The mind of a reader

Apologies if this comes to you twice but my links got a little messed up and I had to fix.

During these last few months of questioning my goals I have made it a point to random read.  I seriously mean there hasn’t been a pattern to choices.  As a blogger I follow blogs and as an avid reader I also follow authors so it hasn’t been too difficult to come across a fair selection of books.  Why the random reading?

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As you know I self-published and I also did it without much professional input.  Following a dream can be costly so I chose a path to suit what I could make possible.  I was prepared to learn as I went and learn I have.  Just recently I have been doing some work with a book called Edit Your Own Romance Novel by Ebony McKenna.  This particular book has an almost rambling layout that allows me to follow it and put it down quite easily and check my work, and then start the process again. It fits the pace I work at. I just read what Ebony says and look at my work more clinically than I have done in the past, and continue working. Writing is personal but we do need to step away to improve. Ebony’s book encourages this in us (I intend to write this in my review of the book along with my thanks). Random reading, using this book, along with a variety of posts and other reading matter has allowed me to focus on readers, and what holds their attention. It has also make me dizzy at times.

Some interesting points that I am filing in my super brain special folder (I wish I had one but am hoping but just in case I have a paper trail) have surfaced. I am still editing for the print copy and re-upload of Unexpected Obsession and my book sabbatical has impacted strongly on this, enough to challenge my style, my choice of words and in general the events and characters that make up my created world.  I have had the time to appreciate the finer nuances that make a book appeal. Yes, it is subjective but I am hoping that the objective has also had its part to play.

So what holds me as a reader? What is the common thread? Is it genre? Is it the perfection of the words and the order they are delivered? How picky am I, or am I? There are times I overlook errors without flinching, and other times I want to skip pages and skip more pages breaking my never skip pages rule. Silently, slowly and smoothly (I thought I would use some alliteration here just because I can) I have randomly read, studied and taken note of more than I thought I could. Has it improved my writing? I hope so but then again I am happy to accept I still have a way to go in this process. In the meantime here are a couple of the books that I enjoyed.

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Order of the Seers is a trilogy by Cerece Rennie Murphy. It started strong and with a freshness to the theme. The second book introduced a creature similar to so many plots out there in reader space. It disappointed me for about five to ten minutes until I realised it didn’t matter how the bad guy was depicted, the freshness remained.  Meant for a YA audience it featured young people but young people that inspired hope in the reader.  Too often in this genre the characters can be shallow, whinging and selfish and whilst these characteristics often do apply to young people there is a multitude of young out there that are caring, considerate, brave, and capable of deep abiding love.  It was obvious to me that the writer respected her creations and she wanted them to make a point.  It worked.  I got inside the quorum along with the seers.  I wondered what it would be like to have a world where they existed.

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From this I moved to modern romance with the Sinclair Sisters. Phyllis Bourne’s characters were funny, often ridiculous but so caring of each other.  They cared enough to get involved in each other’s lives.  The women were sexy, sassy and simply delightful, and the men willing to think about what their respective lady needed.  Warmth shone through every word in both books so of course a reader gets sucked in. That warmth exudes a sense of belonging in the page.

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From here I moved back to the paranormal and Gabriella Messina’s Quicksilver, the second book in The Bloodline Series.  Again I must use the word – freshness.  This is about wolves and shifting but a clever use of history cements the plot and captures our attention.  However it is the vulnerability of the characters that holds the reader and makes a connection.  Suspending disbelief is only a small portion of entertainment.  We all want to forget our world and just revel in the new one in front of us. This is all well and good but without a connection we remain conscious of reading, escaping.  When we connect, we are inside the book.

It would seem I have sent myself quite a task.  Am I up to it?  I can only try.

Barb

P.S. Let me know what holds your attention, what gets you in.

Routines and the Haiku

Japanese cropIt has been quite a while since I have posted. I love blogging but it does get hard at times to maintain unless you have a routine.  I read somewhere if you can stick to something for three weeks then you can count on it becoming permanent in your life. We have a resistance at times to things that are good for us, or at least I have especially when it concerns the gym.  I’d be happy to reach three weeks (am waiting for that to happen).

In 2009 studies showed that on average it takes sixty six days for a habit to become ingrained.  This actually makes more sense than the three weeks. Habits don’t happen overnight.  They take commitment and they demand consistency.  Everything we do is a habit of sorts and it is the effort we make that gives us the results we seek.

It occurred to me that the opposite is also true.  If we don’t commit and work on growing that habit then it would disappear and I don’t think it would take sixty six days or even three weeks for that to happen.  Let’s face it; it’s so much easier to let something go than work at keeping it.  It is why relationships fail along with gym memberships. It is hard to find the stamina sometimes to keep going.

These last few months I have struggled with the idea of writing, a common problem for authors. Working so hard on rewrites is disheartening if necessary, especially when funds for this are limited. I have had to learn to do so much myself.  In some ways I have considered this to be a good thing. It means there are ways to do even the impossible but it is the hard road to take and has a huge effect on other aspects of life.  Time for other things ceases to exist. I didn’t mind this part so much but in combination with an immune system that reacts to stress, some unexpected problems and relocating, insidious threads have managed to undermine an already delicate self-esteem.

This is the problem with humans.  We are frail and falter easily. I have spent a lifetime wanting to write and a mere three months to convince myself it is all too hard and I probably lack the necessary talent in any case. I do know better than to think this way.  However the same brain that says don’t be ridiculous also says you’re tired, you’re not doing it right, and tells you to let it go and find something else that is within your realm of capabilities.

Good habits, unless ingrained derail at faster than a speeding bullet superman speed. Believing you can takes a long time to accept, believing you can’t because you’re not good enough, barely a second. I wonder how many of you can relate to this.  Have you let life steer you away from your dreams?  It is here that habits, the good ones, can kick in if we let them and make the difference.  For me it wasn’t about writing every day or going on social media, although these things matter.  It was about reminding myself of what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

Somewhere in this dark period my eldest daughter decided to drag me to Japan.  She didn’t have to pull too hard as Japan is one of the loves of my life, and we have extended family in Tokyo (increased by one adorable baby girl in March) but it was out of the norm and just what I needed.

You see, I absorb other cultures really well. I learned this as a migrant child, learned to thrive on differences.  I am inspired by them and so I let the beauty of the Japanese people and their country work their magic. I put my novels aside and instead concentrated on the disciplined art of Haiku. This wonderful medium expresses much with very little and the challenge to master this was exciting.  I like other cultures and I like words and so I wrote. I don’t know if I have succeeded in disciplining my use of words the way I should but I don’t care.  Sometimes it is enough to try.  If only the love I feel comes through then it’s enough.  It means I am on track again.

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White black mountain calls

Resolutions in the mist

Ice on lava fire

 

No idle hands speak

Occupation is fierce

Beauty in movement

 

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Cherry pink blossom

Blood dissolving on white petals

A joyous harmony

 

Honour flutters soft

Harsh creations sing a song

Peaceful warrior heart

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Busy lives encased

Skylines hold concrete glory

Earth ripples power

 

A smile and warmth abides

Climbing embers reach limits

Cleansing fire rebuilds

 

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Differences fade

West and east under the rain

Misty skins dazzle

 

Fast lane hunger

Time for history to amble

True essence prevails

 

Until next time

Barb

Up and Running

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Hard at work.

A week after the big event and I still can’t quite grasp it.  I can call myself an author.  That might sound strange considering I have been blogging for a year but somehow the publishing of a book is so different.  Blogging has continuity; you can change your mind and rescind whatever you wrote or you can add to it, explain it and all in the next post.  A book is final.  It is a completed work. Yes, it is possible to go back and correct small errors but basically once created there is no going back.  It is very exposing.

Stories of the Dark and Light, a project I have been working on for almost a year with my writing group Wordwick3d is now up on Amazon and Smash Words and it has my name on it, all our names on it, and it brings a feeling of pride mixed with a good dose of trepidation tempered by a delicious sense of satisfaction. We did what we set out to do.  We published.  We let go of our fears.  The thought that people might not like our stories is no small thing.  We accepted it and ploughed ahead. Thirdly and the best reason of all for feeling happy with ourselves is that we did it together as a team.  Together we are a mixture of personalities and yet we put everything aside (did I mention strong personalities with a tendency to theatrics) to work together.

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Hard at work.

How can we not be proud of reaching this point?  From here we can travel our own road with more confidence.  Banding together was not something I had ever intentionally considered but on my own my work sat and waited for the right moment that never seemed to arrive.  I have no doubt it would have come but working with a group that held the same desires and fears propelled a faster delivery date. Together we have prodded and produced.

Meeting up on a regular basis as a group, has encouraged activity. For me, someone that has struggled in the town I live in (I miss home) the project has pushed me back into the land of the living you could say. It piqued my memory and I found myself recalling my passion for the teachings of Dale Carnegie.  It brought to mind one of his sayings which I think has been sitting reclusively in the background of my memory waiting for something to spark it into existence.  One of Dale’s more famous quotes is the one where he says “Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.”  So I did. We all did.  And Dale is right. We got busy on this and it has improved our own individual work.

 

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Yay at last!

When I started blogging it was with the idea of building an audience towards this day, the day the title, author, becomes legitimate. Surprisingly I find myself quite calm about everything.  I am not jumping around yelling, buy me, buy me, in fact if anything I am very low key and am probably a marketer’s nightmare.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have told friends and relatives and have spread the word and do have a plan in place but all of that is taking a back seat to emotions that surprised me.  They are about so much more than finally publishing our collection.  They are centred on the fact that we are following a dream.

Whenever people go out on a limb to follow their dreams they demonstrate that age, and circumstances don’t rule our outcomes.  There are ways to make things happen.  We just have to be willing and open and then it seems we become a magnetic to others with the same idea. Everyone seems to be waiting for that one item to inspire in them the courage to get busy.  For me it has been the many authors over the years that have given my soul sanctuary every time I engaged with their words.  Sanctuary is just another word for survival; we just find it in different places.

There was moment last week when the computer went quiet and blank as if it needed to rest before rising to the grand occasion it had been invited to.  We waited, silent, barely breathing until light flashed and suddenly, magically there was this vision on the screen, our vision and we jumped and gave a joint gasp of absolute wonder and delight.  There it was, our creation ready to journey to you, and it is all about you out there, the readers of the world.  This is our way of giving, of making a difference even if it is a few moments entertainment.  I am not saying we succeeded.  I am saying that at least we tried.  We took a journey that had hazards and we navigated, and survived.

I read an interesting comment by Richard Branson that I think sums up what I am mean. He was asked the following by Mark Ernst:  “If you had another 65 years of life, what would you want to achieve?” This is a question to a man we all know has achieved a great deal already.  Your mind jumps to the infinite possibilities he might come up with. His answer instead was simple and humble. I quote:

Despite everything, my destination has always remained the same. My goal, no matter what I have done, has been to make a difference in people’s lives.”  

Now comes the hard part, the finding out how well we did it and that is entirely up to you out there, and whether you decide to be or not to be our readers.  We have something for everyone that likes their stories slightly dark and we are willing to have your input.

Ciao till next time

Barb