Tag Archives: reading

Ach, the Liebster Award!

Clipart: Emily McRoberts from Clker.com

Thank you to Adam at Write Thoughts for nominating me for the Liebster Award!  It is like a blogging chain letter of sorts that asks of the recipient a bit more than the conventional chain letter. I’ve responded to a similar award back in 2015 that was set up a bit differently from this one. This will be the last time I participate in this sort of thing. If any of my readers receive such a nomination and think of me for their list of nominations, please just skip me! I would like to keep this blog focused on the Perceval novels, writing issues and interests, classical music, and the occasional book or movie review.

The Rules.

Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the Award.
Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)
Ask the people whom you have nominated 11 questions

Adam’s Questions for his nominees:

1. What is your favorite book, or if you prefer, your favorite author? I really don’t have one favorite book or author. There are certain authors whom I read faithfully because of the high quality of their prose, plotting, character development, story, and dialogue. Those writers are: P. D. James, John le Carre, Daniel Silva, Madison Smartt Bell, Virginia Woolf, Connie Willis. and Ursula Le Guin. I just added Connie Willis to this list, and if you were to ask me this question a week from now, the list might be a little different.
2. Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, if so where? England. I’ve been to the other countries on my list: Russia, Austria, Germany, New Zealand. I’ve been to Northern Ireland and traveled through London on my way to various places, but have not stayed to actually visit England. I’d also like to return to Finland.
3. What do you enjoy about blogging? When I began blogging, I was extremely nervous about putting myself out there on the internet.  Who would read my posts? Would they like my ideas? Would they read my Perceval novels?  The first few months were a bit nerve-wracking. It’s been nearly 10 years now, and I find that I enjoy getting the ideas for posts, thinking about, exploring and researching those ideas in order to write about them, and then seeing if anyone responds. I love hearing from people so it’s been especially fun when readers leave comments and a conversation has ensued.
4. What’s your preferred writing space? I write at my desk in my living room. The desk faces the wall between the kitchen and the hall that leads to the front door. Behind me is the living room and its windows. I see the windows reflected in the large picture that hangs over my desk.  At least as much as I can see between the multitude of colorful post-its that I’ve stuck to the picture with notes to myself.
5. How do you find inspiration? In life.  In people.
6. What do you like to do for fun when you need a break from writing? Since I’m writing all the time even when I’m not at my desk, it’s rare for me to completely separate myself from it. However, I love movies, theater, and classical music concerts, spending time with friends, and walking around the lake that’s a block from where I live.
7. What started you down the road of writing? I honestly do not remember if there was one spark that got me going. I read voraciously all through elementary school, and I wrote plays and short stories starting in sixth grade. I do remember that one story in particular started in my mind when I was doing my lunchtime stint as a safety patrol kid outdoors and noticed the grill on the storm drain that ran along the curb. I’ve written about that here.
8. What’s one story you keep recommending to others? I do not have one story or book that I recommend to others all the time. I usually recommend authors, or sometimes a book I’ve recently read that impressed me.
9. How do you keep yourself motivated? It can be especially tough when life keeps butting in! I think about the characters. They keep me motivated.
10. What superpower would you choose and why? So, is this a trick question? The geopolitical situation right now is in crazy flux. Russia continues to try to reassert itself as a superpower. China is rising into that status but isn’t quite there yet, especially when they have some interesting issues with other countries that don’t bode well for China to become a superpower.  The US is definitely enjoying a decline in influence in the world, especially after last year’s election. However, the US still has the economy, military and weaponry to remain a superpower. The other countries are in an increasingly stronger position to challenge that status. I live in the US, so I suppose I’d choose the US, but honestly, I’ve lived in Europe and almost prefer that way of life.
11. What four people would you invite to a dinner party; contemporary, historical, or fictional? Ludwig van Beethoven, J. S. Bach, John le Carre, and Queen Victoria.

My Nominations:
I hope you all will respond, but from my perspective, it’s not required at all!

My questions are the same as Adam asked me:

1. What is your favorite book, or if you prefer, your favorite author?
2. Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, if so where?
3. What do you enjoy about blogging?
4. What’s your preferred writing space?
5. How do you find inspiration?
6. What do you like to do for fun when you need a break from writing?
7. What started you down the road of writing?
8. What’s one story you keep recommending to others?
9. How do you keep yourself motivated?
10. What superpower would you choose and why?
11. What four people would you invite to a dinner party; contemporary, historical, or fictional?

 

 

How do you find your next read?

Books everywhereGood question. A co-worker saw me reading during my lunch break last week and asked what the book was. He was looking for something to read. Then I saw this Roz Morris post at Nail Your Novel, and I’m thinking this is something in the air this week.

Yes, book marketers want to know! Book authors want to know also! What catches your attention and interest? The cover? The author? How do you find interesting and fulfilling reads?

To be honest, I don’t think about searching out books as much as they pop into my life. I read a review in The New York Times or I find a book because I’ve read something about an author. I sometimes will print out the review (or cut it out of a magazine or newspaper) and put it on my to-do pile. Or I’ll immediately go to my library’s website and put the book on my to-read list. I haven’t been buying many books lately because I don’t have the money to spend, sadly. One of my favorite things is to peruse a real bookstore or add books to my wish list at Amazon. I can easily spend way too much money doing that.

A while ago, I signed up for BookBub and have been receiving the bargain e-mails from it. I don’t always look through the e-mails, but when I have, I’ve been surprised to find titles that look interesting to me. If they are free, I will go to Amazon or B&N and download a copy. If not, I’ll sometimes go to my library’s website and put the title on my to-read list.

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Meeting authors is another way I become aware of a title. I meet authors through my two blogs and through GoodReads. I’ve also been approached through LinkedIn which I found kind of amusing. But I’ve read books by people I’ve met in these ways. Sometimes the books are good, sometimes not. I had one bad experience with an author who had asked me to read and review his book. I agreed if he’d read and review mine. I fulfilled my side of the bargain. He never fulfilled his.  Now, I’m very wary of such requests.

I don’t read much nonfiction, but when I do, it’s usually about a subject that has grabbed me or a biography. I’ve also bought and read memoirs in order to get an idea of writing memoir. The last nonfiction book I read was about a film editor who’d edited a lot of films I’d seen written by a literary author whose books I’ve enjoyed quite a lot.

Friends often suggest titles or give me books to read. A friend sent me a novel several years ago that had been written by an author who’d grown up near where I grew up. After reading that book, I wanted to read all that author’s books. I’m a member of a science fiction group — we are passionate about science fiction of all kinds and regularly talk about books, films, TV shows, and exchange ideas about the different aspects of the genre. I get a LOT of book ideas from them.

My interests dictate what catches my eye. Recently, I’ve gotten interested in Gothic fiction, i.e. not Gothic horror but Gothic romantic suspense or Gothic romantic thriller. This interest developed as a result of reading an article in The Writer about transforming a screenplay into a novel. That article got me thinking about a screenplay I’d written about 10 years ago that I really like.  Then I re-read The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart, and suddenly it occurred to me that maybe the screenplay could be transformed into a Gothic thriller novel like Stewart’s novel.

So how do you find your next read? Check this out:

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

 

 

 

Living in a Narrative Culture

Some days are like slogging through a desert.

Some days are like slogging through a desert.

During this last week while I’ve juggling several different aspects of my life and making myself exhausted and frustrated, I’ve been pulled by memories every which way. The stories of my life. Moments of clarity, moments of pure joy like stomping hard in a rain puddle. Exchanging moments of personal history with co-workers. Knowing failure intimately. A realization emerged from all of this: I am not the only one drawn to stories during times of high stress.

The Writer November 2016

The Writer November 2016

I read on the city bus commute to and from work. This week I was reading the newest issues of The Atlantic Monthly and The Writer.  The November 2016 issue of the latter is chock full of interesting ideas and information, especially about computers and blogging. Megan Kaplon interviewed the food blogger Elissa Altman about her blog Poor Man’s Feast and her recent memoirs.  One of Altman’s comments stuck out for me. She was talking about how we live in a “narrative culture,”  programmed to expect that all the loose threads of a story will be tied into a neat bow at the end. She continues:

“…life is not really this way: we don’t all live happily ever after. That’s fantasy; that’s fairy tale. Reality is steeped in the unknown, the discomfiting, the ambiguous.”

This comment slapped me flat on my forehead. Duh! I’ve been consuming novels lately like a starving woman and now I know the reason for my urgent reading. I’ve been trying to keep reality at bay! Even in our nonfiction, we want there to be a “happy ending.” But are stories for escape or for learning? Or both? And as a writer, am I a teacher or an entertainer? Providing the reader/escapist’s drug of choice?

Our world right now threatens us. The media each day bombards us with stories of destruction, death, discrimination, injustice, pain, and fear. It doesn’t help that America has a candidate for president who fuels all the fear and paranoia. No one individual, however, has control over it all. I don’t. You don’t. That sense of powerlessness leaves us fearful as well. We don’t know when the terrorism will stop, if it will stop, if we will be a victim, if someone we love will be a victim, if the hatred will increase and spread to consume us. We want to be safe, secure, and happy, and to be successful. We want good things not bad. So why have we ended up with such a frightening place to live?

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

In stories, we read a beginning, a middle full of conflict, obstacles and suspense, and an ending, usually one in which the protagonist achieves his or her goal, although sometimes not.  When we read this structure in a story, it creates a sense of control over a narrative that we do not have in real life. So, I read mysteries and thrillers, and these stories feel familiar to my real life, so their endings (where the protagonist prevails as well as justice) give me a sense of control I don’t have in my life. I learned a long time ago that I have control only over my own thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Change can be difficult and requires openness to learning and ease of adaptation. Change is the only constant in the universe. We will have it in every day of our lives, both tiny and massive. Reading books can anchor us so we can tolerate and embrace change in our lives. We share our stories, too, with friends and family every time we tell them about our experiences. We live in a narrative culture.

I think the human need for story, for narrative, is a little bit of genius to enable our survival.

 

Learning and Growing as a Writer

Thanks to "No, I do NOT have too many books!" on Facebook for photo.

Thanks to “No, I do NOT have too many books!” on Facebook for photo.

“…you cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without (1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity, (2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and (3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery….”           — Father Richard Rohr

Allow and encounter mystery. Collaborating with my imagination means allowing and encountering mystery. I have no idea how it works, I just know it does and that’s enough for me. I tolerate not knowing, ambiguity, and anxiety in order to participate in this collaboration because I know it works, it’s fun, and it is deeply satisfying.

Above my desk is a post-it in light green and on it I’ve written “TRUST in the PROCESS.” Let go of control. Play. Trust my imagination. As I’ve been working on Perceval’s Shadow this past week, I’ve realized that my imagination demands that I tell Evan Quinn’s story even if it takes me five novels to do it and a totally unknown amount of time. That is certainty I’ve not felt before. It rides on a sense that even though I’ve been away from Evan and his story for a while, he has not gone anywhere, but has waited patiently for me to return. I find this both reassuring and spooky.

Shadow-People-460x287

Then today, as I was digging through my pile of notes for things to write at this blog, I found the quote above, and a list entitled “Lessons Learned from a Private Investigator” without attribution. I suspect I’d saved the latter because of the note about the website where the writer had found the list: Diligentiagroup.com.  This website is for a private investigation business in New York that also has a blog. The writer, a mystery writer, noted that he/she spent a lot of time researching websites, blogs, and books by police, agents and private investigators for her/his writing and had found this particular website’s blog. The list could be also titled “Lessons Learned from My Years as a Writer.” Here’s the list:

  1. Always be learning. Learn by doing and observing others.
  2. Know thyself. Know your strengths and where you need help, and don’t be shy about either.
  3. Differentiate yourself. Don’t be ordinary. Create a brand.
  4. Authenticity. Being genuine and authentic is very attractive these days when the world is wrought with fake and “Buy my book.”
  5. Stick to your principles. Be honest and straightforward. Protect your reputation.
  6. Be helpful. Good things happen when you lend a helping hand.
  7. Don’t be everything to everyone. Pick your genre, find your readership base, and avoid trying to write for every reader out there.
  8. Do work you are proud of. If you write slow, so be it. If you write Christian, erotica, YA, whatever the style, voice, genre, own it.
  9. You are never the smartest or dumbest person in the room. Ask questions. Learn more. Help others do the same.
  10. Don’t stop thinking of new ideas. You’re in a creative environment, and change is happening all around you. Be constantly seeking ways to be unique.
  11. Adapt. This industry changes fast. Roll with that change.
  12. Embrace technology. Yes, that means learning ways to publish, brand, and network, whether you like it or not.
  13. Follow the facts. Make decisions or form opinions based upon fact, not rumors, gossip, innuendos, or half-truths.
  14. Be inspired. Be aware of the world around you.
  15. Do great work. Don’t shortchange the quality of your writing.
  16. Be skeptical. Operate with a critical eye. Don’t fall for the latest class, how-to, software, or book that claims to teach you the perfect way to (fill in the blank).
  17. Persistence. Probably the most important of the list, persistence carries you through those times when you think you should not be writing.

And then I would add two more, two very specific things:

  • Read everything but especially read what you love because that is what you will write. I learn something from every novel, essay, poem, short story, or nonfiction book I read.
  • Write something everyday. Even if it’s only a paragraph in your journal or a letter to a friend, write, write, write.

If you haven’t already found it, here’s my job description for a creative writer.

Keep writing, learning, and growing!

Credit: Walt Disney

Credit: Walt Disney

That Time Again: Writing Update for June 2016

Summer has arrived with a vengeance this week!  Yesterday was 91 degrees here with dewpoints in the 60’s and intensely oppressive.  But I love the longer days of light and feel more energized to write during the summer.  I promised myself last December that I’d do a better job of posting updates about every six months or so, whether or not anything had changed. While nothing extraordinary has happened since last December, nothing terrible has occurred either.  Not that I lead a boring life, or maybe I do….

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107

Perceval Novels:
More reviews at Amazon for Perceval’s Secret and I’ve asked several other book reviewers to review it for me. Charles Ray gave it a nice review here. Sales continue to be slow at Amazon, and none at Barnes & Noble or Kobo.  I found the novel on sale at an online store that I had not asked to sell it, but learned after contacting them that they have a selling agreement with Kobo.  If you have not yet bought your copy (only $2.99!), please do, and give it a read.  The reviews continue to be good to excellent!  I’d love to hear from readers through reviews at Amazon and B&N, or at Goodreads.

As for the other novels in the series, I’ve pulled out all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series. My plan is to revise it this summer, then move on to finish the first draft of Perceval in Love, the third book (I have half the first draft done already).  I continue to write notes as I’ve gotten ideas about the other novels.  I’ve decided to definitely set Novel 4 in America as a contrast to Evan’s life in Austria.

Marketing:
Working as hard as time allows on marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret this year.  Doing a lot of research into free marketing and promo, especially online.  I need to talk more about the novel and hand out the postcards for it far more than I do.  Still need to utilize the marketing/advertising tools at GoodReads, LinkedIn and Publishers Marketplace.  Time has not been kind to me.  I continue to promote the novel on Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve been writing more posts at the Perceval Novels Facebook page, too.  Please go and like it, and visit often for updates on the novels.

Indiegogo Project:
The credit card debt I’d been carrying from production, publication, and marketing expenses that I incurred to publish Perceval’s Secret as an e-book has been transferred to a different credit card to take advantage of 0% interest for 15 months.  I’m now paying off the principal rather than having the interest eat into my payments, and I continue to pay more than the minimum each month.  This has been a huge step in the right direction.  I’ve also been revising my Indiegogo project — the website has changed the format for their project pages. I have it about half ready to launch now, and need to record videos for it.  I hate asking for financial help through crowdsource funding, but I don’t have the resources to deal with this all by myself.

Short Stories:
I continue work on the science fiction short story, Light the Way.  I’ve taken down the two stories that were on Wattpad, The Negligee and The Light Chamber, and will be revising The Negligee. I had one of those “lightning strikes” of an idea for that story, and I’m eager to work on it.

Essays:
At the end of last year, I decided to stop writing “Word Power” essays monthly for Mensagenda. It was a volunteer gig, and I really need to bring in more money with my writing. I continue to write posts at the Eyes on Life blog (as Gina Hunter) and here at Anatomy of Perceval.  My focus at the Gina Hunter blog has become a bit fluid: I continue to write “The Successful Patient” posts, but in addition I want to focus more on the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I think.  Life as one of the 98%. This is still in development.

Paid Gigs:
I’ve written two essays about my personal experiences with classical music for ClassicalMPR.org so far this year.  I will continue to pitch ideas to them.  In addition, I continue to search for other places that will pay me to write about subjects that interest me (or that will pay for fiction).

Yager Editing Services:
I finally launched the website for this small business at the end of March.  Not long after, I received what I thought was my first project proposal for proofreading, but it turned out to be a guy trying to scam me out of about $3000.  Fortunately, I figured out the scam so I didn’t lose any money, but it was a very depressing and discouraging experience.  These scammers believe they don’t hurt anyone because they’re actually stealing from big banks, but that’s not true at all.  I was excited to have work for this business that would bring in good money that I really needed.  This scam hurt me a lot.  I’m not giving up, however.  I just stopped marketing and promoting the business. I know that I”ll need to ratchet that promo up again, probably at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The Successful Patient:
I’ve been thinking about this memoir project a lot, even though it’s on a back burner this year.  I continue to be amazed by how my mind works.  I’d like to get something down on paper this year, to get it started.  I think it’d be an excellent book to have out there and would sell well. Its structure still bugs me.

Part-time Job:
I continue to work part-time at the customer service job this year. I’ve expanded that position into receptionist work at the same employer and am looking forward to a raise in July. I really enjoy the receptionist work, and I’ve been thinking that if I need to find a fulltime position, I’d look for a receptionist position (or maybe an editorial assistant).

Reading:
For 2016, I signed up at GoodReads for another Reading Challenge and chose 36 books to read over the year.  There’s a mix of books on the list of fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, and literary, books in my personal library, at the city library and on my computer.  A friend gave me an e-reader last December that I’ve loaded with ePub books.  It doesn’t accept Kindle books.  I find that I still prefer to read printed hard copy books, and I especially like to read on my work commutes.  How I’d love being paid to read!

Health Update:
I had several sick days in April with lung and GI issues that was apparently an allergic response to something in my living environment.  I’ve since begun a deep and thorough cleaning of my apartment, and my health has improved.  Otherwise, with autoimmune diseases, the most frustrating symptom is fatigue, and that’s been especially intense this year. Fatigue challenges my schedule every day.  I’m doing a very slow taper off prednisone to insure that I won’t have any disease flares, but I’m still experiencing muscle pain and joint pain that responds to heat nicely.  I’ve gotten out my yoga DVD, I’m walking a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and I’m figuring out where in my schedule to put the yoga and my Falun gong practice.