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Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Book Recommendations

I am still on a quest for books from the new books shelf that don't make me weep with either boredom or despair [the most popular authors are still flying off the shelf as soon as they land back on it and are rarely available when I show up in the afternoon. By November I should have a wealth of terrific books to recommend]. Yeah. So I'm rereading old favorites. Again. This long and terrible good book drought makes me wish that I could afford to feed my book habit by buying books but, until I sell one of my own novels, this is just not possible.

I do have a recommendation though. You can't go wrong with Alisa Craig (aka Charlotte MacLeod). She has a distinctive and lovely style that makes every book she wrote a joy to read. I am particularly fond of her Madoc Rhys series but highly recommend this author by either of her pen names.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Now What?

Hi howdy, blogpeople,

This week was fairly chill here at Hubris House. Feedback from my final beta reader came in and now I have a pretty good idea of what needs to be changed. Damn it. I was half hoping the reception for this new book would be as lackluster as the last so I could just chalk it up as a rebound book and write the next thing but no. Instead I learned that the book did what I wanted it to do but needs work in the areas that I knew were weak. Silly me, I thought (okay, hoped) no one would notice... A great deal of work lies between now and the start of querying. I guess it's good practice and I know I would have given almost anything for feedback like this last time- but wow.

On that happy note.

Let's talk about you for a while- you and your next book.

So you had a great idea. Then you either outlined or sat down and wrote the first bit to see how it felt and now you're stuck. This is an important juncture in your book- you have to think about a few things now and ask yourself some pretty tough questions. Here are a few:

Why do I want to write a book? Could I obtain that want some other way?

What do I expect to gain from completing this book? Is that a reasonable expectation?

Am I willing to commit to finishing this particular book even when writing becomes more of a chore than a joy?

How seriously do I take this whole thing? 

 [It is a huge step to take- going from "I'm going to write a novel someday" to "I wrote a novel". The first is a statement of hope and the last is a statement that leads you to the possibility of public censure and failure. If you take a very long time to sell your book, or if people who read your book didn't like it, you are going to hear about it snidely all the time because if you were going to take the time to write a book you damned well better have written a great book. Look at the author of Twilight. Look at Harry Potter. Look at XXXXXXXX (there will always be some huge, mega-selling author with whom you will be compared). Believe it or not people are willing to admire that you may write a book someday but can be really jerky once you've written a book or two and haven't pulled in a million dollar book contract. Maybe it's just the people I know who are like this but I doubt it.]

Can I push my desire for perfection far enough out of the way to finish the book but not so far that I lose it all together (it comes in handy- to an extent- at editing time)? 

Do I have the right balance between confidence and humility to deal with feedback? How do I think I'll handle feedback that is hurtful (some people live to give mean feedback, some people just do it unintentionally, and some people aren't being mean at all; they're being honest. Sometimes receiving feedback is like being kicked in the teeth and having to judge the quality of the kicker's footwear.)

Am I willing to admit that I need to learn more about grammar than any adult should? To look at my work critically in order to improve? To learn how to edit effectively? To edit even when it means rewriting pretty much the whole book? To stop editing before I ruin the book? 

Can I be humble enough to learn but maintain enough self confidence to continue?

Do I have what it takes to deal with rejection and use the experience to become a better writer?


Sadly, many of these questions can't be answered honestly until you've actually started the process, but I think that they are important to consider. Everyone wants to write a book, almost everyone anyway, because we are a story driven animal (even cave people told stories). It's natural for us to want to write a book or a screenplay or something and it's the one dream that adults continue to hold on to when all the other dreams are revealed to be just that- dreams. I will never be president or a ninja or an astronaut but damn it I can write a book.

The problem with actually writing a book is that, chances are, you're going to find out that you can't be a writer either without a huge, no, giant investment of time, energy, and plain old work *and,* even if you do all of those things, you still may never sell a book. Bless indie publishing because it is a place where you can avoid ever having to improve, but think about what you're putting up there. Think hard. Do you really want your grandma or the mean girls from middle school, or your grandchildren to read that book? Can you handle negative feedback? Can you handle positive feedback without sounding like a total jerk?

Don't get me wrong- I want you to finish your book, but I don't want you to quit 20 pages in and give up a dream you've held your whole life. There is a value in dreaming about someday writing your novel that may be higher than the value in finishing the thing. But don't linger in the middle. It shouldn't take you more than a year or two to finish your first novel. Memoir, sure. Giant historical epic tale, okay. Mystery, sci-fi, romance, whatever novel? Nuhuh. Six months of picking at it a couple hundred words a day here and there should be enough- nine months on the outside.

Being a writer was never a dream for me (I have said this before) it was a career choice. A stupid career choice (well it feels like that right now) because if I had put this much time and effort into something easier I'd be well on my way to being a CEO by now but it's what I chose. And it has been a painful journey full of humbling experiences and very short on triumphs- so far. And I have never been happier. There is, clearly, something wrong with me. But I wouldn't wish this career on anybody.

Okay so you've decided to come to the dark side and continue writing your book even if you don't want to pursue writing as a career. Welcome to the cuckoo club! 

So how do you finish your book? 

One word at a time, my friend, one word at a time. 

Send me an email when it gets too crazy, I'll talk you down or up depending on where you are. We writers need to stick together because very few non writers want to deal with us when we get all writery and we need these people to do things like remind us to put on shoes when we leave the house and pay the electric bill.

Yours,
M.B.




Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Book Recommendations

For whatever reason my library has been either experiencing a run on good books or has over ordered rotten books and there were very few new books that were worth talking about. I hit the stacks and discovered a book I missed last year (it happens) by Rhys Bowen. 

Okay, this is an author who is not only prolific (she writes under many pen names) but tends to produce consistent, quality work. Molly Murphy is an Irish immigrant in early 20th century New York and, no surprise to anyone familiar with my reading preferences, a private detective. I am reading Bless The Bride which, I believe is book number ten in the series but I recommend the entire series and, really, anything else by Bowen (I am especially fond of the Evan Evans books). 

To learn more about Rhys Bowen, her series in general, and the Molly Murphy series in particular, check out her website here.

Also read:

Yeah I have nothing for also read this week. I haven't been reading much (because I have been working much) and don't want to just throw something up here. Although... If you have kids (or enjoy good  sci fi/ fantasy fiction) I highly recommend the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. We stopped shopping in the children's section a long time ago but we will head back there for the latest Artemis Fowl book. Check him out here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today: Tickling Tonsils With Toenails

Hey howdy blogopeople,

There are some days that just seem to get the better of me from the start.

This was one of those days.

But this blog isn't about my bad days, no, it's about the good ones- the days when writing is more than a goal or a job- the days when writing is something wonderful (or maybe not so wonderful) and I am able to share it with you. 

What else do I personally get out of this blog?

Not much. I get a lot of spam because my readership is low. Sometimes I help people which is nice. 

I catch a lot of flack from, for instance, family members who find my blog "boring" (but read it anyway). 

What don't I get?

I don't get money- any of it. I don't obtain anything material from this blog. Nor do I expect to.

I don't get a feeling of self satisfaction or superiority because I'm writing about writing (although I could use the ego boost damn it). I actually feel nervous about writing advice because I don't want to lead anyone in some weird direction or make him or her feel bad about his or her choices.

Why do I do this then? 

I was a wannabe writer for many more years than I was an actual "I wrote a viable book" writer and I know how easy it can be to be intimidated and feel completely alone in this crazy process. I also spent years and years learning how to be a good writer (and will spend many, many more becoming better) and know what kind of advice is helpful and what isn't. One thing that helped me learn, kept me from going completely around the bend, was reading blog content written by other writers who went through the process before me. Some of the lessons they learned the hard way gave me the opportunity to learn other lessons the hard way. Lessons I can then pass on to you. 

The main thing I get out of this blog is the hope that I will someday help another newbie writer to keep writing- or to finish that first book- not because I want more competition, I have enough of that already, thanks, but because it was an experience that truly changed my life and made it better- finally writing and *finishing* my first book. Reading writing advice from others helped me get there. I'm just paying it forward, yo.

Also I get to complain which is one of my favorite pastimes.

So there it is. Read the blog if you want, or don't read it, (many, many more people don't read it than do) I don't have a stake in it either way.

Until next week (or not as the case may be).

Yours truly,

M.B. 







Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Book Recommendations

Okay this week has been one full of meh books. I tried a few new authors and frankly couldn't make it past page three or so. I did finish one of the books just to see if it improved- it didn't- it was just awful but not awful enough to be interesting. To be fair, I'm deeply involved in editing and it makes reading other books difficult. Since I'm preparing to start a new round of rejections it kind of makes me feel sick to read crappy books; it feels like maybe there's a trick to the getting published thing that has nothing to do with skill or talent. [There are plenty of terrific new books out there but sometimes I pick a batch of losers as was the case this week]

But.

I do have a couple of favorite books that I have been rereading (great books give me hope plus, hello, they're great).

Agatha Christie. Anything by Dame Agatha is great. I'm reading Murder At Hazlemoor  and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd I have an upstairs book and a downstairs book. That's one of the terrific things about Christie- one can read two books at the same time and still find them enjoyable and keep the stories separate- probably because one has read them so many times before. 

And another favorite:

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is a beautiful book- well written, funny, thoughtful, and just truly great. Both of my children and I are reading this book at the same time and it works because this is a book that we've all read many times before. I can't recommend this book enough and have certainly recommended it often. Read it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday Book Recommendations (delayed due to holiday)

Due to the holiday weekend I have delayed this week's recommendations until today, and rather late in the day to boot. Even writers need days off.

This week's book was a request and is different from the usual mystery stuff (it's  science fiction with a strong history element).

I highly recommend Jack McDevitt's Time Travelers Never Die. I had a really hard time getting into the book because McDevitt's writing style is, frankly, off putting but once I was far enough into the book to become absorbed in the story I was hooked. This book has a fantastic premise that overcomes everything else. I'd advise the reader to just sit back and roll with the story because if one tries to make sense of it one will be too frustrated to make it far enough into the story to understand what's going on. I would also just skip the prologue and read it last and, really, you wouldn't miss much if you decided to skip it altogether. But read the book because it really is worth the trouble. Read more about the author here Jack McDevitt

Also read:

Carolyn Haines Bones Of A Feather. I like the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries. They're mysteries but there's so much more going on than the detective stuff that  a non-mystery reader would enjoy the books- especially if the non mystery reader enjoys reading about the south. Haines writes about the Mississippi delta and its culture and incorporates it so well in the books that it really feels like the reader is visiting the area with Sarah Booth and her friends. To learn more about the series, visit the author's website Carolyn Haines