Friday, February 28, 2014

Your BEST Book Recommendations?

I've been organizing my bookshelves, as I said every writer should, in my last post. It's been a somewhat exhaustive and eye-opening experience. I am so utterly disappointed at my selection. So, I've decided I need to swell my collection. I want, nay I NEED, suggestions on what should absolutely be on my shelf. I am accepting every genre, with the exception of horror. Sorry, folks, I've still not quite fallen for that one just yet. Maybe, in another 10 years or so my PTSD won't be a factor in which books I choose to read. Okay, so maybe some horror, just no human torture horror. I can do zombies and ghosts and that kind of horror, but nothing that involves torture. For example, I read Charlie Higson's The Enemy, and I did just fine. I started Stephen King's It and had nightmares for weeks. Hope that helps, and for those of you that read horror, I'm thinking it will.

Much love, and comment away! Please, also tell me what genre the book falls into, that way I know where to look in my local and used book stores! And how about we splash the pot a bit, if I get 20 different people to comment (yes, I need that many book recommendations), I'll do a raffle for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. (To which, you will have 3 days to give me your info so I can get your gift card to you! If not, I'll redraw...)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writer Spring Cleaning List

Okay, come on, we all know most of us put it off. I have only heard of people who actually rotate winter clothes for summer clothes. The closest relation I have to one of those people is my husband's aunt who I've never met. But, as a writer, we all NEED to do this.

We are, in general, a pretty messy group. We have any combination of soda cans, coffee mugs, Starbucks cups, tea cups, and/or glasses with remnants of who-knows-what surrounding our writing desks. Writing desks themselves, I've come to realize are mythical things. I go through periods where mine doesn't exist. There's a myriad of printed out rough drafts, pictures of who we think our MC's resemble, queries, and doodles that are a direct result of writers block. Don't even get me started on the post-it notes.

Don't try to tell me that your mess makes sense to you. Chances are it's just a way to make you think you've been productive. Or in some cases, to mark your territory, "I am a WRITER. This is my DESK. This where I create mind-blowing awesomeness and simultaneously wallow in self pity! Behold it's greatness!"

No, no.

So let's get started.

  1. Clean that bookshelf off. Yup, do it. It's not just cluttered with books anymore. Put everything else away so that you can get to that book on writing that's going to help you make your prose shine. Doesn't do any good if you don't use it. 
  2. Also, organize your books! You've bought more books than you've gotten around to reading, and now when you go to look at your shelves for that friend that wants a book recommendation in a certain genre, you're at a loss (What was that book again?). No need to alphabetize if you don't want to, grouping them by genre should be more than enough. 
  3. Put all the books you haven't read on one shelf so that you know what you need to work through. It gives a visual to that reading list. Bonus: take a look at your "unread" shelf before you go to the bookstore, it may stave off your need to buy 20 new books. 
  4. Throw away old rough drafts. Yes, I said it. These take up A LOT of room. It's great to be able to look back on your old work to see how you've progressed, but I've never met a writer who has come across an old MS and didn't sit there for a while reading over it. This is time wasted, folks. Besides, sometimes it can be depressing: "Wow, I used to think this was awesome! This is such crap! Maybe the stuff I think is gold now is really crap and I just don't realize it." Boo. No need to put that kind of black cloud over your head. 
  5. Buy a cork board. If you have one, take everything off and rehang it in a manner that makes sense. We all know you've added stuff through the year as a quick place to hang onto something we don't want to get lost. Take stuff from your desk that you "use for inspiration" and hang it up. I can personally attest to Command Hooks. Those things are great for organizing EVERYTHING. Probably my favorite thing about them is that I can remove them, use a new adhesive strip, and move it whenever I want. (Please note, I am not endorsed by their company.)
  6. Make your snack(s) easily accessible. I have a college mini fridge in my office that I got from someone who wasn't using it (my brother). Because, let's be honest, how many times have you gotten up to get a drink and gotten distracted? This is especially true for those who also take care of the house. Don't leave your office if you don't have to. 
This is my list. I would LOVE to hear more ideas and suggestions! Just leave the suggestion in the comments. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Accepting You Can Belong In Two Camps - A Writer's Article

"I've been suspended in a pool, adrift between two islands. To the east is indecision and derision. To the west is where the sun sets and where its rays set fire to my success." 

As a blogger, a woman, a mother, a survivor, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and writer, I see things from many different angles. Over the last few days, I've been reading my old blog entries, and I can't help but wonder, "who is this?" There's been entries written from either "island," either praising hopefulness or exposing defeat. I contemplated where my place was as a writer. How could I possibly be both hopeful and defeated at the same time? That's just not possible. No one is like that... .

I am wrong... er... was wrong.

I was wrong because there is someone who both miraculously believes in their own work while living in a realist's reality. This person is me. You could call me a pragmatic idealist.

This realization hit me about an hour ago while I was simultaneously wondering why I bother staying up so late to read books on improving my craft while knowing I was doing it to build my craft. It's like asking someone why they would look for a needle in a haystack. To one person, the person observing, they'd think the person searching was crazy. To the person searching, it seems quite obvious... they need a needle.

So, no more battling the two sides. No more picking who is right, no more figuring out who wins. I used to think that I had to either believe in myself or not. That there was only one right. I think it may be the Christian upbringing in me telling me (more like shouting, as my upbringing usually does) there is no grey, no in-between. Which, as a grown adult, I know not to be true. There's tons of gray. Whole countries are built on in-betweens, and in-between is how we managed to survive through childhood to adulthood. All these in-betweens are as awkward as they are real. Which means that there is no reason for me to think that the place in between the raging fire of success and my own doubts of publication is going to be any less awkward. But, I think if I can learn to deal with this in-between as I have all the others, which is with unequivocal acceptance, I can finally move forward.

Anyone else in between two camps? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Literary vs. Escapist

I have this deep resounding fear that I'm writing the wrong thing. I sit down to write, and sometimes it's eloquent, gut wrenching truth. It's only three lines, and as I read over it I feel like I'm betraying everyone I've ever known. I slam shut the laptop, and remind myself that this is why I write escapist fiction.

Sometimes I sit down to write, and the words come crashing to the page in an all too familiar way that makes my past too much of a reality, too heartbreaking for me to accept, and too many shadows are cast on people who are now very different than how they turned up on my page. This time, I click the "x" and just close the document. "Do you want to save?" No, why would I ever want to save something like that?

Then, I'm running, running to the bookstore to pick up something that will take me away from the Pandora's Box I've just unleashed on myself. I look at covers, and I imagine my own sitting there on the shelf beside all the others. I find one I want, but hesitantly put in back on the shelf, reminding myself that it's too hard to hold a hardback book and feed my child at the same time. I'll just download it later...

The later never comes, and instead I find myself reading literary magazines and journals, all of which are hell bent on exalting the writer who dug within themselves to expose some nasty truth about humanity. I hear a whisper, you have stories like those. Those are your best stories. 

So I sit.
I open a document.
I punch out the condescending drivel and absolute truths that have come from years of living my life. Then...

I hear my child doing that fussy cry when he wakes up that will surely be followed by hysterics if I don't go collect him. But, by now, I'm so deep in my reverie of lost dreams and corruption that I have to pull myself back to here, to the now. I have to try not to resent my husband as he attempts to harness a few hours of sleep before he goes back into work third shift.

This is why I write escapist fiction, I remind myself. It's fun. And I mean it.


I have been wanting to write a few articles on escapist fiction, and I intend to do so. But, I wanted to start with my reason why. Thanks for reading.