What are your reading habits?

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

This morning, I found this blog post, “Dirty Little Reading Habits,” at the Findingtimetowrite blog and decided to take the quiz here for myself.  What are your reading habits?

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

There are two places.  First is my sofa in my living room.  This location is where I usually read, especially during the day, and usually I begin sitting and end up sprawled across the cushions.  Second is my bed in my bedroom.  I read there before sleep and when I’m ill.  When I’m not at home, I read standing at the bus stop, on the bus commute to work, at work during breaks, and I’ve been known to take my book into the rest room at work.  I love reading on the bus.  In college, when I was studying in Europe, I really loved reading on trains when I was traveling.

Bookmark or a random piece of paper?

Definitely bookmark.  I collect them.  I especially love the bookmarks I pick up at book signings and in coffee shops.  But they cannot be fancy-schmancy at all — no fringe, ribbons, buttons or anything like that.  A well-meaning friend once gave me a bookmark made of wood — looks like oak – with purple ribbons with beads tied to one end.  It has written characters on it that I think are Chinese, and a quote from Gandhi: “Faith is not something to grasp.  It is a state to grow into.” I never use it as a bookmark.

Can you stop reading any time, or do you have to stop in a certain place?

I prefer to stop at the end of a chapter so I’m starting a new chapter when I pick up the book again.  However, this is not always possible, especially on the bus commute.  I bookmark the place, but usually cannot remember where on which page I stopped reading, so I re-read a lot.  But that’s OK.

Photo: panerabread.com

Photo: panerabread.com

 Do you eat or drink while reading?

Of course.  I drink tea or just plain chilled water while I read, and often I’ll eat a meal or a snack.  I am trying to get away from eating while reading, though, in order to focus specifically on each activity while I’m doing them.  I’m also trying to take breaks, stretch my legs, give my eyes a rest when I’ve been reading for a long time.

Can you read while listening to music/watching TV?

I can read while listening to classical music, especially magazines, although I’ve been trying to move away from this habit lately.  I cannot read and watch TV at the same time.  It is an insult to whatever I’m reading.

One book at a time or several at once?

I prefer to read one book at a time, but I usually am also reading several different magazines like The Atlantic, Time, or Fantasy and Science Fiction at the same time as a book.  This past summer, I spent a couple months juggling 2-3 books at a time and didn’t really enjoy it very much.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently.  Especially on the bus commute to work.  I read poetry out loud occasionally, and I also read my own writing out loud during the revision process.  But when I’m reading someone else’s book — fiction or nonfiction — I read silently.

Do you read ahead and skip pages?

I never skip pages!  However, I have been known to sneak a peek to the end, especially while reading a mystery novel and I think I’ve figured out who the murderer is.  I can’t wait until the end to find out if I’m right.  But even if I peek at the end, I still finish reading the whole book because it’s always interesting to see how a novelist sets up the ending.

Break the spine or keep it new?

Never thought about this before.  I guess I usually break the spine because I like to be able to have the book lay open and flat on a table, and sometimes it’s hard to read where the pages meet in the middle.  But this isn’t the case for all the books I’ve read.  So, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

Part of my library in my living room

Do you write in books?

I used to, especially nonfiction books on subjects that related to my life experience in some way.  I don’t recall writing in novels since I left school.  I must admit that I love finding notes in the used books I buy.  It’s fun to see what other readers were thinking as they read.  Right now, I rarely if ever write in any of the books I read because so many of them I borrow from the library or want to re-sell eventually.

Electronic or print format?

I prefer the print format, but I have been gradually reading more books in the electronic form on my computer.  I’ve been amazed by how many books are available online for free that are e-books.  I don’t own an e-reader of any kind, and I tend to find it inconvenient to read on my computer.  It’s just so much easier to read print books! (Of course, the irony: Perceval’s Secret is an e-book that I had to proof on my computer!)

Books everywhere

I’d love to hear all about your own reading habits, if you want to let me know in the comments below. Or, who knows, maybe even join in the discussion on your own blog?

The Average Earnings of Authors


For all my readers interested in the reality of the writer’s life, I recommend this blog post about monetary earnings……

Originally posted on A Writer's Path:


It is a frequent occurrence in the news to hear about authors cutting multi-million (or even billion) dollar book or movie deals. Famous examples of ridiculously successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, E. L. James, and Stephen King, often lead people to think that becoming an author will undoubtedly lead to an equally as lucrative outcome. However, it turns out that the average author makes much, much less.

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Why Does Music Give us the Chills?

Minnesota Orchestra (Photo courtesy The Minnesota Orchestra/Greg Helgeson)

In live symphony orchestra concerts, I have experienced tsunamis of emotion engulfing me as I’ve listened to the music, moved to cry or to laugh, and physically to shiver in pleasure or fear. Music has raised goosebumps on my arms, and sent chills down my spine.  How can music have such a physical and emotional effect on a human being?  It’s just music, after all.  Right?

The Guardian posted an article on its website on 9/2/15 entitled “Why does music give us chills?”  It should come as no surprise that one piece of music can reduce one person to tears and have little effect on another.  We each experience music in a highly personal way based on our life experiences and our state of mind at the time we hear it.  This also supports the therapeutic effects music can have on an individual both physically and emotionally. I’ve experienced those beneficial effects first hand.

Turn on your radio, iPod, CD player or whatever you use to listen to music, or go to a live concert, sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy!

Why I Read Genre Fiction

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

My appetite for reading can best be described as voracious. I love to read, and I read eclectically. For example, I recently finished reading the following: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the May/June 2015 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Doctor Dead: A Percy & Quincey Adventure by Tyler Tork, Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, and The Bat by Jo Nesbo. I prefer to read print books, but I’ve begun also reading digital books on my computer.

My two favorite genres in fiction are science fiction and mystery.  I’ve read both since I began reading on my own in elementary school.  Sometimes programs I see on TV will steer me toward a specific author or book, or a movie may do the same thing. I love reading these two genres because I know that I’ll get a good story and a plot.  That’s not always the case with literary fiction.  I tend to read literary fiction for character exploration and use of language.  For example, Mrs. Dalloway riveted me because of Woolf’s use of language and her amazingly fluid points of view throughout.  The reader learns about the characters not only from what each character thinks about a situation (from that character’s point of view) but also from how other characters think and respond to that character (from other characters’ points of view).

If I want intelligent stories that address human problems and challenges, I read science fiction.  Like Gene Roddenberry demonstrated in his Star Trek TV shows, writers of science fiction often address controversial issues in their stories that they couldn’t address directly in general or literary fiction.  By setting the story on another planet or in another time, these writers make the issues more palatable to read and think about, and they can suggest solutions or not.  Science fiction explores the future, also, or the past with alternative history.  How do these writers imagine the human future to be?  How do they imagine other sentient beings to be?  How do they reflect humanity’s insecurities and strengths?  At the moment, I have no “favorite” science fiction writers.  I’ve been reading a lot of classic science fiction as well as contemporary.  I especially love it when a sci fi writer’s work is also literary, giving me double the pleasure in reading it.

book cover speaker_for_dead

Some sci fi novels I won’t soon forget: Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks, Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement, and Grass by Sheri S. Tepper.

An important aspect of my personality focuses on solving mysteries or problems.  I love a good, complicated puzzle.  A mystery is a puzzle to solve.  Writers of mysteries explore the human condition and behavior focused on motivations and psychology.  I love that.  Why do people behave the way they do? One of my favorite mystery authors, P. D. James, also writes literary mysteries that deeply explore character.  Her use of language continues to astonish me, too.  I’ve really enjoyed Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels also, imagining my grandmother living on the Navajo reservation which she did as a young teacher before marriage while I read them.  Otherwise, I read whatever mystery novels I can, especially those recommended to me by other writers and/or friends.  It’s especially fun to find mysteries embedded in novels of other genres.

P. D. James

P. D. James

Another genre I’ve developed a special love for in the last few years is the espionage thriller.  I love spy novels, and especially those of John le Carre, Daniel Silva, and Alan Furst. Each of these writers approaches the genre in a different way, and I’ve found their writing to be completely engrossing and satisfying.  Le Carre especially peels the layers of the human psyche back to reveal the psychology of deception and the moral ambiguities that can lead to moral and psychological breakdown.  Oddly, though, my favorite Le Carre novel isn’t about spies directly — The Constant Gardener.  ConstantGardenerbookcover

Genres that hold little appeal for me include horror, westerns, and romance. I’ve read some novels and short stories in these genres at times, but haven’t been compelled to read more.

Reading is an important job duty for a writer.  It’s important not only to stay current on contemporary trends but to see how other writers are writing, how the language evolves, and to have fun.  I find myself noticing things as I read now that I didn’t notice years ago before I began writing seriously.  I love reading a novel and seeing a writer masterfully demonstrating his or her craft.  There’s something there to celebrate and admire, as well as to enjoy.


Time Suckers

FB-f-Logo__blue_512This morning I stumbled onto a blog post at Online Writing Simplified about Facebook and how it could be killing your writing career. Jaipi Sixbear did mention that Facebook can be a good place to promote your writing, but her post focused mostly on how Facebook can distract you from actually writing. I agree that Facebook can be a huge time suck, and I’ve fallen victim to it more times than I want to admit. But it’s not the only way to procrastinate, as most writers know.

It’s hard work to write. Most people, especially those who’ve never tried to write a book well, don’t realize just what hard work it is. While it’s important to get the butt in the chair and do the work, we writers, much like cats, like to take a circuitous route to that chair….

My Time Suckers (in addition to Facebook)

  • E-mail: second only to Facebook in time spent on it. I have business e-mail accounts as well as personal, and I’ve learned that if I don’t want to make myself crazy, I need to keep up with my e-mail on a daily basis as much as possible.  If I do, the time spent on it decreases.
  • Reading blogs: As I’m cleaning out e-mail, I’ve received e-mails of blog posts. They beckon me with their interesting topics.  I often read them, comment on them, and return to cleaning out e-mail. This activity takes time, true, but it also builds relationships across the internet.  Sometimes I even find ideas for my own blogs.
  • Research: I think I finish the necessary research for a piece in the first third of the time I work on it.  The rest of the research is purely me satisfying my curiosity and having fun.  But it can be a major time suck if I’m supposed to be writing.
  • Computer issues: I recently spent a week cleaning my hard drive, updating drivers, and giving my computer a tune-up.  I hadn’t done all that since I’d bought it two years ago and it truly needed the attention.  But it was time-consuming and often left me in a bad mood, certainly not a place for writing.  Computer issues can really suck the time and life out of a day, though.
  • Home projects: I work at home (as well as part-time in an office) and I have projects all around me that scream for my time: filing, possessions sale project (photography, documentation, advertising on the internet, contacting experts for appraisals, etc.), filing, and of course, cleaning, which is never done. At the moment, I’m up to my ears in home projects because I haven’t had the time (or energy because of my health) to work on them with the part-time job demanding my time, too.

I remember a time (she noted wistfully) before personal computers when I seemed to have unlimited time for everything in my life, even socializing with friends.  Electronics have not necessarily freed up time for other things in our lives.  They certainly haven’t freed up time for my writing!

What are your time suckers?

My "Office"

My “Office”