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Pet Peeves of an Avid Reader

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Before I took classes, online webinars, writing conferences and other educational pursuits to become an author, I was and still remain an avid reader. The world of Indie writers has been a delightful journey of new and interesting material and with the ability to speed read; I devour daily the written word.

Of course, I would like to selfishly believe this makes me a connoisseur of fine writing. In reality, I’m just an average person who has a few pet peeves about how stories are written.

For instance, never name your primary characters with similar names, like Jack and Jace, or Miranda and Miriam, or Jonathan and John.  It is bad enough if two characters have names that start with the same letter, but when the second letter or the first three are similar, even a slow reader is going to get confused. It interrupts the flow of reading. I have to go back to figure out who is speaking or interacting in the scene, especially if both characters are in the scene together.

For example:

*** “We need to be at the pick-up point by nine,” Jace said.

Jack’s tawny hair swayed as he whipped around to face Jace. “Why did we move up the time?”

Jace shrugged his shoulder. “I don’t know.” Jack’s eyes narrowed, suspicion lurking in the blue depths.***

Confused? Try a whole chapter like that! Another pet peeve is when an author inserts a seemingly innocuous moment or item. As a mystery reader, I’ve learned to look for clues as to what will be important later on in the story. The following is an example of that.

***** Her hands shook as she continued to dig through the moldy cloth. Her fingers hit something cold, small and square. As she pulled it out the burnished gleam of gold caught her eye. The little box was plain, no ornaments or carvings to mar its smooth surface.  Her finger traced over the tiny lock keeping its secrets secure.  Impatient to find the key, she turned back to the ancient cloth covering the contents of the old wood chest. Clawing at it she discovered gold coins, a golden goblet and a few twinkling gems.******

So is it just me or would you go crazy wondering what was in the box? If this was at the very beginning of the story and yet, we never hear about that gold box again, wouldn’t you continue to wonder why it was mentioned? I would keep waiting for it to reappear and make some sense as to why it was even in the story.

It’s like settling down for a long movie. You have wrapped yourself in your favorite blanket with popcorn and soda pop  within reach. You are deeply involved in the story unfolding before you and then you have to go to the bathroom.  Do you put the movie on pause now, or wait until the intense scene is over while your bladder pleads for mercy? It interrupts your enjoyment, your interest and the storyline as you dash for the bathroom. For a second you have to come back to the real world.

It is irritating to be reading a scene you are so engrossed in, only to be jarred into the present by bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, dialogue that is off, a scene that ends too abruptly, or my most unfavorite, a cliff hanger ending with no resolution.  As if the author tired of writing and decided to let you decide how it would end.  Or how about an ending where suddenly you are in the height of action and it ends, leaving a myriad of loose ends begging to be explained or resolved.

I love stories that are like a fine dessert. Where the ingredients are blended so well together it is like heaven on my palate. This makes me eager to order that dessert again and again. Like waiting for a favorite author’s work to be released so I can enjoy another great story.. It is artwork at its best when it all comes together and I can leave this earthly plane for a while to exist in another world.

So when you dezign your word desert please think of you’re rea;ders. It well help you in your search for that aphid reeder.

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The Real Writer’s Block

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Staring out the window, you contemplate your next scene and come up blank. Frustrated, you are stumped at what comes next. . A moment lost as the story line goes cold can put a writer into panic. This is called a ‘writer’s block’. 

There are many fixes like taking a walk, a hot shower, listening to your favorite music or just taking a break for a few days. The list of cures is endless.  But the most insidious writer’s block is sometimes not even recognized by a writer.  

Recently someone asked me to read their work.  They were concerned about their grammar. I found the story to be quite different as it was written laced with prose. Unfortunately some of the words used were not in proper context. After some quick emails back and forth, it finally boiled down to the author still only being concerned with grammar. They thought their ‘prose’ style was unique and the reader would figure out what they meant by using words out of context.

I understand. I do. It takes a lot of work to create art. We are proud of our creations, but the worse block is not being able to see where the weaknesses are, even when pointed out to us. The refusal to edit is a death knell for our work.

Read any author’s autobiography and you will find again and again the editing process was the hardest part, but necessary for all writers. We are blind when it comes to our own work. The block we put up, using the excuse it is ‘our art’ and should not be changed, puts us in the dark. Readers are educated. Usually they have read oceans of words and demand a smooth flow, proper usage of the English language, a developed story plot, and understandable dialogue.

I’m not saying that you cannot be artistic, but be realistic. If you are just starting out and haven’t developed your ‘brand’ yet, it is better to be safe. Every established author will tell you that their first work is not as polished as what follows.

Listen to your friends, family and readers. If you are not selling, if more than one person has told you something needs to be changed, consider it. Get an editor. I can’t say this enough. Get an editor!

Don’t be blinded by the worst ‘writer’s block’ of all. An over-inflated sense of how great your writing is.

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Trolling Away

Every now and then I find an article that just says it all for me. As if the writer just knew so much better how to word something.  The following is written by Nick Thompson of CNN.  Below is the link to his awesome article on Internet Trolls.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/11/world/internet-trolling

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How to Attract Trolls

377989_602137889807226_78032928_nI had a business associate in the author world who wrote some pieces that were controversial. Thain itself was not a problem since I didn’t share his views, and in our business dealings he always treated me well. I knew nothing of him really. He complained one day he was being attacked with one star reviews on Amazon and one attacker even admitted publicly that he had not read the book. Well, I didn’t think that was fair so I made some cutesy, sarcastic remarks and suggested he do the same in return. Idiot move on my part, I suggest you don’t do this, unless you want to attract trolls.

I was then given an education on the world of cyber trolls. I wasn’t the only ‘friend’ of his they attacked. I knew where I had screwed up, but was surprised when they also went after several women he knew who wrote kid’s books for charities. That didn’t seem fair, so I strode into a forum in my shabby battle armor to demand why it was ‘fair’ to pick on people who had nothing to do with it. Five hours later, tattered and bloody, I waved the white flag and retreated.

In all fairness, Badly Behaving Authors was a group created when several authors couldn’t let one star reviews pass and they went after the customers who made them. This was troll-ish behavior on the author’s part. Of course, as authors, we all know this is uncouth. Really, it is just someone’s opinion. So BBA became the self-appointed sheriffs to root out and expose these authors. Like any group, it had an altruistic beginning, then by the pure nature of the human being, it became rigid and judgmental, and the battle of the Hatfields and McCoys began.

I found the BBA group left me alone and waited to see if I meant what I said about not wanting to be part of it. On Goodreads it was another story. I saw my books, as well as those of my friends, start being shelved under hideously named shelves and one star reviews start popping up.

Now I’m all for freedom of speech, and as an author I know I have a target on my back for the possible harsh review. Not everyone is going to like my book. Simple. A real critique is also a gift. I want to improve as a writer and though it stings at first, I know to mine it so I can better improve my writing. In all fairness, again, the first one star review I received at Goodreads was just that, a real critique. But I had seen to many other petty reviews that were just snarky and had nothing to do with the book, but simply trolls battering what to them was a badly behaving author.

I retreated again. Quit blogging. Shut down my account at Goodreads. Oh, and by the way, know too that if you put a book up at Goodreads, even though you close your account, your book is forever linked there. According to Goodreads they cannot sever that link.

Knowing how far this could go, I decided to do more damage control. I removed any links to Goodreads from my blogs or anywhere else I had linked in. I watched my Amazon account and found I was pursued no further. I watched what I said in my remarks and comments, and in essence tried to create a cloak of invisibility. If I had an opinion to share, I did it privately.

It is easy to slip and make a comment here or there, but remember, as an author, we are in the public eye. It doesn’t matter your opinion, you have an image to uphold. Trust me, there are not enough words in the English language, or any other language for that matter, to ever win the word battle with trolls. Your best defense is to not engage, under any circumstance.  If you believe their comments, then you have no self-confidence. Get out of the world of writing. Otherwise, understand, it is their perception only. We are all entitled to our opinions, but it doesn’t make them right.

I have since decided that anonymity on the web is not a good thing. It allows people to put on Halloween masks and become monsters and scamper about the internet and create terror. It would be nice to see more ‘delete, block, ignore, and report’ buttons. Sites like Goodreads should tighten their controls, moderate more. As a business owner I always was responsible for my patron’s safety. What makes these websites any less of a business model?

It is one thing to share an opinion, another to trample over another person in doing it. My mother used to say, when there was conflict, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. In other words, both sides are at fault. It is easy to develop a ‘victim’ mindset. To holler, “Mom, they aren’t being fair.” Your best bet is to just not put a target on your back to begin with, unless you are having a bad day and need to spar to get it out of your system, or feel the need to sharpen your wits in a word battle. If so, you now know how to go about it.

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A Frustrated Reader

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It’s nice to be wanted. I know every Indie writer searches for an avid reader like me.  I speed read and can easily devour up to 80,000 words a day.  I’m always hungry for a good story. I will overlook a lot for that elusive plot that will submerse me in another time and place, leaving behind the troubles of this world.

I’m willing to take on any genre, although I’m not fond of horror. Even then it depends on the voice of the writer and the plot line.  It should be a dance between me and the author. I want to be treated with respect and given their finest product.

Yet, I’m finding more often in the Indie world it’s about the writer’s ego and less about my enjoyment. I’m left to fend for myself.  I flounder in poor grammar, sentences that make no sense, wandering plots and in some cases, no plot at all.

It’s like dancing with a partner who is clumsy, steps on your toes and is just plain bored with you. This is how I feel  when I run across a poorly written story. It is frustrating to see a gorgeous book cover, an enticing synopsis, and then to put down my money, only to eagerly open the first page and begin wading through a poorly written quagmire drenched in disappointment.

I try, I really do. I tell myself that there is a kernel of story in there somewhere. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the “diamonds in the rough” I’ve discovered. Other times I speed through, picking up the gist of the plot, but not slowing to become engaged. It feels like a school assignment. Find the most important parts so I can maybe get something out of it.

Why do I do this? Because I’m not only a treasure hunting reader, I’m also an author.  I know the work that goes into writing. I want to reward the poor soul who spent all that time hammering out the story. Sometimes I can’t even do that.

Recently I have taken to writing to the authors in private, asking things like, “What Point of View are you attempting?” Answer, “I’m not sure. I don’t understand POV, I just write.”   Or saying to another author, “I believe there are some formatting issues as some of the sentences don’t have spacing between the words.” Their answer, “I just write what I feel and you have to take it or leave it.”    Huh?

My favorite was the response to a suggestion I made.  “Could I humbly suggest you find a friend who has some editing skills to help  refine and tighten up your story. It has a lot of merit.” The response was, “I’ve always been told I’m  a good righter and I edited it already. Why waste the money. I made this book to make money.” (And yes, they spelled ‘writer’ as ‘righter’, no joke)

I’m not trying to make anyone look stupid by flaunting my imaginary superior skills. I’m in the same boat as every writer. I have issues,  just ask my editor!  Really, I’m just trying to understand where the author is coming from. I wondered if the first author mentioned above was trying for an omniscient voice (I struggle myself with POV) and I wanted to warn the second author there were conversion problems in the manuscript (I hire someone to format for me because I’m computer illiterate!).

In the last week I’ve randomly picked and read over ten Indie stories. I have found only two of those that seemed edited and pulled in my interest enough that I actually slowed down to savor the words and delve into the story. At one point as I was slogging through a poorly written story, I stopped to read sentences out loud to my husband. He shook his head, as baffled as I was as to what the author was trying to say.

Unfortunately it showed me why Indies are getting a bad rap. As a frustrated reader I can understand why people would ask for a refund on a digital book. Though I think writing crude, nasty public reviews aimed at an author is rude and defeats the purpose of a review, I can understand the irritation behind one. How do we go about informing authors  they need to refine their product?

I suggest not damaging future sales for money or ego. For the sake of the readers, for the sake of the industry, for the sake of trying to sell our work, we need to do our best not only to put a pretty cover on our books, but to make the inside as nice as the outside.  Hire an editor as well as a cover artist. It is well worth the investment.

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Genius Moments Versus Idiot Moments

Yes

Wanting to learn how to ride horses at an older age, I realized the ground was harder than my head, so I hired a trainer. Within a few months, she made a discovery. There would be times, as she said, I would have a ‘genius’ moment.  A great idea to some problem we were encountering. Then she would cringe as she knew  an ‘idiot’ moment would not be far behind.

When she brought it to my attention, we both had a good laugh. I had to agree with her assessment. It’s been like this all of my life. So it should not have been a big surprise to me when I decided to write a book, which seemed a genius idea at the time, that it would turn out to be more involved than I realized.

The idiot side of it was revealed when I found I would have to promote it. Unlike any other product, it wasn’t just about the book, I was part of the product. Suddenly my tightly guarded personal life would become a fish bowl if the book actually made it in the publishing world. In the business world I was always able to do the work, disconnect and go home to my life. Promoting the book would now become my life, totally.

If you are a beginning writer, you will hear this alot. Writing the book is easy. Editing is torture. Promoting it is life consuming. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for that next genius moment to get me out of this mess!

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The Liebster Blog Award

liebster-blog-award1A big thank you to Julian Froment, http://julianfroment.wordpress.com/,  who surprised me by nominating me for the Liebster Award.  I’m pleased to accept this award and pass on the honor and fun to others.
The Rules for The Liebster Blog Award are as follows:
List 11 random facts about you.
Answer the questions that were asked of you.
Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and link to their blogs.Notify the bloggers of their award.

Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer once they accept the award.

So, Eleven Random Facts About Me.

  1. When I first learned to read I drove my parents nuts reading outloud every sign we passed while traveling in the car.
  2. My first love was reading. My second love was horses. I married my third love!
  3. I was twenty-one before I learned how to drive a car.
  4. I’m not a dog person, but a cat person. Unfortunately dogs don’t seem to pick up  on this and like to mob me.
  5. I dream in color and sometimes have dreams that come true.
  6. Climbing trees is still something I like to do.
  7. I love frozen Junior Mints.
  8. I write my stories to classical music.
  9. Autocrossing my Corvette is what I do for fun!
  10. Accomplishing goals helps me focus my Adult ADD.
  11. I can’t stand to have my hands messy or dirty.

My Answers to the Questions I was Asked

  1. What is your favourite book?    Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R. Tolkien
  2. Do you play an instrument? If so, which one?   Piano. Only have torturous hours of practice.
  3. What is your ideal holiday?   One with all of my five children and sixteen grandchildren present.
  4. Which author would you most like to meet (they do not need to be currently alive)?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  5. What is your favourite genre to write in?  Hmm, thought I like Romance and have written in that genre, I’m not sure I have a favorite yet. I want to sample several.
  6. What is your least favourite book?  War and Peace. Very slow, very long.
  7. Do you have siblings, if so which?  Two sisters and one brother.
  8. PC or Mac?   Vaio Laptop! LOL
  9. Do you eat meat?  Yes, and my favorite is buffalo.
  10. What is your favourite sport?  Anything that has horses in it. LOL
  11. Do you have a day job?   Gratefully retired.

Eleven Questions for my Nominees

  1. Would you rather read or write?
  2. Where is your favorite place to write?
  3. What are you currently reading?
  4. What is a favorite character name?
  5. Dog person or cat person?
  6. What is the piece of writing that is the best you’ve ever done?
  7. Your middle name is?
  8. How do you reward yourself after reaching a goal?
  9. To break writer’s block, what do you do?
  10. If you had to decide on pie or ice cream, which would you choose?
  11. What is your favorite time of day?

The Nominees

M.O.K. Author – http://mokauthor.wordpress.com/

Carmen DeSousa – http://www.carmendesousa.com/

Doug Simpson – http://dousimp.mnsi.net/

Danny Kemp – http://www-thedesolategarden-com.co.uk/

Charles Edward Yallowitz – http://legendsofwindemere.com/

Shauny – http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com/

Shane – http://shanesbookblog.com/

Sheri Degrom – http://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/

Jalal Michael Sabbagh –  http://mysuccessisyoursuccess.wordpress.com/

Briana – http://whenibecameanauthor.wordpress.com/

Glynis Rankin – http://glynisrankin.wordpress.com/

Congratulations to all of You! I hope you will join in the fun and make someone’s day by passing on this fun and entertaining award. 

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Addicted to Writing?

writing2I once worked  in a psych and chemical dependency treatment center. The first thing I learned was the definition of addiction and how we can be addicted to anything. There was checklist to measure the depth of the addiction

For instance – has it interfered with personal relationships? Has it affected your finances such as lost jobs, or impulse buying, or missing payments? Have you had problems with the law? Is your health affected by it? Your spirituality? Has it affected your lifestyle? Or have you been displaced such as a loss of residency? Do you have problems concentrating or are you obsessing about attaining your next encounter with it?

The other day I went looking for a box of my high school writings. I had read a blog by Ionia Martin where she asked if we thought our first writing was any good. I was curious about mine. I found several boxes filled with notes written on every conceivable form of paper. Post-it notes, napkins, scraps of wallpaper, receipts, postcards, envelopes, kid’s school projects, even toilet paper. I promise it was clean!

Suddenly I thought about that checklist. Had my writing interfered with personal relationships? Well, my husband had complained on more than one occasion about my vacant stares and his repeated questions that fell on my deaf ears. The kids got to know that look and knew not bother me when I was scribbling frantically. Impulse buying of notebooks, notepads and bushels of pens and pencils did affect the finances I guess. I can’t look at an empty piece of paper without the urgent desire to write something on that white expanse.

I suppose the electric company may have wondered about me when I asked for the bill back that I had sent in with the check because I had written a line of poetry on it. Then there were those occasional speeding tickets on trips. This is when I get most of my books written in  my head. I love a long drive so I can busily construct. Unfortunately I’m not always paying attention to speed limit signs when I’m doing this.

Of course there is the eye-strain from copious amounts of reading and bright computer screens. I stay up late into the night researching and writing so there has been many a Sunday I’ve been to tired to get up and go to church. Concentration on daily chores is interrupted by my mad dashes to the nearest piece of paper to capture an idea. Let’s not forget about obsessing over getting that opening chapter just right or the editing rewrite done.

So, I don’t know. Do you think I may have a writing addiction?

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Raising Books

 

 

 

SWindswept Hearts Book Covero we all know, as authors, the euphoric feeling you get the first time you hold the actual printed copy of the first book you have ever written. It’s a high like no other. That awesome, overwhelming feeling that you did it and you hold in your hands proof of that.

 

It is a precious memory, but it wears off. Then the test of whether you truly are a writer occurs. You must write again because more stories beg for your attention.

 

Having children is a similar experience. You are ecstatic when you hold your first born child. You know you are going to be the best parent ever. As the daily care sets in with diaper changes and the first sleepless night, the excitement departs leaving behind exhaustion. But for some reason a few years later nostalgia sets in and you want another one. In the meantime you continue with the business of raising your darling.

 

How does one raise a book? After its birth what is the process to build and grow it into something that people want to read? Well first, like a pregnancy, it should have had good prenatal care. Without the building blocks of a fine editor, research and solid story, it will not go far. So let’s just say you’ve already done your prenatal care.

 

After the long labor of editing,  you hold in your hands your precious child. How do you introduce it to the world? Just like you prepared for a new baby, you must think ahead and get ready. You will need to spend time on social networking, promoting and advertising. You work at developing a good author website. Create and keep a current blog. Through the exhaustion you will have to find the time to Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Author  Guest Blog, do book signings and find any other outlet you can push your darling to the fulfillment of its potential.

 

Of course in the meantime you need to be working on bringing its sibling into the world. You must learn to multi-task and find time to write while graciously answering blog comments and promote its older brother or sister.

 

Yes, raising a book, in my humble opinion, is like raising children. You may have to wait for years to see its full potential. Some will look back on the process with tenderness and longing, while others may be glad it’s over. Either way, in the end, you have something you will be proud of and forever love.

 

So I wonder where your book raising is taking you?

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To Review or Not to Review

Cat watchingSo how do you review? I’ve always thought a critique was giving an opinion on both the good and bad of a book, where as a review concentrated more on how the story made you feel. After reading many reviews I’ve seen it can be all of the above.

That brings up the question, what if you don’t like it? How do you handle that? What if the Point of View is all over the place, the story is disjointed and doesn’t flow, or the grammar is so poor you struggle to read it? What do you say then? Do you publicly humiliate the author?

I can understand the frustration of readers of Indie Authors. Being an avid reader I’ve tried to be supportive of Indie’s, but I’ve been irritated a few times. So Amazon won’t kick out my reviews, I purchase all my reads. I’ve found that the book cover will look awesome as well as having an interesting synopsis, but after the purchase, I find myself  struggling with a hard-to-read product.

What I’m finding most of the time is there is a good story in there, but it’s hidden by lack of Point of View, or sentence structure that makes no sense. Then there is poor formatting, miss-spelled words or wandering story line. I always wonder, ‘how did the editor let that slide?’  So I will ask the author if they had it edited. I’ve received some interesting replies that I won’t repeat, but 99.9 percent of the time, there was no editor. Why am I not surprised? My favorite reply was “It’s my story and you either like it or you don’t.” Sigh…..

As an Author, I really get frustrated. If readers can’t trust they are getting a good product, this tarnishes all of our reputations as writers and drives them away from Indie’s. There is a reason publishers have editors. It’s because all authors need them. Just as we need beta readers, and re-writes. What makes sense to us, what we love about our little creations, may look totally different to others. We need unbiased opinions to help us create the best story we can.

But back to my original question. What do you do? Do you go ahead and do a review?

If it is that poor, I will do two things. I will contact the author and ask a few questions. Their tone of response will then temper what I do next. If they are interested in my inquires, if  they ask questions back and I can politely share my opinion, I will then go on and give a nice, but honest review. I have the author read it first and they can either approve or disapprove my posting of  it. This is important. As an author I have to remember how it would feel if someone reviewed me harshly.  But if they state it is what it is, I do not review.

I have a responsibility as a reader and author to create an honest review for the next interested reader. If I inflate it and don’t represent it honestly, the next reader is no longer going to trust my review or my own writing. It is a double-edged sword. I want to support my fellow Indie, but they have to want to produce the best product they can.

So what do you do? To review or not to review? What are your guidelines?