I have from the library (such as The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross) or the ones I’ve received via NetGalley (such as the graphic novel Amulet #6, which I’ve been waiting for) or Edelweiss, obviously.

Current triage plan is to sit down on Sunday and read through first chapters. Maybe first and second. Anything that doesn’t strike me as good or enjoyable by that point gets set aside. I still expect to read several of these.

What looks good to you? What books have you been eyeing recently?

You ask, I answer, part two

Taking another question each from B.C and Nicki:

How do you stay motivated to send stuff out into the wide world of publishing?

Random digression: I grew up in Reno. As you might have heard, there are slot machines there, at least a couple. Casinos will advertise things like “97.3% payback!” Right — for every $100 you bet, you lose $2.70, and people keep playing. You have to ask yourself why.

Intermittent reinforcement. Basically, animals and people are more likely to continue a given behavior if they’re only rewarded some of the time. Those random payoffs? Keep people gambling, even if overall they’re losing money.

From a psychological perspective, the fact that I had an early success (short story sale), followed by intermittent other successes, predisposes me to maintain the pattern of behavior that leads to that reward. Fortunately, I’m only losing time, not money, to the process, and along the way I’m getting better at my writing.

That’s the other thing that keeps me going — as time has gone on, I’ve had more near misses, more personal rejections, more successes in the various ways that I define success. My writing is getting better, and the chances of selling it are going up. And as my thesis advisor often said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” If I don’t submit my stories to markets, the answer is automatically “No.” The only way to get a “Yes” is to send it out.

It also helps that I’m a stubborn woman from a family of stubborn people and most of the time, I treat “no” as meaning “You just haven’t tried hard enough yet.” (This is also why I spent much longer bashing my head against my thesis project in grad school than any rational person would have done.)

Best book you’ve read this month, whatever it was

I’m in the middle of a few, and some are really excellent. But I did recently finish an older how-to writing book, Writing Novels That Sell, by Jack M. Bickham. I took a while to read it because some of the chapters really required time to sink in. I wrote a review, and if/when it’s available online, I’ll post a link. Meanwhile, that’s my current nonfiction recommendation.

Oddly enough, most of my current TBR pile is MG or YA, and I’m actually feeling stressed because I’m getting so little of it done.

Bloggers I read

About ten years ago, I read every author’s blog I could find. I wanted to absorb everything I could about the business, about agent quests, about how others coped with disappointments, about the craft — pretty much, I wanted to learn everything about everything.

Over time, I’ve changed my blog-reading habits. I read more widely, and where I do read writers, it may not be for industry-specific advice so much as their perspective on the world.

Jamie Todd Rubin — This is my new go-to blog for everything. In addition to being a science-fiction writer, he’s also an Evernote Paperless Lifestyle Ambassador, holds a full-time job, and spends time with his family. His writing metric posts have encouraged me to work at writing every day, even if it’s just a little, even though I’ve been telling myself for years that I’m a binge writer. It’s probably going to take at least a year of trying this method of working to see how effective it is for me.

His focus on productivity has helped me learn more about how to use Evernote, as well as such services as Pocket (so I can read things later) and Buffer (so I can set up Tweets and Facebook posts for specific times).

Kristine Kathryn Rusch — Honestly, although I skim all of her blog posts, the ones that get my attention every week are the Business Rusch posts on Thursdays. She’s talked about everything from negotiating tactics to dealbreakers in contracts to literary estates to (her latest topic) discoverability.

Other blogs or newsletters? Tons — there’s Aeon for long reads, the Buffer blog with hints on productivity and social media, Co.Create with lots of information about creativity, Brain Pickings for more in-depth digging into books, Barking Up The Wrong Tree (which digs into how to make you better at life), and more. There are science-specific blogs, like Neuron Culture and Genotopia; writing blogs, like http://www.stevenpressfield.com; blogs of writers I know (you all know who you are!); blogs by big name writers who have no clue who I am and who talk about lots of different things (like John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig); blogs at the intersection of writing and law (namely Writer-in-Law and Passive Voice); at least one blog on language (Separated by a Common Language, on BrE/AmE differences); and more.

So what can we tell from my list of blogs?

  1. I like reading a lot of stuff. Okay, we probably knew that already.
  2. I still care about both the business and craft of writing, but I don’t have as much time to devote to reading about it (or possibly as much need, although that’s harder to say).
  3. I like reading blogs by entertaining people who talk about more than one thing.
  4. I want input on how to be both more productive and more creative.
  5. I have varied interests.

What about you? Do you have a favorite blog I should add to my list to check out?


Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Share 3 blogs you read regularly and why” — April’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the next posts in the series, by Sandra Barret and D. M. Bonanno.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on first stories, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!

Friday no flash

It’s been one of those weeks — actually, it’s been a pretty busy month, with back-to-back proofreading deadlines followed by being sick all of this week (because October and November, I always get attacked by the multi-week cold), plus tons of family stuff to do. (October is the busiest month for my son’s school band.) So I thought I’d just catch you up on a few things today, starting with stuff about my friends. (Or, er, more than a few.) Continue reading

My favorite reads of 2012

Back at the beginning of the year, when the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour topics were picked, I thought this would be an excellent chance to point out the things I’d loved and get my ideas together for Hugo awards. Which is still true. However, the truth is that I’ve already talked about a lot of the books that came out this year that I’ve enjoyed. So my plan here is to list the ones I’ve talked with links to my earlier reviews, hit the ones I haven’t mentioned yet, touch on the ones in progress, and then list a few that have come out that I haven’t gotten to yet but that I recommend others check out. Continue reading