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

What I read, what I write

I used to flatter myself that I read widely, but as I’ve come more and more to realize just how very many books are out there, I’ve realized it’s just not so. I read scattered bits of different genres or subgenres, but that’s not the same at all as reading widely.

So what do I read?

The occasional cozy, some MG and YA (only if there’s a speculative element), a handful of comics (but not usually the graphic novels that are memoirs or realistic fiction), some classics, some memoirs or diaries (Captain Cook, frex), and mostly science fiction and fantasy — urban fantasy, epic fantasy, portal fantasy, space operas, a bit of steampunk. I don’t care much for mundane SF, and I only read near-future SF in short fiction.

And what do I write?

The occasional cozy, some MG (currently one each in the perpetually writing and the perpetually editing phases), some urban fantasy, some science fiction, epic fantasy (planning stages), space opera (ditto), alternate history (more in the “think this would be cool phase”), a bit of steampunk…

It’s what I know, it’s what I love, and I haven’t had anything take off to the extent I should devote myself exclusively to it. So I’ll just keep writing and keep trying.

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “What’s your favorite genre to read, and do you write it?” — September’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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Defining the genres: Space opera

When I ran my genre poll a couple of weeks back, I got a request to address space opera. As this is easier than the other subgenres requested (splatterpunk, wuxia, and bizarro), I’m starting here. Oddly enough, I was recently trying to explain to my son what space opera is. First, however, I had to explain both operas and soap operas as concepts. I don’t think I’ll have to do that here. Continue reading

Genre poll

Well, not precisely. A poll implies I’m offering choices. Instead, I’m giving you a “short answer” question. (Or maybe an essay question? No, not necessary, really.)

What genres or subgenres would you like to learn more about?

Could be anything — space opera, soap opera, operetta, Western, adventure fic, sweet romance — just keep it clean. Let me know what you’d like to see talked about, what you don’t see on the shelves, or what you’ve seen that you just don’t get.

Have a great weekend!

Random Friday

Did I tell you I have a new flash story coming out? “The Call” will be the e-mailed story for Daily Science Fiction on Monday, May 14. If you’re not signed up to get their e-mailed stories, this is a good time to do it. Or you can wait a week, and they’ll have it posted on their site.

Spells & Swashbucklers, an anthology of pirates and magic from Dragon Moon Press, has my short story, “Maskèd Panama.” The official launch party will be over Memorial Day weekend at Balticon, but it’s available for purchase now (paperback at Amazon) (Kindle).

I did pick a winner for the Live and Let Fly giveaway contest and e-mailed to find out what format of e-book was preferred. Nutschell, if you’re reading this, check your e-mail. If I don’t have a response by next week, I’ll pick another winner.

It’s been a month since I’ve done a post on genres, and I do intend to get back to them. Life’s just been hectic — to keep those up while doing the A to Z posts would have required a lot more pre-planning (which I’m noting for next year). I will start those again next Friday. I’ve actually been pleased to see people find my blog in search engines by looking for things like the definition of urban fantasy or what makes cozy mysteries different from hard-boiled ones. Clearly, these posts are filling a need.

The A to Z challenge was a lot of fun, and the hosts of the challenge encouraged everyone to do a reflections post. They said, “You can put up your Reflections post anytime between now and Saturday May 12th.” Mine will go up tomorrow. If you’re interested in my thoughts, what I liked, what I’d do differently, come check it out. Otherwise, feel free to go enjoy the weekend. It’s supposed to warm up about 10 degrees here and be sunny (which still leaves it cooler than California and Nevada — springlike weather here generally is for the most part in the 60s and 70s). I may even get outside to plant the flowers I bought from the fundraiser at my daughter’s daycare (begonia, portulaca, impatiens, and geranium).

Defining the genres: Urban fantasy

(If you’re here for the A to Z blog challenge, scroll down for today’s post. This post is one in an on-going series on genres.)

I touched on this when I discussed fantasy a few weeks back. I gave some of the elements that are prevalent in various types of fantasy. For urban fantasy, I mentioned modern world, a big city, often a hard-boiled detective, may be but is not necessarily dark. Oh, and magic or magical creatures, since that’s what makes this fantasy rather than mystery or mainstream. Also, urban fantasy doesn’t focus on a romantic plot; if that’s the focus of a book (rather than a sub-plot at most), it’s paranormal romance. Continue reading

Defining the genres: the edges of science-fiction and fantasy

I meant to write and post this yesterday. I didn’t get to it because I was finishing up a work deadline — updating an index I’d worked on a few years ago. I was really happy to get the index done, and other commitments sort of slipped my mind.

Science fiction and fantasy, on the whole, are fairly easy to recognize: we see a space ship on the cover, and we think science fiction; we see a dragon or a fancy sword, and we go with fantasy. There is a lot in the speculative field, however, that defies easy characterization. It may blend SF and fantasy, or it may lurk on the edges where it’s easy to say, “Well, it’s not mainstream, but I’m not sure what to call it.” Today, I break out a few of those tougher-to-call subgenres for you. Continue reading